Opinion: Pope’s Pardon In Canada Is the Beginning, Not the End

Pope Francis' historic plea for forgiveness in Canada for assimilation schools fills Catholics with pride, but it is only the beginning .

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Photo: Latin American Post

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Opinión: El perdón del Papa en Canadá es el comienzo, no el final

This past week, the highest leader of the Catholic Church arrived in the land of North America in one of the most important visits in history. His arrival is related to something typical of Catholic doctrine: forgiveness.

Francis said in Spanish, "I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against indigenous peoples," acknowledging the Church's role in the forced assimilation and destruction of the culture of indigenous First Nations.

The story of forced assimilation in Canada is one of the nation's saddest historical memories. The Government, with the support of the Catholic Church, initiated a policy that forced indigenous families to hand over their children to the State or the Church so that these would be in charge of educating the new generations. In this training, they tried to erase any indigenous trace: language, religion, traditions, history, etc.

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But, in addition to this cultural genocide, there were also hundreds and thousands of reports of abuse, violence, and even deaths of minors who have been found in graves to date. An estimated 150,000 children were placed in 139 Church-run boarding schools.

Now, what some right-wing media have tried to sell is that this gesture of asking for forgiveness is a "humiliation" of Catholics. For them, this is an "indigenist" position, which they believe is a branch of "communism." But, according to this logic, then the Church can apologize for other crimes, but not for these, since the victims are Native Americans, they fall within the communist classification.

First, requests for forgiveness for the crimes or mistakes that the Catholic Church committed in the past are not something new or particular to Francis. For example, in 1995, John Paul II asked for a historic pardon for damages to non-Catholics. Later, in 2004, he apologized for the inquisition, one of the most tragic chapters of Catholicism, where torture was commonplace. Francis himself had also already apologized for the acts committed by the church during the American colonization.

It is precisely this small difference that so irritates and annoys the Spanish extreme right. Accepting that the golden years of the Spanish empire were built on the suffering and blood of indigenous people and slaves harms their discourse of greatness. This is why they call Francis a communist whenever they have a different opinion and it affects their political interests. But, as much as it hurts them, the reality is that recognizing that the Spanish empire has blood on its hands is what irritates them.

Because pretending to say that the forgiveness that the Pope asks for "humiliates" Catholics, is to ignore that what has humiliated us are the deaths, rapes, abuses, discrimination, and approval of murderous governments.

On the contrary, today Francis cleans up a bit of the collective conscience that Catholics have. Accept that it was not us, but our Church, the one that has made hundreds of mistakes, and that we must accept and amend them. The same pontiff said it well in 2016: "without humiliation, there is no true humility". That is precisely what Jesus did, taking the path of humility and humiliation, instead of opulence, ego, and pride. It is to recognize our sins with humility, in order to amend them and commit ourselves not to repeat them.

Because forgiveness is the first step, both Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as well as the Catholic Church (institution) and the Catholic community in Canada, must commit to reparation with the First Nations. The Supreme Pontiff said it well in his Eucharist on July 26 in Edmonton, "history must be safeguarded to build a better future" and that role must be maintained, not taking a denial role, but responsible for the events of the past.

Now, there must also be a payment to the victims and survivors. This is why the Catholic Church has sold more than 40 properties in Canada to pay the victims of the Mount Cashel boarding school in which hundreds of children suffered sexual violations for decades.

The future of the church is uncertain, and many fear that bleeding it financially in lawsuit payments may be the end. But it must be recognized that the Catholic Church has not survived more than 2000 years because of its opulence, but in spite of it. Its years full of mistakes, sins and crimes have been the ones that have shaken it the most. Today there can be no future if there is not a change and a position of tolerance towards acts of corruption within the institution, especially the pederasty scandals that dot the Church throughout the planet. Either with this pope or with the next one, changes must be made so that a new Church that recognizes its faults and undertakes not to repeat them, will be the one that saves the Faith of millions of believers in the world.



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