What can the Catholic Church do to help in the healing process?
In the fairy tale ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’, the town was over- run by rats. The mayor, on behalf of the townsfolk, offered a reward to anyone who could get rid of them…a piper accepted the challenge and proceeded to march through the town while playing a tune on his pipe. The rats, being somehow entranced by the music, scurried out of their holes and followed the piper. The rats were led far out of town, never to be seen again. When the piper returned to collect his reward the mayor and townsfolk reneged on their agreement… the angry piper once again marched through the town playing the same tune on his pipe only this time it was the children who followed him out of town, never to be seen again. The pied piper had inflicted upon the townsfolk the ultimate punishment by taking from them what they held most dear and precious… their children.
The forced, and sometimes violent removal of 160,000 Aboriginal children (between the ages of five and seventeen) from their families and communities tore the heart out of the native culture…for the heart of any culture is its children. In the early years of the twenty-first century Canada is finally beginning to accept responsibility and ownership for this ‘crime against humanity’ that occurred upon its soil. The term ‘crime against humanity’ may seem a bit strong to some but the term is quite appropriate when considering the Indian Residential schools (and the policies and attitudes that created them) were an egregious assault on the children’s humanity – as well as the humanity of an entire people – by the Church and State. A person’s humanity exists at a deeper and more fundamental level than culture…it is that special place inside where humans ‘feel’ things like joy, hope, caring, intimacy, respect and conscience. That is the level where the residential schools inflicted the most damage. Much of the trauma and dysfunction that exists in Canada’s native communities today can be traced back to this one senseless act of cultural barbarism.
It is now time for the Catholic Church to step up to the plate.
The Catholic Church can greatly assist in the healing process by abandoning its obstinate refusal to admit culpability in regards to its involvement in the Indian Residential school tragedy. In fact, the sitting Pope needs to travel to Canada and meet face-to-face with the few remaining survivors of the Residential schools (as well as the native population in general) and, on behalf of the Catholic Church and the Vatican, deliver a long-overdue and heart-felt apology to them. I doubt my grandparents would have settled for anything less. And it must be the Pope himself…not an intermediary or emissary. The other churches involved in the cultural genocide, as well as the Canadian government have all formally apologized… it is now time for the Catholic Church to render itself accountable for its actions and for the current Pope to beg forgiveness from the Residential school survivors (and their descendants) for the damage caused by the policies of forced assimilation as well as the sexual abuses committed by the clergy.
‘One sexual predator in a school or community is an epidemic’
Although the current Pope was not personally involved in the human rights abuses and rampant sexual predation (by the clergy) that occurred in Canada’s Indian schools, he, as presiding head of the church, must assume responsibility for the organization’s failings and its history. And, the apology does not end there…the sexual crimes committed by the clergy were far eclipsed by the greater crime committed by the Vatican itself, which was its complicity in the unconscionable practice of relocating offending priests to different schools, different communities and even different countries in order to avoid scandal.