Whoa, whoa, whoa. This is one of the most awful essays I’ve ever read: it’s by Declan Leary in The American Conservative, and the dreadfulness does not stop. All you have to do is look at the title to know there is going to be a very special argument following.
“They’re good, actually.” The article is a defense of death of Indian children.
The first argument is a typical Catholic story, about a French missionary, Jean de Brébeuf, trying to get the Wyandot peoples to convert to Catholicism. This is treated as a good thing, rooting out the “ancient pagan religion”. His efforts don’t seem to have been appreciated, because he was eventually tortured and killed. The purpose of this anecdote seems to be along the lines of “Well, they did it first,” which I hope most of us have outgrown.
His second argument is that
we have always known that many children died in the residential schools, as if that diminishes the problem. Yeah, the First Nations people have been mourning for over a century, we just weren’t listening, so their grief doesn’t count.
Next, he tells us that childhood mortality in that era was high; those kids would probably have died anyway. I guess the stress of being ripped from your family did not contribute to their sickness and death. And when kids die, you put them in the ground, so finding old graves is nothing surprising.
Then, see, even if those kids died in the residential schools, it wasn’t the fault of the Catholic church anyhow.
If anyone is at fault here—and the residential school system, for all the good of its evangelizing purpose, was hardly without flaws—it is, without a doubt, the secular authority. Had the Canadian government, which in word endorsed the Christian mission of the residential schools, upheld that word in deed by providing the funding which Church authorities repeatedly said was necessary for adequate operation, living conditions could have been improved and a great many premature deaths avoided.
No one is letting the Canadian government off the hook, they were definitely promoting the kidnaping of children. But this is a bit like saying that Nazi concentration camp guards were not responsible, the blame lies with those civilians who drove the trains to the camps.
This isn’t the worst yet, though. Hang on to your butts, everyone, because here comes the nightmare justification of a mad theocrat. It was all OK because at least the dead children got Christian burials, and all the death and suffering was worthwhile because it helped destroy a pagan culture, and converted them to Christ.
Whatever good was present at the Ossossané ossuary—where those who had not yet encountered the fullness of Truth honored their dead as best they knew how—is increased a thousandfold in the cemeteries of the residential schools, where baptized Christians were given Christian burials. Whatever natural good was present in the piety and community of the pagan past is an infinitesimal fraction of the grace rendered unto those pagans’ descendants who have been received into the Church of Christ. Whatever sacrifices were exacted in pursuit of that grace—the suffocation of a noble pagan culture; an increase in disease and bodily death due to government negligence; even the sundering of natural families—is worth it.
Dear sweet merciful Cthulhu. Burn a church today. Burn all the churches.