Breathtakingly evil

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.


  1. antigone10 says

    It’s worse than that- I looked it up. Those missionaries? They were ministering to the Huron. They were killed* by an enemy of the Hurons the Iroquois. He’s flattening a whole bunch of disparate tribes. Also- he says that they “burned their church so it couldn’t be desecrated”- what could be more of a desecration than kidnapping, child abuse, and death? If that word means anything at all.

    *and probably tortured, but I couldn’t actually find any legitimate website with evidence of it in my half hour of googling. Side note, martyr sites really like torture-porn.

  2. Ed Seedhouse says

    I think it would be better to confiscate the churches instead. That way the could attract rent that we could pay back to the survivors. Also all the wealth of the religions could be sold and the money also given to the survivors.

    I was raised in the Anglican church until I rebelled at 16, so I am fully familiar with their line of “reasoning” and nothing you quoted surprises me in the least.

    Also, a lot of the survivors of the residential schools are devout Christians who don’t want to lose their churches. So burning them all down seems perhaps to be an over reaction. I mean, who are we to tell these wronged survivors what they should think or believe?

  3. Marissa van Eck says

    The conclusion follows logically and inexorably from the premises. Basically, since nothing can be worse than spending eternity in Hell, it’s not only permissible but charitable and perhaps outright obligatory to do anything to get the unsaved to convert.

    I was raised Catholic, suffered all different kinds of abuse from all different kinds of people, and all of it had a mindset similar to this. Cruel gods make cruel people. Christians (and Jews and Muslim) are very much made in the image of Yahweh, in this sense…

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    All you have to do is look at the title to know there is going to be a very special specious argument following.


  5. Allison says

    The traditional Christian view was that the afterlife is forever, compared with which your life on Earth is a mere blip. Your sufferings here on Earth, however awful, don’t matter, because they’ll be over. If you end up in Hell, though, your sufferings will be forever.

    So the important thing is to make sure your victim gets into heaven, which will only happen if they convert.

  6. says

    I just went to the original article and to be fair, the commenters are, en massed, ripping the author a new asshole. Definitely not was I expected to see in a publication called “The American Conservative”.

  7. specialffrog says

    As noted in another thread, the churches ran the schools because they were the lowest bidder. It isn’t like the government forced them to take the job or claim they could do it so cheaply.

    Then the churches offset their meagre costs by using the “students” for cheap labor rather than actually giving them an education.

  8. wzrd1 says

    Burning a church is like burning a house for a rat infestation. The house is gone, the rat abandoning it when the fire started and now are infiltrating new digs.

  9. says

    Prime example of cult indoctrination, All Trump had to do was insert himself into the big gaping spaces empty of reason, humanity, empathy and other good things that have been carefully cultivated by the ‘Christian’ faithful.

  10. says

    Fiji was also subject to the attentions of Christian missionaries, primarily the Catholic and Methodist churches. They are the dominant Christian sects today although some of the even uglier evangelical cults have managed to parasitise the minds of the natives. Both churches are divided on racial lines. There is a Methodist church dominated by Fijians and an Indian Methodist church controlled by descendant of the Indian indentured labourers brought in by the British. Missionaries from both churches engaged in a vicious competition for souls. A catholic priest would visit a village and leave them with bibles and hymn books only to have a Methodist minister come through and condemn the Papist lies and get the villagers to tear them up and burn them. This practice also operated in reverse. This tit for tat battle culminated in a priest demanding that one village do something about the pesky Methodist who kept coming around and confusing them. The next time the hapless missionary visited they killed him and ate him. For a while the shoes of the missionary and the axe used to kill him were on display at the national museum.

  11. raven says

    Where have I heard this before???
    Oh yeah, Vietnam 1970’s.
    “We had to destroy the village to save it.”
    Between our bombs and Agent Orange herbicide spraying, we killed maybe 1 million Vietnamese and defoliated 4.5 million acres of farmland and forest.
    We ended up not saving anyone either.

    “We had to kill those children to save them.”

