Be vulnerable and examine Catholic Church’s residential school past, Manitoba pastor urges

Parishioners, Flin Flon pastor say more work to be done for reconciliation after discovery of unmarked graves

Father Paul Bringleson is pastor at St. Ann’s Parish in Flin Flon, Man. He says parishoners should be able to put questions to leaders in the Roman Catholic Church about its role in running Canada’s residential schools.

By Renée Lilley

Some Manitoba Catholics are calling on church leadership to atone for their wrongs in light of the discovery of unmarked graves on the sites of some former Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

Father Paul Bringleson, the pastor of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in Flin Flon, thinks the Roman Catholic Church needs to take a back seat and truly listen to survivors.

“Take off your robes, your shoes, and your rings and your crosses. Sit yourself in a chair. And listen,” he said in a sermon on June 6, days after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported the discovery of what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“It is not for us to tell Indigenous Peoples, ‘it’s time to move on.’ You don’t tell a victim when their suffering is over. You sit with that pain.”

Bringleson’s sermon drew national attention when it was published in full by Maclean’s magazine.

In the weeks following his sermon, other First Nations announced they too had found what are believed to unmarked graves, including 751 on Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and another 182 near St. Eugene’s Mission School outside Cranbrook, B.C.

Bringleson says Catholics should be able to put questions to the church’s leadership and get decent answers. Instead, leaders are often bogged down in other issues like gay marriage, he says.

“If two men want to get married in Canada, every bishop in the country is writing a letter about it. But these graves being uncovered, and our role in it, which needs to be examined and looked at, it’s not a quick fix,” he said in an interview with CBC Manitoba’s Information Radio last Monday.

“Nobody wants to remain vulnerable. Especially in the church, the clergy has safety in holy orders. It makes it very difficult to want to be vulnerable with people. It’s not our first instinct, and yet that’s where we need to be.”

Pope Francis speaks from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican on June 6, 2021. Pope Francis will meet with Indigenous leaders later this year but has not offered an official apology for the abuse suffered by students at Canada’s residential schools, many of which were run by the Roman Catholic Church.

There have been calls for the Catholic Church to formally apologize to Indigenous Canadians for the abuse committed through the residential school system, which was run by the federal government and contracted out to Christian denominations. More than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church.

The United, Presbyterian and Anglican churches have apologized for their roles in the residential school system, as has the Canadian government, which has offered compensation.

There have been some localized apologies from individual Catholic orders. Pope Francis will meet with Indigenous leaders later this year and expressed his “pain” after the discovery of the graves in Kamloops.

However, neither the Pope nor the Vatican have offered an official apology.

‘This, I cannot condone’: parishoner

Linda Ducharme, a Métis Catholic, said after the discovery of the unmarked graves, she won’t go back to her Catholic church in St. Ambroise, Man., until the Pope apologizes.

“I refuse to support the Catholic church until the church apologizes for its part and asks for forgiveness,” she said.

“I’m a devout Christian. I turned to the Catholic church because it’s the only one here. But this, I cannot condone.”

Ducharme says she cried for days, not only for the children forced to attend residential school children, but also for their parents. Neither had a voice, she says.

“They took those little kids, put them in these enclosed spaces, like pig farming and chicken farming today. All crowded in there, not properly fed or cared for.

“A lot of them probably died from disease too, but the way they treated the bodies — they didn’t let the parents know, they just wrapped them in a blanket and buried them. That is so disrespectful and so wrong.”

The statue of Queen Victoria on the Manitoba Legislature grounds lies with its head removed after being topped on Canada Day.

That feeling was evident on Canada Day — a day marked by mourning for many, but also visible anger, including the toppling of statues at the Manitoba Legislature grounds in Winnipeg.

Some Catholic churches across the country have also been vandalized or burned.

Ducharme says that’s not the way to accomplish anything.

“I do not agree with the burning of the churches. That doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t solve the problem. We know you’re mad, but going out and being destructive doesn’t solve anything.”

However, Ducharme says she has lost her sense of patriotism for the usually celebratory holiday.

“It sure doesn’t make you proud to be a Canadian. And I used to be so proud to be Canadian,” she said.

This year, “even if I wasn’t busy moving my daughter, we wouldn’t have celebrated. My heart was with them.”

Gordon Elijah Mackintosh, a practising Catholic in Winnipeg, also hopes the church will recognize its wrongs.

