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Culture Friday: No mass graves found at Catholic schools in Canada

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WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: No mass graves found at Catholic schools in Canada

Plus, freedom of religion on trial in Finland as lawmaker takes the stand over opposition to homosexuality


Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples on July 17, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta Associated Press/Photo by Jessie Wardarski, File

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 8th day of September 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday.

Joining us now is John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint Podcast. John, good morning.

JOHN STONESTREET: Good morning.

EICHER: Let’s talk about the story in Canada about the purported mass graves of indigenous children. These were kids forced to attend Catholic-run residential schools across Canada going back to the 19th century and well into the 20th.

But more than two years ago a tribe in Western Canada announced that ground-penetrating radar had discovered anomalies in the soil around one of these schools. Then like wildfire, media stories proliferated about mass graves and Catholic complicity.

The prime minister ordered flags flown at half staff, the pope issued a formal apology, activists burned churches all over Canada in protest, statues were covered in graffiti and many were pulled down, and for two years, this was the going assumption: mass graves.

Actual evidence never turned up, just anomalies in the soil. Then, just last month an excavation was done around a school in the province of Manitoba. Let’s listen to tribal Chief Derek Nepinak.

DEREK NEPINAK: We are now concluding the excavation of the 14 locations under the church. The archaeological team we hired from the University of Brandon, which is the same archaeological team that was relied upon by regional police agencies when doing archaeological excavations, found no conclusive evidence of human remains in their excavation.

No conclusive evidence, but you had all these vigilante attacks on churches based on anomalies and a hunch.

STONESTREET: Well, I mean, to say that vigilantes attack churches is really an understatement. I mean, it was a widespread set of churches that were attacked - mainly Roman Catholic churches, but not just Roman Catholic churches. Look, the reason all this matters is because we immediately knew and by that I want to put the word “knew” in quotes, what the conclusion of this investigation would be, and we immediately knew, and again, I want to put the word “knew” in quotes, who the good guys and who the bad guys are in this story. This is another example of what we've called here, the critical theory mood where people are already good or bad, guilty or innocent, based on some predetermined conclusion.

Now, look, there's way more that we don't know, there's far more that we could come to learn. What happens at these stories, and you can kind of list a million other ones like, for example, that have, you know, that are far less dramatic.

Think, for example of that one image, that one picture of that young man from Covington Catholic school, who was at the March for Life, had an encounter with a Native American drummer or something. And it was very clear Oh, in fact, I had a friend tell me, “Oh, I have seen the look on those snotty nose white kids before.” It turned out not to be true. So when our vision of the human condition is shaped by bad ideas, that some people are good, and some people are bad, and we know who's good and who's bad based on non moral categories, but completely based on history and ethnicity, we're going to come up with faulty conclusions. And we're going to do things like, you know, indict entire groups of people and it's not going to, it is a form of partiality, which the Bible calls sin. And I think we're seeing that on a kind of a headline level. As soon as the initial reports of these schools came out, newspapers across the world ran the conclusion that children who died and maybe even were murdered. Remember that part of this story? were buried in mass graves at these schools. It may or may not be true. And it's going to be quite something if it turns out not to be true.

BROWN: Before we leave that part of the world John, I want to talk about the arrest of a man in Ontario who admits he sold more than 12-hundred suicide kits online.

British authorities are investigating Kenneth Law and believe as many as 232 people in the United Kingdom have purchased his suicide kits. They’re trying to confirm 88 people died using the lethal products, one as young as 17 years old.

That’s truly horrifying, but as you know John, this man went on to say he sold the kits, because he needed a source of income to feed himself.

What are the sad implications behind this kind of thinking?

STONESTREET: Well, you know, the sad implications are this man lived in Canada. And you know, maybe perhaps you could actually blame the government for him thinking that this was a legitimate business, right? I mean, now he's being charged and arrested out of the UK because he mailed these kits, quote, unquote, kits across the pond, so to speak. But you know, look, I mean, why would he have done anything wrong in his native Canada? You could say maybe that he violated, you know, regulatory practice, but not that he did anything morally wrong. I mean, you know, why is it wrong that he did it, but not wrong that the state does it or state funded medical boards recommend this and, and, by the way, make it more and more widely available, which, of course, has happened with the so called medical assistance in dying in Canada. So you kind of see these examples emerge, where people just kind of further commercialize life, and that has already been commodified in so many different ways, or commodify death, and it just, you know, further than it's already been commodified. And then there's an outrage and you got to stop and go, where's the outrage? Well, the outrage is only outrage as opposed to violating regulatory procedure. If you think life is sacred, and life is valid, but I think that's going to be a real problem.

You know, I remember the famous William Jennings, Bryan opponent. At the Scopes Trial. The atheist, one of the great atheist lawyers, who volunteered to be a part of that whole spectacle back in 1925, was an attorney named Clarence Darrow. And Darrow had made his career defending a pair of brothers who had murdered their parents. And they murdered their parents, he argued, because that's what they had learned when they went to university - they had read Frederick Nietzsche and had been exposed to nihilism as a life philosophy. And basically, he was able to get them off the death penalty, which of course back at the time was completely unheard of, because, as Clarence Darrow argued, they just got it on us. They just lived out what they had been taught at university. It was a remarkable moment in American history, that's long forgotten. This is kind of the same thing. It's like, if I were this guy, you'd be like, Well, I'm just trying to make money in the same way that the state is making money - or trying to save money. And why is it that what I'm doing is actually all that bad? I mean, one could make the Clarence Darrow argument in defense of this guy. But the fact is, we are all morally repulsed that someone would commodify someone's depression this way. And we should be morally repulsed, and we shouldn't let go of that moral repulsion. Even though government policy certainly blunts it, and many experiences including this guy.

EICHER: A trial just wrapped up in Finland, with a decision to come by the end of November, over a political leader, a member of Parliament there. She’s on trial for hate speech, specifically quoting the Bible and what it says about homosexuality. This whole thing started in 2019 when her Lutheran church sponsored a gay pride event. She disagreed, of course, but in quoting Bible verses, she found herself the subject of police interrogations and ultimately the charges that she stood trial for.

The woman’s name is Päivi Räsänen, and here’s a clip from an interview with her legal team.

RÄSÄNEN: I have heard about this kind of interrogations and hearings from Soviet times. I’m so old that I remember those Soviet times and I could never have imagined that that happened in Finland. The police asked also in every interrogation, ‘Are you ready to renounce your writings and take them away from your social media accounts …’. But I answered that I will stand on what I believe.

Yes, I’m old enough to remember Soviet times, too. And now everyone’s old enough to remember a Western parliamentary democracy behaving like the KGB, John, putting someone on trial for quoting the Bible.

STONESTREET: Well, she’s being put on trial for three incidents. One is a pamphlet that she wrote that was part of her church years ago, and then a tweet and then a media interview. And I think the most remarkable early headline from this recent chapter in this kind of long saga is what the prosecution is basically arguing, acknowledging that all she has done is quote the Bible, but that she needed to edit the Bible so that it wouldn't be hateful. You go back to what the other side is arguing on this and you're like, oh, okay, so that's really what we mean when we have what's called freedom of worship as opposed to freedom of religion as Chuck Colson made that distinction, or, you know, in other words, the freedom to believe what you want in your own head is not the freedom to speak it out loud. And that's really what this guy is arguing, like, she can believe whatever she wants. But if she's going to quote the Bible out loud, she's gonna have to edit it, because we now know better. And I think ADF International has done a terrific job keeping everybody up to speed on actually what's being said. And it's something that you need to know: really aggressive secularism is a remarkable squash, on religious freedom in any sort of real meaningful sense.

And again, this woman articulated a number of times that she believed in the inherent dignity and equality of all people, including members of the LGBTQ community. And basically what she's being accused of is that even if she said that she didn't really mean it. So think about that, so that the state can tell you what you really meant by your words. I mean, it's pretty remarkable what we're seeing. And we would all do well to kind of pull back the curtain and see what the other side is arguing. In this case. It's stunning.

EICHER: Alright, John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks John!

STONESTREET: Thank you both.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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