  12. Bruce says

    Noam Chomsky has made the point that everyone’s first moral responsibility is regarding evil that they themselves are causing, as opposed to evils caused by others. Modern USA people didn’t directly cause THESE child kidnappings. Our taxes are currently mainly supporting the child kidnappings of sex slave boys by our noble Afghan allies. Maybe the most important moral story of the summer is withdrawing from that active hellhole? But that’s not to diminish the importance of simultaneously speaking out about the church killings. After all, while that specific church kidnapping policy has now ended, there are many active policies in the USA and Canada which empower churches to have evil influences over many innocent people of all ages. The bottom line should be that kidnapping, abuse, and manslaughter of innocent children is bad, whether done by our allies, our ancestors, or our neighbors’ social clubs and death cults. Likewise, we should repeal laws that stop kids from getting COVID vaccinations if their parents are brainwashed religious victims.

  13. says

    @#14, Bruce:

    We called them Indian Boarding Schools in the US. They were plurality Catholic, but also from a lot of other denominations. We know about some deaths at them, and suspect there were many more. In contrast with Canada, where the final schools were closed in 1997, approximately 20% (67) of the ones in the US are still going, including 15 which are still boarding students. (On the other hand, Canada mandated its schools federally where the US left it up to the states to decide how to proceed.) Here’s a site with details, including a list of where the schools were by state (and holy crap Oklahoma had a ridiculous number).

  14. lanir says

    The native school graves made me think of the Magdalene Laundries. There’s no real excusing it. Christian churches want full control of people’s lives so they can abuse and kill anyone they want. The more control they get the worse they act. I guess it’s no wonder they love to pretend they’re persecuted – the very few times they have been are probably among the few times the churches have actually acted with a working moral compass.

    This particular vile christian though… I lack the words. I don’t think I can read his full screed because I can already see he’s disturbed and dishonest. And I don’t want to read more of his manifesto because the extra knowledge of his thoughts would not be worth dealing with the disgust and depression that would follow. I can say though that if I ever wanted to spread some justification for being a serial killer I could just use what he’s really saying there: Doesn’t matter if other people get maimed, tortured and/or killed as long as they agree with my way of thinking in the end – even if I only think that because I performed some magic ritual over their corpses to “change their minds” after they’re already dead.

  15. cartomancer says

    You’ve got to wonder at the mental state of somebody who can sit through writing an article like that and get to the stage of finishing and sending it off to the publisher without wondering where his life went so terribly wrong.

    Most people would get to paragraph two and think “hold on, am I really writing a twisted apologia for the genocide of children here?”, then delete the file and go outside to consider why they felt they needed to do that. Well, perhaps not most people. Most people, I suspect, wouldn’t start writing at all.

  16. indianajones says

    Reading that article it was hard for me to find where to attack his position from were he to argue in good faith with a willingness to have his mind changed given his breath taking assumptions as to what things are just naturally true. Hard to find a shared reality baseline to start from.. I mean, even in the frog takes scorpion halfway across river only to be stung to death example, one could imagine a good faith scorpion being at least potentially amenable to an enlightened self interest type argument perhaps. The only thing I could think of was to find a similar example involving 2 groups of non-christian colonisee vs coloniser type relationship and ask him to pick a side. I mean even just asking him to swap the roles around in this instance wouldn’t do it because of said breath taking assumptions on his part.

    Does such a thing exist?

    Not that I hope it does because of course not, no matter how useful it might be to my rhetoric right now.

    But otherwise I am as baffled and worried as I have ever been as to how I could even communicate meaningfully with such a mindset, and that seems dangerous to me. I mean, humanity can utterly wipe out say small pox or polio but chooses not to. But it could be done quite quickly and easily via chemical means. Gravity can be overcome or it’s effects lessened with buildings, aircraft, parachutes, and rounded corners on furniture. Even if it can’t be eliminated. And, as every toddler learns, gravity is no-ones friend. Even hard solipsism can be dismissed as irrelevant, even if that is sort of sideways. But a mindset, an ideology, like this? This person’s, and I presume he’s not alone, way of looking at the world seems so friction-less that I can’t even see a place to start.

    Baffled and worried, baffled and worried.

  17. Larry says

    Christian burials? Digging a pit and throwing the bodies of multiple victims into it is now considered to be “christian”?

    Damn, I always knew these people were evil. I just never could grasp just how evil they could be.

