SNAP CALLS FOR ACTION, NOT WORDS, IN PAPAL VISIT TO QUEBEC
(For Immediate Release July 27, 2022)
When Pope Francis visits Quebec City today, victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy wish for him to express regret for their pain and suffering. As part of a week-long visit to Canada to promote healing and reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Indigenous people who endured years of abuse at residential schools, we wholeheartedly respect the primary reason for this papal visit. Still, we must not forget the other crimes of the clergy in Quebec and throughout Canada.
The Pope's coming to Canada is purportedly a significant and symbolic action from the Vatican. This apology is meant to ease the pain of the families of the tens of thousands of First Nation children who suffered irreparable trauma at the hands of Catholic priests, nuns, and staff members through the residential school system. Given what we now know about these terrible residential schools, we doubt any First Nation family in Canada has been spared any direct effects. The effects of abuse have manifested in millions and millions of Native Canadians, and in Quebec, survivors from the Innu, Anishinaabe, Naskapi, Wendat, and Atikamekw nations have our utmost respect.
As horrific crimes against children committed by those who were trained, ordained, and employed by the Roman Catholic Church have been revealed worldwide, we now can easily spot the campaign of the surface-level actions the Pope will take to atone for the centuries of suffering, demise, and harm. As the initial step, he apologizes. With this tour, it is now possible to check that box, which is the simple part. These following steps are much harder and, too often, rarely taken by church officials.
The Vatican files should be thoroughly and quickly opened as the second option. Everything must be made public, including the names and identities of the priests, nuns, deacons, brothers, and lay personnel who oversaw these crimes must all be made public. The names of the Cardinals, Bishops, and Popes who directly and indirectly contributed to these crimes against humanity must be made public. This step has thus far only been forced by secular authorities and resisted by church ones.
Third, substantial funds that directly assist the families and future generations of the families who lost their children or whose culture was so cruelly destroyed must be put on the table. That harsh punishment ought to be unrestricted, sufficient to transform the lives of the living, and substantial enough to motivate the leaders of the First Nation to devote resources to preserving its culture in perpetuity. Without compensation, an apology is only lip service.
Fourth, the Pope must look past this crisis to the other catastrophes. In Canada, the widespread abuse that the Canadian Catholic church has tolerated in its other educational and religious institutions has affected thousands of children and youth who were not involved in the atrocities committed in the residential schools. The rot of clergy sexual abuse of children, sadly, runs throughout the Catholic church, to every country, and we now have incontrovertible evidence, all the way to the top, Pope Francis represents holds the key to the hidden secrets.
At the absolute least, a list of every abuser inside the Canadian Catholic church is required. The active abusers must be put in their place and reported to the authorities. Church officials failing to comply with reporting guidelines must face sanctions themselves. Reforming antiquated laws that put the onus on the abuser rather than the victim is necessary. Without this honesty, there can be no genuine reconciliation.
Finally, international leaders need to understand that despite the First Nation's valiant efforts to expose these crimes, there are still many crimes to be revealed in every area where aboriginal people and the Catholic church spread their culture. Governments must acknowledge their involvement in these crimes and take steps to stop them from occurring again.
We want to honor the abuse survivors in Canada and everywhere for continuing to speak truth to power against such great odds and in the face of such powerful denial. Pope Francis knows about systemic abuse, but victims know the truth. If he truly cares about making a difference, he will listen to their voices and take these important steps.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager, (267-261-0578, [email protected]) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)