California missions were staffed by a Franciscan priest or two, and a half a dozen soldiers. The former addressed spiritual and administrative concerns and the latter established physical security for the Spanish interests.

Mission neophytes were often physically punished. I assumed that the military units would have used force at the priests' discretion. However, Lorenzo Asisara recalled that in 1812, Donato, a neophyte at Mission Santa Cruz "was punished by" Padre Andres Quintana with a wire-tipped whip. (Donato then convened a group, planned, and executed the torture and assassination of the padre.)

The source is not entirely explicit about who wielded the whip. Did mission priests administer, not merely call for, corporal punishment?

2 Answers 2


I have only been able to find one source which specifies who delivered punishment:

The man who delivered the flogging was typically an Hispanic soldier or an Indian bailiff, elected by the neophytes from a list of candidates approved by the friars, and subservient to the friars.

Taken from the book Junípero Serra, the Vatican & Enslavement Theology (Page 130), by Daniel Fogel

  • I concur with with this statement. See my answer for a source with lots more details.
    – user18968
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 5:22

Yes, the Franciscan priests did whip neophytes, according to Steven W. Hackel's "The Staff of Leadership: Indian Authority in the Missions of Alta California":

Franciscans ... looked to Indian officials to administer a share of the corporal punishment they considered necessary for the Indians' souls. Foreign visitors and Anglo-American immigrants emphasized that Indians "did a great deal of chastisement, both by and without [Franciscan] orders." ... Indian complaints substantiate the basic claim of alcalde violence in the mission. However severe, corporal punishments by Indian officials did not take the place of beatings dealt directly by the Franciscans. Viewing themselves as the spiritual fathers of the Indians, Franciscans maintained that it was their responsibility to chastise them; they flogged Indians for repeatedly running away, for practicing native religious beliefs, and for performing a host of other acts considered disrespectful or sinful. When Indians remained incorrigible after several floggings, the friars sent them to the presidio for more beatings and hard labor.

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