  18. unclefrogy says

    having grown up in “The Church” and attended Catholic school through high school I am well aware of all of his rationalizations because that is what they are. they differ from the actual practice of the individuals involved at the time of the actions. Not very far from the nazi prison guards “i was just following orders” eliminates all the sadism they exercised at the time and absolves them of any fault.
    that reasoning is a big part of what turned me away from religion and churches

  19. NitricAcid says

    That’s exactly the argument the nuns made while the schools were running. The kids may be dying of tuberculosis, but they damned well better not stop paying attention in class, because they MUST learn this stuff before they die so that they can go to Heaven!

  20. says

    My university was first a residential Indian school.

    There is an old Catholic cemetery directly adjacent to the university (the one that had the annoying electronic carillon, by the way).

    Coincidence? Probably not.

  21. bodach says

    Won’t read the article because it is a beautiful day here in the NW.
    DON’T BURN THE CHURCHES! Turn them all into homeless shelters. (no Bible readings either)

  22. pacal says

    RE No. 2 Antigone10.

    The French Jesuit missions to the Hurons were destroyed in 1648-1650. The Jesuit Missions had been tolerated because the Hurons thought it was necessary in order to maintain good trading relations with the French. By 1648 the activities and efforts to convert the Huron had created severe fissures and divisions within Huron society. Further several epidemics of disease had decimated the Huron population and many Hurons blamed the Jesuit Priests for the epidemics.

    At the same time the Indian nations in this part of America were fighting the so-called Beaver wars over control and access to beaver and attempting to monopolize trade with the Europeans.

    In July of 1648 the Iroquois Confederacy attacked and destroyed two villages of the Huron and then in early March of 1649 the Iroquois attacked and captured the main Huron town and then devastated the area around it. The Jesuit Priest Brebeuf and several others were captured. What followed was:

    The missionary Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, a nephew of Jerome who had arrived in the Huron country the previous year, were taken prisoner and led back to Taenhatentaron where they were tortured to death. Hurons who had been captured by the Iroquois in recent years and adopted by them played a leading role in killing these priests, whom they regarded as sorcerers responsible for the destruction of their people. (From Natives and Newcomers, Bruce G. Trigger, 1985, pp. 267-268.I also recommend Trigger’s The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, 1976.)

  23. indianajones says

    @ unclefrogy I get it, but in the prison guard analogy here it is more like, for mine, as though there is no trial and this is not so much a defense as an enthusiastic endorsement of the prison guards actions by a third party. I hope I got that across, it’s difficult for me to even express.

    @bodach. Been a century or more, we’re still waiting. I am not going to tell anyone how to respond to being a victim of genocide. Particularly not in a ‘Yr doin it wrong’ kinda way. Time to not tut tut at the tactics, but rather heartily endorse whatever ones the victims choose to use.

  24. unclefrogy says

    it sounds to me and it has always sounded like this, it is OK they died, it was to save their souls and drive the evil out of them, they were blessed with a christian name and burial. that is the excuse the cover story regardless of how those who worked with them were sadist (in the name of jesus?) and the administrators were hate filled heartless monsters. the failure to report any of this is just the guilt that demonstrates the lie.
    They were only following orders

  25. indianajones says

    Aaahh, I see where I have been unclear I think. I was not referencing the RCC or it’s minions when I said I was baffled and worried. Them I would handle with asset confiscation, prosecution, making critical thinking pervasive enough to expose their silly theology, and by cheering on match throwers. I was rather talking about the outside observer, the writer of the piece and their ilk. Those outside the RCC corporate structure who not only don’t see a crime, but declare the facts as not worth disputing because they see the plain english reading of them as a moral good. Wondering how I could get through to them. Yikes.

  26. unclefrogy says

    Those outside the RCC corporate structure are the members of the church and are participating in the coverup to this day with the equivalent of they were only following orders, and a denial that there was a holocaust the deaths were good.

  27. avalus says

    Ouff, this last part espescially wrenches my gut.
    If a good proper christian burial is ohhh sooo good, why is the author of this vile tripe alive above ground?

  28. DanDare says

    —- DON’T BURN THE CHURCHES! Turn them all into homeless shelters. —-
    Turning them into homeless shelters requires a government willing to confiscate and repurpose them.
    Burning them only requires the agrieved to take action.

  29. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    This is what blind faith does to someone. The author is apparently willing to go to literally any rhetorical lengths to avoid questioning his faith. This is why faith is “the root of all evil” – or at least the biggest source of evil in this world.