Moral bankruptcy?Dear editor,
So the Diocese of Cariboo is about to close the shop, General Synod is reeling and some dioceses are saying in effect, not our responsibility.
I am much in sympathy with the editorial in the September Journal (Churches Shouldn’t Be Scapegoats For Society). Putting aboriginal children in residential schools was the policy of Canadian society and the Anglican Church was a partner. Federal governments of all stripes implemented the policy, as did various Anglican dioceses directly, and as did all constituent dioceses of General Synod indirectly. Legally some dioceses may be able to say, not our responsibility. But are there not other considerations?
At one time it was thought that the church is the body of Christ and that we are members one of another. At one time, 1963 or ’64, at the Anglican Congress, meeting in Toronto, the communion committed itself to Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ. Some parts of the church took it seriously; certainly the diocese where I had been recently ordained did. The phrase disappeared of course, but the concept itself now appears to have gone by the board. I find it hard to believe that parts of the body are now sheltering behind the legal skirts of the separate incorporation of the Canadian church’s various synods, in order to deny mutual responsibility.
Perhaps there is no legal responsibility; but the attitude reflects something seriously wrong with the church today; something close to bankruptcy – moral and theological bankruptcy.
Canon Colin Proudman
Christians must protest
I would like to congratulate you for your update on the Jubilee 2000 initiative (Jubilee Continues Journey of Many Steps, September Journal). The failure of our government and other governments to take more seriously the need for debt relief for the poorest countries is scandalous, and in this case, Christians are right to raise their voices in protest.
However, this was overshadowed by some of the angry comments elsewhere in the paper on the government’s attitude to what happened in residential schools. The government and the churches shared responsibility for abuses in the residential schools for First Nations people, and both must share the cost. There is clearly a conflict concerning the amount each should pay, but there is no justification for the suggestion that the churches are merely a “convenient scapegoat” for the government.
There are many issues on which the church must speak out against the actions of governments, but we lose our credibility if we make unreasonable accusations when our own self-interest is involved.
As your readers are aware, the issue of residential schools is a highly emotional one. One very serious aspect in the current situation is the manner in which the government of Canada has initiated lawsuits against many churches. As the deputy critic of aboriginal affairs and a former Baptist pastor, I am very concerned that the potentially devastating effects of these actions and have publicly questioned the government on its motives.
On Sept. 28, I rose in the House of Commons to question the Prime Minister regarding the government’s lawsuits against some of the churches. In this regard, I have also spoken personally with the Minister of Justice, Anne McLellan.
I have been and will continue to be in communication with senior leaders from various churches on this matter. As new information and developments take place, I will be certain to keep you informed. I would also appreciate hearing your comments on this issue.
Apology muddies the issue
In a sermon delivered on Sept. 24 at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, Archbishop Michael Peers once again apologized on behalf of the Anglican Church for the “aboriginal pain that rose out of life in the residential schools.” Though heartfelt and eloquent, this latest apology only serves to muddy the historical and legal waters by conflating the three forms of abuse said to have occurred in these schools: sexual abuse, physical abuse and cultural genocide.
As the Archbishop must know, many of the lawsuits are limited to charges of physical abuse and destruction of Native culture.
The muddling of these three issues and the content of his sermon make the Archbishop’s appeal for “healing and reconciliation” as paternalistic as it is disingenuous and ethnocentric.
It is paternalistic because it portrays Native peoples as hapless victims of forces totally beyond their control. In fact, the provision of Native education was a right requested by Aboriginals and entrenched in the many treaties they signed. There is also considerable historical evidence that generations of Native parents eagerly sent their children to such schools so that they could raise their life chances by obtaining a Western education.
Conversely, there is evidence that people like the Innu of Labrador who were denied access to residential schools continue to suffer from this up to the present day.
It is disingenuous because in condemning the entire residential school system the Archbishop confounds the heinous crime of pedophilic sexual exploitation with painful physical punishment and cultural genocide. As for the former, the Native residential schools had no monopoly over harsh corporal punishment.
As for the latter, the function of education, especially in a complex multi-ethnic society like Canada, has always been enculturation to mainstream norms and practices. Accordingly, millions of immigrants from all over the world have suffered “cultural genocide.”
Still, there has been one fundamental difference between Native and non-Native assimilation which makes the Archbishop’s sermon highly ethnocentric, namely the freedom of religious expression generally enjoyed by the latter. From first contact, Native peoples were deliberately and systematically encouraged, even hectored, to give up their indigenous religious beliefs. Children sent to residential schools had neither freedom of nor freedom from religion.
If the Archbishop believes that the church should feel guilty about its destruction of Native culture, will he fulfill his call for “healing and reconciliation” by issuing a further apology for indoctrinating the Native children under his care with the white man’s alien Christian belief system? I think not.
Professor of Anthropology, University of Manitoba
I was very disturbed by the headline in the September Journal, over the letters regarding Sins of the Fathers (Out of This Horror, Something Good May Come.)
Would a more impartial headline have been Readers Respond to Special Report?
Does the headline suggest this paper is determined to paint the schools as horrible institutions, akin to the Holocaust? If so, this is very unfortunate, and will certainly help those who want to sue the church.
We who worked in the schools know that they were not “horrible” institutions, and it is unfortunate that our church is not willing to find out the true story about the past. (Did anyone ask letter writer Rene Jamieson if he/she worked in a residential school?)
Like most things in The Anglican Journal, your article on dipping or sipping is rather dogmatic. The practice is referred to as “intincting,” not “dipping,” and it is a perfectly historical, acceptable choice within the Church. Through your captive readership to this newspaper you already control the church dialogue. Are you now trying to take over communion practice too?
John Gallienne will be all right. He was deeply hurt, of course, by the use made by your reporter of his offence and its effect on the Anglican Church in Kingston in the September Journal article, Ontario Recovering From Impact of Sex Scandal.
Deeply hurt yet again, after society had had its pound of flesh in retribution. His years in prison are over, and he will never be free of the burden of guilt he carries. But he will come through all right, as will, with God’s help, those he so gravely offended.
But we are the ones I worry about. We who are enjoined at so many points in each Sunday’s Eucharist to “forgive those who sin against (us).” People such as Bishop Peter Mason, who lets John remain the symbol of his ministry. And your reporter, who lets the appeal of a good story overpower her sense of balance in reflecting that ministry. And all of us who are trying to see John as the repentant sinner he is, and ourselves repent of our hypocritical self-righteousness.
John Gallienne attended mass in my parish this morning, as he always does. I rejoice at his welcome into the fold. Like my fellow parishioners, I try to follow the injunction of the prayer, “forgive others, forgive yourselves.” The corporate church as represented in the bishop and the Journal, it seems to me, should be the example of forgiveness, not the exception.
Jesus forgave the penitent sinner. Would that we would do the same.