Pope Agrees to Meet With Indigenous Groups From Canada About Schools

Canada’s Indigenous communities have long sought a papal apology for the church’s role in a system of forced assimilation at schools where abuse and disease were widespread.

A memorial for the 215 children whose remains were discovered in May near the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in Kamloops, British Columbia.

By Ian Austen and Vjosa Isai

Pope Francis will meet with Indigenous leaders later this year to discuss coming to Canada to apologize for the church’s role in operating schools that abused and forcibly assimilated generations of Indigenous children, a step toward resolving the grievances of survivors and Indigenous communities, the head of Canada’s largest Indigenous organization said on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said that the pope will meet separately at the Vatican with the representatives of Canada’s three biggest Indigenous groups — the First Nations, the Métis and the Inuit — during a four-day series of meetings in December that will culminate in a joint session with all three.

“Pope Francis is deeply committed to hearing directly from Indigenous Peoples, expressing his heartfelt closeness, addressing the impact of colonization and the role of the Church in the residential school system,” the bishops wrote.

Canada’s Indigenous leaders have long called for a papal apology for the church’s role in the residential schools, a government-created system that operated for about 113 years and that a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide.”

Those calls have intensified since May, following announcements by three Indigenous communities that ground penetrating radar has revealed many hundreds of unmarked graves containing human remains, mostly of children, at the sites of former schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. While both disease and violence were widespread at the schools, the scans offer no information about how the children died.

Catholic orders ran about 70 percent of the schools on behalf of the government. Despite a direct plea from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017, the pope has consistently refused to apologize for the church.

Three Protestant denominations that also ran residential schools apologized long ago and contributed millions of dollars to settle in 2005 a class-action suit brought by former students.

The Catholic Church, however, has since raised less than four million Canadian dollars, or $3.2 million, of its 25 million dollar share of the settlement.

The delegation of Indigenous leaders will push the question of compensation at the Vatican meetings, said Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Canada’s largest Indigenous organization. However, their focus will be on persuading the pope to come to Canada to apologize.

“The Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church, they’ve made apologies to the Irish people, they made apologies to the Indigenous people of Bolivia,” Chief Bellegarde told a news conference. “So I think the spirit will move in the appropriate way at the appropriate time.”

The news of the Vatican meeting came as the third Canadian Indigenous community announced on Wednesday that it had found 182 human remains near a former school for Indigenous children run by the Catholic church.

At the St. Eugene’s Mission School, located in British Columbia on the land of a First Nation which renders its name as ʔaq’am, Indigenous leaders said that a search that started last year has found 182 unmarked graves, some of them just three to four feet deep.

Pope Francis will meet with Indigenous leaders at the Vatican in December.

Chief Bellegarde said that the Indigenous groups had been trying for two years to schedule this meeting with the pope. But he said that it remains unclear which, if any, of their requests that the pope will agree to.

“There are no guarantees of any kind of apology or anything coming forward, there’s no guarantee that he’ll even come back to Canada,” Chief Bellegarde said. “But we have to make the attempt and we have to seize the opportunity.”

A national Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that physical, mental and sexual abuse were common at the schools, which operated for over 100 years, starting in the late 19th century. Many of the schools were overcrowded, their children afflicted by disease and, in some cases, malnutrition. All of them rigorously, and sometimes violently, enforced prohibitions on Indigenous languages and cultural practices.

In May, Canadians were shocked to learn that ground penetrating radar had revealed the remains of 215 people, mostly children, near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

Last week the shock was compounded after a First Nation in Saskatchewan said that the technology had found 751 remains at the site of a former school on its land.

The St. Eugene’s Mission School, where the discovery of remains was announced on Wednesday, was operated between 1890 and 1969 by Catholic orders, including the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Lower Kootenay Band said the remains likely belonged to people from the bands of Ktunaxa Nation — of which it is a member — and other neighboring Indigenous communities.

The search, which is continuing, was organized by the ?aq’am First Nation, which informed Chief Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band about its initial findings last week. After making the discovery public on Wednesday, Chief Louie said that he is less interested in a papal apology than criminal charges being brought against members of the church involved in running the school.

“We’re beyond apologies, we need to talk about accountability,” he said. “If Nazi war criminals can be tried at an elderly age for their war crimes, I think we should be tracking down the living survivors of the church — being the priests and the nuns — who had a hand in this.”

