Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 7, 2005
WCR Letters to the Editor
Survivors' counsel queries
As counsel for a significant number of residential school survivors, I have read with great interest Deborah Gyapong's story on the Blackwater residential school decision (WCR, Oct. 31) and feel compelled to comment on two matters.
First is Mr. Donlevy's contention that "Catholic entities have settled or tried to settle in proven cases of sexual abuse." By inference this presumably does not apply to excessive physical abuse but that is not really the point.
Inasmuch in individual settlements the government only accepts responsibility for 70 per cent of the award and the other churches involved in the residential school scenario have contributed the other 30 per cent, the Catholic organizations alone have not stepped up to the plate with their contribution, presumably in the belief that the wronged survivor will not expend the additional time and money involved in chasing them for the balance.
Secondly, I refer to the matter of the Catholic offer of healing and reconciliation. Quite apart from the fact that a substantial number of the survivors feel that this area does little for a 75 or 80-year-old survivor and is in any event too little too late, as Sister Gloria Keylor acknowledges, there is nothing on the table by way of compensation to the individuals removed from the support of family and community and abused in the residential schools.
The stated justification for this is that the Church "worked in the residential schools, but we did not run them, we did not operate them, that was the federal government's responsibility."
The truth of the matter is that the majority of schools were operated by the Church pursuant to contracts to do so from the government, giving them a splendid opportunity to proselytize children thus isolated.
The principal was generally an Oblate and the staff involved in the day-to-day operation of the residential school were, in substantial number, nuns.
And it is equally true that most of the alleged abuse was inflicted by these same Church members. To follow the Catholic reasoning, if one worked for a corporation and physically or sexually assaulted a mail clerk, they would have no personal liability for their actions simply because they were an employee. That surely is a novel proposition legally, ethically and morally.
Death with dignity or licence to kill?
Bill C-407 is a dangerous piece of legislation because it purports to be about death with dignity when in reality it is about being able to legally kill people who are sick or depressed.
Actively ending one's own life or the life of another through a lethal injection, starvation/dehydration or some other death-inducing means is actually an assault on human dignity because it is a sign that one has lost hope in life and in one's capacity as a human being to find meaning in suffering.
Euthanasia subjects human dignity to the limited reasoning of utilitarianism, which cannot see beyond the physical and necessarily leads to situations of the powerful making arbitrary decisions for the weak.
Is this really what we want for Canada?
Sharing the pain of another human being through empathy is one of the greatest gifts that we have to offer as human beings.
However, empathy requires patience and fortitude that sometimes goes beyond individual capacity.
Thus, at difficult times, such as during the dying process, the larger community must necessarily take an active role in extending compassion to its members who are suffering.
A good example of communal support for the dying is palliative care, which focuses on pain management and helping individuals to live life to the full, right up to the moment of death.
Canadians need the government to put more money into palliative care, rather than pass legislation, such as Bill C-407, that gives them a licence to kill. The dignity of the weakest members of our society is at stake, and the strength of our country is dependent on how we treat our weakest citizens.
I definitely oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.
I am sure that those who are considering it, do so out of concern and compassion. But I find it funny that we go to great lengths to save lives on one hand; then are considering bumping them off under the banner of quality of life.
As for assisted suicide, I am already very suicidal and the one note that brings it to a head, more than the pain and the anguish, is feeling useless and like a burden to society. If I were to receive assistance in my efforts to die, it would be basically supporting this premise, which is a lie. All life is valid.
Like abortion, it is all so easy to eliminate a life we do not want the responsibility of caring for.
Let life take its natural course. Life entails suffering and death. We have created this dilemma in an effort to escape both. Maybe this one is best left to God.
Lest we forget . . .
With Remembrance Day coming closer, please consider the poem, below.
The poem was written by Nicholas Peters just after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Peters, who lived for some years at Grande Pointe, Man., had emigrated from Russia in 1925 as a boy of 10 and had seen firsthand the horrors of revolution and war in his native country.
