Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - When bishops from across the country gather in Baltimore next week, they will consider issuing a formal statement on pornography and discuss a Spanish translation of Mass prayers, among other issues.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will hold its annual fall General Assembly Nov. 11-14.
The nation’s bishops will elect a new conference president, as Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York concludes his current presidency. They will also hear an address from Cardinal Dolan, as well as from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
In addition, the bishops will hear a presentation for a proposal to create a formal statement on pornography, as studies continue to confirm concerns about its devastating social and spiritual effects.
Liturgical items up for discussion include the Spanish translation of the book of Mass prayers and draft translations for the Order of Confirmation and the Order of Celebrating Marriage.
Life, marriage and religious liberty will also be discussed at the meeting, and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who heads the conference’s Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, will deliver a presentation on the state of marriage in the United States.
A consultation on the sainthood cause of Servant of God Mary Teresa Tallon is also on the agenda, along with a presentation from the chairman and president of Catholic Relief Services, giving an update on the organization’s work and strategic priorities.
The bishops will hear a report on their current strategic/pastoral plan, The New Evangelization: Faith, Worship, Witness.
They will also choose new chairmen for Conference Committees on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Evangelization and Catechesis, International Justice and Peace, Child and Youth Protection, and Catholic Education.
In addition, they will elect new board members for Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.
Other topics of discussion at the meeting will include the 2014 conference budget and proposed revisions to the conference handbook.
Rome, Italy, Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At times, Blessed Pope John Paul II was not well informed by his associates, according to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who for years was particular secretary to the former Pope.
Cardinal Dziwisz recently released a book, “I Lived with a Saint,” published in Italian. It is co-written with Italian journalist Gianfranco Svidercoschi, a former vice-director of L’Osservatore Romano.
It is a first-person narration of Cardinal Dziwisz’ story of serving at John Paul II's side, from the moment he was ordained a priest by the then-auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1963.
Svidercoschi shared with CNA Nov. 5 some examples of the misinformation given to John Paul II, or lack of information given – for example what he was told of Oscar Romero, who was Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, from 1977 to 1980.
Archbishop Romero was shot March 24, 1980 as he said Mass. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints authorized the opening of his cause in 1993.
As part of the inquiry into the cause of a possible saint, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviews the person's writings to ensure they are free of doctrinal error.
The review of Archbishop Romero’s writings and homilies had been “blocked” in the Congregation from 2000 to 2005, according to sources who worked for the cause.
The archbishop had begun to speak out on behalf of the poor and the victims of repression after witnessing numerous violations of human rights, which led to numerous conflicts, both with the Salvadoran authorities and within the Church.
Svidercoschi recounted that “when Romero came to Rome and met John Paul II, he carried with him his memoirs.”
Showing them to John Paul II, Archbishop Romero told him: “Please, judge me on the basis of my testimony, and not on what is told you about me.”
Svidercoschi asserted that “after that meeting, John Paul II was so convinced of Romero’s arguments that he always defended him within the ranks of the (Roman) Curia.”
In fact, criticism of Archbishop Romero emerged from “the fact that papal nuncios are always very prudent,” Svidercoschi maintained.
He explained that “nuncios tend to appoint people who can act with understatement … when Papal nuncios must propose possible bishops, they always tend to suggest three moderate people, if not conservatives.”
Svidercoschi said that “Romero had been chosen because he was mostly a conservative. (But) he completely changed his mind after the assassination of a Jesuit friend of his, and he became very outspoken. This led to criticism by some top Catholic officials, afraid of the possible consequences.”
The book similarly notes that John Paul II had been told nothing of the rumors that surrounded Fr. Marcial Maciel, the scandal-ridden founder of the Legionaries of Christ, because of the “extremely bureaucratic” nature of the Vatican.
Svidercoschi explained that Popes “cannot always be well informed. They often get biased reports, and this should let us understand if they can fail in some appointments or decisions.”
He reflected on John Paul II, saying that he was “a man who looked straight in your eyes, who held your hand when speaking, who was even able to speak to you with a glance.”
“He had such a great humanity, and this led him to be a true man of God, because he proclaimed the primacy of God, but at the same time John Paul II proclaimed the centrality of every human being, despite differences of race and religion. This charisma made everybody feel in a brotherhood, whose Father is God.”
Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A case before the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the ability of a town in New York to open meetings with prayer, and could have broader implications for religious identity in government settings.
“Community members should have the freedom to pray without being censored,” said David Cortman, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the town of Greece, N.Y.
“Opening meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution practiced,” he explained in a press release. “Americans shouldn’t be forced to forfeit this freedom just to appease someone who claims to be offended by hearing a prayer.”
Oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway were heard by the Supreme Court on Nov. 6. The case was brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, who claimed that the town of Greece, N.Y., violated the constitution in its practice of opening town meetings with prayer.
The 1983 Supreme Court decision in Marsh v. Chambers found that state-funded prayers in front of legislative bodies could be permitted because the “unique history” of the United States has always included a space for prayer in the government without posing any threat to the separation of Church and State.
In addition, the town’s defenders noted, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives both have chaplains, and the early American leaders referenced God and prayed publicly.
While the majority of prayers offered before the small town's local legislative sessions have been delivered by Christian ministers – including all opening prayers between 1999 and 2007 – the blessing is open to a representative of any faith.
A 2012 decision by the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the practice “impermissibly affiliated the town” with Christianity.
Cortman challenged that the ruling of the court overlooks the deeper issues of the case. “Their goal is get rid of public prayer altogether,” he said, according to the New York Times. “If you’re saying the prayer ‘To Whom It May Concern,’ it’s no longer a prayer. It’s just speaking out loud.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed one of 26 friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the Town of Greece, argued that the Court should respect its own historical attitude towards prayer and freedom of religion.
“The Founders knew what it meant to have a state church and legislative prayer doesn’t come close,” explained Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund in a Nov. 6 statement.
“The Founders had been colonists in an empire with an established church and most of the colonies also had established churches. Legislative prayer wasn’t what they banned when they said there would be no official state church.”
With this understanding of the separation of Church and State in mind, Rassbach continued, the case becomes a question of religious identity and its suppression.
“This case is about whether the professionally offended will be able to strong-arm cities into banning anything that could be remotely interpreted as religious,” he said.
“The Court has to decide whether cities may recognize and celebrate the religious diversity of this country, or whether government must instead treat religious identity as a threat.”
Vatican City, Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Earlier today it was disclosed that Pope Francis has decided on the themes of the next three World Youth Days, which will mark a spiritual preparation for the international event to be held in Krakow in 2016.
World Youth Day (WYD) is a gathering of youths from all over the world to meet with the Pope in order to build and strengthen the bonds of faith, friendship and hope, symbolizing the union between people of different cultures and countries.
A Nov. 7 press release revealed that for the next three years the meeting’s themes will center on the Beatitudes, taken from the Gospel of Matthew.
The title of the 2014 event will reflect on the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” while the following year, 2015, will be devoted to the theme “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
These two years will culminate with the international World Youth Day slated to occur in Krakow, Poland in 2016, which will draw together the previous topics by finishing off with the theme “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
During the 28th international youth event held in Rio de Janiero earlier this year, Pope Francis asked the youth present “with all of my heart,” to read the Beatitudes carefully and to make them into a plan of action for their lives.
In a special encounter in Rio with the young people of Argentina, the Pope urged “Look, read the Beatitudes: that will do you good!”
World Youth Day was instituted by Bl. John Paul II in 1985, and is celebrated annually at the diocesan level every Palm Sunday in Rome and at a week-long event internationally every two to three years.
Vatican City, Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Artists restoring key sculptures in the Vatican Museums, including some by famed Italian Gian Lorenzo Bernini, stress that the figures are rich in history and treasures in a “throw-away” culture.
“Obviously whenever you are dealing with a treasure, with something that's been passed down to us from century to century, you want to take care of it and you want to get it right,” Father Mark Haydu told CNA in a Nov. 4 interview.
“If you make a mistake, it could be gone and if it's gone, it's gone forever. We live in a throw-away society, it's hard to imagine that we can't really get it back.”
Fr. Haydu is the international director of the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums – a worldwide community dedicated to the restoration and conservation of artwork within the museums through the financial adoption of various projects.
