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Papal Penance

With the pope's recent visit to Canada, the anticipation was hopeful that healing would be heralded but, missteps along the way, have marred that hope for some.

While some Catholics have been enlivened by the visit and the reason for it, a gesture that seemed over zealous by other, indigenous peoples, has them shaking their heads.

It was meant as a sacred gift. The headdress was given to Pope Francis as a gesture that has many unsettled. After all, an apology is an expected social norm after doing wrong. Why should those needing to apologize be placed on a pedestal for doing so and with such great honour?

Residential schools were operating in Canada for more than 100 years, right up until the 1990's. Attendees were taken from their families, forced to relinquish their identities while suffering psychological, physical and sexual abuses at the hands of those administering "Christianity" for the church. The evidence in the finding of several hundred bodily remains on old school grounds across this country. The atrocities heard in survivors horrific memories and accounts, and it's effects seen in subsequent generations.

Forgiving is "Christian" of course, we all know that but does that mean forgetting too? I think not. As we can only learn from history, I think it's important to remember so history doesn't repeat itself. I hardly think anyone affected by this issue could forget anyway, so why this over giving as I see it? It seems a desperate act to try to spiritually connect the way only Native Americans can do. Almost pathetic in it's wanton without realizing that native Americans are on an upper level of moral high ground than the church given scrutiny of our deeds. We commune with the divine in a most humble and natural circumstance without the need for pomp and dogma. That in itself, a more altruistic way of being in this world. For an institution that is so godly, a sure lot happens that is ungodly there. So many of it's officiants twisted amoral souls imposing their filthy misdeeds on innocents.

For an apology to have meaning, it is met with equal amounts of amends. In this case to the tune of 79 million dollars a superior court concluded in 2006. The Protestant and Presbyterian churches and the Anglican and United churches were all participants in the residential school system and all paid fair settlement. The Catholic church, the only hold out. To date, experts say that 60 million of that is still owing this 16 years later. The Catholic church is also purported to have paid their legal, and administrative fees and fundraising costs out of the survivors fund. In-kind services were part of the settlement agreement but these services usually came in the prescribed "Catholic help", most of which is not welcomed by people trying to recover from their "Catholic upbringing".

For 9 years the settlement was refuted and argued over in court until in 2015, with sly lawyers being paid with the survivors fund, a judge declared that they didn't have to pay up but a "best effort fundraising campaign" was to be administered for survivors. 3 million dollars was raised for this while 300 million was raised and slated for church buildings and cathedrals. Besides the money matters, there are still documents that haven't been turned over in kind. Where is the love this church is supposed to represent? Where is the kindness and compassion it's supposed to emulate?

By 2019 accounts, the church was reported to have 490 million in cash, 1.2 billion in stocks and bonds and properties worth 3.3 billion. How in good faith, after wrangling out of paying the survivors of their deeds can we trust that this apology is sincere? What are the actions showing us? A papal visit is estimated to cost between $50-100 million and is paid for by the tax payers of the land. Are we still getting solace from this holy visit? Do we still want to give our sacred regalia afforded only those in highest honour? Do we still feel compelled to accept an apology without actions to support it?

There are plenty of things that money could help with in First Nations communities, and these communities face their challenges as a direct result of colonialism and the residential school system. Suicide prevention, water treatment, addictions counselling, emotional trauma healing, poverty reduction programs, cultural youth programs and the list goes on. All of these things fly directly in the face of the other issue- The Doctrine of Discovery. An edict of Catholic understanding that justifies all of their misdeeds in the spirit of bettering the collective society. How has it helped society though? All these legal wranglings and taxpayer money spent on a well earned justice. All these seven generations of people affected, their souls deeply scarred from an entity that is supposed to stand for Christ himself. Some are calling for the Pope to redact the doctrine, but that hasn't happened yet either. So what do we owe the church for with our forgiveness? We don't. We owe that to ourselves for peace but forgetting is not on the table.

With the recent finding of remains at former residential school sites, it's not just the Indigenous that are aghast. Catholics alike have been mortified at the findings and recent stories in the media. Catholics who would see justice done. Reconciliation cannot further unfurl until penance is done, and the doctrine of discovery redacted. Why should we gush over an apology owed by an opponent to our humanity in the past? It further enables those who seek to oppress us still and that oppression is shown in the actions of those representing the church to shirk out of financial responsibility using the Doctrine as a justification for it's misdeeds. Accountability is crucial for healing both sides of the table, and it is both sides that need healing. Embarrassed by the truth about the church and the residential schools system catastrophe, Catholics alike would see justice and fair settlement reached as 5% of all donations in this country, go to the Catholic church. What better way to show reconciliation but through the drive of parishioners to come together and expect their church to do what they well know they can afford.

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