Catholicism is sure getting to be a roller coaster and two stories from yesterday certainly prove the point. In the first story Benedict acknowledges the suffering of Canadian First Nation children at the hands of the residential school system, 75% of which were run by Catholic groups:
Pope Laments Abuse of Canadian Indigenous People
Affirms Desire to Build Partnership for Future
Affirms Desire to Build Partnership for Future
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is lamenting abuses by Church members against indigenous Canadian children in residential Catholic schools, and is offering prayerful solidarity to the aboriginal peoples as they move forward.
The Pope said this today after the general audience in a meeting with representatives from the Catholic communities and aboriginal peoples of Canada, including Phil Fontaine, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, and Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian bishops' conference.
During the meeting, the Pontiff "listened to their stories and concerns," a Vatican press release reported.
He "recalled that since the earliest days of her presence in Canada, the Church, particularly through her missionary personnel, has closely accompanied the indigenous peoples.
"Acknowledging the "sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian residential school system," the Holy Father "expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity."
"Benedict XVI emphasized that "acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society," and he prayed that "all those affected would experience healing." He encouraged the indigenous peoples "to continue to move forward with renewed hope."
CBC News has this quote from Chief Fontaine as reported by Religion News Service.
Fontaine, himself a survivor of Canada's residential schools, acknowledged that the pope's statement did not amount to a formal apology, but told CBC News that he hoped it would "close the book" on the issue of apologies for residential school survivors.
"The fact that the word 'apology' was not used does not diminish this moment in any way," he said. "This experience gives me great comfort."
This was a very positive step on the part of Pope Benedict. As I've written previously, Native elders are keen to close the book on past abuse and move forward. They also know it's hard to close the book if one of the authors refuses to acknowledge their part in the story.
US Native American Nations, unlike their counterparts in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are still waiting for governmental and religious authorities to recognize the harm done to their respective cultures by the same kind of residential school systems. School Systems which were really designed to take the Indian out of the child and make them pseudo white Christians. They were also hugely abusive and extremely destructive to the Native American family structure.
Now we come to the second story, and quite frankly I have real trouble believing any politician of any stripe for any reason could go this low. As reported by Politico yesterday, North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx testified during debate on the hate crimes bill, otherwise known as the Mathew Shepard bill, that the murder of Mathew Shepard was about robbery, and that calling it a gay hate crime was a 'hoax'. She said this with Judy Shepard, Mathew's mother in the house gallery.
Matthew Shepard Bias Claims A ‘Hoax,’
North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx is questioning whether the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student, was motivated by his sexual orientation. The socially conservative Foxx, arguing against a Democratic hate crimes bill that includes new protections for gays and lesbians, called the description of Shepard’s murder as an anti-homosexual attack a “hoax” — and questioned whether prior bias-crime legislation should have been named after him.
“I also would like to point out that there was a bill — the hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay.”
She added: “This ... hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”
“Matthew Shepard’s mother was in the gallery yesterday, and I believe she was back today — so I’m sorry she had to be around to hear it,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). “It’s an urban myth. ... And I’d tell [Foxx] that man did land on the moon, and the moon wasn’t made out of green cheese.”
Two young men — Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney — were convicted in connection with the crime, with multiple witnesses testifying to the anti-gay aspect of the crime. Both also intended to rob the Shepard home after the attack, according to press accounts.
Representative Foxx is Catholic. She was one of the Catholic Representatives who sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about how scandalous and denigrating Pelosi's views on abortion are to the Catholic faithful. Hmmmm, in my book, it's now Representative Foxx's turn to hear about how scandalous and denigrating her statements are to Catholics. So much for family values when it's considered perfectly OK to lie about the motivation for the death of a mother's son in front of that mother. Doesn't seem to be a very good example of 'hate the sin, love the sinner'. In the meantime this bill passed in the house 249-175.
The kind of thinking espoused by Representative Foxx, is exactly the same kind of thinking that gave rise to the Native residential school systems. The Native culture, like the gay culture, was seen to be immoral and deficient and the best thing one could do was to destroy families for the sake of the children. The residential school system proved to be efficient only in the destruction of Native families. Native kids were still Native kids and subjected to the same discriminatory treatment after they were 'enculturated' as they had been before they were enculturated.
The anti gay bias, which the Mathew Shepard bill is intended to address, hopes to address the same kind of thinking that led to residential school system. The kind of thinking that goes along the lines of 'dirty indian', 'dirty jew', and 'dirty fag'. The kind of thinking that says it's really OK to emotionally and physically abuse the dirty other, destroy their families, and ignore their pain because that's what Jesus would do. Well the message just sent from the Vatican in the case of the Canadian First Nations is this kind of thing isn't what Jesus would do, and in fact we were wrong that some of us actually believed this is what Jesus would do.
Virginia Foxx should take a clue from Benedict and another look at her prejudice. Benedict should take a long look at what Catholicism in it's misguided righteousness did to the families of the First Nations and wonder if he isn't propagating the same thing in gay families. All he need do is look at Virginia Foxx blathering on in front of Judy Shepard and he should have a pretty good idea of what the answer is.
The more things change the more they stay the same. The first casualty of 'othering' others are families. First Nations paid this price in year's past, and today it's families with gay members. Yesterday's roller coaster showed how far we've come in one case, and how far we still have to travel in the other.