Are Catholic Apologies Necessary? Anonymous graves near schools shake Canada.


The discovery of the anonymous graves of 751 people, many children, near a Catholic residential school for Indigenous children has caused growing angst in Canada, as it does after the discovery of a mass grave of 215 children near another Catholic boarding school in the country.

Indigenous peoples are asking for an apology – and transparency – from the Roman Catholic Church for its participation in the submission of their cultures.

Why we wrote this

As pressure mounts for a papal apology over the treatment of Indigenous children in Catholic residential schools, some survivors say the deep concern needs to be heard – that the world “believes what has been done to us.”

“If they bury children this way, not only is it a serious human rights violation and a moral issue, but it is also a legal issue,” said Kathleen Mahoney, negotiator Chief of the Assembly of First Nations during the residential school settlement talks. “It has basically become an existential problem, because I think now most Canadians are saying, what’s going on? Who are we? … There comes a time when the church can’t be silent about it anymore.

Wally Samuel, who attended a former boarding school for seven years, says the most important part for him is acknowledging the atrocity of forced assimilation. “We were told over and over that we are not good,” he says, “that our languages ​​and our cultures are bad.

Toronto

In the photos it looks like any grassy field. But beneath the land of the First Nations reserve in Saskatchewan are the traced but unmarked graves of about 751 people, many of them children. And Indigenous leaders are demanding an apology from the Roman Catholic Church for this.

The remains were found near the former Catholic-run Marieval Indian Residential School, one of several government-sponsored religious institutions that have forcibly removed Indigenous children from their homes to cope with what the it used to be called the “Indian problem”.

Cadmus Delorme, the chief of the Cowessess First Nation, told a press conference Thursday that they believed gravestones were removed by a Catholic official in the 1960s, turning the land into essentially a “crime scene,” he said. “The Pope must apologize.

Why we wrote this

As pressure mounts for a papal apology over the treatment of Indigenous children in Catholic residential schools, some survivors say the deep concern needs to be heard – that the world “believes what has been done to us.”

For over a century, about 130 residential schools in Canada were administered by various Christian denominations, but the Catholic Church was responsible for about two-thirds of them. And unlike Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church is the only one that has not offered a formal apology.

As the anguish of Canadians over the results continues to intensify, many here hope that the Catholic Church forges a more cooperative approach to fulfilling its role in subjugating Indigenous peoples. The find follows 215 children found last month near a Catholic boarding school in Kamloops, B.C. – pressuring Pope Francis to issue an apology and for local Catholic leaders to release all records available, said Kathleen Mahoney, an expert in remedies for massive human rights violations at the University of Calgary.

“If they bury children in this way, not only is it a serious human rights violation and a moral issue, but it is also a legal issue,” said Ms. Mahoney, negotiator. Chief of the Assembly of First Nations during the residential school settlement talks. “It has essentially become an existential problem, because I think now most Canadians are asking, ‘What’s going on? Who are we?’ … There comes a time when the church can’t be silent about it anymore.

The news reverberated around the world. This week, U.S. Home Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet member, said the government would investigate its own legacy of Native American boarding schools, including possible burial sites.

Shingwauk Indian Residential School Center / Reuters / File

Boys pray on bunk beds in a dormitory at Bishop Horden Memorial School, a residential school in the Cree Indigenous community of Moose Factory, Ontario, in 1950.

In a letter to Chief Delorme on Thursday, Archbishop Don Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan’s capital, apologized for “the failures and sins of Church leaders and staff” and pledged to help identify the remains. “The incredible burden of the past is still with us, and the truth of this past must come out, painful as it is,” he wrote.

The letter also acknowledged their claim that gravestones may have been intentionally removed by a priest.

Earlier, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its “deepest sorrow for the heartbreaking loss of the children of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.”

But many want a formal apology from Pope Francis, who refused to do so after being pressed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Catholic, earlier this month. Instead, he acknowledged the “pain” of the discovery in British Columbia.

The existence of human remains has been known to Canadian society as a whole since at least 2015, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded that Canada had committed “cultural genocide” by removing 150,000 Indigenous children from their homes. homes. An estimated 4,100 children died.

But Angela White, executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society in British Columbia, says the discovery of anonymous graves brought reality to the fore for Canadians.

“When you really had [survivors] testifying to the TRC, you look at the faces of those who are now 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, ”she says, and people may not“ understand that the stories they share were memories of a child, ”she said.

The Government of Canada formally apologized to survivors in 2008. One of the TRC’s calls to action is an apology from the Catholic Church.

Melanie Stetson Freeman / Staff / File

A Catholic church is seen on the Tk’emlúps First Nation reserve on May 2, 2019, in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The recent findings have renewed pressure on the Vatican, with petitions among lay Catholics demanding a papal apology from healthcare workers asking Canadian bishops to invite Pope Francis to visit the nation and “make a public apology on behalf of the Church in Canada for our sins. commission and omission in the Indian Residential Schools case.

The controversy over the papal apology angered some Catholic officials in Canada. A pastor from the Archdiocese of Kingston, Ont., Wrote in the Catholic Register of Canada that this masks the reconciliation that occurred between Rome and the Indigenous rulers of Canada.

A priest in Mississauga, near Toronto, was criticized for defending the “good done” by the Catholic Church in her boarding schools during a sermon last Sunday.

The Reverend Michael Coren, an Anglican priest and author, criticized the Roman Catholic Church for not apologizing for fear of financial repercussions and for its ideology. “They’re very nervous about deconstructing the whole story of evangelism, and evangelism and colonization often went hand in hand,” says Coren. “It is these two aspects: one purely selfish monetary and the other philosophical and ideological.

Ms Mahoney says that while there are legal implications for the allegations of anonymous graves in Catholic schools across Canada, in her work both in Northern Ireland (with abused children in residential settings ) and with Indigenous residential school survivors, it is not the remedies that survivors seek the most.

“Their first desire is to tell their story and be believed… to find out what happened to their loved ones,” she says. “The Catholic Church, on the one hand, should make all the documents available to it available. They haven’t done so so far.

Wally Samuel, who lives in Port Alberni, British Columbia and attended that town’s former boarding school for seven years, says the most important part for him is the recognition of the atrocity of forced assimilation that is now a priority for non-Aboriginals. society.

“I hope that now the world will believe our stories, believe what has been done to us,” Samuel said in a telephone interview. “The hardest part was trying to force Christianity on you, make you try to change and do what they believe. We were told that we are worthless, that our languages ​​and our cultures are bad.

“Many of our friends and family still practice Christianity. We don’t bother them for that. You must respect each other’s beliefs and religions. … It is important to survivors that the church apologize for what it has done.


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