Gordon Elijah Mackintosh wants the Catholic church to take responsibility for the wrongs of residential schools in Canada.

“I was getting really upset over the news coming out. I’ve been going to church my whole life, and I just felt like I needed to say something,” said Mackintosh, 31.

He’s disappointed in the silence from many in the Catholic community.

“Considering one of the main sacraments is reconciliation and being forgiven, I think they really need to show the Indigenous community and really everyone that they mean what they say,” he said.

Truth, acceptance necessary for change

In terms of reconciliation, the churches and government have a lot of work to do, says Sean Carleton, an assistant professor of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba.

Churches should be transparent with historical records that many churches held back, he says, and making all of them available immediately is a good first step.

“One thing that is very clear, coming out of the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] — if Canadians are really serious about reconciliation, we have to have truth first. Truth before reconciliation.”

In terms of Canada’s role in the residential school system, Carleton stresses the need for the entire country to face the effects of its history.

Sean Carleton, an assistant professor of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba, says the intergenerational trauma of residential schools is still affecting Indigenous people in Canada today.

“Canadians are having a hard time and are struggling with the fact that it’s not a historical problem. I don’t think people really understand the intergenerational effects this really has for Indigenous people today,” he said.

“There are pockets of multiculturalism and tolerance, but there is also ongoing oppression, genocide. And that’s something that is coming to the fore.”

Complete Article HERE!

Woke to the Truth

The doors of a Catholic church in Canada were marked with red paint on June 24 after the announcement from Cowessess First Nation that up to 751 unmarked graves graves had been identified near the former Marieval Residential School.

By Aaron Payment

While the emerging stories about Indian residential school cemeteries in Canada are shocking to many, they are not to many Native Americans and First Nation citizens.

When I wrote my master’s thesis for my first master’s degree in public administration 30 years ago in 1991, it was focused on federal Indian policy. It focused all of the Indian policy periods throughout U.S. history.

Included in the various periods was the Indian boarding school era. It was by far the hardest part of my thesis. Because I was interested in understanding this fully, I read all kinds of accounts of the experience lived from individuals who were part of this dark chapter in history. It took me two and a half years to write my thesis because it was heartbreaking to delve deep into the boarding school experience.

One of the most psychologically challenging accounts to read was how the missionaries used wooden blocks to stop Indian children from speaking their language. Some of the Indian boys and girls were told their parents had died so they wouldn’t try to escape the boarding school. When these children tried to mourn their parents because they believed they had died, the missionaries prohibited them from exercising their traditional funeral rituals.

Many American Indian boarding schools have their own cemeteries. Could you imagine sending your child off to a boarding school today if they had a graveyard in the backyard?

For all of those counterculture people or those who claim that critical race theory should not be taught, they are on the side of whitewashing American history. In psychology and sociology there is a term called cognitive dissonance. Those terms as well as the concept of collective denial, is why we don’t learn about these facts in American history.

Most aspects of American Indian history are not taught in schools. Certainly, the Indian boarding school era is not part of the curriculum.

Did you know U.S. Japanese internment camps were modeled after the first Indian reservation experience?

Did you know that germ warfare and ethnocide was born in American Indian history?

Did you know the concept of Indian blood quantum, the amount of Indian blood you have, initially a system the federal government placed on tribes in an effort to limit their citizenship, was created to under count and eventually eradicate the American Indian population?

Did you know that Hitler modeled the Jewish concentration camps after the American practice of concentrating American Indians onto a reservation and introducing disease by gifting Tribes with smallpox infected blankets?

Each of these experiences of genocide at the hands of the American government over the generations explains what is called historical and intergenerational trauma. This explains in large part why tribal governments are sometimes openly hostile towards their own people. It also explains why American Indians have the worst of the worst statistical outcomes on every dimension. This includes the lowest high school graduation rate, the highest rates of suicide, the highest rates of drug and alcohol addiction, the highest rates of unemployment.

Whitewashing our history and these facts is intended to suggest there is something inferior about American Indians. That we are intellectually inferior to other races. Early scholars in anthropology wrote about our ancestors as if they were less than human and not civilized. We didn’t even have the right to vote until 1924. We were the last of Americans to be granted this right. Our religious practices were illegal until 1978. Our children were stolen from our families until the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978. Even today—in certain states and jurisdictions—Indian children are still stolen from their families.

