Readers React: An irreverent debate on sainthood for Serra

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in San Luis Obispo was founded in 1772 by Father Junipero Serra.
(Los Angeles Times)

When Pope Francis announced two weeks ago that he expected to canonize Father Junipero Serra later this year, readers reacted by reflecting seriously on California’s pre-Gold Rush history and Serra’s controversial efforts to convert Indians to Catholicism as the founder of nine 18th century Spanish missions in what was then Alta California.

But after two op-ed articles on Serra’s impending sainthood — one pro, one con — were published last week, the conversation among readers took a turn for the humorous. Though some might be dismayed by the irreverence, perhaps some of our more faithful readers can find comfort in the words of theologian and author G.K. Chesterton: “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”

Jo Caldwell of Spring Valley, Calif., wonders what all the pomp and circumstance is about:

As an ex-Catholic, I am intrigued by the decision of a man in a white dress who lives in a palace in Italy to denote another priest a saint.


Why is this of interest to anybody? I mean really, who cares?

As a Catholic I never read the Bible until I was in my 20s and I was amazed by the teachings of Jesus — they were so pure and simple. And they certainly didn’t preach the superiority of men, who only inhabit one half of all human bodies.

And certainly Serra couldn’t care less, since his fate was long ago determined by a higher power.

San Pedro resident Sheila Raymond is similarly perplexed:

After reading the articles on Serra, I had a strong reaction.

As a Jewish grandmother with some Catholic grandchildren, I say Father Serra was neither saint nor sinner. He was a flawed human being like the rest of us. In my humble opinion, there is no such thing as a saint. I would no more teach a child to believe in sainthood than in ghosts.

Santa Claus is another matter. For childhood is a special, innocent time, and I will always remember the Christmas Eve that I thought I heard Santa and his bells and reindeer on the roof. Some years later, I grew up and faced reality.

Such is my wish for all humanity: Get a life, people.


David Waldowski of Alta Loma says the Indians natives weren’t the ones who should have converted:

According to op-ed article author Gregory Orfalea, when Serra first saw the naked Baja Indians he thought of them “as in the garden [of Eden] before sin” rather than in a state of shame. If he perceived that they were living in such an idyllic and pure condition, perhaps Serra should have converted to their religion.

Now, that would have made him a saint.

Duarte resident Ray Sherman is intrigued by one writer’s measure of sainthood:


On Serra’s sainthood, Orfalea says: “Saints are not perfect; they are revered because their goodness outdistances their sins.”

Well, gee, where do I go to apply for sainthood?

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