GUEST COLUMN – Catholic church must pay a heavy price for residential schools


A NUMBER OF RECENT Canadian newspapers have run headline stories confirming evidence of child abuse in the infamous residential school  system.

The worst of these stories is that from Kamloops, concerning the discovery of the graves of over 200 native children who were buried  anonymously.  It is clearly incontrovertible evidence of massive child abuse. 

We can only speculate about the causes of each of those deaths, and one can be reasonably safe in assuming that, not just benign neglect, but also deliberate murder was among them.

What fascinates me in this long series of national news about our nation’s blatant reluctance to focus on responsibility for the crimes is the pattern of assigning blame or responsibility to the Canadian governments of the day – whichever day, year, decade or century in which the crimes were committed. Let us look at the historical facts  in order to clarify the notion of appropriate  responsibility.

However morally wrong the nation was at the time, the stated intention was to “take the Indian out of the child,” and to produce  a literate adult citizen with knowledge, skills, attitudes, religion – albeit of the Catholic kind – to enable him/her to function in the Canada of the future.

Given the Christian mission being aligned with colonial enterprise, there is not much here that differs from the pattern elsewhere in the world.  The difference – and it is fundamental – is that these crimes were committed, not in “hugger-mugger,” isolation or secrecy or necessity to survive, but in blatant violation of every concept of Christian  – or even human – decency.

I refer, of course, not to the public of the day, nor to officials of the Canadian government, but to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Let me clarify.

Each Catholic is required, as part of his worship service, to attend confession, and to unburden to his priest the errors of his conscience, his sins of omission and commission.

Therefore, given that every honest Catholic priest hearing the confession of whatever led to a child’s abuse or death would have faith in his faith and in his  church and in his God and his Holy Mother Mary. 

Automatically, then, each sin of commission or omission was a secret only within the closed brotherhood but was, in essence, deliberately kept secret from  all other humans “beyond the pale” of the inner sanctum of catholicism.

Every Bishop or member of the hierarchy above the parish priest knew what was going on:  his own sins became those of his colleagues. History has few examples of such levels of evil committed by such selfish hypocrisy designed only to protect  – not the worshipper, but the designated “holy protector.”

Hundreds of supposedly self-proclaimed “shepherds of the Lord” or servants of the Holy Mother Mary abused innocent children who were put in their care by a naive, but well-intentioned government. They abused the children, the families, the nation, and mankind.

And all in the name of God?

The Canadian government of the day was formally responsible for the decision and the trust placed in the Church: at the time, apparently a responsible trust and decision. History demands that the government possessing the actual truth – which was deliberately withheld, disguised, distorted and lied about by the church and every one of its adherents and officers – act to denounce that church in the strongest way possible, and demand restitution on a massive scale.

The damage to the native culture is beyond measure; the demand to the nation’s reputation is beyond measure; the  demand for today’s innocent citizens to pay retribution for this insult to humanity is beyond measure. 

The Catholic church has – in a strange, historically twisted manner –  found itself finally facing a responsibility which it has historically passed on to an innocent God. What an abuse was there! 

Neither I nor my forbears belong to any church, and I hope the bill for recompense, if it can ever be tallied, falls on the organization that was supposed to be responsible. Who has the courage?

Pierce Graham is a retired vice principal of NorKam secondary and a long-time English teacher.

About Mel Rothenburger (9233 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

7 Comments on GUEST COLUMN – Catholic church must pay a heavy price for residential schools

  1. The Catholic Church had the power to stop the genocide, but chose not to, in order to avoid exposing its own basic hypocrisy at every level of confession. Every confessor knew, and complicitly and explicitly approved of the actions. When speech is morally required, silence is approval…and moral cowardice…the church has always expressed itself via human voices and actions. The silence was deafening!

  2. Extremely well written , and to the point !
    The Catholic church is 100 % responsible and should be held accountable fir this bizarre conduct !

  3. I disagree that the Government of the day isn’t responsible and the Catholic Church solely is. They are all covered in blood. They were “doing the responsible thing?” I don’t think so. They were trying to “kill the Indian in the child.” That’s cultural genocide any way you look at it and they had no moral right to do so. The Government, RCMP and anyone who worked in/about various Ministries who knew or should have known what was going on and did nothing are all just as responsible as the Nazis who said “I did my duty,” after WWII, and they all need to be held similarly to account.

    • John Noakes // June 2, 2021 at 8:34 AM // Reply

      I think there was a concerted effort by a number of people in authority to try and cover up what happened to all those youngsters. The Catholic Church may have spearheaded a lot of the on-hands abuse & homicides but it took a lot of people, with knowledge of it, to keep it from getting out.

  4. The Catholic Church run the residential schools in behalf of the Government of Canada for part of a the very long period of infamy. The Government of Canada was/is a proxy of the Crown of England which is supported by the economic interest of powerful and very rich European people, including the infamous Rothschild banking dynasty. So is the Catholic Church fully and solely responsible? No. The parties involved in this dreadful program, all need to face serious punishment for the killing and robbery they perpetrated throughout the world. Will it happen? No it will not. And please let’s not pledge/instigate another tragedy to revenge a tragedy.

  5. Well stated! The Vatican has the resources to tear down that building and replace it with a cultural and community building honouring the children. Something celebrating their culture with freedom and fun … rec centre?

  6. Tony Brumell // May 31, 2021 at 1:57 PM // Reply

    This truth has been known for many years and yet the bloodied church remains. I believe the designation of “terrorist organization would not be unreal. Literally the Nazis of ww2 did the same thing and finally paid the ulltimate price. So too all : involved religions.

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