Twice in the past month, we’ve heard about the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of two former “residential schools” in Canada. These are often Catholic-run schools designed to “replace Indigenous values, beliefs, and understandings of the world with those of the European colonizers.” That meant converting students to Christianity.
It’s been a PR nightmare for the Catholic Church, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday calling on Pope Francis to visit Canada and apologize in person.
And yet last week, before the announcement of the latest discovery, Merciful Redeemer Parish Monsignor Owen Keenan, a Catholic priest, tried to spin all of this as good news. Keenan delivered a sermon in which he praised all the “good” these schools did:
This is really disgusting @redeemerparish.
Pastor Owen Keenan wants Canadians to thank the church for “the good that was done” in residential schools???
The Church is NOT THE VICTIM. pic.twitter.com/MnttPngAGd
— AJ Marchese � (@AJMarchese13) June 21, 2021
“Two-thirds of the country is blaming the church, which we love, for the tragedies that occurred there,” he said on a video originally posted to the church’s YouTube page but since deleted. Clips of his sermon continue to circulate on social media.
“I presume the same number would thank the church for the good done in those schools, but of course, that question was never asked and we are not allowed to even say that good was done there. I await to see what comes to my inbox.”
Sure, students were allegedly malnourished, abused, living in unsanitary conditions, and left for dead. Sure, the residential schools were a form of cultural genocide. But why won’t anyone talk about the positives?!
(Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?)
Thankfully, the backlash was swift, and Keenan has now resigned.
Regarding Msgr. Owen Keenan, Pastor of Merciful Redeemer Parish in Mississauga, Ont. Cardinal Collins has accepted Msgr. Keenan's resignation as pastor and placed him on an indefinite leave of absence. We apologize for the pain caused by his recent remarks.
— Archdiocese of Toronto (@archtoronto) June 25, 2021
“I am deeply sorry, embarrassed, ashamed and shocked at the revelations of abuse, destruction and harm done in residential schools across this country,” [Keenan] said in the statement. “I in no way condone the system … As a Catholic and a priest, I wish I could say ‘I’m sorry’ to everyone who suffered harm.”
The Archdiocese of Toronto said in a statement it’s been in contact with Keenan “to convey the deep pain and anger” some felt. He has “pledged to fully educate himself” about the history of residential schools.
At least someone in the Catholic Church is facing consequences for those unmarked graves… even if indirectly. Keep in mind all of this is happening while Catholic bishops in the U.S. treat Joe Biden as the enemy because he dares to promote public policy in which women control their own bodies.
There’s a serious lack of human decency in the Church hierarchy despite countless opportunities to take a stance on the easiest moral questions of our time. If Catholic priests can’t handle themselves when talking about dead children or public officials, how can anyone rely on them for the more pressing questions we face in life?
(Thanks to Richard for the link)