Legal misstep lets Catholic Church off hook for residential schools compensation – The Globe and Mail

Legally off the hook but ethically? Morally?

A miscommunication by a federal lawyer allowed the Catholic Church to renege on its obligation to try to raise $25-million to pay for healing programs for the survivors of Indian residential schools.

Of that amount, the Church raised only $3.7-million, and a financial statement suggests less than $2.2-million of that was actually donated to help former students cope with the trauma inflicted by the residential schools.

The legal misstep occurred when Ottawa was pressing the Church to pay the entirety of a related cash settlement stemming from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action deal in Canadian history.

The failing fundraising effort by the Church, which represented almost a third of its obligation under the settlement, was playing out as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was travelling the country hearing gut-wrenching stories about what occurred behind the walls of the institutions that operated in Canada for more than 100 years.

The landmark settlement agreement required 50 Catholic groups that ran the schools, known in court documents as the Catholic entities, to pay a combined $79-million for their role in the abuse.

Of that, $29-million was to be paid in cash, most of which was to flow to a now-closed Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Another $25-million was to be donated in unspecified “in kind” services. And an additional $25-million was to be raised for healing programs through the “best efforts” that the entities could make at fundraising.

In an attempt to make the Catholic Church pay the full amount of the $29-million cash settlement, the government inadvertently released it from any obligation it might have had to continue with a dismal fundraising campaign.

“When you have a deal, it needs to be implemented,” said Bill Erasmus, the National Chief of the Dene Nation who handles the residential schools file for the Assembly of First Nations. “So the Church should be paying up. The church agreed there were harms. That’s why people were to be compensated.”

But, as of last summer, the Catholic entities were legally off the hook.

In a March 19 letter to Ron Kidd, a concerned citizen from British Columbia who has been following this case, Andrew Saranchuk, an assistant deputy minister within the Indigenous Affairs department, explained that a court settlement reached on July 16, 2015 “released the Catholic entities from all three of their financial obligations under the settlement agreement, including the ‘best efforts’ fundraising campaign, in exchange for a repayment of $1.2-million in administrative fees.”

This result, Mr. Saranchuk went on to explain, “was due to miscommunications between counsel regarding the nature and extent of the settlement being discussed.”

Source: Legal misstep lets Catholic Church off hook for residential schools compensation – The Globe and Mail

Was Mother Teresa Really ‘Saintly’? – The Daily Beast

One of the counterpoints:

So Mother Teresa’s friendship was for sale—but that wasn’t the worst that could be said about her. Hitchens’s hostility to religion could cross over into hysteria, even idiocy: he once reproduced in print the urban legend that Orthodox Jews have sex through a hole in a sheet, so that their bodies don’t touch. But he got something essentially right about Mother Teresa’s theology when he noted that she wanted those in her care to suffer. Why else did she—despite the unaudited millions that her order brings in donations—provide her homes’ dying residents with thin cots, instead of proper hospital beds? Why did she deny them adequate narcotic pain relief? And why did she treat their pain as a beautiful thing? Because she believed that suffering brought the sick closer to Jesus Christ.

“The point,” Hitchens wrote, after adducing careful evidence, “is not the honest relief of suffering but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection. Mother Teresa (who herself, it should be noted, has checked into some of the finest and costliest clinics and hospitals in the West during her bouts with heart trouble and old age) once gave this game away in a filmed interview.” Describing a person in the last agonies of cancer, she “told the camera what she told this terminal patient: ‘You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.’ Unconscious of the account to which this irony might be charged, she then told of the sufferer’s reply: ‘Then please tell him to stop kissing me.’”

The Catholic Church, of course, does not canonize people for their moral perfection. For Catholics, all human beings are fallen and sinful in nature; canonized saints are not perfect beings but simply people who led lives worthy enough to receive special recognition in their afterlives (as a technical matter, saints are those whose names can be invoked in the liturgy). So Mother Teresa could be as bad as Hitchens said she was, and yet in relevant ways good enough to deserve sainthood. And therein lies a problem. For while the Church never claimed that saints are necessarily super-human, our popular perception of saints requires them to be, and so we develop historical amnesia about who they really were.

