The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Catholic Church Strikes a Pose

Aug 1, 2022

This article is translated from the July 29 issue #2817 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

In Canada, around 150,000 Native American children were forcibly enrolled in Catholic boarding schools for over a century. The program intended to eradicate their culture and language and to integrate them into the dominant society—at times with bludgeons. Now the Pope has apologized. But does the Catholic Church deserve to be excused for this crime?

The pontiff came to Maskwacis in the Canadian province of Alberta on July 25 to ask for “forgiveness for the evil committed” against the Native American children abused in the boarding schools the Catholic Church ran. He also lamented that men and women of the faith participated in this policy of “cultural destruction” by imposing “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse” on children. The testimonies of adults who suffered this abuse—which lasted until 1990—are revolting. For example, a nun beat a young schoolgirl with a belt because she did not learn her lessons quickly enough.

The Canadian government also apologized 14 years ago for having created these schools, which were designed to “kill the Indian in the heart of the child.” The government paid millions of dollars in reparations to former students. The Anglican Church did the same. But the Catholic Church, which administered more than 60% of these boarding schools, had always abstained until now.

The Church only changed course in 2021, after the discovery of more than 1,300 children’s graves near the old residential schools shocked public opinion. So, last April the pope dutifully denounced this “ideological colonization” before showing up in person. Native Americans are now waiting for the return of art objects held by the Vatican for decades.

All these apologies and repentances come very late. They must not be allowed to paper over the many criminal acts which accompanied the spread of imperialism all over the planet—nor the despicable role often played by major churches in bringing people into line.