CCCB vice president Bishop William McGrattan said last month, the intention is to make the fundraising plan public by February.

Editorial: Getting it right

  • January 6, 2022

Finalizing a “framework” for a five-year “campaign” to “fundraise” for a cause are hardly the whiz bang motivational words most of us need to roar out of the blocks for 2022. Set alongside, say, “sprinkling pixie dust to miraculously end the pandemic,” they might even appear a little, well, beige.

Yet for Catholics across this country, no single resolution of the Church is more important than the commitment by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to publish a detailed “framework” for raising $30 million for healing and reconciliation with residential school survivors.

As CCCB vice president Bishop William McGrattan told The Catholic Register’s Michael Swan last month, the intention is to make the plan public by February. He stressed delays from an anticipated September launch are a function of prudence, not ecclesial dilly-dallying: “It’s important we do this right.”

Were truer words ever spoken? The failure of a previous woefully misnamed “best efforts” campaign, which missed its $25 million target by $21 million, leaves zero appetite for second servings of fiasco. That is why “transparent,” “accountable” and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith’s addition of “Indigenous discerned and Indigenous led,” are worthy watchwords of the new campaign. 

Their caution and consideration are commendable. They will become crucial when a critical caveat is made clear: Bishops are “absolute” in determination to deliver funding allocations for their dioceses, but this is not a work that will descend from the rafters of the Church to hang suspended above the heads of the faithful. No. It must get to the ground, that is to the parish level, i.e., to all of us as Catholics. The history of the Church, beautiful and ugly, is our history. We must own it by doing all we reasonably can to make rightful reconciliation a reality.

Some Catholics dismiss financial restitution to Indigenous residential school survivors as Danegeld. They consider it protection money to fend off future claims for payment. A sorely needed shift is to cease seeing the cost as something “we” give “them,” and to acknowledge it as paying a debt overdue for centuries. Giving back what’s owed is called justice. Giving in good faith to reconcile is called caritas, the loving heart of the Church.

There’s a second shift vital to making healing and reconciliation a gesture of the whole Church. It’s recognizing the truth that there is no “us” and “them.” Fr. Raymond de Souza expressed this beautifully in his Dec. 23 Catholic Register column.

“The majority of Indigenous peoples in Canada are Christians, and a great number of them are Catholics. Hence, Catholic-Indigenous relations are not a matter of the Church dealing with those outside the household of faith, but those within the family as it were. That is often forgotten,” he wrote.

We are one body, part of which remains atrociously wounded by actions of the past, all of which must be healed. Let that be how we frame the bishops’ leadership in this work. Let it motivate us for 2022 and beyond.

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