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Archbishop Gomez: Remember the Hispanic-Catholic roots of America

August 04, 2011

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles has called upon Catholics to remember that the roots of America are “Hispanic-Catholic” as well as “Anglo-Protestant.”

“The story of the founding fathers and the truths they held to be self-evident is not the whole story about America,” he told participants at a conference sponsored by the Napa Institute. “The rest of the story starts more than a century before the pilgrims. It starts in the 1520s in Florida and in the 1540s here in California.”

“Long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent,” he continued. “Catholics founded America’s oldest settlement, in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. Immigrant missionaries were naming this continent’s rivers and mountains and territories for saints, sacraments and articles of the faith.”

Archbishop Gomez added:

When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the new world, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with the idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

When that has happened in the past it has led to those episodes in our history that we are least proud of — the mistreatment of Native Americans; slavery; the recurring outbreaks of nativism and anti-Catholicism; the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; the misadventures of “manifest destiny.”

There are, of course, far more complicated causes behind these moments in our history. But at the root, I think we can see a common factor — a wrongheaded notion that “real Americans” are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background.

Immigrants, said Archbishop Gomez, are the key to American renewal.

“We have a legal structure that allows, and even pays for, the killing of babies in the womb,” he said. “Our courts and legislatures are redefining the natural institutions of marriage and the family. We have an elite culture — in government, the media and academia — that is openly hostile to religious faith.”

On the other hand, “most of the men and women who are living in America without proper documentation have traveled hundreds even thousands of miles. They have left everything behind, risked their safety and their lives. They have done this, not for their own comfort or selfish needs. They have done this to feed their loved ones.”

“These men and women have courage and the other virtues. The vast majority of them believe in Jesus Christ and love our Catholic Church, They share traditional American values of faith, family and community. That is why I believe our immigrant brothers and sisters are the key to American renewal. And we all know that America is in need of renewal — economic and political, but also spiritual, moral and cultural renewal.”


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: drl12501082 - Aug. 05, 2011 8:47 AM ET USA

    Catholicism in America is also from the French. Indeed, all Catholics who came to these shores brought their cultures, but more importantly their Catholic Faith.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Aug. 04, 2011 10:38 PM ET USA

    Archbishop Gomez is too modest. Under the papal treaty of Tordesillas, all of North America was granted to the Spanish Empire in perpetuity. It's only a matter of time before this land is restored to a Catholic monarch. Demography is destiny.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2011 6:23 PM ET USA

    With all due respect to His Excellency, this is a distortion of history. As Archbishop Chaput put it earlier this year, "Whatever it becomes in the future, America was born Protestant."

  • Posted by: - Aug. 04, 2011 6:22 PM ET USA

    With all due respect to His Excellency, this is a distortion of history. As Archbishop Chaput put it earlier this year, "Whatever it becomes in the future, America was born Protestant."

  • Posted by: JimK01 - Aug. 04, 2011 6:08 PM ET USA

    I hope everyone will take five minutes and read the entire speech -- it is outstanding!