A pal asked me a question about the pope refusing to apologize for the Catholic Church’s hand in Residential Schools and colonization. He asked my thoughts about forgiveness, and so I wrote him this email:
I’ve been thinking about this awhile, and I don’t know if it’s too late to respond.
I remember when I was a kid, maybe around 8, when I had first heard my Mom and Aunt talking about what my Auntie Agnes experienced in Residential School.
I remember it being odd for me because they usually would speak in Cree when I was around. This time it seemed like they wanted me to know.
I’ve told you the story, and talked of it a few times before.
I’ll tell it again for clarity.
My Aunt was called to mother Superior’s office with her two friends. She was only 11 I think, maybe younger.
Mother Superior said “You have been chosen to go on a mission from god. You must bring this paper bag down to the incinerator, and watch it burn.”
SO, the three of them were excellent Catholic girls. Very proud to be chosen by god to undertake this important mission. They know at this point all of the bible stories of People who were chosen, and naturally they firmly believed this was their time.
So, the three of them take the bag in hand, and proudly walk down the hallways holding their heads high.
They get to the incinerator and put the bag in, watching the paper burn away quickly.
Beyond the paper bag was newspaper, and all of that burned almost immediately.
Until they saw an aborted fetus.
The Priest would impregnate the girls. Then, they’d have in house abortions to cover their tracks.
Years later, when building a nursing home near the site of the Residential School there, they unearthed a mass grave of fetus skeletons.
Even without that, every Residential School has a cemetery nearby which were filled with students. The fetus and baby skeletons were just dumped.
All throughout that though, my Aunt was probably one of the greatest Catholics I’ve ever known.
She was being beaten and abused by her Husband. Refusing to divorce him for years, until she eventually wrote the pope. He blessed her divorce and gave her permission, so she could still take communion, and not be ex-communicated.
When she got word years later, she promptly divorced him.
I asked my other Auntie, Theresa, “with all that you know about what happened there, and all you’ve experienced, how did you stay a Catholic?”
She said “That was the only way to god I was given.”
“You were given Ceremony, and I appreciate that. But for us, it was the only way we knew how to Pray. The only way we knew how to be with god.”
One day, I asked if I could go with her to Church. She was elated. Very surprised that I asked. SO, we went. I sat there in the back with her and was putting my hand over my heart, as if I were in Blackfoot Ceremony. Then I thought “Well, I’m here among them, may as well do as they do in THEIR place” So I followed along. The bells clanging, up and down, kneel, respond.
“May the Force Be With You”
“And Also With You”
Then after the Prayer and motions the light change into he room. Everything was giving off light. Not just the candles. Everything was as if it were a dream. Shiny. Bright.
Then the Priest gave his sermon, and as he spoke I realized that heaven was just on the other side of the wall. The Prayers and Ceremony were to take us just outside the gates. The altar is there, then the Priest, then the wall. Just on the other side of that wall were the gates. I could feel it. As if the church was a vessel to carry us there.
It was quite the trip.
When they finished, we did communion. I walked up and was shown to cross my hands over my chest. The little Priest put his hand on my head and said “the blessing of Christ” and I felt a jolt of energy through my body. From head to toe.
I immediately cried, and cried.
My Aunt said “I was Praying for that to happen! I was Praying you’d be moved, to feel something from this!”
This experience didn’t make me a Catholic. Not by any stretch.
Though, I understand a bit more as to why she’d stay. Why after all of that abuse they would stay.
it’s their pathway to god.
That means something.
Personally, I won’t ever stop criticizing the church. I won’t ever forget the horrors committed. I myself have forgiven them a long time ago. That forgiveness wasn’t for them, but for me. To begin healing from the trauma not given to me first hand from them, but passed on to others until it got to me.
People need their pathways, whatever they may be. Dalai Lama says “When someone is diabetic, you give them the medicine for diabetes. Don’t give them something else, because the medicine they need is specific. Religion is the same. The needs of one person will be different for another. Just as how one medicine heals specific sickness, so will a specific religion or pathway heal a specific person.”
I paraphrased that, but the same intent is passed along.
This is a complicated mess in the end. I think with the pope refusing to apologize, he abandoned a lot of People who really do love the church. They felt disowned, dishonoured.
He could have been wiser.
Things change though. I can see where he’s coming from. To apologize means that the church was doing wrong, and not what was right and ordained by god. It’s a precarious situation for him.
I think in his mind it would make them hypocritical on an institutional level. They’re like us, and think in the hundreds of years. Hundreds of years back or hundreds of years ahead may as well be two weeks in either direction. Those choices of the past reverberate into today.
I am disappointed in him for not being humane. For being so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good.
I’m not completely done with these thoughts, but I thought I ought to get back to you with something for now.
The Force shall be with you.