The Vatican Museums, founded by Pope Julius II, are an immense collection of different pieces of art located within Vatican City which have come into the Catholic Church’s possession throughout the centuries.
One of the various initiatives undertaken by the Patrons is the restoration of “Bernini’s Angels,” the un-fired clay models used to create the angelic bronze sculptures placed on either side of the main altar inside of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The current angel undergoing the restoration process, originally crafted in 1674, “is the preliminary model for the fusion of one of the angels in the Most Holy Sacrament, one of the most important chapels of San Pietro,” restorer Alice Balteri revealed in a Nov. 4 interview with CNA.
These angels were originally designed and built in the school of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a leading sculptor in the 15th century, and were touched up by the artist himself before the bronze castings were completed.
“In these works,” Balteri said, “we obviously have the opportunity to find things never seen before; the impression of his fingers, signs of the work, impressions of the fingertips, signs of the instruments used to smooth the clay.”
Usually, she explained, the models, made out of clay and straw, were thrown away or recycled once they were finished, but “in this case they were conserved because in 1700 there was a sort of museum, art gallery for the artists where the plastercasts, models, and other various things were exposed.”
“We work meticulously,” to repair the cracked clay, the artist noted, “because today a substance does not exist that is capable of consolidating this material in the same way without staining or changing in time.”
“This angel is the prototype,” she said indicating the sculpture being restored, “was made on a different scale and, never having been cast in bronze, it is the only model. A copy of this angel in bronze does not exist.”
Balteri expressed her excitement about working specifically with the un-baked clay, “because while in the works in bronze, at the end the surfaces are clean, they are treated, they are smoothed. In these works, we obviously have the opportunity to find things never seen before.”
“Sometimes,” she noted, “there are also included things you’d never think of, the hair of the artists for example embedded in the clay, that really make you feel ‘in the moment’ of when the work was created.”
Other projects being preserved through the generosity of the Patrons include the Holy Stairs, the stairs that Jesus walked up to be judged by Pontius Pilate, as well as an excavation site underneath the parking garage of the Vatican.
Preservation of these works, Fr. Haydu urged, is important because “when you can clean, restore and give it a smile, give it a twinkle in its eye, it attracts, it captivates and then it can communicate its message.”
Whether that message be “theological, spiritual, human,” he stressed, “it really helps all of the 5 million visitors coming through each year to be startled, struck, by the beauty of a work of art.”
Vatican City, Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily Pope Francis reflected on the parables of the lost sheep and coin from the day’s readings, stressing that God has a special love for sinners who are lost.
“God is not a good loser, and this is why, in order not to lose, He goes out on his own, and He goes, He searches…He searches for all those who are far away from Him, like the shepherd who goes to search for the lost sheep,” the Pope said during his Nov. 7 daily Mass.
The pontiff directed his words to those present inside the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where he has chosen to reside.
In his opening comments, Pope Francis remarked on the attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees from the daily readings, describing how they were scandalized by the things that Jesus did, and murmured against him because he ate “with the publicans and the sinners.”
Jesus responds to this “music of hypocrisy,” noted the Pope, by answering “this murmuring with a joyful parable.”
“The words ‘joy’ and ‘happiness,’” he explained, appear in the short reading “four times: three times joy, and once happiness. That is the most profound message of this story: the joy of God, a God who doesn’t like to lose.”
“He can’t stand losing one of His own,” the Pope emphasized, recalling that on the night he was arrested, Jesus prays, asking his Father “may none get lost, of those You have given to me.”
“He is a God who walks around searching for us, and has a certain loving weakness for those who are furthest away, who are lost. He goes and searches for them.”
“And how does he search?” asked the Pope, “He searches until the end, like the shepherd who goes out into the darkness, searching, until he finds the sheep. Or like the woman, when she loses a coin, who lights a lamp and sweeps the house, and searches carefully. That’s how God searches.”
Pope Francis went on to describe how once the shepherd finds his lost sheep and brings it back to the flock, no one should say that “you are lost,” but that “you are one of us,” because this returns dignity to the lost sheep.
“There is no difference,” he noted, because God “returns to the fold everyone he finds. And when he does this, he is a God who rejoices.”
