Progressives eagerly remind America of its past of slavery and racism. So much so that The New York Times’ 1619 Project literally dates America that way, defining the country’s start by the year 1619 (rather than 1620 or 1776), with the arrival of the first Africans to Virginia that year. Mobs target statues of everyone from Washington and Jefferson to (curiously) Union generals like Ulysses S. Grant, who defeated the Confederacy before battling the KKK, and even Abraham Lincoln and (most bizarre of all) Frederick Douglass, the great black abolitionist. Very often, the mob engages in bad history, targeting literal saints who sought to protect natives from persecution, such as Saint Junípero Serra, who is being hunted and torn down throughout California. For a downright chilling display, watch the video of a raging mob in Sacramento blowtorching Serra’s face, spray-painting the statue with obscenities, and then pouncing on it with hammers while cheering, chanting, and cursing in the dark of night.
The problem with mobs, you see, is that they behave like, well, mobs.
We Catholics know this will not stop with Saint Serra. Also in the crosshairs are the likes of Saint Louis, Christopher Columbus (obviously), and who knows who else. Last weekend, one of Serra’s mission churches in California went up in flames, with the cause of the fire not yet known. In the last few days, a statue of Mary was set on fire in Boston and another was vandalized in Brooklyn (among others). As to what Mary has to do with the modern anti-statue-racism movement is anyone’s guess.
Nonetheless, if the issue is (rightly so) a just condemnation of slavery and racism, and if one is genuinely seeking accurate history, then today’s activists ought to look back in admiration at the impressive track record of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, now is a good time for Catholics to step up with a teachable moment regarding how their Church has long condemned human enslavement. This history goes back to at least 1435, over a half century before Columbus set sail for the New World. This rich record spans from the 1400s into the modern era with Pope Francis.
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