Last month, the story broke about mass graves in Canadian residential schools–graves full of Native kids. They died in these schools after having been stolen from their families with the object of “killing the Indian to save the man”: that is, committing a sort of culture genocide to eradicate the Native and turn him into a good white Christian Canadian. Often the school succeeded in killing the man–or rather the child–with abuse and neglect. The mass graves are a shameful testament to the use of Christian missions as laboratories for ethnic cleansing. And that point is only driven home with greater force when it is understood that the children were often stolen from families that were already Christian–but not the right kind of Christian since they still retained their native culture. The goal was not Christianity, but a naked cultural imperialism that sought to annihilate, not bless, the culture of Native people.
Both Protestants and Catholics were part of this project, and though the story currently focuses on Canadian schools, there is little doubt that similar stories will soon appear about American schools too. The story of US ethnic cleansing of Native people is already well-documented. This will be a mere footnote to our appalling treatment of Native peoples as we walked over them to our Manifest Destiny.
One of the results of Catholic reassessments of the failure of missions in the developing world, and of a general reassessment of Catholic triumphalism in the previous millennium, was the Decree on Religious Liberty at Vatican II.
When the Church develops doctrine–and this was a development–it typically does so in response to some glaring failure or challenge to what is latent in the Tradition, but not clearly stated. So it was at Nicaea, when the Church had to spell out “Yes, Jesus is God” to Arians who said “It’s not spelled out, so we’re gonna deny Jesus is God.” Same at First Constantinople, when the Church had to again spell out that the Holy Spirit is God. Same at Ephesus when the Church had to spell out that Mary is the Mother of God and Jesus is fully God and fully man.
At Vatican II, the Church had to spell out a number of things latent in the Tradition, such as “slavery is gravely and intrinsically immoral, as is torture”. Lot of other horrors were likewise spelled out as gravely and intrinsically immoral too, and the whole kit and kaboodle was spelled out in reaction to the horrors of the 20th century and, above all, in reaction to the Church’s failure to spell it all out before it happened (recall that Hitler and Himmler and Goebbels were all products of Catholic Europe and received their education back when Everything was Great Before the Damn Liberals like Francis Took Over).
The Fathers at Vatican II looked back at the 20th Century and said, “Holy shit! We have got to attack the failures the Church permitted in the moral formation of the flock–failures that permitted Good Catholics to work the gas chambers and bomb Dresden and Hiroshima and taunt their Jewish neighbors as they were marched to Auschwitz and still present themselves for communion. So she produced such remarkable developments as the Decree on Ecumenism and Nostra Aetate, and Dignitatis Humanae, the Decree on Religious Liberty.
As with all developments of doctrine, the Decree on Religious Liberty has nothing new to say in the Tradition. The insistence on freedom as a corollary of the gospel goes back to the lips of Jesus: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Likewise, Paul says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and he tells the Galatians that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Indeed, the very nature of the gospel requires that faith not be compelled. But, as the residential schools attest, there is a lot of water under the bridge between the New Testament and the 20th Century. And in between that time, there were a lot ideas that seemed prudent at the time to nearly everybody, Christian and non-Christian: among them, the idea that when some abstract idea was important enough, coercing, torturing and killing people to protect that idea was peachy keen. For Catholics, that idea was summarized by the proposition “Error has no rights” and was the mother of many horrors, including those inflicted on Native peoples.
Now the development that occurred at Vatican II, and the foundation of a growing body of Catholic theology and practice that has barely begun to bear fruit, is this: The Council declared that “man is the only creature on earth God has willed for his own sake.” This teaching, always latent in the Tradition but never articulated in this way till Vatican II, cannot but have a revolutionary impact on Catholic practice, because it marked the moment at which the Church irrevocably rejected the idea that human beings could ever be a means to an end, including ecclesial ends. The Church, at long last, worked out that, though error has no rights, persons in error do have rights.
The trouble, of course, is that it takes the Church a long time to understand the implications of her own teaching, much less to implement it, and there are always lots of Catholics who hate it when the Church develops her teaching because it gets in the way of their profiting from money, pleasure, power, and honor, or it just demands they think about life, the universe and everything in ways that make them afraid or angry.
So with the Church’s failures, we can always find those eager, not to repent sins done in the name of the gospel, but to defend them.
Which brings us to this monstrous defense of demonic religion, a blasphemous and horrible distortion of the gospel straight from hell:
“Whatever good was present at the Ossossané ossuary—where those who had not yet encountered the fullness of Truth honored their dead as best they knew how—is increased a thousandfold in the cemeteries of the residential schools, where baptized Christians were given Christian burials. Whatever natural good was present in the piety and community of the pagan past is an infinitesimal fraction of the grace rendered unto those pagans’ descendants who have been received into the Church of Christ. Whatever sacrifices were exacted in pursuit of that grace—the suffocation of a noble pagan culture; an increase in disease and bodily death due to government negligence; even the sundering of natural families—is worth it.”
Make no mistake: This filth is the product of that subculture in the Church that is hell bent for leather on destroying the Second Vatican Council’s developments and returning the Church to an age where the human person can again be trampled by in the service of human traditions that pursue money, pleasure, power, and honor. It is one thing for the Church to claw its way out of the mire of fallen human reason to finally work out why human beings can never be subordinated to any human system–not even an ecclesial one–and repent the evils her members have committed. We are, as a species, unbelievably slow learners. But it is another thing to be presented with this clear, sane teaching and its clear call to repentance say, “No! Let’s get back to kidnapping and genocide and lie that it is just swell for the Greater Good!” This is the mentality that tortured and burned people alive “for the good of their souls”, that killed Jews, murdered native peoples, and justified slavery as providing spiritual enlightenment to the slave. It is a mentality that will permit any evil to be done “for the greater good”. It is Judas saying, “I’m the real hero here. Without me, Jesus would never have died for the sins of the world!”
The core of this deeply evil lie is “Let us do evil that good may come of it.” Paul said of those who tell such lies “their condemnation is deserved” (Romans 3:8).
God’s Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of such filthy, evil, murderous lies. May he damn this piece to utter oblivion.