LOS ANGELES (ChurchMilitant.com) - A California prelate is giving in to violent protesters who are demanding that statues of St. Junípero Serra be removed from public areas.
In an open letter published just before the July 1 commemoration of the "Apostle of California," Abp. José Gomez of Los Angeles revealed his plan to protect Serra's statues from desecration by race-baiting iconoclasts.
"Faced with the possibility of vandalism, we are taking increased security precautions at the historic missions located in the archdiocese of Los Angeles," wrote Gomez. "Unfortunately, we will probably have to relocate some statues to our beloved saint or risk their desecration."
The archbishop's announcement follows the June 19 desecration by anarchists of Serra's statue in San Francisco. This action by a violent mob drew a prompt condemnation on June 20 from San Francisco's Abp. Salvatore Cordileone.
Cordileone observed that a national movement to correct racial injustice "has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting and vandalism."
He added, "The toppling and defacing of statues in Golden Gate Park, including that of St. Junípero Serra, have become the latest example."
In his open letter on Monday, Gomez distinguished between debates stemming from peaceful protesters and vandalism committed by violent activists. Allowing the free expression of public opinion is important, he said, as well as upholding the rule of law that prevents vandalism.
"But elected officials cannot abdicate their responsibilities by turning these decisions over to small groups of protestors, allowing them to vandalize public monuments," asserted Gomez. "This is not how a great democracy should function."
The archbishop noted that attacks on Serra's character by erroneous revisionists have been going on for years.
"The sad truth is that, beginning decades ago, activists started 'revising' history to make St. Junípero the focus of all the abuses committed against California's indigenous peoples," he related.
The archbishop confirmed that Serra was unfairly criticized by those who were ignorant of the saint's life:
The real St. Junípero fought a colonial system where natives were regarded as "barbarians" and "savages," whose only value was to serve the appetites of the white man. For St. Junípero, this colonial ideology was a blasphemy against the God who has "created (all men and women) and redeemed them with the most precious blood of his Son."
Gomez added, "He lived and worked alongside native peoples and spent his whole career defending their humanity and protesting crimes and indignities committed against them."
The archbishop further recounted how the 60-year-old Serra traveled 2,000 miles from Mexico City to protest injustices against the native people in modern-day California and to demand that authorities adopt a "bill of rights" to protect them.
"That was in 1773, three years before America's founders declared this nation's independence with those beautiful words: 'all men are created equal ... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,'" recounted the archbishop.
He also noted that for such reasons, Pope Francis in 2015 had called Serra one of the "founding fathers" of the United States.
"Yet in online petitions today we find St. Junípero compared to Adolf Hitler, his missions compared to concentration camps," remarked Gomez. "No serious historian would accept this, and we should not allow these libels to be made in public arguments about our great saint."
Meanwhile, Catholics in Ventura are not hiding their statue of Serra but instead are banding together to protect it from being toppled.
Catholics also began a Rosary novena in front of the statue that ends July 1 and launched a petition to keep the statue in place that has garnered some 4,000 signatures in one week.
Concerned Catholics in St. Louis are taking similar steps to protect their namesake statue of St. Louis from being desecrated or removed from public view.