While Canadians grapple with the discovery of multiple mass graves at or near the sites of former “residential schools,” one Catholic Church archbishop wants everyone to think about the real victim: himself.
During a recent sermon, Archbishop Richard Gagnon, the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of Winnipeg, said that his life has been really hard lately in the wake of these discoveries because everyone seems to be coming after him.
… He said that in his role he is getting “bombarded a lot,” and that in dealing with the media, he’s noticing “a lot of blame, a lot of accusations, a lot of exaggerations, a lot of false ideas.”
“And so I say in my heart,” he said. “You know something? There’s a persecution happening here. There’s a persecution happening here.”
There is a persecution happening. It happened for decades when these Catholic-run institutions committed a cultural genocide against Indigenous people. Many students at these schools were believed to be malnourished and abused. Many were sick. The schools were often unsanitary. Rather than treat the children and help them, they were left for dead.
What Gagnon’s dealing with isn’t persecution. It’s accountability.
His complaint is no different from white Republicans who promote racist policies only to bristle the moment someone calls them a racist. At the very least, in this situation, people want to see the Catholic Church admit its role in destroying so many lives; the pope still hasn’t issued a formal apology though individual Church leaders have expressed regret.
Gagnon’s sermon only led to more well-deserved criticism:
… “It’s very hard for me to articulate how outraged, disappointed, angry I am, to hear anybody in his position, given what’s happened, talk about feeling that the church in any way is being persecuted,” said Maurice Switzer, a citizen of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation who serves on the Indigenous Reconciliation Advisory Group of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
“To me, this just speaks to systemic racism at the highest levels of our society — that anybody, in the wake of what’s being found out, would in any way suggest that they are a victim, given what’s transpired.”
If we can’t count on an archbishop to express real remorse over the Church’s role in residential school cruelty — a simple moral question if ever there was one — why should anyone rely on the Catholic Church for anything else?