Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 14, 2003
WCR Letters to the Editor
Deputy minister speaks
As the new deputy minister for Indian Residential Schools Resolution, I was happy to note that we share the same view of the importance of the issue in your June 9 article, "Residential schools revisited." Also apparent is our shared commitment to settle with former students with valid claims and help them move to healing and reconciliation.
It is true that many dedicated employees worked at residential schools and that many former students speak about the positive experience in these institutions. It is also true that both the churches and the government had policies and objectives of their own which they advanced through the schools. However, the validity or otherwise of those objectives is not pertinent to the sexual and physical abuse committed by some of our employees.
We cannot deny that nearly 11,500 former students are now before the courts claiming sexual and physical abuse involving the Government of Canada and the churches. Nearly three-quarters of these claims by former students arise from schools operated by entities within the Catholic Church. In a majority of these, it is the former students and not the government that have brought the Church into the proceedings.
The Government of Canada has accepted its responsibility to former students harmed as children in the residential schools. Since 1996, we have been working hard with former students, their lawyers, aboriginal organizations and the churches to resolve the outstanding claims.
In order to bring closure to those with valid claims and to help remove the barriers to healing and reconciliation, the government committed to pay 70 per cent of the compensation determined to be owing to victims.
This reflects the government's commitment to the financial viability of the churches and their importance to Canadians. That commitment is further demonstrated by our completed agreements with the Anglican and Presbyterian churches based on their acceptance of their role and responsibilities in operating Indian residential schools.
With or without apportionment agreements between the Church and the Government, our challenge is to find ways to resolve these claims and to provide redress to those with valid cases. All parties want to make sure that each claim is valid before compensation is offered. As a result, research and validation must meet high standards as demanded by the courts, the former students themselves and the Canadian taxpayers. We maintain this standard by researching the plaintiff's files, the alleged perpetrator's files and the general history of the Indian residential school and then carefully testing the claimant's story before we accept a claim as valid.
While the government and the Catholic Church institutions remain some distance apart on the issue of apportioning between us compensation owed to survivors with a validated claim, it is quite obvious that a comprehensive approach to fair validation necessarily includes co-operation in the defence and resolution of claims between Canada and the churches.
I recently met with representatives of some of the Catholic institutions that were most involved in the schools, to explore how we might improve our ability to work together to validate and resolve abuse claims. I am very encouraged by the openness and goodwill expressed at those meetings.
I sense that there is much we can do together to cooperate in resolving claims and to facilitate validation of claims, even if it might not be possible to come to an immediate agreement on the apportionment question.
In this connection, it is important to refer to the out-of-court dispute resolution model that we intend to make available to former students this fall. This was not developed unilaterally by the government. Instead, it evolved from discussions, which began five years ago, that included various Catholic representatives, including Gerry Kelly from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Father Jacques Gagné of the Oblates, counsel for a number of Catholic entities across the country, former students and other churches.
I remain optimistic that the government and Catholic representatives will continue to work together to ensure that former students with valid claims can achieve healing and reconciliation, which all of us desire.
Indian Residential Schools
Argument made to include Last Post
Sister Louise Zdunich's column in the June 16 WCR, which answered the question about the omission of the Last Post at the funeral Mass for the priest who had been a military chaplain, was well researched. However, the assumption that the Last Post is only a song is incorrect.
The Last Post is a ceremony of remembrance in honour of a veteran who has died. There are two pieces of music played, usually by a bugler, the first known as The Last Post symbolizes the end of life and the second, Reveille, represents the rising of the spirit.
Her statement "no prayer is uttered to God for those who have died, and actually no mention is made of God at all" is also incorrect. The first prayer begins "Oh God, we remember before you those who laid down their lives for freedom and truth. We commend their souls into your gracious keeping" and it ends with "Oh God of Hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget, Lest we forget."
The final prayer is as follows, "Our Heavenly Father grant we beseech you to the loved ones of our departed comrade your comfort and protection. Amen."
