Catholic Church as arbiter of moral authority – Canadian Residential Schools

The Catholic Church is an organization that has a view of itself that is totally at odds with its actions. I am talking about the things that have been committed or condoned by the organization as an entity. The sexual and physical abuse of children was committed by individual priests, but it became an international scandal because the hierarchy, at all levels, decided that protecting the church was more important than protecting the victims.

In other areas, the ban on condoms for all reasons has helped the spread of AIDS and other diseases than can be transmitted sexually. The so-called concern for the sanctity of all life places the potential life that may be formed from a sperm and egg that may never meet over the lives of adult human beings. This same belief results in women being forced to act as incubators by coercion.

In its long history, the church has rarely admitted making mistakes, and often claims to have led the fight against a moral wrong, or at least be innocent of accusations, when facts have shown complicity (examples include slavery and the inquisition). One of the few areas they have admitted at least partial culpability is the mistreatment of Canadian Aboriginals in the residential schools. However, even here, they have failed to live up to their responsibilities.

Court documents obtained by CBC News allege that the Catholic Church is withholding millions from former students of Indian residential schools.

The church was part of the Indian residential school settlement reached in 2006. While the government paid the lion’s share of the billion-dollar settlement, the churches were also required to make reparations.

These schools were mandated by the government, but administered by churches. Other organizations, notably the  Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches have paid all of their agreed upon penalties, but the Catholic Church has been less forthcoming.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is one organization that was slated to receive funds from the Catholic Church.

“We’re trying to get blood from a stone,” says Mike DeGagne, former head of the organization.

He says the foundation was supposed to receive $29 million from the church.

“But then, the Catholics were allowed to subtract a number of expenses they’d already incurred, so it got down to about $18 million and about $1.6 million is still outstanding.”

Ottawa claims those expenses should have gone directly to the foundation, and is critical of the church for claiming legal expenses as administrative costs.

“The net effect of this accounting approach is to reduce the overall amounts that are paid to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and to give preference to the Corporation’s administrative costs, including their lawyers’ fees, at the expense of former students of Indian Residential Schools.”

Ottawa also points out the Catholic groups committed to fundraise $25 million as a part of the settlement, but so far have only raised a fraction of that.

With funding from Ottawa, the Catholic Church ran more than 70 per cent of the residential schools, which operated from the late 1800s to the 1990s.

As I said above, even when there is an admission of guilt, the Church fights on. Pierre Baribeau, director of the Catholic Entities corporation, says the allegations of are false.

“The federal government has always adopted an aggressive attitude towards the Catholic Entities and we have offered reconciliation process to them and they firmly answered negatively, they don’t want to apply the agreement as negotiated in 2006, so we are going to present our arguments to the courts.”

In other words, this is another example of the Catholic Church expecting to be treated differently than  any other organization. To be fair, virtually every other religious group claims they are above the laws of human beings, but the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, because of their worldwide presence and monolithic structure has mastered the dodging of responsibility.

Remember this when you listen to claims of moral authority. None of us is perfect, but there comes a point where the level of hypocrisy reaches a point where the only reasonable response is “Shut the fuck up.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Wikipedia has an article on the history of the Residential Schools with an extensive reference section.

There are also many articles online in which survivors describe their own experiences in the schools.

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