The Canadian Precedent and the Bishop’s Dilemma

The Perps on the Jury

Once upon a time – along about 1889 – in far-off Canada, the Federal Government enlisted the support of the three major church organizations, Catholic, Anglican and plain vanilla Protestant (later known as the United Church of Canada), in the Christian endeavor of bringing 150,000 Indian kiddies out of the darkness of their pagan life and into the joys of Christendom. They (the kids) were transported lovingly by the RCMP as truant officers, placed in 140 brand new schools run by kindly nuns, priests and tender loving pastors and members of the Ladies Aid, who taught them English, their catechism and even animal husbandry, which they demonstrated occasionally with electric cattle prods, especially when one of the kids wet the bed. For their own good, the little inmates were subjected to medical experimentation and even sterilized to facilitate their Christian transition. They were even given individual counselling by priests and pastors alike, usually in the privacy of the latter’s bedrooms, especially appropriate for teaching up-to-the minute sex education.

In gentle Christian Canada, the program of no-Indian-kid-left-behind is called “assimilation,” or “the melting pot,” or in political lingo, “cultural genocide,” but of the nice kind. The rumors by some lefties that 50% – one half of all the kiddies – died, or otherwise didn’t get to return home, is a complete misunderstanding of what happened. Actually, many native kids became nuns or priests, and some even joined the Mounties. The smartest ones even went to work for the government eventually, on the Federal payroll as Assembly of First Nations chiefs, in those few special cases where earlier during their happy school days, they served as screws, inspirational leaders and student sex-education assistants.

In 2008, the Government, led by its contrite Prime Minister Stephen Harper, admitted that they had pursued misguided pedagogy, or perhaps even wrongful assimilation, so they decided to make things right with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate what had been done to the kids over the previous 120 years. To be the jurors on this humanitarian jury, or rather investigation, the people who had been the perpetrators carefully and impartially selected themselves. Who could do it better?

Perps on the Jury. It’s the latest technique in religious jurisprudence, whereby religious organizations take all that bothersome investigation, indictment and sentencing off the hands of our busy modern judicial system. A process recently sanctified by none other than everybody’s favorite Man of the Year, humble prelate and general universal Savior. Pope Francis himself.

Recently, after a scant two years in office, Pope Francis got around to announcing that he was creating a Tribunal to try Bishops (would you believe) for covering up for those rare cases, like 2%, rotten-apples-in-the-barrel priests who have been known to over-emphasize the one-on-one sex education seminars.

The immediate reaction of one Bishop in Camden, N.J. was: “What is this, now? I’m still listening to the other Holiness, Emeritus Benedictus, who told us that what happens in the Church stays in the Church, which I thought was a reasonable approach. After all, you can’t get to be a Bishop without learning a lot more about counselling and comforting, which the police or some fussy old District Attorney can’t duplicate. In fact, the Pope Emeritus was so zealous about it that he said he’d ex-communicate any Bishop who did involve the police in our education program. The current Holy Father hasn’t done anything to reverse that former encyclical, but now he’s saying we should report it every time a priest instructs a child too enthusiastically. Who do I listen to – the Pope or the Pope?”

Paolo, the former papal butler who leaked stuff to the Italian press, had an answer to that one. Recently, released from the catacombs, where he was incarcerated for revealing Papal secrets, he was invited to a private audience with Humble Frank, since he was seen as the best informant on the Emeritus Benedictus and his encyclicals, which are sort of like popsicles in that they tend to produce an ice-cream headache if taken seriously.

Paolo is widely respected in the Vatican, especially by the new Pope, who believes in blowing fresh air through the stuffy old Vatican, particularly the stuffy old catacombs.

“Holy Father,” said Paolo. “I know you created a Tribunal to try bishops for failure to report priests who are overdoing their sex instruction to altar boys and others, but why not just turn them over to the cops?”

“That wouldn’t be appropriate,” said Francis. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but a mistreated child is the property of God’s emissary on earth, which is me.”

“But now you have a ‘panel on clerical abuse,’ some of which are former victims, and you also have a tribunal made up of Cardinals. This is a lot of overhead. It would save the Church money just to dial 911, right?”

“I don’t care,” said the Humble One. “Last year, the UN criticized us for not doing more, so I want to do more. Money, schmoney. I’d rather be humble and known as the Pope that protected children – or at least chided those who abused them – if any.”

“There’s not much to read in the catacombs,” said Paolo, “But I get the Toronto Globe and Mail delivered on weekends. I see where the Canadians have set a precedent in their investigation of child abuse. They have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that is made up of government appointees, since the government itself is the perp.”

“Exactly,” said the Pope. “That’s a heads-up country. They’re gradually replacing all government departments with hired corporate agencies. Even Revenue Canada is run by professional entrepreneurs.”

“But what do they do with their cops, the RCMP, if the government staffs the jury with perps. Is there no crime in Canada?”

“Not that much that the Church couldn’t handle in an ideal world. Let the Mounties perform, traffic duties, issuing speeding tickets and their Musical Ride,” the Pope said. “Canon law has always been recognized by most civilized countries as superseding the law of the land. Argentina when I was there was one of the exceptions. The Junta even ran the Church, that’s why I liaised with them.”

“So much for your Tribunal,” said Paolo, “But what about the Bishops’ dilemma. First Emeritus told them to cover up the priests’ activities, and now you tell them the opposite.”

“Ratzinger’s encyclical merely told them not to tell the police. I’m telling them to keep the whole thing inside the church. What happens in the Church stays in the Church. I don’t see a contradiction.”

“I don’t see anything to get upset over either way,” said Paolo. “Maybe I’ve been in the catacombs too long.”

Bill Annett writes four newsletters: The Canadian Shield, American Logo, Beating the Street, and The Oyster World. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Bill.