Pilgrimage of penance?
Pope Francis kisses the hand of residential school survivor Elder Alma Desjarlais of the Frog Lake First Nation as he arrives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on Sunday, July 24, 2022. (Photo: AP)

Dear Editor,

"Ring the bells that can still ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There's a crack, a crack in everything.

That's how the light gets in." — Leonard Cohen

Pope Francis has arrived in Canada. We are told the purpose of this visit is to show penance for the treatment of Canada's aboriginal community within the residential school system, many of which were managed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican church, and various governments.

Is Pope Francis here in Canada to act as a fixer of the situation, an apologist for the church, or as an honest ambassador of Christ's compassion? Will His Holiness admit to the church's historic wrongdoing and the systematic church-led actions to deny the aboriginal communities and Canadian governments' demands for full transparency by providing all the documents required to conduct a thorough investigation? Will Pope Francis outrightly admit to the historically destructive, contrarian actions committed against the aboriginal community?

The church continues to act just as it did in the past when accusations of sexual improprieties are levelled against its clergy members. That is, they:

1) receive information of impropriety and do nothing about it.

2) say they're investigating the accusations but play the waiting game.

3) offer insufficient solutions to the problem when forced to admit possible improprieties to see if they can get away with it, such as:

a) clergy will go to special classes for adaptive training (for example, sex addiction) and

b) offering a small sum of money as restitution while admitting nothing.

Pope Francis will not fall upon his sword of morality. He will probably not admit to anything that will directly influence the church now, admitting to only that bad things happened in the past. The US$30 million offered by the church will probably not be paid, but offers will be given. A hocus-pocus situation will be created in which the church's rock star will perform for the aboriginal community and Canadians a song and dance of penance but probably nothing more significant.

Why is Pope Francis in Canada? He has been asked to do so by the church hierarchy — a face-to-face meeting to act as a diversion from what their church should be doing.

The Canadian Catholic Church is worth over CA$2.5 billion and there can develop a situation in which the aboriginal community or the Canadian Government files multiple lawsuits against the church. If this happens there is a chance for aboriginal communities all over the world to follow suit.

Members of the church have behaved badly in Africa, Australia, and elsewhere. If these 'religious pilgrims' arrive without a cheque in hand and pound their breasts loudly in penance, while not having a plan of restitution, this will not go well.

The church takes care of itself and its foot soldiers just like any other boys' club, the behaviour of the members is similar to the police's blue wall.

The aboriginal community may expect the papacy to act in accordance with their wishes by providing clarity, transparency, and being accountable for all historic wrongs. Will the aboriginal community receive satisfaction this time?

Steven Kaszab

Bradford, Ontario


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