Some Catholics say it’s not easy to reconcile their faith with what they see as the pope’s lackluster apology for the horrors church-run residential schools inflicted on Indigenous children, but for many the process is to try to change the institution rather than abandon it.
The pontiff’s ‘penitential pilgrimage’ across Canada has seen him apologize for the actions of ‘so many Christians’, but some say Pope Francis should have done more to acknowledge that the Catholic Church itself was guilty of abuse in the facilities.
“It’s a challenge to faith, because the Pope is a spiritual leader — and he is my spiritual leader. And he chose to use language that doesn’t take full responsibility, as he might have done,” said Paolo De Buono, a Catholic professor in Toronto.
“So it makes me ashamed and concerned that the organization I’m part of suffers more by not issuing a full apology.”
Early Saturday morning, on his trip back to the Vatican, the pope used a word he hasn’t used on Canadian soil: genocide. He agreed that the abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples while they were forced to attend residential schools constituted genocide.
However, he still did not go so far as to acknowledge that the Catholic Church itself was responsible.
De Buono said he would have expected Pope Francis to focus more on the “collective role of the Church” rather than “what some people have done.”
It’s a common criticism of the apology, including from those to whom it was directed: Indigenous people who were sent to residential schools and those dealing with the intergenerational trauma that comes from being separated from members of their families and the suppression of their crops.
But like many Catholics, De Buono said he hopes to change the institution from within, rather than leaving the faith.
For example, De Buono has been outspoken on Twitter in refusing to teach his students that LGBTQ attraction and relationships are bad.
“I openly question it,” he said.
Reid Locklin, a professor of Christianity at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s College, said he hopes more Catholics take the approach.
“The need for the disappointment of the visit is that people are going to say, OK, it wasn’t what we expected. Now it’s up to us who are Canadian Catholics to do better,” Locklin, who practices Catholic, said.
This kind of local accountability is somewhat in line with Pope Francis’ approach to leadership, he said. Francis tends to plead for “synodality”, which gives more autonomy to national or regional episcopal conferences.
It’s one of the ways Pope Francis has sought to reform the church since becoming its leader in 2013, Locklin said, along with efforts to change the way the institution is viewed.
“(He) tries to reshape the imagination of the Catholic Church so that it is truly a church of the margins, a church of those who are poor and dispossessed, a church of those who suffer,” he said. declared.
The pope’s visit appears to align with those goals, he said.
It appears to be following the lead of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in pointing the finger at members of the Catholic community rather than the church as a whole, Locklin noted.
As part of his reforms, Pope Francis has also sought to address clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, he said.
In some ways, the pontiff did it in Canada, acknowledging this kind of abuse on Thursday. But he has not apologized for the sexual abuse that occurred at boarding schools, drawing criticism from some observers.
Tony Ritchie, who is involved with the Catholic Church in the Ottawa area, said he saw the apology as a sign of what was to come.
“The apology isn’t the end point, it’s basically the beginning of the journey to reconciliation,” he said. “These next steps are going to be the most important.”
Ritchie said that going forward, he believes the Church should foster a closer relationship with its “native neighbors” — one that is not about control.
St. Basil Parish in Ottawa, for example, holds an Indigenous Mass once a month, and Ritchie said other local churches are pushing their leaders to implement something similar.
“The Church must continually evolve as society evolves,” he said. “You could get discouraged and leave the Church because you find it old-fashioned, or you could stay in the Church and try to make changes.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 30, 2022.