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Pope’s apology an improvement, but still falls short

If Francis wanted to do something concrete he should have rescinded the Doctrine of Discovery
For your consideration - Thom Barker

By Catholic Church standards it was a radical, sincere and humble mea culpa.

By all other decent standards, it was a fail.

A proper apology shows you feel remorse for your actions and acknowledges the hurt your actions caused someone else.

At first glance, it looks like Pope Francis’ apology fits that bill. He certainly acknowledges in great detail the hurt, intergenerational trauma and horrific legacy of the of the residential school system.

He said he was “deeply sorry” and expressed “sorrow, indignation and shame.”

I want to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. He seems like a compassionate and sincere person. And it sounded like he is earnest in attempting to take steps toward mending the the relationship between the church and Indigenous people.

And it was a far cry better than Pope Benedict’s disastrous attempt in which he apologized for the abuses, but attributed that to colonization and not the evangelization of Indigenous people.

In fact, the imposition of Christianity was part and parcel of colonization and oppression.

Being better than Benedict, though, is a very low bar, indeed.

In terms of the Francis apology he starts out fine saying: “In the face of this deplorable evil, the church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children.”

But then he walks it back with: “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous Peoples.”

With that statement he basically abdicates the responsibility of the church and lays it on the members of the church who committed the crimes.

But they did not commit those crimes in spite of the church, they committed them because of the church.

The subjugation of Indigenous peoples dates back to a series of papal decrees from the 15th century known as the “Doctrine of Discovery,” which has been used by Christian rulers for 500 years to justify colonization including Canada’s residential school policies.

If Francis really wanted to do something concrete, he should have apologized on behalf of the church and rescinded the Doctrine of Discovery.

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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