Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Papal Influence

After watching the resignation of one pope and the election of another, I began to wonder just how much influence a pope has in world affairs.

When it comes right down to it, he has little influence outside the church. But, with a membership of over one billion, if he can bring more of his members back into active participation in the church, his voice will certainly be heeded by many.

Every thing I read about Pope Francis leads me to believe that he is setting a tone that could affect many Catholics who have strayed from the church and seldom attend religious services.

Then, I began to think back to my Father Serra's Legacy time frame.

Why did Pope Clement XIII allow the Jesuits to be ousted from so many countries, including New Spain? He was unable to overcome the political machinations of Kings and their parliaments? Was he not schooled by the Jesuits and a member of the Society of Jesus himself?

In 1758 the government of Joseph I of Portugal took advantage of the waning powers of Pope Benedict XIV and deported Jesuits from America after relocating the Jesuits and their native workers, and then fighting a brief conflict, formally suppressing the order in 1759. The expulsion was actually the machinations of the Marquis of Pombal who ran the empire. Some pretty nasty things went on in the expulsion from Brazil.

I've done research on the subject and some interesting things come to light. While Louis XV is said to be responsible for urging Pope Clement to suppress the Jesuits, one may say the motive behind it was his affair with Madame de Pompadour. It seems his Jesuit confessor would not absolve the king unless she was dismissed from court. Nor did the order have a strong ally in Marie Teresa who had been educated by them. The marriage was one of convenience and, after having borne an heir to the throne, maybe she had other desires.

However, it was the Bourbon King Carlos III who put the nail in the cross, so to speak, by ordering the expulsion of the Jesuits from his domains in Europe, Asia, and America.
That all started earlier when Carlos became king of Naples. Pope Clement XII considered himself the only one to invest the king of Naples. There followed a series of disputes that appeared to sour Carlos on the Vatican. Not even a new pope could ease the discord. That and an uneasy situation with his parliament caused him to mandate the expulsion of the Jesuits in spite of Pope Clement XIII's wishes to the contrary. And, it seems that Carlos wished to side with his Bourbon cousin.

The decision of who would replace the Jesuits came from Archbishop Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana y Butrón, himself a graduate of a Jesuit seminary. That he designated Franciscans to replace the Jesuits in California is not explained. He appeared to be a scholar and not much of an administrator. That he did so might have been due to the influence of Domingo Andrea Rossi, The Minister General of the Order of Saint Francis. And, from the beginning, it seems the decision had already been made to have Dominicans assume control of the Baja California missions as Father Serra became more engaged in Alta California.

It was then up to the Guardian of The Apostolic College of San Fernando de Mexico to decide who was to lead the effort. This “college” was what would be considered a seminary where friars were taught the skills necessary to establish mission. This resulted in the selection of Father Junipero Serra to become president guardian of the missions. Why Father Serra?

First, he had experience founding missions in the Sierra Gorda mountains. Next, he had spent several years lecturing friars on the efforts required to bring Gentiles (as they called the natives) into the fold. And thirdly, the piety and dedication he showed had to play a big part.

So, off to California Father Serra and 15 friars went. It could not have been easy for them to oversee the departure of the Jesuits whom the natives had come to look upon as their parents, their spiritual and industrial leaders.

In the end, the caretakers changed, but the care the natives received did not.

Pope Pius VI was elected in February 1775 against the wishes of the kings of Spain, Portugal, and France, as they believed he sided with the Jesuits who had been exiled to Prussia and Russia. He had little effect on what was going on in the New World. He, however, made an enemy of Napoleon and was taken prisoner. He died in 1799 and was not replaced by Pius VII until March 1800. This was the same time when Haro y Peralta passed away in Mexico. He was replaced by Archbishop Lizana y Beaumont in 1803 and there seems to be no reason for the delay, perhaps the problems within the church in Europe.

In 1813, the Spanish Cortes decreed that all California missions be given up to the bishop – but doesn't say which. As it turned out, it was never enforced as the bishop told the friars to continue as they were. Where was the pope in this? He apparently had no input or say-so on the matter. The next point came when the Mexican government once again ordered the missions to be secularized, in which neither the pope nor archbishop had any say.

Archbishop de Fonte held the office until 1837, but did not appear to have a great deal of influence over Mexico's political affairs.

The Mexican government recognized the Roman Catholic church as the official religion until the constitution of 1917. Álvaro Obregón and the Constitutionalists eventually took active measures to reduce the profound influence of the Catholic Church. On May 19, 1914, Obregón's forces sentenced Bishop Andres Segura and other clerical officials to jail for eight years because of their participation in a revolt. Pope Pius X was in Rome and appeared to have little or no hand in international affairs as was his predecessor, Pope Benedict XV.

So, what's the point of all this?

While it appears Pope Francis is determined to have an impact upon the direction of the church, he and his predecessors seem to not have a very major role in worldly political affairs. It would be nice if he could, but I won't hold my breath.

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