Church’s tone-deaf move to canonize Serra will drive people away

Church’s tone-deaf move to canonize Serra will drive people away

On my walk home from work, I pass three storefront evangelical churches. They’re often the only institutions of well repute on those blocks, and their congregants have the pride of people who treasure respectability and order, because there’s so little of those things in their surroundings. The women wear long skirts, the men wear boxy suits, the children have clean collars.

Some of them were born here, and some of them are immigrants from Mexico or El Salvador or Nicaragua or elsewhere in Latin America, but the crucial point is that they are all from traditionally Catholic cultures, and they’ve all chosen a different church. It’s a distinct choice that can be appreciated even on the most secular level — they’re choosing to spend their time at small storefronts with ugly overhead lighting and bad carpets, instead of in San Francisco’s beautiful Catholic churches. They’re doing this because the faith of their ancestors didn’t hold enough for them.


I thought about these storefront churches when I heard that Pope Francis is planning to canonize the Rev. Junipero Serra, the priest who “brought” Christianity to California in the late 1700s.

Or perhaps I should say that I thought about why, despite a wildly popular Latin American pope, the church is struggling to hold onto believers even where it’s strongest. The Serra choice is as fine an example of the church’s tone deafness as I can imagine.


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