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.
Colonialism was all good because a lib somewhere said it was all bad. Give the people at The American Conservative a pacifier, please.
That “Conservative American” article is sickeningly awful – it may be summarised as saying that anyone not raised by white Europeans is better off dead anyway, so it’s absolutely fine how many kids we kill.
They also traduce the memory of the 17th Century martyrs they reference, who didn’t in fact kidnap and kill Wyandot children or try and destroy their culture in order to “convert” them, as the blatantly racist and white supremacist authors advocate, but did the opposite, joining and appreciating their culture instead.
The article makes me ashamed to have the same word “Christian” applied to me as its authors.
But wait. There’s more! Get kids out of school and back into the fields and factories where they belong. Child Labor Laws? Pfshaw. Modernism!
The American Conservative: where writers wearing glasses preach Pol Pot’s return to the simple life. We have met the enemy, and they are us.
The American Conservative, like the American conservative movement, has given itself over completely to open embrace of fascism and terrorism, insane conspiracy theories, hardcore racism and a narrow and politicized view of religion which is every bit the Christian analog of ISIS.
Declan Leary is still in his early 20’s, and graduated from college within the past year. We can hope that this callow, selfish young man will someday gain some wisdom and disown these awful writings. (Of course, it’s also possible that he will become the next Stephen Miller.)
The editors at the American Conservative, however, have no excuse. They publish Leary’s genocidal apologetics, and have stood supportively behind Rod Dreher’s descent into Europhile bigotry. The list of thoughtful, sane conservative outlets grows short.
Many are not able to step back from the brink, and that’s what I find so sad. I grew up in a tradition where one of the main duties of the centre-right was to block the path to the extreme right. What the left did was of no real consequence is this regard, though they too should guard their left flank, as far as we were concerned. We were not supposed to commemorate Mussolini, they were not supposed to visit Ceaucescu for tea and cookies.
What is happening now is simply ”everything goes, as long as we can own the libs”
I’ll have to disagree slightly. They are quite able to step back from the brink, but they don’t want to. It gives them a tremendous sense of power to be Ubermenschen for the untermenchen. I think “owning the Libs” is simply a sub group of “I am better and more valuable than you are, and I will make sure that you know it.”
We have an uncanny way of saying things differently, even when we agree. I agree with you.
I think we are probably more often in agreement than even we think we are.
I could go on a long rant on my favorite topic here, but I won’t. I’ll just say this much: there are other groups of people upon whom was applied the same erroneous “logic” that produced the horrors of the residential schools- a canadian friend tells me that horror is far from over. The same disastrous results on the lives, families, and fortunes of those people unfortunate enough to be the objects of the disaffections of those so-called Men of God continues.
And that is just the genocide in Rwanda. 😬🤐😳🙄🤔🤫😧😲
A Spanish friend once told me that she and her six siblings only spent summers together as a family because the rest of the year they were shipped off to boarding school. Apparently that was common practice up until a short while ago.
My FIL had the same experience. He left his family at 13. In fact the only advice that he ever imparted to me, long before my first child was born was that I never send my children away to boarding school under any circumstance. My MIL’s mother had 12 children, but had cooks, nannies, drivers and housemaids. Boarding school was considered a privilege and an extension of the European mentality that any form of work was for peasants.
What I have to ask myself is, was it possible that the people who thought that sending the Native children to boarding schools was a good idea were terribly misguided but trying to accomplish something good? Is it possible that diseases like Cholera, Mumps. Measles, smallpox, typhus, and consumption swept through those populations like wildfire? During Covid, I watched horrifying footage of Iranians being buried in mass graves with lime being sprinkled over their bodies, and yet each body was washed and prayers were said over them, in accordance with the rules of Islam. It was moving to see a small group of faithful working tirelessly to afford them that basic human dignity.
I don’t believe we know the whole story about what happened at the Canadian schools.
Boarding schools for children have never been a good idea for anyone. Children need parents. Parents who don’t want to parent shouldn’t be parents.
But boarding schools for white kids didn’t have mass graves in the back yard.
I don’t think you read what I wrote. Nor am I excusing, or saying there weren’t monsters at the helm who did possibly monstrous things. But maybe there weren’t.
Plague. Everything is different in the time of plague. Apparently we’re not immune to such affronts.
Do you think that the grandma in Tehran who had lime sprinkled on her body and was buried with 50 other people didn’t have loved ones that would have liked to have done better by their granny?
My FIL is in a graveyard in Ecuador. He’s not Ecuadorian. My husband says the grave site is “leased” I’m not really sure what that means. I’m wondering what a leased space does after the lease is up –which makes me consider those good ‘ole charnel houses in Europe. Something tells me they were more in touch with the reality of death than we are.
