‘Sorrow’ and ‘Sorry’ are not the same thing

This is one of those topics about which I have so much to say that I end up feeling like I can’t say anything at all. This was a few weeks ago now, but being as I was only semi-present at that point I didn’t post anything, and also, it’s one of those topics that I don’t think deserves to be subjected to the whims of blog/news cycles that suggest there’s only something to say about it when a big important thing happens, and then it disappears again three days later.

CBC Story: Pope expresses ‘sorrow’ for abuse at residential schools.

The title Chrome Beach uses here pretty much sums up my reaction to this story, with an additional mention of the fact that one of the reasons that this is so insufficient is that even if this were an apology, the whole thing fails to take into account that the consequences of these actions are still being felt in very real ways, not to mention the violence, abuse and assimilationist tactics that haven’t even come close to stopping yet.

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5 thoughts on “‘Sorrow’ and ‘Sorry’ are not the same thing

  1. Mendacious D says:

    Thanks for linking, Purtek.

    It’s interesting to watch how different denominations have dealt with this. The United Church offered a blanket apology and set up programmes to help survivors of the schools, but no one else is really walking the walk.

    I was at a UC provincial conference a number of years ago when this came up, and when some mentioned the legal and financial ramifications, the general reaction was, “So what?” I was just a little bit proud of that.

  2. purtek says:

    I definitely agree on the appropriateness of the ‘so what’ reaction, and I think you’re probably right that the UC has been among the best. I do think the Anglican Church has also been reasonably solid, however (see response notes here), and the main disconnect comes somewhat unsurprisingly when you hit the RC church. I have extreme emotional difficulties with discussing the Catholic Church legacy of abuse and coverup, but I honestly just cannot fathom anymore their absolute refusal to take any kind of responsibility for these things.

    There are half-thoughts in my head about the relationships between institutional authoritarianism, hierarchy and responsibility/abuse, but they’re on the shallow side right at the moment.

  3. Mendacious D says:

    Something I forgot to include that you’ve probably seen: the Stanford Prison Experiment, which looked at exactly that.

  4. purtek says:

    Hm, yeah, that’s a good point – I had seen that before (and remember hearing a really interesting interview with the guy who wrote the book The Lucifer Effect), though it’s not exactly what I was thinking. Or maybe it is, but I was associating that in my mind with study of individuals, whereas I find the comparisons between the different denominations’ reactions interesting in light of where they stand on the scale of authoritarianism as institutions. Obviously, connected phenomena, but I feel like there are extra questions to explore.

  5. Mendacious D says:

    Good point. Institutionalizing cruelty adds a whole different dimension, especially from a religious “We are doing God’s work” angle. All sorts of horrid things have been justified that way. And admitting you were wrong is tantamount to heresy.

    Maybe that’s the issue with the Catholic Church.

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