215. If you live in Canada, you probably immediately understand that number. The remains of 215 Indigenous children were recently discovered at a Residential School in British Columbia. It is incredibly sad, and a dark day for our nation. And it is so easy to take the moral high road and point the finger at other people.
It is not a good day to admit that you are a Catholic, because a lot of fingers are pointing at the Catholic Church right now. I am a Roman Catholic, and my church failed the Indigenous children. It would seem that many thought they were doing the right thing, and we know now that they were wrong. The erroneous thought at that time was that Indigenous people needed to change, and the Residential Schools were set up to help bring that to pass. The philosophy was wrong, the government was wrong, the Catholic Church was wrong, and perhaps we should also say that the nation was wrong. Canada, that wonderful peace-loving nation, where slaves escaped to from the horrors of the States, was just as racist as their southern neighbours. Yes, we can point to the abuses in the States, yes, we can point to the abuses within the Catholic Church, yes, we can point to the abuses within our government, but when are we going to start pointing at ourselves?
I am incredibly saddened at the discovery of the 215 children. I confess that my church, the Roman Catholic Church, was at fault. I am pleased to see that the records are being shared by the church, and that there is opportunity for identification. As the bones are looked at by forensic scientists, perhaps they will discover evidence of abuse or the effects of malnutrition, or the signs of disease, such as tuberculosis. Perhaps it is too difficult to do that after so much time has already passed. It is important to try. And then some measure of closure might be offered to the families. Maybe some compensation. What they really need, however, is hope for a better future.
There is another story in our news in Canada recently, of a lady who was denied adequate treatment in Quebec because she was Indigenous. The doctors had incorrectly diagnosed her as suffering from opioid withdrawal and did not adequately supervise her. As an Indigenous woman her condition was not taken seriously, and although with the proper care Joyce Echaquan would have survived, she did not. Saying sorry for things that have happened in the past is a good start, but that needs to be followed up with a call for things to be different today and in the future.
It is easy for me to point my finger at the Quebec government for the death of Joyce Echaquan. It is easy for me to point my finger at the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Canadian government for the death of the 215 Indigenous children in BC. I need to go beyond that though. I need to see which fingers are pointing back at me. Are there those that I am prejudiced against?
Every morning I read from the Scriptures, and this morning I read from the gospel of Matthew, the twenty third chapter. Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and calling them out for many different things. Unfortunately, I think we are all guilty in some of the areas that Jesus mentioned; I know I am. At one point Jesus says “you hypocrites! You scrub the outside of the cup and the dish, but the inside is full of extortion and moral flabbiness.” I love that expression – moral flabbiness. We criticize others for their moral failures, and yet inside we embrace moral flabbiness. There could be some areas where we know that we are wrong, but because we don’t know how to change, or we’re too embarrassed to admit our unacceptable thoughts, we don’t do anything about them.
I have struggled with my weight my whole life. Although I have never actually been thin, there have been times when my weight has been unhealthy, and also times when I have had it more under control. Somehow, I have found myself, however, judging others who don’t seem to be putting much effort into keeping their weight down. Of course, the truth is that I have no idea how much effort they have made. Neither am I aware of how much money they have to help them in their pursuit of a better diet, or a healthier lifestyle. Having been honest with myself about these thoughts has helped me to work at changing them. Obviously, I will never tell anyone that I have been judging them for their size, because that would be totally unhelpful for them, but I have expressed the truth to God when I pray, and actually voicing it has helped me to own my cruel thoughts. It is much less of a problem to me now than it was several years ago.
As far as racial discrimination is concerned, because of my background I have largely been free of this. My grandfather was anti-semitic, but I never fully understood why, and failed to embrace his prejudice myself, as did my father. I grew up in a neighbourhood that was mostly white, and those who weren’t had been assimilated into the culture, so they did not stick out in any way as being different. Not to me anyway. I still need to have my prejudices exposed, however. Do I look down on someone because I don’t think they are very intelligent? Do I disrespect someone’s culture because it is different from my own? Do I think less of someone because they are physically or mentally disabled? These are important questions that I need to be asking myself on a regular basis. The reality is that I would like to be part of the answer and not part of the problem, and learning to face, and deal with, my own prejudices will help bring this to pass.