Rejecting forgiveness, Catholics demand more punishment

Jesus said: "Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either." –Matthew, chapter 6, verses 14 – 15

Angered that a restorative justice program seeks to educate and spread understanding, and desiring more punishment for the Native Americans who defaced the statue of a "Saint" known for his atrocities some Catholic folks refuse to forgive.

On October 20th, 2020, in recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day, some Indigenous people tore down and defaced a statue of Father Junipero Serra. The 18th-century priest is known for his role in the mandatory conversion of native peoples to Catholicism and is accused of rape, murder, and other abuses against the converts. 35-40 years ago, as a student in a California public school, we were taught he was a wonderful person, and none of the terrible or unsavory elements of the Mission system were discussed.

It seems clear why folks are upset about statues honoring Serra, and rather than "lock them up" the County subject the demonstrators to a system of restorative justice. Understanding of why the crime occurred, discussion amongst the community to help educate and prevent the situation from rising again, and community service to make amends are the program instead of incarceration. Many protestors considering themselves "practicing Catholics," gathered in Marin County, California, to protest what they see as too lenient a punishment.

Marin IJ:

The rally, which drew about 20 to 30 demonstrators, featured participants carrying picket signs and chanting as they marched through downtown San Rafael, calling for a reversal of the decision and the unseating of District Attorney Lori Frugoli.

"We have been ignored. We are not going to be ignored any longer," said Melanie Morgan of Novato. "Justice does not mean probation for a bunch of people who tore down an icon of the Catholic religion. It means they should have faced some jail time."

Many of the participants said they were practicing Catholics from Marin. They called the defacement of the statue, depicting the 18th century canonized Catholic priest Junipero Serra, a hate crime. Some expressed concern that the reduction in charges could invite further acts of vandalism against all religious communities.

Joe Tassone of San Rafael said the punishment was a "slap on the wrist." He contended that the defendants would have been charged with a hate crime if the vandalism had occurred to a religious icon at a non-Christian site.