The Pope Comes to Apologize

Well, that’s over. The pope is, according to my best information at the time of writing, somewhere to the north of everything else in Canada, and if not in an airplane bound for Rome, then, about to be rolled into one.

While I have been uncharitable towards him in the past, and unsympathetic to his “anti-colonial” leftist rhetoric, I felt for the poor, feeble, old man, in the vast Edmonton football stadium, where he was cast in the role of the football. And frankly, I expected him to concede more nonsense during his Canadian stay than he did. Miraculously or not, he held his Catholic ground.

He did not do what the Canadian media demanded, which was to make an apology that could be taken as an admission of official Catholic perfidy and genocide. Rather, in his spoken remarks, he expressed sorrow for things that went wrong. He did not admit to the imaginary murders, or stuffed graveyards, the systematic sexual abuse, or other frightful crimes.

Newspapers like the (grimly progressive) Toronto Star published editorials complaining that the pope’s words were empty. They didn’t accept his “hollow apology.” He had not addressed the lies that the media had published, framing this occasion. A mountain of untruth has been shoveled over the churches, and dozens were burned down and desecrated by fanatics. Yet evidence against the Church was avoided. Why should the pope grovel?

Canada’s federal government was responsible for the residential schools. Catholic agencies voluntarily staffed about half of them. This reality was magically turned around by the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” – appointed by the federal government.

The pope did not utterly betray the Catholic Church, as many of her lesser members have done, in the course of the national anti-Catholic hysteria. He did not provide the news sensation the media had stopped all their presses for. Instead, he expressed sorrow, while repeating the apology that Canadian officials, including our last two prime ministers, had abundantly provided over fourteen years.

Most memorably, he put on an Indian feathered headdress as a concession to popular cliché. Compared to the Pachamama, it carries the mildest irritating charge. Far from a “spiritual symbol,” it is a stale tourist item.

The (often unintentional) mocking of pagan symbols is now used as a device to mock Christian symbols. They suggest belief in the Christian revelation is a similar fantasy, an entertaining piece of color that modern society can safely discard.

[AP photo]

A hollow papal apology was the best we could hope for. Anything with substance would have been not only dishonest, but a vicious betrayal of the many Catholics, both living and dead, who gave their lives – and their all – in service to the Indians. The history of this often heroic, selfless task, in remote and isolated places, has been twisted in the retelling. These people were the reason many thousands of native children (including many orphans) received any education at all.

The complaint, by the fraudulent hucksters of the media, that these schools were designed to steal Indian children away from their families, and deprive them of their culture and heritage, is a terrible libel. They were the means by which children were brought into the company of Christ, from lives too frequently squalid. The social conditions from which so many were saved were as bad, or worse, than any we can witness on Indian reservations today.

Drugs, alcoholism, and other misfortunes were not rare afflictions for them, and many other tribulations. Broken homes and worse were arguably the chief legacy of the “white man.” But this is not appreciated by political propagandists.

The actual Catholic failure has not been owned. It was our God-given responsibility to respect our fellow man, and to help him discover the conditions in which he could govern himself. The residential schools were among the “white man’s” best efforts.

But it succumbed, like every other effort, to a faceless and faithless secular bureaucracy, which ruled and made governing decisions. Canada’s native people are just as much enslaved by this secular bureaucracy as they ever were. (Indeed, Francis warned about “cancel culture” as another form of cultural tyranny.) How should the pope apologize for it?

Indians are not alone in having their freedom taken away. They are just one of the groups that modern politics “cares for.” They are candidates for assault and sexual abuse as is everyone in a society where Christian principles are abandoned.

Pope Francis was reasonably eloquent, albeit indirect, in mentioning this. He made one background point worth repeating to all customers: that the truth must take priority over the defense of any institution.

Yet it is not clear that this is what happens when an angry, frustrated mob attacks an institution that has not done its will, with violence or through endless media prattle. For the truth requires a truthful spirit, which is not available to the excitable mob, or to those exploiting it from coldly calculated vested interests. This is why we are rightly skeptical of extravagant, unprovable claims, and the passions of those who may seem sincere, but only to themselves.

The churches that were burned down, on or around Indian reservations, were not torched in pursuit of the truth. “Truth and reconciliation” have hardly been served by other impassioned and violent acts, and to put a peaceful tag on them is to lie, absolutely.

A pope must inevitably deal with sleazy characters in the actual political world; with such as Justin Trudeau and the other cheap tyrants thrown up by worldly events. But since Pope Paul VI, popes have made the mistake of visiting their lairs. They play “meet and greet” with the most unsavory characters, and get themselves tangled in ideological strings.

To my mind, it would be a real assistance to the faithful, if this recent habit were given up. Prayers and thanksgiving should be directed where they belong; to the divine, not to human showmanship. A pope must remind us all that our faith lies elsewhere, not here.

You may also enjoy:

Brad Miner’s Our Peripatetic Popes

Randall Smith’s Cultural Appropriation

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: