Archbishop Cordileone on Atoning for the Sins We See in Our Nation

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Junípero Serra, who has been in the news recently after a statue of him in Golden Gate Park was torn down by protesters. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco has also been in the news, as he responded to the toppling of the statue by offering exorcism prayers at the site where it once stood.

Archbishop Cordileone stopped by The Drew Mariani Show™ this week to discuss why he offered exorcism prayers specifically, and how we as Catholics can atone for the sins we see in our nation.

On how he felt seeing the statue of St. Junípero Serra torn down, Archbishop Cordileone said, “It did affect me very personally, because of the devotion I have [to St. Junípero Serra] and what a part of my life he was growing up. I grew up a little over three miles from the first church that he founded. So it’s very much a part of who I am and it affected me very personally when I saw that happen. I was very shaken.”

The tearing down of the statue was part of ongoing protests that have been happening throughout the country over the past few weeks. Archbishop Cordileone acknowledged that people are rightly outraged over injustices that have taken place in our country, but the toppling of the St. Junípero Serra statue shows that there is a need for a better understanding of our history.

“There is legitimate outrage, because we do have a deeply entrenched history of racism in our country, especially [toward] the Native and African American communities,” he said. “So there is legitimate outrage, but it seems to be hijacked by this frenzy and inability to understand history and make distinctions in history.”

“It’s this frenzy to destroy all the history that came before us, and destroy the legacy. And I was so powerfully moved that I realized we needed to engage spiritually in this effort. To do some kind of reparation.”

Archbishop Cordileone led a group in the recitation of the Rosary, and also prayed the extended St. Michael Prayer, an exorcism prayer given by Pope Leo XIII.

On why he chose to offer exorcism prayers in Latin, Archbishop Cordileone said, “When I saw the statue falling I got this powerful sense of the demonic.”

“Not that the people are devil-worshipers or in league with the devil,” he clarified. “But he has his ways of unwittingly using us. So I felt that demonic presence, and we needed to cleanse the land there. So I prayed the extended St. Michael Prayer with the exorcism prayers and the holy water.”

As our country once again reckons with the racial injustices of our history, there has been discussion about reparations for the Black and Native American communities. And while those discussions focus primarily on material reparations, Archbishop Cordileone pointed out that there is a real need for spiritual reparations to be made for the sins we see in our nation.

On making reparations for the sins of others, the archbishop said, “We are all members of the Body of Christ, so it goes beyond any one person. We make reparation for personal sin, and we also do that corporately. I think we’ve kind of lost the sense of reparation, lost the sense of penance. So it’s an opportunity for us to engage in this for all of our corporate sins.”

As we see in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, contrition for sins is necessary, but so is penance. The penitential season of Lent involves not just the pillar of prayer, but also fasting and almsgiving. And so as Catholics, when we look around and see the sins present in our nation, prayer and fasting is necessary to make spiritual reparations.

“Reparation is prayers, but also penance,” Archbishop Cordileone emphasized. “I think we’ve really lost this sense of fasting. Fasting used to be a big part of the Christian life. And when the Church reformed the laws about fasting it wasn’t to convey the message that it’s no longer important. The whole point of it was to encourage people to voluntarily take it on, rather than just because it’s the law and we have to obey it. Unfortunately the contrary message got sent.”

“So I think we really need to reclaim this sense of fasting as a penance. To beg the Lord for mercy, to make reparation for our corporate sins, and to ask God to give us the grace so that his grace, through us, will renew the Church.”

Listen to the full conversation with Archbishop Cordileone at The Drew Mariani Show podcast.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.