There is no doubt that the recent revelations on the finding in unmarked graves on grounds of residential schools first in Kamloop, British Columbia, and gradually more and more discoveries around Canada, have sparked anger, disappointment, doubt, confusion and reopening of wounds of a dark chapter in Canadian history.
The Catholic Church, has made many mistakes throughout its 2000-year history. As Thomas Cardinal Collins has stated countless times in the past few weeks, the Catholic Church in Canada (i.e. its dioceses and religious orders) should have never participated in the call from the government to run this residential schools because it took children away from their families. Added on to that pain, the abuse of children, the conditions in which they had to live in were horrific and there are no words to describe the pain and suffering that residential schools brought upon Indigenous children. The Catholic Church was wrong. This is just one of many, many mistakes throughout its 2000-year history.
I, as a Roman Catholic recognize the faults and failings of the Church. As a Catholic, I am ashamed of its past mistakes. I am pained to know that there are children who suffered at the hands of members of the Church. I am deeply pained to learn that the mistakes of the Church were done, taking the Gospel as its justification of its action. All of this as wrong, as Jesus never said to use His name to justify the mistreatment of a person, of a culture, but rather, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you,” (Mt 7:12) and at the core of the commandments, “…love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:14)
The Catholic Church in Canada has, on many occasions have apologized and acknowledged these errors in the last decades. Recent weeks have seen religious orders and local bishops reiterating these apologies. Building upon these apologies, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 met with an Indigenous delegation and expressed his sincere apologies. Under the pontificate of Pope Francis, at the end of this year, it was recently announced that the Holy Father will meet with a delegation of Indigenous people from December 17‑20, 2021. This assures that the Church in Canada and the Universal Church continues to be committed with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
However, apologies, words are empty without concrete actions. If our apologies were to truly be sincere, we must be committed to Truth and Reconciliation. I hate to point fingers, but our government’s apologies have not given the Indigenous a better standard of life, nor have they provided the with the necessities with even the basic needs of life. The Catholic Church has, since the beginning of the process of Truth and Reconciliation been committed to walking and accompanying them and we will continue to do so. To say that the Catholic Church has done nothing in regard to this is unfair, as not only have we committed ourselves to do so, we have been actively striving to do this. The Church going forward will and continue to be transparent.
I myself will continue to be committed to educate myself about residential schools and only speak of this topic from an objective point of view. Please, educate yourselves before speaking about this topic. Media reports will not do it – it has only create divisiveness in our society that stirs up hate and sorrow. To be educated from objective, verified, reputable sources, we will avoid divisiveness, unfair statements that will only create a deeper wound in our society.
Let us walk together with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and the marginalized of society not only in our words, but with our concrete actions. Mistakes have been made, but what is important is that we move forward, recognizing these mistakes and journey in charity.
Canadian Catholic Resources on Residential Schools