Both my husband and I are veterans of the Second World War and are appalled that the Canadian bishops have denied this meaningful ceremony to Catholic veterans. And in the very churches we have helped build, and supported both spiritually and financially over the many years.
Why then after years of being allowed, has this short remembrance at the conclusion of the Mass been forbidden?
Surely the men and women who held on to their faith in God and the teachings of the Catholic Church through the most terrifying conditions are true witnesses of Christ.
It is not that we don't recognize the significance of the funeral Mass and its commemoration of the Baptism of the deceased.
We have been told this memorial, The Last Post, along with any eulogies should take place at the vigil on the eve of the funeral. I think you will find many Catholics are omitting this service for financial and travel reasons. May I suggest the clergy remember the prayer "Lord God of Hosts be with us yet. Lest we forget, lest we forget."
Betty and John Germain
Another Last Post reveille
I was astonished to read of Sister Louise Zdunich's sources for the Last Post in her article in the June 16 WCR.
Specific bugle calls have been a function of the armed forces of the world for many, many years - recall the Charge of the Light Brigade? The British army in particular have used Reveille, mess and lights-out calls even in my day at established depots, and in the Second World War Last Post calls were used at every funeral I attended. My father, a First World War veteran often whistled Reveille in the mornings as he began breakfast.
We First and Second World War vets deserve every consideration, especially when being buried.
Homosexual marriage right debated
Concerning the letter "Gov't did 'right thing' regarding gay marriage" by Dr. Tim Heaman (WCR Letters, June 30).
Heaman seems totally unaware that all major religions consider homosexuality as evil and for this reason oppose same-sex marriages. Further, their beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with any homophobic "fear and hatred" (see Catholic Catechism, n. 2358).
Homosexuality is simply a disorder not unlike various other kinds of disordered inclinations that all humans possess; it does not accord with what is good for human beings. As such its acceptance by any nation's government will only have a negative impact on that society. While claiming to be respecting of one's freedom of choice, such lawmakers are really only leading people away from the true freedom which the natural law provides.
All recent changes to the moral law including divorce, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, openness to pornography, extramarital sex, euthanasia, etc., are negative in nature. James Burnham foresaw this some years ago in his book Suicide of the West where he theorized about the "liberal" demise of society.
Regarding homosexuality, as it affects marriage - the fact that many people have been drawn away from Christian values today does not invalidate the family as the fundamental cell of society. The family - and through it, all human society - have their source and origin in marriage.
Marriage is still ordered to the procreation and education of offspring even if this has eluded the minds and hearts of contemporary man. As the basic expression of man's social nature, marriage can only be understood as the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
Eucharist and life . . .
It was startling to read that Pope John Paul's call to us in Ecclesia de Eucharistia to lead Eucharistic lives constitutes a "development in Eucharistic doctrine" (WCR, June 9, page 24). The connection between Eucharist and life has been around ever since Paul berated the Corinthians for their failure in Eucharistic life (1 Corinthians 11:17-33).
More recently, it was a major theme in Pope John Paul's 1998 apostolic letter, Dies Domini, On Observing and Celebrating the Lord's Day, which deals with the celebration of Sunday and its Eucharist (Section IV, "Dies Hominis, Sunday: Day of Joy, Rest and Solidarity"): "The presence of the risen Lord in the midst of his people becomes an undertaking of solidarity, a compelling force for inner renewal, an inspiration to change the structures of sin in which individuals, communities and at time entire peoples are entangled" (n. 73).
In that same document, Pope John Paul cites the great fourth century doctor of the Church, St. John Chrysostom: "He who said, 'this is my body' is the same one who said, 'You saw me hungry and you gave me no food,' and 'whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me.' . . . What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when he is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger, and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well" (71).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states clearly that "the Eucharist commits us to the poor" (n. 1397). That this connection between Eucharist and the poor has been part of our tradition from the very beginning suggests that it is perhaps the greatest challenge of living a Eucharistic life.