, 04.01.2022 01:18 PM

My latest: a Catholic confession

So, I’m Catholic.

Irish Catholic, in fact. Every Irish Catholic knows what that means, pretty much. Uncles who were priests, aunts who were nuns, Church every Sunday, the sacraments, all of it.

When they were younger, my four kids came to church with me. Most of my closest friends, like my Sun colleague Brian Lilley, are Catholics too. We talk about it.

Still proud I was taught by Jesuits. Still wear a blessed Joan of Arc medal around my neck. Still went to church when I was in a punk band in Calgary, even, sitting at the back in a biker jacket and wearing a homemade Clash T-shirt.

Still pray every night: Our Father, Hail Mary, Act of Contrition, Glory Be. Every single night. I pray for all of you, even the jerks. (Especially the jerks.)

So I was and am a Catholic. But then I kind of stopped.

The pandemic was part of it, of course. All around the world, churches and synagogues and mosques were forced to close their doors, to prevent the spread of the virus. That was sad, because that was probably the time we all needed them the most.

But if their doors had still been open, I still wouldn’t have gone to Catholic Mass. Because they had kind of broken my heart. And enraged me. And shocked me. And disgusted me.

It was the discovery of those 200 bodies in Kamloops that did it. Children and babies, whose only sin had been to be born indigenous.

And who were stolen from their parents and their families, and taken to prisons — because that’s what they were, really, prisons for children — where they would be beaten and tortured and abused. And sometimes killed.

Thousands of them, dead. And we know that many of them were killed, because they were dropped into unmarked graves, like they were garbage.

Murderers favour unmarked graves. So, apparently, did the Catholic Church.

So I stopped going. Or, at least, stopped believing.

I wasn’t alone. When I wrote about the subject, I heard from many Catholics — friends, family members, total strangers — who had reached the same decision. We had put up with serial stupidities in our church for years. But the residential school genocide? That pushed us out the door.

For me, there was a personal reason, too. My oldest, my daughter, is Indigenous. She is a citizen of a Yukon First Nation. And I love her dearly.

After the revelations came out about what the Catholic Church did at the Canadian residential so-called schools, how could I still be a practicing Catholic, and look my daughter in her beautiful face? How could I be her dad, and still be a Catholic? I didn’t know how to do that.

On Friday, the Pope finally did what long needed to be done: He accepted responsibility. He apologized for what the Catholic Church had done to Indigenous children, the ones from not so long ago. The ones who look very much like like my daughter.

Here is what he said:

“I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry, and I joined my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon clearly. The content of the faith cannot be transmitted in a way contrary to faith itself.”

“I also feel shame and I’m saying it now … for the role that the number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had and all these things that wounded you (and) the abuse you suffered, and in the lack of respect shown for your identity and culture.”

Afterword, I talked to my daughter about it. I told her I would be writing this column and that I would be talking about her in it. She said that was OK.

We talked about whether we could go back to Mass. Whether we could feel like we belong to a church that actually practices love, and just doesn’t talk about it.

“Let’s see what the Pope says and does when he comes to Canada,” my daughter said. I agreed with her.

Being a Catholic means being on a journey, not reaching a destination.

Let’s see where the Catholic Church ends up.


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    Pipes says:

    This was a great column. Your daughter nailed it. Well done Warren.
    The photo of the presentation of snow shoes to the Pope precipitated a bittersweet response from my soul. Those who have been subjected to savagery come bearing gifts to the savage. The image haunts me.

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    Gilbert says:

    I’m also Catholic. In my opinion, churches never needed to close. The pandemic was just an excuse. In a vision, the Blessed Mother asked us not to judge the church by its priests. It’s a human institution with many flaws. When we abandon the church, we do exactly what the chuch’s enemies want.

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    Robert White says:

    I’m an Anglican, and I pray every day too. God knows I’m a Grumpy Marxist too. Organized religion is not all it’s cracked up to be IMHO. Human beings should not really be put on a theological pedestal whereby their character traits & personalities are placed above others they purportedly serve in the name of religion.

    Of all beings in this world those that abuse their power over others are the least amongst us as a general rule.

    The church never mastered being humble or contrite IMHO. Serial abuses over decades of wholesale inaction on the part of the church makes them tardy in their historical approach to an act of contrition, frankly.


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    Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Residential schools and the horror perpetrated there in our religion and in others is the battle but it’s not the war. The war takes place in the mind, heart and soul of every living being. Will we individually go the way of our saviour or choose the other path representing he who betrayed our Lord. To quote Lincoln, some choose their higher angels and self. Others go the route of the lower self and both live and die from the consequences. It’s good versus evil and that holy war rages in each one of us. God granted free will. Was it a fallible mistake? I wonder.

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    Phil in London says:

    I grew up in a Roman Catholic family (my father and mother both had priests and nuns amongst their cousins) and I cannot point to a single failure of the faith in my upbringing. I don’t have a great point to make here, I just lost the desire to express my faith in public in 1986 and I don’t miss it. That doesn’t making me an ex-Catholic I just won’t worship in public.

    An apology for this church’s role in the commission of crimes against humanity right here in Canada is important . Unfortunately it is not this organization’s only failure to it’s flock, nor is this a case where the sole offender is now called to task. We won’t have much luck righting the wrongs of earlier and concurrent histories so we need to navel gaze.

    Nothing has really been done to make native lives better in the decades we have known about poor water quality, about the disappearance of youth lost both to seedy world of prostitution and drug addiction and about the class poverty among native culture where in SOME cases chiefs and band leaders enjoy wealth that is not shared with their people.

