Latest Catholic sex scandal leaves residential school survivors looking for answers and an apology
The man once considered the third most powerful Vatican official and Australia’s highest senior ranking Catholic official, Cardinal George Pell, has been found guilty of child sexual abuse in a Melbourne trial.
The verdict was delivered on December 11 but subject to a suppression order until now, while a previous trial on the same five charges resulted in a hung jury—leading to a retrial.
Pell, the Vatican’s former Treasurer, was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, along with four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. Pell is also accused of orally raping two choir boys he caught drinking sacramental wine in a church corridor.
Pell has described his sexual abuse of children as “plain vanilla sex.”
Apologies for residential school victims
Pell’s recent conviction once again raises the ugly topic of sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church. For many residential school survivors here in Canada, cases like Pell’s bring back painful memories time spent inside of Church-run residential schools.
Back in 2009, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology to the residential school survivors. The other three religious denominations that ran residential schools – the Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches – have apologized for their role in the abuse. But the Catholic Church, which ran the largest number of schools, has not.
While the former Pope, Pope Benedict, did meet with Indigenous leaders in 2009 to express his “sorrow and regret for the abuses suffered,” he did not expressly apologize or even come to Canada to express his regretful sentiment.
Canada’s Catholic bishops have been unclear about whether Francis is willing to apologize. Residential school survivors will not settle for Pope’s deepest sorrows & condolences.
A residential school survivors trip to Rome
Evelyn Korkmaz attended St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in northern Ontario between 1969 and 1972. She travelled to Rome for the Pope’s summit on church sex abuse.
Korkmaz, 60, who attended St. Anne’s, one of Canada’s most notorious residential schools, travelled from Ottawa to Rome for the summit in hopes of meeting Pope Francis and personally asking that he apologize for the church’s role in running the schools.
Korkmaz was not chosen by Vatican officials to be among the 10 survivors of abuse who met with senior clergy on last Wednesday. The meeting lasted for about three hours and was described as tense, Korkmaz says.
“The Pope didn’t show up. He sent bishops instead. How disrespectful,” she told CBC News after the meeting ended. “This shows where he stands concerning this issue.”
To give our readers more context around what her experience in Rome was like, Korkmaz penned this email:
Wow, this is a big responsibility, I hope I make my people and the spirits of my ancestors’ proud and my voice brings change. The Vatican needs to be accountable for the part they played in the residential school era. The genocide of our people, taking part in the erasing of our Indigenous culture, traditions, languages, our spiritual beliefs , mentally, physically and sexual abusing my people while attending the residential schools across Canada.
On February 20, 2019 I took part on a panel to address the world at a press conference. On behalf of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. I called on the Pope to come to Canada and apologize to the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Secondly, I asked the pope to release the Vatican documents of the sworn testimonies of about 38,000 Indigenous citizens, about the evils that went on inside the Catholic-run residential schools.
The church should commit to have those testimonies studied, and then develop governance structures, and parish policies and procedures, to ensure the persons who have sexually abused children or who might sexually abuse children, are removed from the church or stopped before it happens.
And thirdly, to pay the 25 million dollars the Church agreed to when they signed the Indian Residential School Agreement in 2006. These monies can be used for the healing of the residential school survivors’, and our communities; many caused by the many years of pain and suffering we endured while under the care of clergy.
As a founding member of Ending Clergy Abuse, I am also an advocate for voiceless children around the world who suffered sexual abuse under the care of clergy. On February 23, I took part in the ’March for Zero Tolerance. Zero Abuse + Zero Cover Up = Truth and Justice. We had no permit to march. That didn’t stop the Italy police from escorting us from piazza del popolo to giardini di castel sant’angelo.
It was empowering to march with other survivors from around the world like Poland, Germany, Spain, Congo, Ecuador, Mexico, Ireland, UK, US and two other survivors from Canada.
This to me was one of the most powerful moment, as we marched in front of the media and people from all around the world heard our voices for Zero Tolerance. This is the moment, I think the Papal summit of sexual abuse turned into the Summit of Ending Clergy Abuse, Zero Tolerance.
Nothing concrete came from the Papal summit, regarding change, accountability and transparency of sexual abuse within their diocese. Not surprising, as these abuses have been going on for centuries throughout the Vatican’s history. What was surprising though was the Papal summit tried to minimize the corruption within the Church by saying these abuses happen in families and in people’s homes around the world. There is nothing lower than deflecting the situation and pointing to someone else. Doesn’t the Pope remember he called for this summit and named it the Papal Sexual Abuse Summit?
That being said, I am proud and strongly feel Ending Clergy Abuse Survivors took over the Papal Sexual Abuse Summit and our voices were heard around the world. Our demands of zero tolerance for sexual abuse and cover-up, for the clergy to be removed from priesthood and convict for sexual abuse, if found guilty, were heard. There is not worse crime then taking the innocence of a child away. This is something you never get over and will carry to your dying day. Enough is enough this must end now.
Evelyn Korkmaz, a St. Anne’s Residential School survivor.
The time for a formal apology is now
Clearly, the need for a formal apology made on Indigenous Canadian soil by the Pope is still needed. All the other major parties involved in the residential school system have long since apologized for their actions.
The time is now for Pope Francis to put this matter to rest once and for all and to issue a formal apology on behalf of the Church to the victims of abuse suffered at the hands of those running the Church-backed institutions.
As the Bible says in James 5, Verse 16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”