A Pope Given to Apologies Has Nothing for Indigenous Canada

Published in The New York Times on April 23, 2018

So now would seem a particularly good time to ask for an apology. And if Canada’s bishops supported it, it is hard to see that the pope would refuse because a hallmark of the Francis papacy is to decentralize authority to the bishops conferences around the world.

Joe Gunn, who spent a decade at the bishops’ conference in Canada helping to develop policies related to Indigenous people, said bishops in Ontario and Quebec whose diocese had little or no direct involvement in the notorious schools, likely blocked efforts to recommend a visit and an apology.

Financial concerns most likely factored in, if a papal visit were part of the apology, Mr. Gunn and others suggested. A 2002 visit to Canada by Pope John Paul II left the Canadian bishops’ conference 36 million Canadian dollars in debt. The shortfall was covered by the country’s dioceses, financially straining some.

But Mr. Gunn, who is now the executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based public policy group, said the bishops’ stance more likely reflected a fractured church in Canada, as well as a general lack of a national strategy on reconciliation.