The pope's decision to canonize ST. JUNIPERO SERRA, has led to some controversy, particularly over how he treated Native Americans. Well, many Jews opposed the canonization of St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). If we listened to the complaint of people who do not always see the total picture, we would have a lot fewer saints (or other greats for that matter). Junipero Serra was canonized because he was holy, not because he was perfect! We need to see he was a man of his times- and there was much wrong with the missionary approach of those days- just as there has been throughout history- even today.
Ruben Mendoza, a professor of archaeology at California State University, Monterey Bay, a person who describes himself as being of Mexican-Indian descent, told Catholic News Service that Serra was devoted to the Native Americans and to sharing the Gospel with them. "The irony is that, over these many years, those same communities tend to criticize him for what he did: evangelize them and bring them a different way of looking at the world."
"I think he would have been mortified if he realized the very people that he loved, that he devoted his life to, would now see him as the culprit in their disintegration," Mendoza said.
He said many of the Spanish missionary's critics are confusing the impact of Spanish colonizing and missionary activity on the native communities with what happened after California became a U.S. territory in 1848.
"A decimation of the Native American population in the period after 1850; Serra had no connection to that phenomenon. Those who criticize Serra the most tend to conflate the American period with that of the missionaries."
Another major objection to Serra's canonization involves reports that Native American adults at his mission were beaten. "There is no documentation that the new saint himself abused any Native American. The system under which he operated did use corporal punishment, but that was also used for transgressors from all walks of life, including soldiers."
Mendoza supports the canonization and said he believes it "has much to offer the peoples of Latin America, especially those of us of Mexican-Indian heritage who currently live under a shadow of doubt and denigration."
Msgr. Francis Weber, a historian and former archivist of the Los Angeles archdiocese, noted "five nations have concluded that Father Junipero Serra was worthy of being honored on a postage stamp - that's a distinction even more rare than canonization."
Msgr. Weber said church officials in California and at the Vatican spent "72 years sifting through" historical evidence to verify that he lived a holy life, loving God and serving others. "Serra did this in a way that went far beyond the average person. He traveled to the periphery of the world - California was the end of world back then - to share his love of God with the Native Americans, whom he deeply loved and they loved him in return."