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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about The Old Franciscan Missions Of California.

It was not the policy or intention of the Government of Spain to found Missions in the New World solely for the benefit of the natives.  Philanthropic motives doubtless influenced the rulers to a certain degree; but to civilize barbarous peoples and convert them to the Catholic faith meant not only the rescue of savages from future perdition, but the enlargement of the borders of the Church, the preparation for future colonization, and, consequently, the extension of Spanish power and territory.

At the very inception of the Missions this was the complex end in view; but the padres who were commissioned to initiate these enterprises were, almost without exception, consecrated to one work only,—­the salvation of souls.

In the course of time this inevitably led to differences of opinion between the missionaries and the secular authorities in regard to the wisest methods of procedure.  In spite of the arguments of the padres, these conflicts resulted in the secularization of some of the Missions prior to the founding of those in California; but the condition of the Indians on the Pacific Coast led the padres to believe that secularization was a result possible only in a remote future.  They fully understood that the Missions were not intended to become permanent institutions, yet faced the problem of converting a savage race into christianized self-supporting civilians loyal to the Spanish Crown,—­a problem which presented perplexities and difficulties neither understood nor appreciated at the time by the government authorities in Spain or Mexico, nor by the mass of critics of the padres in our own day.

Whatever may have been the mental capacity, ability, and moral status of the Indians from one point of view, it is certain that the padres regarded them as ignorant, vile, incapable, and totally lost without the restraining and educating influences of the Church.  As year after year opened up the complexities of the situation, the padres became more and more convinced that it would require an indefinite period of time to develop these untamed children into law-abiding citizens, according to the standard of the white aggressors upon their territory.

On the other hand, aside from envy, jealousy, and greed, there were reasons why some of the men in authority honestly believed a change in the Mission system of administration would be advantageous to the natives, the Church, and the State.

There is a good as well as an evil side to the great subject of “secularization.”  In England the word used is “disestablishment.”  In the United States, to-day, for our own government, the general sentiment of most of its inhabitants is in favor of what is meant by “secularization,” though of course in many particulars the cases are quite different.  In other words, it means the freedom of the Church from the control or help of the State.  In such an important matter there is bound to be great diversity of opinion.  Naturally,

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