“The joy of God is not the death of the sinner, but the life of the sinner.”
Concluding his reflections, the pontiff highlighted how far from Jesus were those who “murmured against” him, adding that “They didn’t know Him.”
“They thought that being religious, being good people meant always being well-mannered and polite, and often pretending to be polite, right? This is the hypocrisy of the murmuring.”
“But,” stressed the Pope, “the joy of God the Father, in fact, is love. He loves us.”
Pope Francis stated that although we are often hesitant to receive the love of God due to our sins, Jesus tells us “I love you anyway, and I go out searching for you, and I bring you home.”
“This is our Father,” he finished, “Let’s reflect on this.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Deomar De Guedes has resigned as a general counselor of the Legionaries of Christ, citing a lack of energy to confront the challenges of the position.
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the pontifical delegate overseeing the reform of the order, accepted the resignation. The priest was one of six members of the Legion’s general council.
The Legion’s acting general director, Fr. Sylvester Heereman, said he respects Fr. De Guedes’ decision. He voiced gratitude for his work in renewing the congregation.
Fr. De Guedes had asked Cardinal De Paolis to be “exclaustrated,” that is, to live outside the congregation.
The Code of Canon Law deals with exclaustration under the chapter on “separation of members” from institutes of consecrated life. The “New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law” comments that exclaustration “demonstrates a conscious distancing of the individual from the institute,” though adding that “while living out of community” the exclaustrated person “is in fact still a member of the institute under vow.”
However, the commentary states that the procedure is “often recommended as a transitional time for one who intends to leave definitively.”
Cardinal De Paolis granted Fr. De Guedes permission to reside “extra domum” – outside the community – for one year, asking that he re-evaluate his situation after the election of the congregation’s new leadership, at a general chapter which will commence Jan. 8, 2014 and is expected to last through February.
Fr. De Guedes, a native of Brazil, joined the Legion's novitiate in 1992, and made perpetual profession in 1997. He had been in his position as general counselor since February 2012.
He previously worked in the formation of diocesan seminarians at Rome’s International Pontifical College Maria Mater Ecclesiae, and was rector of Brazil’s Maria Mater Ecclesiae seminary. He was also rector of the Mexico City formation center for consecrated men in Regnum Christi, the Legion of Christ’s lay affiliate.
The Legion of Christ's general chapter will both elect new leaders and establish new constitutions for the order. The group said Nov. 6 that the event is “an important step in the Legion’s renewal and purification process.”
In 2009, the congregation’s late founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, was revealed to have led a scandalous double life. He kept a mistress and fathered children. Fr. Maciel, who died in 2008, has also been accused of sexual abuse and financial embezzlement.
An apostolic visitation determined the order needed “profound re-evaluation.” Benedict XVI removed Fr. Maciel from public ministry, calling him to a life of penitence and prayer.
Denver, Colo., Nov 7, 2013 (CNA) - In a new column for CNA, a theology professor and author says that the Pope’s recent interviews need to be understood in light of his missionary vision for the Church rather than as individual declarations.
“The key to interpreting Pope Francis’ statements properly is found in his vision for the Church,” Dr. Edward Sri, professor of scripture and theology at the Augustine Institute, said in his most recent column, “Making sense of Pope Francis: Christian ambition in evangelization and the humility of dialogue.”
The Holy Father’s seemingly off-the-cuff comments about moral issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and contraception have been both “celebrated” and “feared” as a “radical departure from Catholic moral teachings on the matters.”
However, Dr. Sri wrote, rather than drawing conclusions from sound bites of Pope Francis’ interviews, people should consider his overall vision for the Church, which seems to be one of missionary outreach.
“The Holy Father says he wants a Church that doesn’t just open its doors to others, but goes out to the world: to those Christians who are indifferent, to the Catholics who stop going to Mass, and even to unbelievers like Eugenio Scalfari,” Dr. Sri said, referring to the Holy Father’s Oct. 1 interview with the prominent atheist journalist.
Dr. Sri recalled the Pontiff’s analogy of the Church as a field hospital charged with treating critical injuries in order to save a patient’s life. Only after the “most serious wounds” are addressed can the doctor move on to “other aspects of living a healthy life.”
