Adding insult to injury

Share Button

At least in the case of Canada’s First Nations, the oldest Christian organized religion, the Catholic Church, has a hard time apologizing.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and AFN National Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde have all requested an apology from the Catholic Church for its part in Canada’s residential school system. Even though the Church ran over two thirds of Canada’s 133 residential schools, Pope Francis “…felt that he could not personally respond,” according to the Catholic Bishops of Canada.

The Anglican, United and Presbyterian churches, which were also involved in running residential schools, have all apologized for their involvement decades ago. The only holdout to date has been the Catholic Church.

It could be tied to concerns over court cases against the church. Just in the US during the 1990s, the church paid out about $2 billion to sexual abuse victims. If this is the concern, it makes a mockery of the Church’s teachings of spirituality being more important than secular concerns.

A March 27 letter to Canada’s First Nations from Bishop Lionel Gendron, the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Church sees its “relationship with Indigenous Peoples as a major pastoral priority.” It is unclear exactly what is meant by “pastoral priority.”

In Catholicism one can say it is understood to be in the broad sense of “helping others,” and pastoral care is the responsibility of all Christians. Pastoral care involves protecting Catholics, tending to needs, strengthening the weak, and so on. Mostly, it means getting people to join the Catholic faith.

In the letter, entitled Dear Indigenous Brothers and Sisters, Bishop Gendron wrote, “Pope Francis, in fulfilling his mission as Universal Pastor, has spoken often and passionately about the plight of Indigenous Peoples around the world and the wisdom they offer, not shying away from acknowledging those injustices that have failed to conform to the Gospel and expressing regret for past wrongs.”

However, the Church hasn’t even fulfilled part of a 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, made with Canada and other churches, in which it committed to raise $25 million for residential-school survivor healing programs. At that time Ottawa let the Church off the hook during legal negotiations aimed at forcing it to pay another $29 million it committed to as part of the agreement.

Given this intransigence, the federal NDP plans to table a motion in the House of Commons calling on Pope Francis to apologize for the abuse suffered by Indigenous children at residential schools, to meet the financial obligations promised when they signed the agreement, and to turn over documentation related to the schools they ran.

Pope Francis said the Church’s mission is “to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy.” He has also stated “the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence.”

It is a shame his rhetoric is not followed by even a simple apology for the past actions of the Church he leads, much less fulfilling the obligations it agreed to under the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Share Button

Comments are closed.