The Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles rebuked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Friday for alleging that a Catholic saint’s statue in the Capitol exhibits “patriarchy” and “white supremacist culture.”
“Just taking a couple minutes out of my day here because I felt the need to respond to something I came across that was just so outrageous,” said Bishop Robert Barron in a two-tweet response to Ocasio-Cortez. “It was a tweet, or an Instagram or something from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and she was complaining about the presence of a statue in Statuary Hall in the Capitol building that she thought was a sign of colonialism and white supremacy.”
Barron, chuckling, continued, “The statue that she picked out, of all the possible ones, was of St. Damien of Molokai. And I thought it was so crazy and outrageous, and I wondered, did she have any idea who St. Damien of Molokai was?”
Barron went on to explain how St. Damien of Molokai, a Belgian priest who was born Jozef De Veusterin in 1840, achieved international fame for his missionary work to an isolated leper colony in the Kingdom of Hawaii during the 19th century. For more than a decade, he ministered to the outcasts until he eventually contracted and succumbed to the disease himself in 1889 when he was 49 years old. He has since become the patron saint of lepers and outcasts, and the day he died is still commemorated in Hawaii on April 15. The Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI canonized him in 2009.
“Damien went knowing full-well that he would most likely never return from this ministry and, in fact, he never did,” Barron continued. “Damien came to the island and right away gave himself utterly to the people. Ministering to them, yes, preaching to them, but also caring for them in the most direct way. Touching them at a time when even those who were there sometimes wouldn’t touch those who were suffering from the disease. He would.”
“Damien of Molokai is reverenced by the people of Hawaii – he was in his own lifetime, and then after his death, he’s been reverenced as a saint by the people of Hawaii,” said Barron. “My point is, to associate this man in any way with colonialism or white supremacy is so ridiculous and insulting. And it shows the superficiality and the simplistic quality of these sort of woke categories.”
Barron concluded by lamenting the rise of attacks against Catholic saints such as St. Damien and St. Junipero Serra, an 18th-century missionary to Mexico and present-day California whose statue was toppled by protesters in June. “What is it with this attack on Catholic saints?” he asked.
In defense of St. Damien of Molokai: Part 2 pic.twitter.com/YYIFZU2DV4
— Bishop Robert Barron (@BishopBarron) July 31, 2020
Ocasio-Cortez made headlines for a Thursday Instagram post in which she complained about the lack of diversity among the statues in the Capitol. She singled out St. Damien’s as an example of “what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like,” though she later claimed her Instagram video was taken out of context.
1. Unsure why you cut the context of the video. Here’s moments prior
2. Read the text of the video you posted: it’s not about litigating an indiv person or statue, but examining that the TOTALITY of all 100+ statues are almost all white & male,incl to rep largely nonwhite places pic.twitter.com/624zJ11jU1
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 31, 2020