He explained that when it is separated from the “context of God’s loving plan of salvation,” Church teaching can appear to be nothing more than “arbitrary rules from a bygone era being imposed on people today.”
Now that we live in a secular culture, more people than ever need to be exposed to the love and mercy of God before they can be expected to live out Christian morality, which is a “response to God’s love for us and our life in Jesus Christ.”
The Pope’s comments are a sign of “a new emphasis” in how the faith should be proclaimed in the “missionary territory” that is the post-modern world.
“(People) need the initial proclamation of the Gospel to understand the context of the Church’s moral teachings,” the professor explained. “And they need the hope and encouragement that grace gives the person to pursue the good, even when it is very difficult to do so.”
Just as in the New Testament, Pope Francis is using different ways of reaching people by first proclaiming the Good News and then following with moral exhortation as is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul.
“In Acts, the way Peter and Paul initially proclaim the faith to those who have not yet heard the Gospel is different from the way Paul instructs believers in his letters to established Christian communities,” Dr. Sri said.
The apostles, while “not afraid to address tough moral issues,” used different approaches to address different groups of people. Some addresses were directed at those who did not yet know Christ while others were meant for those who had converted but struggled with living a Christian life.
Above all else, the Pope sees himself, like Matthew the tax collector, as “a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.”
“And in doing so, I think he is inviting us to do the same,” Dr. Sri wrote.
To read Dr. Sri’s column in full, please visit: www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2719.
Washington D.C., Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - More than 130 leading Catholic scholars have signed a letter to the U.S. bishops criticizing the Common Core State Standards for school curricula, warning that the core philosophy will “undermine Catholic education.”
“We believe that implementing Common Core would be a grave disservice to Catholic education in America,” said the Oct. 16 letter, organized by Notre Dame Law School professor Gerard Bradley.
The scholars said they are convinced that the Common Core standards are “so deeply flawed” that they should not be adopted by Catholic schools and that those which have endorsed the standards should “seek an orderly withdrawal now.”
The Common Core State Standards were created with the intention of setting uniform educational standards across various U.S. states. The effort to create the standards originated with the National Governors’ Association and the school superintendent leadership organization, the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has become a major backer of the project, giving more than $160 million to develop and promote it, Politico reports. The Obama administration has also created strong monetary incentives for states to adopt the curriculum.
Since 2010, more than 100 Catholic dioceses have decided to implement the Common Core curriculum, as have 45 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
In some cases, Catholic schools are following the lead of state law. In Indiana, Catholic schools had to adopt the Common Core because state vouchers are available to religious schools only if they adopt state standards, National Review Online reported in May.
The Catholic scholars’ letter, sent to every bishop in the U.S., said the curriculum lacks “America’s Catholic schools’ rich tradition of helping to form children’s hearts and minds.”
“In that tradition,” they wrote, “education brings children to the Word of God. It provides students with a sound foundation of knowledge and sharpens their faculties of reason. It nurtures the child’s natural openness to truth and beauty, his moral goodness, and his longing for the infinite and happiness.”
“Education in this tradition forms men and women capable of discerning and pursuing their path in life and who stand ready to defend truth, their church, their families, and their country.”
By contrast, they said, Common Core is “a recipe for standardized workforce preparation” that “shortchanges” the goals of Catholic education.
The curriculum’s Catholic critics include Robert George of Princeton University, Anthony Esolen of Providence College, Scott Hahn of the University of Steubenville, Patrick Deneen of the University of Notre Dame, David Schindler of the Catholic University of America, and Janet Smith of Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
They charged that curriculum standards reduce the study of “classic, narrative fiction” in favor of “informational texts.” This reduces reading to “a servile activity” that does not explore “the creativity of man, the great lessons of life, tragedy, love, good and evil, the rich textures of history that underlie great works of fiction, and the tales of self-sacrifice and mercy in the works of the great writers that have shaped our cultural literacy over the centuries.”
Sister John Mary Fleming, executive director for Catholic education at the U.S. bishops' conference, told the New York Times that the criticism was misconceived – that the standards should be regarded not as a ceiling, but as a floor.
