…you have to imagine this being shouted at the top of my voice in best scouse…”I was published in the Tablet…!!!”


This all started when I read an editorial in The Tablet April 30th 2015. The article was entitled What comes first is the saving of souls (http://www.thetablet.co.uk/editors-desk/1/5397/what-comes-first-is-the-saving-of-souls) and linked the Synod on the Family and Francis’ dedication of the Jubilee year to Mercy.

My comment on the editorial:

I have difficulty with the use of the phrase (and the theology it denotes) “the saving of souls.” I was born in Bootle twenty-one years before Vatican II began, truly a Tridentine Catholic. I studied with a missionary order (not ordained) to baptize pagans so their souls could be saved and go to heaven. The examples given of Jesus, in the article, illustrate what he did for human beings not for souls.

For much the same reason I oppose the canonization of Junipero Serra. Pre-Vatican II missiology was based on “a colonial mentality and conversion/baptism frenzy.” Another friend suggested that “ without a doubt we were servants more of the dominant ideology, spreading our “western” value system that was clothed in the language and symbols of a religious system that was largely a part of the dominant societal structures.” And a dominant Christian theology that said we had to baptize to save souls.

What comes first is caring for each other in our real, unadulterated human condition,,, divorced and remarried Catholics…the Samaritan woman at the well…lepers…tax collectors…

was published by the Tablet and I received a request to contribute a blog-piece of 500 words on the canonization of Junipera Serra as not a lot was known about Junipera Serra in England.

I submitted the piece that follows having first informed the Online editor at The Tablet that I was Liverpool Irish Catholic and most probably could not say hello in 500 words. I also assured the editor that she could edit as she wished and I would have no problem with that. And I didn’t and don’t.

The edited article was published in the Tablet with a front page trailer under Blogs and is and a link to it follows. Before I do that , I wish to say, and you have to imagine this being shouted at the top of my voice in best scouse…”I was published in the Tablet…!!!”


Here is my original, way too long blog entitled…

Saints and Sinners

Why does the Catholic Church make saints? The veneration of saints has been common practice since the early church, only gradually becoming regulated by bishops and pope.

         “Sainthood is often as much about politics and image as anything else” Harvey Egan, a Jesuit priest and professor-emeritus of theology at   Boston College.

         “It would be wrong for me to anticipate the mind of the Church, but I personally believe that one day Oscar Romero will be    declared a Saint of the Church”   Cardinal Hume, one week  (not 35 years) after his assassination

Perhaps the most recent example of papal involvement is Oscar Romero. From the day of his murder in1980 Romero was venerated in Latin America as Saint Romero of the Americas, yet JP II, who beatified at the drop of a hat (an average of about 51 beatifications a year as pope), waited 17 years to begin the process for Romero, the man he would have removed as Archbishop had he not been assassinated.

But it wasn’t only Romero.

Following Vatican II and the CELAM meetings many priests in Latin America became involved in Christian Base Communities that included a preferential option for the poor and an opposition to structures of oppression and injustice.

One year before Romero’s assassination, the revolution in Nicaragua led to the formation of the Sandinista government that included priests Miguel D’Escoto, Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal. During the fighting, Catholic priests regularly asked Rome to condemn the government and the death squads, just as Romero asked of the American president. However when JP II, that most political of popes, visited Nicaragua in 1983 he criticized the “popular Church,” the base communities, the Sandinistas and the priests involved. The visual image that unfortunately defines for me the pontificate of John Paul II shows him wagging his finger at a kneeling Ernesto Cardenal on the tarmac at Tegulcicalpa.

So the official seal of sainthood is “as much about politics and image as anything else” and JPII, a man formed in his priesthood by opposition to “atheisticcommunism” (one word) put the brakes on the beatification of the archbishop tainted by liberation theology. What about Francis, the pope who resuscitated liberation theology and Junipero Serra, a man who at first glance was not an early liberation theologian?

Serra’s response to Spanish King Carlos III’s request in 1780 that the California missions free the Indians, give them legal representation, and stop whipping them stated “…spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians by blows… I don’t see what law or reasoning my Indians should be exempt from being whipped…We can not free the Indians, relinquish directing their future, or give up the authority to use punishment.”

In a letter to Spanish commander Moncada, requesting that a group of four Indians who attempted to escape Carmel Mission several times in 1775 be punished. Serra requested, “… two or three whippings which Your Lordship may order applied to them… If your lordship does not have shackles, with your permission they may be sent from here. I think the punishment should last one month.”

In recent days Junipero Serra has been described by the pope as “one of the founding fathers of the United States, and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country,” Father Vincenzo Criscuolo, a Franciscan from the Vatican department for the causes of saints, said Serra was “a man of his times.”

Neither of these statements necessarily contradicts suggestions from some historians that “the missions were little more than concentration camps where California’s Indians were beaten, whipped, maimed, burned, tortured and virtually exterminated by the friars”, but might prove difficult to reconcile with Francis’ comments about Serra’s “holiness” and “saintly example.”

So why St. Serra and why now?

Politics and optics answer #1. It is suggested that within ten years 50% of American Catholics will be Hispanics. Black Catholics, Asians, Native Americans and others currently account for about 5 percent of the total (2011 survey)

Politics and optics answer #2. Pope Francis has ruled out a stop at the US/Mexico border on his upcoming trip to USA saying it would take too long. It would also piss off his American hosts so the first canonization on American soil of a Hispanic and by a Spanish-speaking pope will have to suffice.

But presumably Serra, “a man of his times”, is being canonized in 2015 as an example for today’s and tomorrow’s Catholics. His canonization, and rather more significantly his beatification by JP II, suggests, in a way not too dissimilar to the attempt to preserve the “bella figura” of the Church by episcopal cover-up of priestly abuse, that baptism into the Catholic Church is sufficient justification for everything else that happened….the end justifying the means…Is that the example of sainthood we wish to present to today’s and tomorrow’s Catholics?…

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