The Pope should know forgiveness can’t be asked for, it must be offered

This column is an opinion by Albert Dumont, an activist, spiritual advisor, volunteer and poet. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

My life was forever changed when the enormous cruelty of a person of my long-ago past left me emotionally and spiritually wounded.

I have often spoken about the darkness which entered my life because of the effects this person’s actions had on my formative years. One day, as we talked on the subject of forgiveness, a friend asked if it was possible for me to find it in my heart to forgive the person who brought such profound dysfunction, through their cruelty, into my life. My answer was, “No, I cannot forgive this person.” 

Why? It is simply because the person I speak of (now deceased) never came to my door and asked forgiveness of me. 

A circle would be formed

If the guilty person would have come to my home and spoken words of regret and remorse for their long-ago cruelty, I would have invited the person into the warmth of my humble abode where a circle would be formed. The sacred items of our spiritual beliefs (theirs and mine) would be placed in the centre of the circle and a conversation would then occur. 

I, as the person who suffered at the hands of the guilty party, would expect to hear — in detail — why the person did what they did to alter so severely my human right to emotional and spiritual wellness. 

If I felt, because of the words spoken in the circle, that the sorrow of the person was real and truly in line with what I define as a genuine “act of contrition,” I have little doubt I would forgive the person whose cruelty contributed to my life going out of control in my younger years. 

To be clear, if the person whose cruelty caused so much emotional turmoil in my life had never sought me out for forgiveness (they did not), then no forgiveness from me would ever have had a chance of occurring. I would be at peace with leaving it in the domain of Creator, where I am confident justice would come to pass. 

No one escapes justice! Not me, not you, not the Pope, nor any other human being gets away with doing wrong, nor will any house of worship (including the Catholic Church) guilty of crimes against humanity escape justice after Creator’s historical review takes place.

They have gone to his house

The Indigenous people in Canada who suffered so greatly at residential schools have not waited for the Pope to come to their door. Instead, they have gone to his house, asking to receive an apology for the wrongs of the past. 

To me, it’s a very strange way of going about it. 

If the Pope is interested in forgiveness, then it should have been on him to request a time where he could, with lowered shoulders, be given an opportunity to plead for forgiveness. The Pope should forever be mindful that the dead children of the residential schools have a say in it! 

Will there be a healing circle where the Pope and Indigenous people can heal together? What will the church do to make amends? 

Two of my published poems connect to this very topic. I offer them now and am hopeful that you will spiritually and emotionally connect with them.

Because of You
The Words of the Victim
by Albert Dumont ©

You pushed me into raging waters
And I wonder
If my mind will ever heal

Because of you
I have forgotten the reasons
For the blossoms
And the purpose of the rain

Because of you
Instead of smiling into the dawn
I hide
And shed tear after tear

Because of you
I feel as the rust
Which descends onto the beauty
Of our autumn’s maple leaves

Because of you
Peace eludes me
And I see only heartache
Everywhere I turn

It is good now that you tell me
You are sorry
But tell me also
What you will do which will
Restore who and what I was
Before your cruelty
Pushed me into raging waters


Because of Me
The Words of the Perpetrator
by Albert Dumont ©

I pushed you into raging waters
And now I wonder
If you will ever be the same

Because of me
You have forgotten the reasons
For the blossoms
And the purpose of the rain

Because of me
Instead of smiling into the dawn
You hide
And shed tear after tear

Because of me
You feel as the rust
That descends onto the beauty
Of the autumn’s maple leaves

Because of me
Peace eludes you
And you know only heartache
Everywhere you turn

I regret that I have caused you
Such great suffering
And I am sorry
What would you have me do
That would help you
Restore who and what you were
Before my cruelty
Pushed you into raging waters

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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