In talking and writing about the discovery in Kamloops this week, I’ve tried to make a point that while I hope for better and for those responsible for those institutions in the current-day context, I couldn’t have too much hope. I’ve said that I want to believe and hope for the best, but bitter experience has taught me otherwise. This is especially true when it comes to the role of the Catholic Church in this genocide.
The Catholic Church wasn’t the only church to participate in this system, but they remain the only one who have refused to formally apologize for their role, nor cooperate with investigations into what took place. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission even went as far as to aim a “Call to Action” from their report, calling on the Pope and the Catholic Church in “Call to Action” number 58. 58 through 61 clearly talks about the role of the different churches in healing, yet still the Catholic Church has refused to do any of this.
It was with that in mind that some thought that maybe a glimmer of hope was coming. Yesterday news broke that the Pope met separately with Cardinal Michael Czerny and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the only two Vatican-based Canadian cardinals. Some thought that maybe Pope Francis was about to do something different, that maybe a change was afoot. Well this morning Pope Francis used his Twitter account to answer that question, and it was one that was simply not good enough:
And there is exactly why I refused to get my hopes up all this week. That statement, full on verbiage and input from the Vatican’s lawyers but short on empathy or apology, is as status quo as it gets. It’s simply not good enough and is embarrassingly weak from a Pope who has made his legacy about being more empathetic and speaking to those who have been left behind. As someone who is Catholic, who went to school in the Catholic system and even taught in it, it’s maddening for me.
As retired journalist Jim Coyle put it on Twitter, you would think if the Catholic Church could get anything right it would be confession and atonement. Heck, one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church is confession. It’s the only Sacrament that you do over and over, as the others are one-time events. That speaks to the importance of the concept of confession and seeking absolution for mistakes. I remember going to confession in high school and asking for forgiveness for using the Lord’s name in vain, or lying to someone, or just not thanking someone for something they did for me. Those were all things that the Church taught me that we should apologize and seek absolution for. Yet when it comes to the Church itself, it won’t offer an apology for acts that involved 215 dead children found in a mass, unmarked grave?
Hypocrisy doesn’t go far even to describe this and it’s all so anti-thetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church. One of those teachings is that even the Pope is human and is not infallible. Only God is infallible in the eyes of the church. So if the Church itself admits in its own teachings that the Church and its clergy make mistakes, doesn’t it make sense that they should bloody well apologize when they do? You’d think that would be the bare minimum here, but nope, we get this crap instead. What maybe makes this worse for me is made clear in Call to Action 58 itself, which states the following:
“We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada”Source: Truth and reconciliation Commission calls to Action
Yes folks, the TRC’s request was not some unreasonable or outlandish ask with no precedence to it. Back in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI apologized for years of physical and sexual abuse suffered by Irish children at the hands of priests. Later Pope Francis himself apologized in person in 2018. Both made apologies and the TRC pointed to that as a model the Catholic Church could borrow from. It also made a simply point; if you could apologize to victims of Church abuse in Ireland, why not to Indigenous victims of Church abuse in Canada?
And that’s where we’re at now, the same place where we’ve been for generations. In the face of all of this, after what came out in these past two weeks, we’re still getting the same crap coming from Rome and it’s far from good enough. And that’s where my mind is now; enough is enough. The Catholic Church has decided to obstruct and stop true reconciliation in Canada from happening because they don’t want to face the consequences of their actions. As a Métis person, a Catholic and based on the teachings I learned within the Church, I cannot accept this kind of crap anymore. The Church is in the wrong and the time as passed for Canada to give deference to this obstruction from the Church in Canada and Rome.
It’s time for Canada to put its full legal weight behind compelling the Catholic Church to do the right thing. It’s time for the government of Canada to force the Church to release all of their records regarding this program and these institutions. It’s time for Canadian politicians to go beyond making public statements trying to shame the Pope and the Church into doing what’s right. It’s time for Canada to use its diplomatic levers and recall our Ambassador to the Vatican. It’s time to do all of that and more if Canada is serious this time. This is the “put up or shut up” moment for Canada, our government and political parties. If they’re serious about helping families have true closure. The Church doesn’t get to “talk out the clock” on this and delay forever. If this statement today teaches us anything, it’s that they never intend to do what’s right, and we shouldn’t wait any longer for them to come to the right conclusion and act accordingly. The Church has made a choice and now should come the consequences for those choices. Enough is enough and if our political leaders are sincere in their words and outrage in this moment, it’s time for Canada to put its foot down. The families and survivors of those institutions and Canada as a whole deserves no less.