None of this is intended to blame anyone who is alive today. But we all have a duty to understand the facts, our history, and how this impacts us today. One important reason is so that we don’t repeat history. Immigrant children locked in cages and disconnected from their parents is the same as the Indian boarding school experience. The atrocity of separating a child from their family is inexcusable and unforgivable. No matter who is president or who locked up these children, it is really no different than the Indian boarding school experience. Those who argue cancel culture would have you believe this is no big deal. Again, if we don’t know our own history, we are doomed to repeat it.

So while I am grateful that the world is becoming “woke” to the experience of Indian children being slaughtered, beaten to death, or driven to suicide based on a broken heart at these boarding schools, we have known this for some time but we’re just unwilling to look more closely.

I appreciate Secretary Deb Haaland’s commitment to go back and examine these boarding schools to get an account of how many Indian children were murdered at the hands of the American government. It is my hope that this will lead to repatriation of the remains of these children back to the respective families and tribes.

Finally, the concept of critical race theory is not about blaming anyone. It’s about understanding the truth and looking for explanations for why certain populations have the worst of the worst statistical outcomes.

As documented in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Broken Promises report, American Indians have the worst of the worst statistical outcomes.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican moves to tamp down spat with Italy over LGBT rights

In this Oct. 4, 2020 file photo, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin talks to journalists during a press conference at the Vatican. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, attempted to tamp down controversy Thursday, May 24, 2021, over a Vatican diplomatic communication to Italy, saying that the Holy See’s intention was not to block passage of a law that would extend additional protections from discrimination to the LGBT community.

by COLLEEN BARRY

The Vatican’s Secretary of State attempted to tamp down controversy Thursday over a Vatican diplomatic communication to Italy, saying the Holy See was not trying to block passage of a law that would extend additional protections from discrimination to the LGBT community.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s No. 2, told Vatican News that he personally approved the diplomatic communication, which was intended to express concerns over the proposed Italian legislation. The Vatican is against any “attitude or gesture of intolerance or hatred toward people motivated by sexual orientations,” he added.

The chief concern, Parolin said, is that “vagaries” in the text of the proposed law could expose anyone expressing an opinion about “any possible distinction between man and woman” to prosecution.

The letter, which has been published by Italian media, claims specifically that the law would violate a landmark treaty establishing diplomatic ties between Italy and the Vatican by putting at risk the right of Roman Catholics to freely express themselves. It cited as an example a clause that would require Catholic schools, along with their public counterparts, to run activities on a designated day against homophobia and transphobia.

The law would add women, people who are homosexual, transsexual or with disabilities, to those protected by a law banning discrimination and punishing hate crimes. The lower house of parliament passed the legislation in November, but it has been stalled in the Senate by right-wing concerns that it would limit freedom of expression.

Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, for example, has complained that anyone saying that a family is formed with a man and a woman would be exposed to possible prosecution.

Backers of the law have dismissed such concerns, saying that the threshold for prosecution is inciting hatred or violence against the protected classes.

Premier Mario Draghi on Wednesday rebuffed the Vatican’s attempt at influencing the legislative process, telling parliament: “Italy is a secular state.”

But the controversy has ignited outrage over Vatican meddling, with many calling for the cancellation of the so-called Lateran Treaty, originally established under fascism and revised in the 1980s, establishing diplomatic ties between the Vatican and predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.

LGBT activists have vowed to transform Gay Pride events in Rome and Milan on Saturday into protests against what they say is the Vatican’s unprecedented interference in the Italian legislative process.

In decades past, the Vatican objected to Italian laws legalizing abortion and divorce and backed unsuccessful referendums after the fact to try to repeal them.

Complete Article HERE!

Iowa Attorney General’s report reviews dozens of ‘overwhelming’ sex-abuse complaints against Catholic priests

By William Morris Melody Mercado

In Iowa as in the rest of the country, the incidence and duration of sexual abuse by clergy “were overwhelming” and the cover-up “extensive” in earlier decades, a report by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office that was released Wednesday concludes.

A yearslong investigation by the office reviewed nearly 50 complaints of sexual abuse against current and former Catholic priests and other officials, including 17 allegations that had never before been reported.

In a statement Wednesday, the bishops of Iowa’s four Catholic dioceses said the church “is committed to do all that is humanly possible to protect minors from the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse, and to promote healing.” The bishops said the new report would be studied for ways to improve existing reporting and investigating procedures.

The state’s investigation was inspired by a sweeping and scathing report issued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General in 2018.

