Should the Catholic Church lose its charitable tax status?
The horror of the remains of 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School has opened, or reopened, a wound in Canadian society. It reminded us of the birth defect in the history of this country, the cultural genocide of indigenous peoples. So many people are responsible. The state, the mentality of the settlers, the colonial culture, the churches, the police. Most of the churches were involved, and most offered a deep and sincere apology, and took ownership of this founding sin. They have a long way to go, but they have heard and seen the anguish and injustice.
Not, however, the Roman Catholic Church.
The Kamloops institution has been run by the Catholic Church for most of its existence, and although the church has issued statements of support and sympathy, today and in previous years the Vatican has refused to repeatedly to admit direct responsibility. To be frank, most of the words we see offered by the church seem to be filtered by law departments rather than theological departments. They are cautious, insipid, distant.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver probably came the closest this week: “I am writing to express my deep apologies and sincere condolences to the families and communities who have been devastated by this horrific news. Whenever new evidence of a tragedy comes to light or another victim presents itself, countless wounds reopen and I know you experience new suffering. “He also told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2013:” I would like to offer my sincere and deep apologies to the survivors and their families, as well as to all those affected afterwards, for the anguish caused by the conduct. deplorable of those Catholics who perpetrated mistreatment of any kind in these boarding schools.
But his voice is rare and isolated, he does not address the systemic and organized abuses that have taken place, and his approach has certainly not been replicated by the Pope, who has the final say in the matter. Then, to make matters worse, just hours after the obscenity of Kamloops was made public, the church issued new, tougher laws regarding sexual abuse and the ordination of women. On the first, it came a little closer to the rule of law and did so far too late. On the latter, it is specifically stated that the person who attempts to confer ordination on a woman as well as the woman herself will be automatically excommunicated. The juxtaposition is grotesque, the insensitivity appalling.
Canadians are understandably angry, and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has gone so far as to call the Pope’s failure to officially apologize “shameful”. They know that Pope Francis, even when questioned directly and personally by Prime Minister Trudeau, refused to apologize for the Catholic residential schools. It is a silence that cries out to be heard. This public anger, on the part of Catholics and non-Catholics, led to a criticism of the church that I had never seen before. Questions are asked about the funding of Catholic schools and the charitable tax status of the church.
As for the funding of schools, it started when Catholics were a minority, sometimes oppressed, in Protestant Canada – a situation that is long gone. Change is not as difficult as some people imagine. Quebec and Newfoundland passed constitutional resolutions to end religious funding, Manitoba changed over 130 years ago, and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI . . It was not until the 1980s that Catholic high schools in Ontario were funded.
As for the tax status, a change is certainly possible. It’s not that it will happen, more than people discuss it, sometimes ask. Not because they are anti-Catholic – this duck is ridiculous and overused – but because they desperately seek to make the church aware of the pain caused by residential schools and the subsequent refusals to be authentic on what happened.
This lack of honesty is probably due to fears in Rome about legal and therefore financial issues. The church is mired in cases of sexual and physical abuse around the world, including Canada, and some areas are at risk of bankruptcy because of it. But so be it, and there is a price to be paid for such disgusting behavior, and for its obscurity and denial. The church is rich, and even if it wasn’t, this issue is about morality and humanity, not money and property.
I have been a Catholic for many years, loved so much in this church, loved so many people there, lay people and clergy. This criticism is not directed at the 40%. They must listen!
Pope Francis has shown tremendous empathy in many areas and presented a mirror to other world leaders on the issues of climate change, immigration and economic justice. But when it comes to excuses for the behavior of the church, it is erratic and often disappointing.
Stop listening to lawyers and insurance companies, stop referring cases to canon lawyers and media specialists, and be like the Gospels taught us to be. This might be the time for the church to be at its best, to admit evil, to do everything possible to show penance and show love, and to present the face of Jesus rather than that of an institution. Christ preached a permanent revolution of grace and change. It’s not too late, it’s never too late.
MORE FROM CORE: The Catholic Church must atone for its role in residential schools
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