Some of the Catholic saints, even some of the real biggies, were perfectly dreadful. For starters, a startling number were anti-Semites. “How dare Christians have the slightest intercourse with Jews, those most miserable of all men,” asked St. John Chrysostom, the fourth-century church father. In Jesus’ time, the Jews’ “evil ways corrupted the morals of the people,” according to St. Thomas Aquinas. “Jews are slayers of the Lord, murderers of the prophets,” said St. Gregory of Nyssa. If it seems bit unfair to hold men ancient and medieval to our modern ideals of toleration—after all, to be a European Christian was, once upon a time, to be taught do despise Jews—then consider all the saints who were bloody crusaders, or cruel catechizers of unwilling native peoples. One begins to see that there’s something unnerving about the whole category. 

Of course, Wolf, the philosopher, would immediately recognize that Catholic saints were not supposed to be moral saints, not as she understands the term. The Catholic Church has historically looked to canonize people of grandeur—institution builders, martyrs, self-flagellators, mystics, and of course miracle workers—but not always men and women of particular kindness or generosity. Contemporary Americans have tacked on a third expectation of saints, the Winfrey expectation, that they publicly perform warmth and love, if possible after encountering, in their own lives, great suffering. By brushing against evil—Mother Teresa in the Calcutta slums, Wiesel in the Holocaust, Winfrey and Angelou in their own childhood abuse—and then emerging as beacons of love and optimism, they shore up our wishes for the perfectibility of the world.

It is our shortsighted, and very modern error, that we want Mother Teresa to be a saint by all these definitions. She was a shrewd operator, one of the great institution builders of our time. And she was a kind of witness to depravity. But she wasn’t always kind, and only by suspending our honest judgment could we find her easy to love. 

Source: Was Mother Teresa Really ‘Saintly’? – The Daily Beast

Douglas Todd: Movie shines a ‘Spotlight’ on corruption

Douglas Todd’s reflections on why the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal and cover-up was challenged earlier and more effectively in Canada:

People have to be ready for the truth before it can be revealed.

That’s a theme of the riveting, award-winning movie, Spotlight, which recounts how the Boston Globe newspaper laid bare an ecclesiastical and political coverup of rampant pedophilia by more than 87 Roman Catholic priests and brothers.

After years of Boston Globe staff ignoring clergy abuse cases, the newspaper’s investigative team, called Spotlight, broke its explosive story in 2002. It led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law and helped elevate clergy abuse into an international issue, which continues to reverberate.

The Canadian media, however, produced many stories about widespread sexual abuse by Catholic priests and brothers much earlier than the Boston Globe. The spate of Canadian articles began in 1989 with Newfoundland’s Mount Cashel Orphanage scandal, first reported by The Sunday Express under publisher Michael Harris.

That was 12 years before the Boston exposé. Nevertheless, the historical timeline of 20th-century Catholic abuse that is on the Spotlight film’s website contains no mention of the mass abuse of Mount Cashel orphans (which powerfully impacted two Metro Vancouver Catholic schools) or scores of other Canadian cases.

It appears most Canadians were ready, before most Americans, to admit to the horrible truth of Catholic clergy pedophilia. By the time the Boston exposé was published, the Canadian media had run thousands of articles about molesting clergy.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, under the direction of retired Vancouver archbishop Adam Exner, had also responded to the debacle as early as the mid-1990s — by creating a complaints process that supported abuse victims in going to police.

That kind of protocol was not in place in 2002 in the U.S., and especially in Boston, where Catholics dominated culture, politics, business, philanthropy, high society, the police and even the judiciary.

Almost every city has a powerful elite that operates behind the scenes to sway regional affairs. In Boston, it was the Catholic establishment, which did everything it could to keep a lid on decades of the clergy’s destructive behaviour.

At one point in Spotlight the Boston Globe’s publisher cautions his staff against running the clergy abuse investigation by warning that 53 per cent of the newspaper’s readers are Catholic.

Such pervasive resistance to the Catholic Church exposé leads one of Spotlight’s investigative reporters (played by Mark Ruffalo) to finally burst: “They control everything! Everything!”

Even though the Canadian census says 43 per cent of Canadians have an affiliation with the Catholic Church, Canadian courts, governments and journalists have been less hesitant than most Americans to wade assertively into church sex-abuse cases.

I wrote a story in 1993 that calculated the Canadian media had by then reported on more than 100 Canadian Catholic priests and brothers who had been charged or convicted of sex crimes.

It’s hard to know why Canadians were more ready to recognize the appalling truth.

It may have grown out of the way Canadians are, in some ways, less deferential than Americans to Catholic leaders, more questioning of authority in general, more frank about homosexuality and more willing to deal with the shame associated with sexual abuse.

Source: Douglas Todd: Movie shines a ‘Spotlight’ on corruption