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Canadians have been grappling with the discovery of multiple mass graves at or near the sites of former “residential schools.” These are the mainly Catholic-run institutions that committed a cultural genocide against Indigenous people, taking children under their control, leaving them in unsanitary conditions and not caring for their sicknesses, then burying the ones who died in unmarked graves.

Now, a Catholic priest has been banned from speaking publicly after claiming the survivors of those schools are only talking about their abuse in order to make a quick buck.

In multiple sermons given at St. Emile Roman Catholic Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba this month, Father Rhéal Forest made the outlandish claims:

“If [survivors] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” Forest said.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie,” he continued, adding that all of the Indigenous people who he knew during his 22 years working up north liked residential schools.

Forest acknowledged that a few had bad treatment, but said some of that was due not to nuns and priests but rather night watchmen.

That has all the self-awareness of a Republican lawmaker saying all the Black friends he has say racism doesn’t exist.

As the CBC implies, there’s no way all the survivors are lying:

In its 2015 report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said there have been “over 40 successful convictions of former residential school staff members who sexually or physically abused students.” As of Jan. 31 of that year, it said 37,951 claims for injuries resulting from physical and sexual abuse at residential schools had been received.

While the Archdiocese of St. Boniface has banned Forest from giving sermons, they haven’t punished him in any meaningful way. Not yet. Shutting up someone who can’t speak well is a reward, not a punishment. It also ignores the bigger problem here: The Catholic Church won’t seriously acknowledge its own complicity in this tragedy or make amends in a way that’s commensurate with the victims’ suffering.

Forest’s problem isn’t that he misspoke. It’s that he accidentally said something that too many people in his Catholic circles believe.

(Thanks to everyone for the link)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.