SNAP Calls For Truth and Transparency in Papal Visit to Canada
(For Immediate Release July 24, 2022)
Pope Francis is due to arrive in Canada to start a 4-day visit. While there, he will confront one of the nation's greatest tragedies: the often-abusive residential schools established with the Catholic Church's assistance to eradicate Indigenous culture and relationships.
We stand in solidarity with abuse survivors and honor the innocent lives lost and their families in Canada for continuing to speak the truth against such great odds and in the face of such powerful denial by church officials. While this papal visit is a response to a call by our indigenous brothers and sisters across North America, we know it took a lot of courage for them to carry the pain and suffering to the Vatican and request this personal visit by Pope Francis. We commend them and honestly believe they have made a mark in history.
Sadly, it took the discovery of mass graves and the realization of murder, rape, and enslavement to trigger a response from the Vatican. Indigenous groups deserve more. Everything must be revealed: the names of the priests, nuns, deacons, brothers, and lay employees who guided this atrocity. The world needs to know which Cardinals, Bishops, and Popes participated close in, and from afar, in creating these crimes against humanity.
While the Pope's visit may be meaningful for some, many may find his visit traumatizing. Church officials have taken decades to acknowledge any part of the dark chapters in Canadian history. Because Pope Francis is making a widely publicized visit, we can't help but ask if a child anywhere on earth is safer now that a pope has landed back at the crime scene? No.
This visitation is pure publicity, and we expect to hear more about healing and reconciliation and less about truth and accountability. An official website listing the itinerary painted with the colors of a holy celebration has been established. This is no surprise to us, and it certainly is nothing to celebrate; it fits church officials' carefully crafted narrative that abuse is all "in the past" and reconciliation is a solution. It is far from a "thing of the past." Victims who suffered abuse by clerics from the 1990s to the present day have yet to come forward and are still a decade or more away from reaching the average age of reporting abuse, which is around 52.
Francis may know what horrendous tragedies occurred against the Indigenous People and at residential schools, but he will never see the truth. Only those who suffered and the families of loved ones lost know the truth.
We believe the focus needs to be on stopping abuse, stopping bishops who continue the cover-up now and, in the future, not conveniently implying that a pardon equals healing. In our view, Pope Francis could meet with a thousand victims. But that wouldn't safeguard a single child.
Kids are safer when we acknowledge that to this day, children and adults at vulnerable points in their lives are being assaulted by those in positions of authority. And yet, thousands of church officials selfishly sit on secrets about abusive priests, nuns, religious brothers, missionaries, and church laity that police and prosecutors could use to pursue and prosecute alleged perpetrators. More importantly, allow victims to know law enforcement will hear them, and the wheels of justice can begin to bring closure to their lives.
Every survivor is concerned about protecting and preventing physical and sexual abuse. We know that helps the healing process: knowing our pain prompts action that might spare even one child a lifetime of devastation from violence. This papal visit will bring short-term joy to some, healing to few, and protection to no one.
(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)