    Our progressive society plays a lot of lip service to the first nations but very little more. Assimilation is considered a foul word in our approach to native relations but the fact is we need to find better ways to live with one another.

    How can we find ways to make our indigenous neighbours feel part of our community? I am not advocating for abolishing their communities, I am advocating that we find ways to allow natives to believe they and us are all equal sons and daughters of the same creator?

    A young Nazarean who died 2000 plus years ago spoke of becoming more like God by loving one another, and forgiving and not judging others who we view as different from ourselves. There was another humble man in Mecca some 600 hundred years later that passed on very similar messages.

    If either of their messages had only been written down wouldn’t if be a good book? – maybe even a best seller. Wouldn’t people want to read that book and use it’s wisdom to better the society they contribute to?

    I don’t give a damn who or what you believe to be the creator, if we all treated everyone we meet exactly how we wish to be treated we could repair some of the shit we have created.

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    Peter Seville says:

    All Hail Flying Spaghetti Monster!

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    Paige says:

    As a lifelong atheist, it amazes me that otherwise wise and perceptive adults remain secure in the belief that their personal sky fairy as taught to them in their childhood is an actual thing. Not judging. Believe whatever you want but wow. The power of propoganda!

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      Gilbert says:

      It amazes me that people believe there is no creator. Look at a statue. Would you ever believe it was just the product of erosion, an earthquake, lightning or a windstorm? Of course not. You’d believe it had a creator. Now take a human being who is far more complex than a mere statue. How can the human being just be an accident that developed from an amoeba? I don’t see it.

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      Robert White says:

      “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” King James Bible

      If you read the King James Bible front to back you will understand that the ‘Anglican’ God is a ‘God of war’ not unlike the Roman Catholic tradition either.

      I was raised as an atheist by atheist parents, but I knew I was much more of a metaphysician than they were. My Great Grandfather White was an Anglican too, and he was a Mason as well. I inherited all his books on religion & philosophy as nobody else in the family ended up believing in religion at all except myself.

      If metaphysics was good enough for my Great Grandfather it’s good enough for moi.


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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      With respect, you are judging in that sentence that precedes Not judging. I don’t tell people to become Christian or Catholic.

      What I do tell them is two fold: first of all, about the intelligence that created all the variety of beautiful abundance on this home we call Earth. In my case, I see my God in that intelligence.

      Secondly, I should have died four times in my lifetime and yet somehow it was not yet my destiny. Again, those of us who believe instinctively know that God has a plan for not only those who choose to believe. In my book, God speaks to me in so many ways. In my case, I choose to listen. That’s not what’s important in God’s message. What is, it that I have the ability to choose or not choose to listen. That’s what is truly important in all of our individual lives.

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    Douglas W says:

    Late in my life I became Catholic.

    Many people assumed I did so because I wanted to join the big club.

    Or, that I had committed a whopper of a transgression, and this is where I could find reconciliation.

    It was neither.

    The Church offers me food that I can’t get anywhere else.

    I refuse to allow the evil perpetrated within the confines of this institution to impact my relationship with God.

    My hope is that you’ll feel the same way.

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    Andy Jurgen Kaut says:

    If I am to judge the Church by those which attend, I’d never go. If I am to judge Christ by the horrors perpetrated by those who purport to love Him, I’d die an unbeliever.

    After all, they let me in there! And call me Brother, and give me the Body and Blood.

    Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am foremost. And nothing could separate me from that Body and that Blood. Even if I had to receive it weeping for a thousand lives that could have been. Or a thousand thousand lives.

    The Church will make penance, will reconcile herself, but not because we finally got a good Pope. The Church will reconcile because it will die for the lost, individually, even as steeples are falling.

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    Mark D says:

    Warren, what helped me make peace with my Catholic faith was the decision to attend ethnic parishes. Right now I’m attending a Chaldean Catholic parish. In the past I have also attended Ukrainian Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Maronite Catholic, and Roman Catholic churches that are predominately Black, Vietnamese, Phillipino, or Indigenous. Even though all these churches recognize Pope Francis, it is a much different experience than attending a predominately white middle-class Catholic parish.

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    Mark says:

    Thanks for sharing this. As a practicing Christian, though not Catholic myself, I was always taught to trust and apply the principles of the faith to my life, but not necessarily to trust the people. We are all fallible, and Christian leaders like other people need to work diligently to ensure actions and words match their faith and not to forget the love part of the gospel. Many of those responsible for residential schools did the opposite and bring shame to the words and life of Christ. Your daughter seems like mature young woman, and her patience in seeing what the Pope does when he visits is telling.

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    Gord says:

    I’m a Catholic too. A “bad” one that attends only at Christmas and Easter. And a “cafeteria Catholic” to boot.

    I too have been horrified over the years at revelations of systemic abuse – first sexual abuse of children, then the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools. I suppose I would have left the faith entirely, but for the following:
    1) Pope Francis gives me hope. He has faced the church’s demons and seems genuinely committed to atoning for them and destroying the coverup culture.

    2) I have always been attracted to the basic Catholic theology of salvation through faith joined with good works, rather than through faith alone.

    3) I absolutely despise the evangelical strain of Protestantism and their ideologies of conversion and fundamentalism. These are the people that actively seek to impose their backward, hateful views on others by trying to influence politics and public policy (what we call the “religious right”). They are truly the “Christian” version of the Taliban.

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