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal among 10 indicted by Vatican for financial crimes

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who has been caught up in a real estate scandal, speaks to the media a day after he resigned suddenly and gave up his right to take part in an eventual conclave to elect a pope, near the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, September 25, 2020.

By

  • Pope approved move against cardinal, who says he is innocent
  • Former head of Vatican Financial Intelligence denies charges
  • Becciu most senior Vatican official charged with financial crime
  • Trial to start July 27

A prominent Italian cardinal was among 10 people sent to trial in the Vatican on Saturday charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, formerly a senior official in the Vatican administration, as well as two top officials at the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit will go on trial on July 27 over a multi-million euro scandal involving the Vatican’s purchase of a building in one of London’s smartest districts.

The trial will inevitably bring a swirl of media interest to the tiny city-state surrounded by Rome, and appears to underscore Pope Francis’ determination to cure the rot in Vatican finances, even if it involves messy public hearings.

Becciu, 73, whom the pope fired from his senior clerical post last year for alleged nepotism, and who has always maintained his innocence during a two-year investigation, becomes the most senior Vatican official to be charged with financial crimes.

The pope personally gave the required approval last week for Becciu to be indicted, according to a 487-page indictment request seen by Reuters. The Vatican announced the indictments in a two-page statement.

The charges against Becciu include embezzlement and abuse of office. An Italian woman who worked for him was charged with embezzlement and the cardinal’s former secretary, a priest, was accused of extortion.

Becciu said in a statement that he was a victim of a “machination” and reaffirmed his “absolute innocence”.

Two Italian brokers, Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, were charged with embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. Torzi, for whom Italian magistrates issued an arrest warrant in April, was also charged with extortion.

There was no immediate response to attempts to reach their lawyers, but both men have consistently denied wrongdoing.
Four companies associated with individual defendants, two in Switzerland, one in the United States and one in Slovenia, were also indicted, according to the document.

POLICE RAID

The investigation into the purchase of the building became public on Oct. 1, 2019, when Vatican police raided the offices of the Secretariat of State, the administrative heart of the Catholic Church, and those of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF).

The then-president of the AIF, Rene Bruelhart, a 48-year-old Swiss, and AIF’s former Italian director, Tommaso Di Ruzza, 46, were charged with abuse of office for allegedly failing to adequately protect the Vatican’s interests and giving Torzi what the indictment request called an “undue advantage”.

Di Ruzza was also accused of embezzlement related to alleged inappropriate use of his official credit card, and of divulging confidential information.

Bruelhart said in a text message that he had “always carried out my functions and duties with correctness” and that “the truth about my innocence will emerge.”

Di Ruzza did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.

In 2014, the Secretariat of State invested more than 200 million euros, much of it from contributions from the faithful, in a fund run by Mincione, securing about 45% of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London’s South Kensington district.

The indictment request said Mincione had tried to deceive the Vatican, which in 2018 tried to end the relationship.
It turned to Torzi for help in buying up the rest of the building, but later accused him of extortion.

‘ENORMOUS LOSSES’

At the time, Becciu was in the last year of his post as deputy secretary of state for general affairs, a powerful administrative position that handles hundreds of millions of euros.

All told, the Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the investment, according to Vatican media, and suffered what Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican treasurer, told Reuters last year were “enormous losses”.

Torzi was arrested in the Vatican in June 2020, and spent a week in custody.

According to the indictment request, Becciu is charged with five counts of embezzlement, two of abuse of office, and one count of inducing a witness to perjury. About 75 pages of the document are dedicated to Becciu.

It says Becciu tried to “heavily deflect” the inquiry into Vatican investments, including the London building, and tried to discredit the investigating magistrates via the Italian media.

Becciu continued to have influence over money transfers at the Secretariat even after he left the post, the document said.

The main charges against Becciu involve the alleged funnelling of money and contracts to companies or charitable organisations controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia.

Another Sardinian, Cecilia Maronga, 40, who worked for Becciu, was charged with embezzlement. Her cellphone was not connected.

The indictment request said she had received about 575,000 euros from the Secretariat of State in 2018-2019.

She has said on Italian television that the money, sent to her company in Slovenia, was to ransom kidnapped missionaries in Africa. But the indictment request said much of it was used for “personal benefit”, including the purchase of luxury goods.

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!