Retired bishop apologizes to Indians for church’s treatment

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Retired Bishop Francis A. Quinn of Sacramento, during a Dec. 15 Mass at the Church of St. Raphael in San Rafael, apologized to the Coast Miwok Indians for the church’s mistreatment of them two centuries ago.

The Mass was held to commemorate the 190th anniversary of the founding of Mission San Rafael Arcangel.

The Miwok Indians once occupied the lands from the Golden Gate to north of Bodega Bay and helped Spanish priests build and maintain the mission in 1817.

The bishop conceded that the Indians were repaid by church authorities with the destruction of their own spiritual practices and cruel punishment for any disobedience.

“I’ve studied the Coast Miwok tribe and found that some of the church missionaries treated them rather roughly in insisting that they accept a European Catholicism and disciplined them for not following what they taught them,” Bishop Quinn told The Herald, Sacramento’s diocesan newspaper, in an interview.

“I felt I should express regret that the Miwok were treated unfairly in many ways, although the missionaries were well-intentioned but mistaken and doing only what they had been taught to do in bringing the faith to the Indians,” Bishop Quinn added.

“They probably didn’t expect an apology, so some of the Indians even wept. I look on it as a time of reconciliation and understanding between the Miwoks and church representatives.”

Greg Sarris, head of the Miwok tribal council, officially called the Federal Indians of Graton Rancheria, told The Associated Press that Bishop Quinn’s remarks were historic.

“I have not heard this happening anywhere else in this country,” he said.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.