“Ask a Priest: What About Controversy Over a Canonized Saint?”

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Q: Why was Junípero Serra canonized as a saint if there was controversy over him? I’m a little uncomfortable with this. -C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It might surprise you, but many saints were controversial in their own way. St. Jerome was said to have had an irascible character. Even Pope St. John Paul II had his critics. You can’t please everyone.

When the Church canonizes someone, it is recognizing, among other things, the person’s great virtues. This doesn’t mean a person is perfect. But canonization does recognize that, all things considered, a person led an extraordinary life. St. Junípero did exceptional missionary work.

It is very easy to sit back and judge people from another century and overlook all the good that they did. It isn’t fair to hold everyone to 21st-century standards of behavior in all areas. Saints did the best they could in their circumstances. For more reading see the Boston Pilot article. I hope this helps.

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