TRC's demand for a second papal apology a regrettable mistake


National Post, 4 April 2018

If what was accepted by Canada's Aboriginal leader in 2009 was no longer acceptable by 2015, what is the point of doing it again?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report on residential schools spoke of the need to move from “apology to action.” The demand for another papal apology means that we are regrettably moving from apology to friction. Which is a great shame, given the enormous efforts by Aboriginal and Catholic leadership over the past 20 years to face the past with honesty and justice, truth and reconciliation.

The journey is not complete, but neither are we at the beginning. A lot of distance has been travelled together, and much common ground established. This unnecessary conflict over a second papal apology threatens to slow all of that down.

I should note that my views are my own; I don’t speak for the Catholic Church on this matter — or on any matter. The Catholic bishops of Canada are in general more sympathetic than I am to the notion of a second apology, and a few of them have argued for it.

For its part, the NDP is proposing that the House of Commons pass a resolution demanding that the Pope apologize again. How inserting federal politicians into the mix will make things better is difficult to see. 

It is important to realize that long before the TRC existed, much delicate and important work had been done on addressing the legacy of residential schools. Indeed, the TRC itself is a product of that painful and painstaking work. That earlier work resulted in the papal apology of 2009.

I wrote in 2015 about why the TRC made a mistake in discounting the historic meeting in 2009 between Pope Benedict XVI and Aboriginal leaders at the Vatican.

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