And then there are those burned up human remains thrown into the ocean. Everyone says, “he loved the ocean”, as they scatter them, but what happens to the ashes?
I think one of the worst things about Covid was at the very beginning when those fridge trucks were backed up to the back alley of the hospitals in Brooklyn. My daughter was living in Brooklyn at the time, and we didn’t have a lot of info on the disease yet. I begged her to come home. But as you are begging somebody that you love to come home in order to escape death, your brain informs you of the truth.
Many reports of this tragedy I have encountered have been very careful to say that they were not mass graves, but rather were unmarked graves. The graves may have had wooden markers that deteriorated over time, and the cause of death for most of the children is considered to be the various diseases that commonly killed people at that time, particularly tuberculosis. They were especially deadly because the conditions were cramped, unsanitary, and they didn’t really care about separating ill children from healthy ones. When the children died, they wouldn’t pay to send the remains back to their families.
BTW, recognizing that they were not mass graves doesn’t lessen the horror of what happened. The residential schools had enough wrong with them and the whole concept that they don’t need embellishment. I find the use of the term “mass graves” distorts the awful, but perhaps more mundane, truth of what happened and gives people an excuse to imagine something more cinematic and villainous that they can distance themselves from.
Hundreds of graves at one school? Abuse and neglect on a grand scale, surely, is far more likely than the usual suspects from the time.
Hundreds of graves at a school that existed for over a century at a time before the treatments for many diseases were discovered? When tuberculosis was one of the top killers of Canadians in general and native people in particular? AND the conditions were terrible? Absolutely likely. I don’t get your comment about abuse and neglect being more likely since I didn’t deny the element of abuse or neglect – I specifically mentioned them in my post as the reason why common diseases were more deadly at the schools.
However, I have run into conversations where those I am talking with think “mass graves” really means “*secret* mass graves” hidden to cover up … something much more purposeful and sinister. At the end of the day, horribly misplaced “good intentions,” crowded and underfunded conditions coupled with the usual attitudes towards abuse and indigenous people were more than enough to cause this tragedy.
No. The people behind the residential school system knew they were doing evil. The purpose of the schools is to justify the theft of territory and resources by denying the humanity of the owners. The europeans coveted the land of the native americans, so they stole it and began a systematic program of dehumanization designed to provide proof that the native american is not capable of managing resources or people. Christ is just a tool used against native humanity as further evidence of the superiority of western european culture in comparison to all others. Christ is in fact denied to native americans by the belief that native americans are just animals and therefore have no soul to save. Yet the native american is fully human and therefore made in God’s image and salvation is for them too. Treaties were signed with an oath to Christ. The newcomers did not break their treaty with native americans but with God himself! Remember the ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. Jesus lived and preached during the time of the Roman empire. The creation story of Rome is Romulus and Remus. Twin brothers suckled by a she-wolf. Romulus murdered Remus and founded Rome. To a Roman, there is no God and there is no image of man, there is only the reality of death and preservation of oneself from destruction by others. A wolf in sheep’s clothing sees Jesus as not just another God in the pantheon of powerless and man made religions, but as a real threat to his power and wealth. This is because the wolf knows Christ is real. So the strategy is to “control the narrative” and neutralize the threat by replacing the truth with a lie.
As my grandmother used to say, “the proof is in the pudding”.
My husband is 20% indigenous. His father is probably more. His family was from Cali Colombia. It was common for families to send their kids away to school to further their education, if you had the means. It was a luxury –and also a golden key. My FIL was very intellectually gifted, but that wouldn’t have mattered much if there hadn’t been a path for him. He studied engineering at La Jaberiana in Bogota and then earned advanced degrees in both London and Los Angeles. If he hadn’t reached that level of success he wouldn’t have sent his children to be educated in the U.S. If that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have met my husband, and my eight beautiful children wouldn’t exist. What were the chances?
My sixth son is named after St. Francis Xavier. I find this tribute to be so appropriate given how much my family has been blessed by Jesuits–many of whom gave up positions of wealth and comfort to bring the gospel to others.
As Mark likes to say, so many people would like to find even more darkness than their is, as if they could make what is black, even more black. The story about the indigenous being plotted against by Catholics is a false narrative.
The “Indian schools” were actually very prevalent in the US, and I am not surprised that they were in Canada as well. These schools were a product of the policy of assimilating the native Americans into the more European culture – a mode of brainwashing, by prohibiting cultural language, dress, customs. Assimilation was a horrible enough idea, but even more horrible is The American Conservative defending the policy.
I didn’t read the American Conservative article on purpose.
I’m tired of being angry about the creeps that have existed ever since. I know there were spiritual giants laboring in the vineyard despite the opportunists.