“We see the Common Core as a minimum, just as we’ve seen other state standards in the past as a minimum, and we intend to go way beyond that.”
Critics, however, have questioned whether shifts in focus and funding will pressure schools to emphasize standardized tests and a narrow set of skills aiming at college preparation rather than comprehensively educating the entire person.
They also question whether the curriculum standards for earlier grades are excessively complex and whether students and teachers have been prepared for the changes.
At present, only math and English Common Core standards have been released. However, the scholars’ letter warned that standards in other areas will likely “promote the prevailing philosophical orthodoxies,” including a “materialist metaphysics” incompatible with the spiritual worldview that Catholicism presupposes.
“We fear, too, that the history standards will promote the easy moral relativism, tinged with a pervasive anti-religious bias, that is commonplace in collegiate history departments today.”
The letter said Catholic officials approved the curriculum with “good intentions” though “too hastily,” and with “inadequate consideration of how it would change the character and curriculum of our nation’s Catholic schools.”
Catholic skeptics of Common Core also include some high school principals. The Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to Catholic identity in education, surveyed 73 principals of schools that had made its Catholic High School Honor Roll or received honorable mention in 2012.
Of the 60 who responded, almost half thought the adoption of Common Core standards would hurt their school while 23 percent thought it would make no difference, and fewer than 14 percent thought they would improve their school.
Forty percent said their diocese and local Catholic schools should pause and study the standards; almost one-third said they should decline to participate.
Denver, Colo., Nov 7, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A new biography of Blessed Junipero Serra, the Franciscan priest who founded many Catholic missions in 18th century California, shows “incomprehension” of its subject and wrongly minimizes his heroism, one reviewer says.
“A true image of the great missionary indeed it is, but it is an image cast in photographic negative,” Christopher O. Blum said of Cornell history professor Steven W. Hackel’s book “Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father.”
However, Serra’s “admirable traits remain visible, even amidst the darkness of the image,” Blum said in his review, published Nov. 1 at Crisis Magazine’s website.
Blum, a history and philosophy professor at Denver’s Augustine Institute, said that Junipero Serra left behind a prestigious university chair in Mallorca for the hard work of missionary life in the New World in 1749. He founded nine missions in upper California and personally celebrated more than 6,000 baptisms and 5,000 confirmations.
“Then, of course, there is the most astonishing fact of all, that he traveled some 20,000 miles or more on foot to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Indian tribes of northern Mexico and California,” Blum said, asking “How does one go about portraying such a life as anything other than generous and heroic?”
He said Hackel’s book minimizes Serra’s freedom and his virtues. According to Blum, Hackel speculated that Serra chose the priesthood to leave a life of “filth, disorder, disease and hunger” and that Serra’s commitment to personally administer baptism shows a “desire for absolute control.” Serra’s habit of traveling on foot was to show his humility as part of the “theater” of popular missions.
Hackel writes that Serra, who suffered from a life-long injury to his leg, “probably took some satisfaction in how the source of his discomfort was so visible to others.”
Blum said that Haeckel’s depiction suggests Serra was “a master of self-representation who carefully constructed his life” to impress contemporaries and the future, but the biographer does not provide a convincing motive.
Serra’s efforts to discourage promiscuity among Indian tribes came in the context of massive deaths from new venereal diseases from Europe, noted Blum, who charged that Haeckel consistently sides with Spanish colonial officials who wanted the Franciscans to “mind their own business.”
Blum said that in reality, Serra spent his life in “the endless labor of building civilization in the wilderness.” He helped establish a viable agricultural life for the nomadic natives, allowing their numbers to increase. He also trained some in construction, bringing craftsmen north from the colonial capital.
Serra labored to bring to California “the very institutions, practices and virtues” that allow for the writing of a critical biography of him, he added.
Yet for Haeckel, Blum charged, Serra’s “astonishing renunciation of a quiet, comfortable, and even dignified life for the endless, filthy toil of the frontier becomes evidence not of singular heroism, but of widely-shared delusion.”
“It will take nothing less than the patience of a Junipero Serra to convince such an author, and such a culture as ours, that the love of God and neighbor is not just another post-modern stance, but the deep, calm reasonableness of holiness,” Blum said.