He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 and trained as a flying officer. He died the night of March 7-8, 1945 after his aircraft was hit by enemy fire. The poem is from a collection of Peters' work entitled Another Morn.
The Peters family has given permission to have the poem published.
The Wars We Make
I gaze into the world with sorrowing eyes
And see the wide-abounding fruits of hate.
We fight, we say, for peace, and find
The wars we make
To be a spring of hate and source of future wars.
Is there no peace for man?
No hope that this accursed flow
Of blood may cease?
Is this our destiny: to kill and maim
Or is this 'peace' we strive to gain
A thin unholy masquerade
Which, when our pride, our greed, our gain is
touched too far,
Is shed, and stands uncovered what we are?
Show me your light, O God
That I may fight for peace with peace
And not with war;
To prove my love with love,
And hate no more!
Some 12 years ago, my wife and I stood beside Peters' grave in an Allied war cemetery in Germany, with a huge sword on a cross backdrop, and grieved for him and the countless others buried there "row on row" in those graveyards of Europe. Quietly they lie now, sometimes friend and foe close together with so much of life still waiting to be lived.
Most of the last verse of Peters' poem is inscribed on his tombstone with "me" and "I" changed to "us" and "we."
I dream of the day when all of us, governments included, will listen to this soldier's plea.
Catholics must adhere to the Church's teachings
I sympathize with Father Mireau's feelings of anxiety regarding the Catholic Church's moral authority to excommunicate Catholics who openly disobey Church doctrine because many people see the Church as morally imperfect (WCR Letters, Oct. 17).
But with that kind of logic, we should be able to disobey and challenge the authority of every organization from the police, Parliament to the Supreme Court. Every position and organization is tainted by human imperfection but if we all ceased to obey the law, civilization would fall apart.
As to Father Mireau's concern about further offending cafeteria Catholics, academics and secular forces who see us as hypocritical and out of step with the times, we cannot and should not warp Catholic doctrine in an attempt to pacify them or fill the pews. The 10 Commandments are not suggestions and Christ's teachings are as immutable as the law of gravity; there is no appealing them.
The real problem lies with clergy, nuns, theologians and lay Catholics who simply cannot handle the truth embodied in Catholic doctrine. It seems we all have a sin or two that we would like to rationalize.
From the very earliest days of Catholicism there have always been some evil and misguided clergy, heretical teachers and pseudo-intellectuals that questioned the authority of the Church's first bishops.
The Catholic Church has been the most important, positive force in the world over the last 2,000 years despite its mistakes. And it has achieved this while under constant attack or persecution from other religions, Christian reformists, royal families, governments, anti-Catholic media and treacherous forces in seminaries, convents and congregations.
Please do not worry so much Father Mireau. We have always done more for good than ill despite our shortcomings. It is a Church of and for sinners who truly wish to change their ways and carry their own crosses to achieve salvation. Jesus told us that the road to his kingdom was narrow and those following it would be ridiculed - just as he was.
Letter to the Editor - 11/21/05
This lay person says she believes in both married and women priests
Re: Front page article, "Patriarch questions mandatory celibacy" (WCR, Oct. 10).
"Celibacy has no theological foundation in the priesthood," said Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, adding that marriage is a symbol of union between Christ and the Church.
Most of us lay people agree with this. Living in a country where the church is closed for four years; seeing and knowing that 60 to 70 per cent of adults, and 80 to 90 per cent of young people have left the Church.
Who benefits from this?
We ourselves already have had two children married in a different Church.
We all know whole countries are being taken over by different religions because of this. The Catholic Church is a living Church, is it not?
What worked many years ago does not work today any longer. So change the system. We all gain and keep our people together.
There is no celibate priest who knows the pain of losing a child or having one going the wrong way.
My husband turned crazy by losing our first one.
By losing four more and a son-in-law, he was mentally totally gone.
A married priest is a gain for all. Also there is nothing wrong with women priests either.
Letter to the Editor - 11/21/05
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