In Pennsylvania, prosecutors used grand jury subpoenas to uncover hidden church records. Iowa does not have statewide grand jury powers, and so Attorney General Tom Miller worked with the state’s dioceses, which voluntarily shared records of past cases and complaints. The state also set up an independent hotline for clergy abuse complaints, among other outreach to possible victims.

Those efforts produced a total of 50 complaints, 45 of which were against Catholic church leaders and five involving other denominations. Of the new complaints, many brought allegations against priests who had already been accused of abuse by other victims.  Several of the new complaints listed in the report do not name the priest, in some cases because their identity is not known.

Lynn Hicks, Miller’s chief of staff, said in an interview that many victims indicated they felt the church in past decades was not supportive or receptive to their complaints.

“A lot of them felt like … they were the ones on trial when they had come forward, and then others talked about why they didn’t come forward — the lack of trust or the fear of not being believed, that sort of thing,” he said. “We hope that that’s changed.”

All of the allegations against Catholic priests fall outside the state’s statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. Some, but not all, of those accused are named in lists each diocese maintains of credibly accused priests. Several were already known to be the subject of dozens of accusations.

Three of the clergy named in complaints remain active as priests. The Rev. John Stack, a priest in Clinton, was suspended in 2013 over allegations of abuse in the 1980s, but was reinstated by the Diocese of Davenport in 2016 after a church trial found the charges not proven. Another, Hicks said, is in the Diocese of Sioux City, although it is not clear from the report who that is.

One claim resulted in a new investigation into the Rev. Robert “Bud” Grant, an instructor at St. Ambrose University and the parish priest in Blue Grass, a town of 1,500 just west of Davenport. The Diocese of Des Moines said in November 2020 that Grant had committed misconduct — but had not sexually abused any minors — and allowed him to return to ministry with restrictions limiting his contact with persons under 24.

A spokesman for the university said in a statement Thursday that Grant’s suspension from teaching at the university, where he remains a member of the faculty, was lifted this spring and he continues to work under restrictions imposed by the Des Moines Diocese.

The report found that, in Iowa as in other parts of the country, “the image and reputation of the church were put ahead of the enormous harm to young people.”

Hicks said the investigation found “plenty of evidence of priests being moved and things not being disclosed,” although he said things appear to have significantly improved since 2002, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a major set of reforms to respond to a series of church scandals. Only five priests have been accused of misconduct occurring since 2002.

The report notes that the church made a notable change by requiring “automatic reporting of any complaints concerning abuse to the criminal authorities.”

All four of Iowa’s bishops are relatively new in their positions, the report notes, and none was involved in handling or covering up past complaints.

The report finds that the dioceses of Sioux City, Dubuque and Davenport “made a good-faith effort” to maintain their public lists of credibly accused clergy. The report includes some criticism of the Diocese of Des Moines, saying it was late in publishing its list and has a policy to not investigate single complaints against deceased priests. The diocese also declined to share some investigative reports, claiming attorney-client privilege.

Fewer than a third of priests facing allegations in the Des Moines diocese have been named on the diocese’s public list, compared to more than half in the three other dioceses. However, the report acknowledges some complaints are in a “gray area” and says Des Moines does report all allegations to law enforcement.

The Des Moines Diocese said in a statement Thursday that, since 2003, it has implemented mandatory background checks, which include a search of the sex offender registry for anyone who would be spending time with children in the diocese’s parishes, schools and institutions.

“The report brought to light that policies and procedures are in place to protect people and ensure justice is served so the church achieves a high standard of integrity in the ministries it offers,” said Des Moines Bishop William Joensen. “We, as a diocese, are committed to rigorous standards of accountability. I want to ensure that the diocese is committed to the safety of children.”

The Des Moines Diocese also noted that victims of abuse now report such conduct to a third-party Victim Assistance Advocate, not through the church.

In a separate statement, Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula apologized for the past abuse committed by clergy and described the steps taken in the past 20 years to safeguard children.

“These efforts have helped. The Diocese of Davenport has not received a founded report of child sexual abuse that occurred in the past 33 years,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, our Church and society need to continue to be vigilant in providing safe environments for children to thrive and grow.”

Of the five complaints received against church leaders in other denominations, the Attorney General’s Office is not identifying any of the accused but notes that at least one remains active as a pastor in the Cedar Falls area. Two of the complaints involve conduct that falls within the statute of limitations for possible criminal prosecution.

Complete Article HERE!

