I want to say just a few words about the shocking, tragic news coming out of Canada, about the remains of 215 innocent children found buried on the Kamloomps Indian Residential School grounds.
I want to keep my words brief, not because this news is unimportant, but because I would far rather you listened to indigenous voices than to mine. I’m not a Native American. There are plenty of voices of Native American victims of the residential schools out there, and they should be the center of attention.
Briefly, then: we have to understand that what the Catholic Church did in running those schools in the first place was genocide. Genocide isn’t just killing. It’s also genocide when children are forced away from their families, stripped of their heritage and traditions and made to act like somebody else. It’s genocide to kill cultures, languages and families like that. It’s genocide to kidnap and abuse all the children of a certain race you can get your hands on. We already knew the Catholic Church zealously participated in genocide, more than once. Now we have more evidence that the other, more straightforward genocide was going on.
Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller has responded to the news with a statement: “The pain that such news causes reminds us of our ongoing need to bring to light every tragic situation that occurred in residential schools run by the Church. The passage of time does not erase the suffering that touches the Indigenous communities affected, and we pledge to do whatever we can to heal that suffering.” And this statement is nothing like enough. We as Catholics cannot treat this as a distant memory, or a sad event that happened to somebody else. This is something our church actively did, blasphemously in the name of Christ, and it’s genocide. Catholic clergy all the way up to the Pope ought to be on their knees begging forgiveness for this. There must be public repentance from all the people of God. There must be cash reparation made to the survivors of the schools. And that’s just the beginning.
Rick Alec, the Indian Residential School Survivors’ Society chair and a member of the Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation, has stated, “My Creator is asking their God why disciples would do this to us. The Pope needs to answer this question. There is no more denying it. Now there is physical evidence from these unmarked graves.”
And I am asking the same question. I’m also asking the leaders of my own Church, the clergy and religious orders who actively perpetrated these crimes, why they committed sins so heinous that their victims can’t see their Creator in the cruel false image they were shown of our God. I’m asking why they think they have a shred of credibility in their response to any moral issue anymore.
As a Catholic, I want to say to all of my indigenous brothers and sisters that I am so sorry, and I beg your forgiveness, and I realize that’s not enough.
I pray that, through the intercession of Saint Kateri Tekawitha and Venerable Black Elk, the Church will repent.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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