The grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School are seen June 6, 2021. CNS photo/Jennifer Gauthier, Reuters

Editorial: Bishops, take a bow

  • February 3, 2022

Critics across the Church spectrum habitually accuse Canada’s Catholic leadership of ducking what “must” be done — must inevitably being defined by what a given critic wants.

Coinciding with this week’s confirmation of dates for Indigenous leaders to hold their delayed meeting with Pope Francis,  details on the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund are good news for which our bishops deserve to take a bow. They deserve our thanks and support for credibly and prayerfully giving structure to a commitment of $30 million to promote healing from the wounds of the residential school system.

Key to that structure is the quality of the Indigenous-led team that will oversee the registered charity established to steward the reconciliation fund. It includes Alberta’s Chief Willie Littlechild, a former MP and lawyer whose credentials working directly for Indigenous empowerment stretch back at least 45 years to his service on a delegation to the UN.

Rosella Kinoshameg has spent much of her 50 years as a nurse on the front lines of First Nations community health and maternal childcare and was an original member of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Indigenous council. Giselle Marion, born and raised in the Northwest Territories, is a lawyer and Indigenous client services director.

Working alongside will be the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Barbara Dowding, a former National President of the Catholic Women’s League, Nat Gallo, Canada’s former Supreme Director of the Knights of Columbus, and Claude Bédard, National President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

All have the experience to bring to the reconciliation table skills that will, as CCCB President Bishop Raymond Poisson saitd, let the Church move forward in fulfilling its obligations to Indigenous people. No one should expect that movement forward to be easy. No one should assume it will be free of missteps. This is an onerous undertaking, one that secular snark artists outside the Church, and perhaps even embittered critics within, will be waiting to pounce on.

Timing alone deepens the difficulty of Canada’s 73 dioceses being able to raise $30 million when parishes are already heavy burdened and exhausted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Repeated government-mandated closures have wreaked financial havoc both in the ability of individual churches to meet their needs, and the capacity of their congregations to give. Para-church charities and support agencies, too, might be caught between the proverbial rock and hard place of diocesan funding going to them or to the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund.

But facing up to that dilemma is a large part of why our bishops deserve a bow. Temptation loomed to temporize by pleading COVID hardship and pushing off the call to lead. They stood steadfast. They committed in September to $30 million for residential school healing. Now we see signs of the Church moving forward and also of the Holy Spirit moving through it. All should bow our heads and give thanks.

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