By Medicine Hat News Opinon on April 3, 2018.
When you do something wrong, you apologize.
When someone you’ve deeply hurt asks for an apology, you give it.
You don’t try to tip-toe around it. You don’t issue the non-apology of “I’m sorry, but…”
You don’t make excuses.
Excuses like “he felt that he could not personally respond.”
This was the reasoning given in the letter released by Bishop Lionel Gendron, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, on why Pope Francis will not be issuing an apology for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in running residential schools.
Two-thirds of these schools were run by the Catholic Church.
A papal apology was one of 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.
What stings is that it’s not like papal apologies are some rare occurrence.
Pope John Paul II was the first to start issuing them, kicking off in 1992 with an apology for branding Galileo a heretic as the astronomer correctly assessed that the earth in fact, orbits around the sun.
Since then, apologies have covered issues such as the church’s role in the slave trade and Rwandan genocide, and its inaction during the Holocaust.
The TRC requested an apology similar to the one made in 2010 to Irish victims of sexual abuse.
It’s not like other churches have failed to step up to the plate. Apologies were issued by the Anglican Church in 1993, the Presbyterian Church in 1994, and the United Church in 1998 — that’s at least a decade before Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the official apology on behalf of the Canadian government in 2008.
Let’s put that in perspective: A pope was willing to apologize for the treatment of a scientist like Galileo who has been dead since 1642 — yet can’t issue one to people the church has harmed who are living and breathing today.
No one is naive enough to believe an apology will magically heal the harms of residential schools. It’s not going to wipe away the trauma that comes from ripping apart families and communities and subjecting children to the horrors that have been painstakingly documented through the TRC process.
But it is simply shameful that a leader like Pope Francis isn’t willing to step up and play his part in reconciliation.
(Peggy Revell is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)
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