Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A brief note on the Residential Schools scandal

The earlier post referred to Mrs. Schori's complacent attitude toward the destruction of the Diocese of Cariboo as a result of the Residential Schools scandal. I'm not deeply versed in this matter, but it occurred to me that American readers might not have a completely accurate idea of what this involved. They hear the words, "Anglican clergymen", "students", "abuse", and "lawsuits" and immediately fill in the blanks based on the all-too-well-known scandal of sexual molestation by priests in the Catholic Church. They figure this is a case of dirty Anglican priests sexually molesting Indian schoolchildren in their care, and so naturally they are being sued now by the victims.

There's some of that in the story, but that's not all of it, by any means. The "abuse" being paid for now comprises a little more than you may expect. It isn't just rape and beatings; no one questions that people who endured that should be compensated. But "abuse" is being stretched to include the policy of assimilation that was favoured several generations ago, so people today are now paying compensation for a change of heart in what was once considered progressive treatment of Indians. The idea then was to make them more Western, more British, at a time when those were still considered good things.

And so the compensation isn't just being paid to individuals who were molested or assaulted - it's really a class action suit against the Anglican Church (and others), so that EVERYONE who attended one of these schools is going to get a payout, no matter what sort of treatment they experienced. The mere fact that the schools existed and that the government and society of the day promoted this policy is considered an injury. It would be as if a Catholic priest molested a boy, and then everyone in the church was awarded $10,000 because of the outrage of having attended such a contaminated parish.

Myself, I think this is a politically correct ripoff, but there's nothing I can do about what courts order the government to do with our taxes. The Anglican Church is another matter, however. As Ian Hunter wrote, if the Primate wants to crawl and cry about this to make himself feel good, he can do it on his own dime.

I stopped being an Anglican long before I became a Catholic, and one of the reasons I did was because of this pastoral letter from the then-primate. I could tell, when I read this, that the Anglicans had lost their marbles, and I saw no reason at all why I should toss my own money and effort down a rat's hole of futility. I felt especially insulted by the doubletalk about how we were all going to share the burden, but none of the money we gave to our church was going to be affected. I mean, come on. You don't have to be an accountant to realize that if my contribution goes to pay the light bill in the diocesan office, which formerly was paid for by interest from investments that have been liquidated to pay court costs, I am essentially paying for the court costs. Money is money. This letter from the Diocese of Niagara gives a not-bad overview of the points as regards the Anglicans, with the typical happy-face assurances that everything is going to be fine, but with at least an acknowledgement that there is some room for diversity of opinion about the justice of the whole matter.


Blogger Kasia said...

Hrm. If this ever makes major news here in the USA, I guarantee you we're going to hear a renewed call for slavery reparations. (Not that slavery wasn't a horrific violation of human dignity, but I'm sure I'd be singing to the choir about my issues with the notion of paying reparations.) And frankly, I think that slavery reparations are an easier case to make than this.

Question, Dr. M. - when you decided to run screaming from the Anglican Church, did you send them a letter or anything notifying them? I'm sort of wondering whether my becoming Catholic will automatically supersede my previously having become Episcopal, or whether I need to send KJS a nice note (preferably with a picture of B16 on the front) explaining that I'm not longer a part of her communion and why. :-)

12:31 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Well, you're an American, and I think that down there, you guys tend to be more formal with the paperwork. The first time we moved from Canada to the US and started going to an Episcopal church, we were asked for a letter transferring us from our parish to this one (I think we got out of that when we expressed our complete ignorance of any such requirement - they let it pass because we were foreigners). We just stopped going, though we did have a few uncomfortable conversations with the rector and the treasurer, letting them know that we wouldn't be back. For all I know, we're still listed as members; we never did anything official, I don't know if there even is a regular procedure to follow.

Oh, and I agree, there is a far stronger case for reparations for slavery than there is in this case. Not that I'd approve of it, it's just that it's much clearer - there was certainly no argument that anyone thought that what was being done was for the benefit of the SLAVES! But I think it's all bad, this attempt to retroactively clean up history, especially long after the actual people involved are all dead.

1:08 pm  

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