“I am sorry,” he continued. “I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools.”
Those schools separated children from parents; inflicted physical, sexual and mental abuse; erased languages; and used Christianity as a weapon to break the cultures, and communities, of Indigenous people. Christian churches operated most of the schools for the government with Catholic orders responsible for running 60 to 70 percent of the roughly 130 schools, where thousands of children died." Source
This is certainly an important gesture of acknowledgment but it's equivalent to going to the prison you built long ago and telling the people you imprisoned there that that was a bad thing to have done - and then going back to your comfy life and leaving those you imprisoned right where you put them. I'm not saying there's no way anything more will come from this moment but...
I wonder how many of us go to schools, send our kids to schools, teach and lead at schools that will share the news of the Pope's apology this fall (in history, social studies, English, foreign languages, theatre, art, music, physical education, science, math, and woodworking classes, in assemblies and parent newsletters, on our websites and information kiosks)- and respect the right and need of children to know the truth about the world they live in.
In her soaring and searing introduction to Toni Morrison's Recitatif, Zadie Smith bluntly and beautifully explains why resistance to simply telling the truth about history (up to and including the present) is both absurd and severely harmful. If you're someone who interacts with folks or forces that promote this kind of absurdity and harm, I hope you might find Smith's gift of clarity useful.
"Such reëxaminations I sometimes hear described as “resentment politics,” as if telling a history in full could only be the product of a personal resentment, rather than a necessary act performed in the service of curiosity, interest, understanding (of both self and community), and justice itself. But some people sure do take it personal. I couldn’t help but smile to read of an ex-newspaper editor from my country, who, when speaking of his discomfort at recent efforts to reveal the slave history behind many of our great country houses, complained, “I think comfort does matter. I know people say, ‘Oh, we must be uncomfortable.’ . . . Why should I pay a hundred quid a year, or whatever, to be told what a shit I am?” Imagine thinking of history this way! As a thing personally directed at you. As a series of events structured to make you feel one way or another, rather than the precondition of all our lives?
The long, bloody, tangled encounter between the European peoples and the African continent is our history. Our shared history. It’s what happened. It’s not the moral equivalent of a football game where your “side” wins or loses. To give an account of an old English country house that includes not only the provenance of the beautiful paintings but also the provenance of the money that bought them—who suffered and died making that money, how, and why—is history told in full and should surely be of interest to everybody, black or white or neither. And I admit I do begin to feel resentment—actually, something closer to fury—when I realize that merely speaking such facts aloud is so discomfiting to some that they’d rather deny the facts themselves. For the sake of peaceful relations. To better forget about it. To better move on. Many people have this instinct."