Not really knowing what to do, writing this piece might be merely therapeutic for me; thinking out loud, perhaps. I am speaking about the recently announced decision that Pope Francis would not offer an apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools. The apology was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 58.
When I say that I don’t know what to do, it is because it really isn’t clear what would help this get better or even offer some type of explanation for this behaviour. The explanations offered don’t explain much. This leaves us all to wonder if the Catholic church believes it has nothing to apologize for.
The lack of apology is utterly damaging to so many people and at so many levels. Even though I have some distance from the decision, it is something that brings both shame and deep grief. How can this be? Is this the Pope of The Joy of the Gospel and Laudato Si’ (his recent, well-received writings on evangelism and the environment—the latter mentioning so prominently the wisdom of Indigenous peoples)? In the decision not to apologize, a whole institution seems beguiled by a spirit that is at odds with its deepest beliefs and teachings.
Jesus said it quite clearly and simply, “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift ” (Matthew 5:23–24). This teaching is designed for such a moment. Reconciliation is to precede and have priority over the religious and worshipful expressions of our faith. Without this primacy of reconciliation—so central to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus—we are far from living out the commandments of Jesus.
It is, perhaps, a time to remember what Pope Francis famously said to a reporter, “Who am I to judge?” While we can mourn the decision and/or be outraged by it, it is also a severe warning to anyone who seeks to follow the teachings of Jesus and, at the same time, be a member of a religious institution. We are always in danger of abandoning our core commitments for the sake of what appears like the pressing needs of our institution. We are, quite often, tempted to gain the world at the loss of our soul.
Let us not forget to pray for the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Someday, in this life or the next, there will be an accounting. But, in this, we must also pray for ourselves, that God would save us from the time of trial. Urgently, let us pray for the People of the Land, the Indigenous Peoples of this Turtle Island, whose continued level of poverty and suffering is an offence to justice. We should, finally, pray mercy for all. This decision has added to a level of misery that cries to God for justice.