Children as cargo

Flight attendant recalls airplanes full of Indigenous students bound for residential schools, saying she ‘always knew’ something was off. After the discovery of 215 children’s remains, ‘now I know why’

By: Niigaan Sinclair

Sharon Gray still cries when she remembers it, nearly 60 years later.

“In the early 1960s, I was a flight attendant that took children to and from residential school,” she says.

The cabin of a DC-4: ‘All of the children cried at some point during the flight and most threw up,’ Gray recalls. (Supplied)</p>
The cabin of a DC-4: ‘All of the children cried at some point during the flight and most threw up,’ Gray recalls.

Gray, who lives in Winnipeg, worked on Pacific Western Airlines flights for 14 years. In those days most passengers were either wealthy vacationers or business travellers.

On most flights, she served people who looked forward to reaching their destinations.

There is one trip that has never left her mind.

Starting in the 1950s, churches began to contract Canadian airlines to transport Indigenous children to residential schools.

Some purchased and operated their own planes, such as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who ran the Kamloops residential school where hundreds of children’s bodies were discovered buried in unmarked graves last month.

A restored Douglas DC-4 in Yellowknife: aircraft like this one were pressed into service shuttling children to residential schools. (Ed Araquel photo)</p>
A restored Douglas DC-4 in Yellowknife: aircraft like this one were pressed into service shuttling children to residential schools.

One Oblate missionary named William Leising spent his entire life flying to Indigenous communities, picking up children and delivering them to residential schools in Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

He called his plane the “flying school bus.”

On some flights, seats would be removed to pack in as many children as possible. To save costs, the churches labelled children as “freight.”

For Indigenous children, travelling to residential school was a nervous, uncertain and, often, traumatic experience, especially if they knew what awaited them.

Gray was on one of those flights, escorting about 50 Inuit children to residential school in Inuvik, N.W.T.

“It was a long, difficult flight on a DC-4 airplane,” she recalls. “All of the children cried at some point during the flight and most threw up. One even vomited on me. We ran out of sick bags.”

Gray tried her best to do her job.

“I talked to two little girls who couldn’t stop crying, trying to convince them they were going to a good school, because I thought the Catholics had good teachers.”

A sign at a memorial outside the Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., where the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press files)</p>
A sign at a memorial outside the Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., where the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves.

Gray remembers giving them cookies to make them feel better.

“Then they told me they missed their families,” she says.

Months later, she heard that some of the children had tried to escape from the school; getting home would have been an impossible journey.

Now, a half-century later, and in the wake of the Kamloops discovery and others across Canada, she feels it’s so important to talk about her experience in order to understand what she was a part of.

‘I always knew there was something more to what I witnessed,” she tells me, “and now I know why.”

The role of aviation in the story of residential schools is not well known. It is, however, an essential part; planes were the primary means of transportation to some schools, especially in the North.

In many Indigenous communities, the arrival of a plane signalled the imminent removal of children. The opening scene of the 1989 CBC TV movie Where the Spirit Lives, created from stories told by residential school survivors, begins with a plane arriving in a Kainai community, flown by a pilot who then tricks the children into boarding.

The film over-dramatizes events; pilots didn’t need tricks, because Canada’s laws and the RCMP forced parents to send their children to the schools.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented some of the role aviation played in the residential school system but had a difficult time finding pilots, flight attendants and other airline workers to participate in hearings.

The commissioners also had difficulty obtaining flight manifests, passenger lists and purchase agreements between the churches and airlines because of privacy and jurisdictional arguments.

In some cases, owners and employees died, documents were lost and airlines had gone out of business. As a result, there’s an incomplete picture of the involvement of one of Canada’s most important industries and everyone in it.

Telling this story now is a task that has been taken up by the new Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, which will debut in a new building near the Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport early next year.

Overseen by Indigenous and Canadian researchers (I know, because I am one of them), the museum has committed to document and display the stories of aviation’s role in the residential schools system.

This week, museum curator Davide Montebruno reached out to Sharon Gray to tell her story. And the museum is inviting others to visit its website to share theirs, too.

“This is a big part of reconciliation,” Montebruno says. “We must tell the truth of what happened, no matter how uncomfortable it can be, so we can act different as a community.”

The hope is that Winnipeg’s newest museum can help Canadians understand how the airline industry participated in the country’s most genocidal policy.

Gray says she accepted Montebruno’s invitation.

“I could do nothing at that time,” she says. “But I can now.”

Complete Article HERE!