Our Mission

To unite in fellowship, prayerful scholarship, research collaboration, public communication and education; to mentor and support younger scholars and leaders; to effectively serve the Church, Indigenous peoples and the wider society; and, to do this with a focus on the following themes:

 

Why is this needed?

Indigenous Catholicism and Indigenous-Catholic relations are not reducible to their entanglement in colonialism. However, the Church’s entanglement in colonialism – perceived and real – weighs heavily on many Indigenous and non-Indigenous Catholics as well as those who hesitate at the doors of the Church. It has created obstacles to finding and embracing Christ and the Christian vocation with courage. Ultimately, these are not merely Indigenous issues, or relevant only for dioceses and communities with significant Indigenous populations.

 

We see the critical importance, therefore, as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Catholics, to gather, conduct and distribute well-founded research and analysis on the relationship that binds us. This relationship is rooted in something far deeper than an institution and its history. Rather, it is rooted our participation in the human family, in the Mystical Body of Christ, and in a history governed by an inscrutable Providence that upholds the freedom integral to human dignity. Ultimately, deeper and older than any Indigenous or non-Indigenous identity – some of us visibly defy such simple categorization – is our more fundamental identity as human beings, made in the image and likeness of our loving Creator.

 

Far more important, therefore, than any research or analysis we might do is our way of doing and being. How we live our relationship with each other and those around us – especially those who are most vulnerable and those who may be opposed to us – is more important and transformative than any particular research, analysis, communication, education and or other service undertaking. For these reason, we are creating not merely a network but a fellowship of scholars and leaders. We wish to unite ourselves in prayer, friendship, research, study, and the mentorship of younger scholars and leaders. Our shared conviction is that holiness – becoming wholly human, according to the image God has of us and to which he calls us – is the most important answer to any challenge we face.

 

We also see the promotion of subsidiarity, human dignity, and solidarity as foundational to the common good. We must see and cultivate the best in each other, and we must avoid reducing anyone to their apparent deficits – moral, spiritual, cultural, social, etc. Many of the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples started, or were exacerbated, by their characterization as a problem to be resolved by others. Indigenous Catholics, Indigenous cultures and Indigenous Catholicism are of vital importance to the Church and to humanity. Indigenous Catholics and non-Catholics – both in spite of and because of the challenges they have faced and the wounds they bear – can speak powerfully – both from within the Church and from without – about the importance of the spiritual dimension of life, about family and relationship, responsibility towards others, a culture of life, forgiveness, etc.

 

Despite referring to “Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” “Catholic and non-Catholic,” we affirm that no person is reducible either to their individuality or to their membership in one group or another. Rather, we see each other, in a perspective deeply rooted in Catholic and Indigenous understandings, as persons-in-relation. In other words, we wish to help model and envision a unity in Christ based neither on uniformity nor on binaries of difference and identity politics.

What is the focus of our research & reflection?

Indigenous Catholicism, Interculturality and Inculturation

 

  • This includes questions of Indigenous peoples, inculturation and interculturality within the universal Church, with emphasis on the contributions of Indigenous peoples and cultures to the Church and the New Evangelization as members of the body of Christ.

  • This is critical to the application of the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, human dignity and the common good.

  • An important aspect of this is making clear the universal character of the Catholic Church and the fact that Christianity pre-exists its arrival in Europe and is not dependent on Europe to thrive.  It has been transformed and enriched by European cultures, and it has baptized many European cultures, but it has also been transformed by, and baptized, other cultures.  Every culture or people of every culture are called to be faithful to the Gospel in a transformative way. Christianity is not culture-specific, but no Christianity is culture-neutral.

 

Indigenous-Catholic Inter-Religious Relations and Reconciliation

 

  • This includes relations, past and present, in Canada, the US and elsewhere.

  • The theme of reconciliation is important given the legacy (real and perceived) of the entanglement of European Christian missions in imperial and colonial projects and the entanglement of Indian Residential and Boarding Schools in aggressive assimilation policies that violated principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and human dignity. However, our research and reflections should go well beyond these particular contexts to see the bigger picture and to see these particular issues in light of that bigger picture.

  • It is critical to gather stories from Indigenous Catholic and non-Catholic elders; their personal experiences of relationships with and within the Church reflect a much more nuanced and positive reality than that which is being taught and broadcast in academia and the public sphere. It may not be possible to transform this narrative now, but we need to record the voices of Indigenous elders as they can one day bring a more nuanced and corrective re-examination of the history and legacy of Indigenous peoples relations with and within the Church. When these elders pass on, it is like losing a critical archive.

  • It is critical, and consistent with the principle of human dignity, to take non-Christian traditional Indigenous religious traditions seriously, and to engage leaders as important interlocutors in inter-religious dialogue.

  • It is also critical to look at Indigenous non-Catholic and non-Christian contributions to the Church, and to the philosophy and theology of reconciliation and relationship.

 

Indigenous-Catholic Solidarity, on Subsidiarity, Human Dignity & the Common Good

 

  • This includes solidarity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the Church, between Catholic and non-Catholic Indigenous people, and between Catholics and non-Catholics on issues of shared concern.

  • This involves solidarity in the cultural and social renewal and justice questions; cooperation on human rights, family rights and issues, religious freedom and bioethical issues. For example, it includes finding ways of uprooting racism and other ideologies that go against human dignity, and fostering awareness of how such ideologies have influenced and shaped our ideas, relationships and societies.

  • This entails the application of Catholic Social teaching to Indigenous issues and Indigenous rights, but it also means exploring the wider implications for human rights and the specific contributions of Indigenous Catholic (and non-Catholic) contributions to Catholic social teaching.

  • Indigenous rights flow from human dignity and principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. They are not so much special rights as inherent human rights that require special attention because they have been neglected or poorly protected. Indigenous rights are therefore of universal concern.

  • Similarly, “Indigenous” issues are rarely issues of relevance only to Indigenous peoples; yet some issues impact Indigenous peoples more than anyone else. In such cases, applying the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and human dignity means ensuring that Indigenous peoples play a lead role in finding and implementing solutions to the challenges that affect them most, and that others work in solidarity with them.

  • A critical aspect of solidarity in promoting subsidiarity and human dignity means shifting the public perception of Indigenous peoples from a paradigm of deficit to a paradigm that emphases the past, present and future contributions of Indigenous people to society and the Church. This will also help move beyond polarizing and often paralyzing interpretations that place the entire blame for the apparent deficits on either Indigenous peoples and institutions or non-Indigenous peoples and institutions.

  • The application of the principle of subsidiarity to Indigenous peoples translates into support for legitimate self-governance, which must be equally founded on principles of solidarity, human dignity and the common good.

What is the focus of our action?

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Foster fellowship and collaboration among established Indigenous-Catholic scholars

  • Identify, encourage and mentor emerging Indigenous Catholic scholars

  • Bring diverse and disparate conversations together & consolidate our vision

  • Identify, collect and share existing resources

  • Identify research needs and pool resources to take on larger research projects

  • Share the resources we collect and develop as widely as possible

  • Build relationships with academic and ecclesial institutional partners in Canada and the US as well as Latin America and elsewhere

©2020 Indigenous Catholic Research Fellowship