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A field test of equivocation theory: Apologies by Canadian churches to indigenous people
Unformatted Document Text:  4 concerned with resolving a painful historical period, yet there is little evidence that they achieved resolution; the lawsuits continue. The next section identifies the constraints that shaped these apologies, followed by an analysis of apology as a speech act, which leads to criteria for assessing equivocation in apologies. As will become clear, anyone who studies naturally occurring avoidance conflicts will encounter painful topics and many-faceted social, political, and ethical issues, as is the case here. It is important to emphasize that the purpose of this research is neither to criticize the churches nor to rationalize their actions but rather to explicate the situational forces that constrained their decision to attempt to apologize for offences that they acknowledged as serious. One positive outcome of the analysis could be suggestions for changes that would make true apologies and reconciliation more likely. A SITUATIONAL THEORY OF NON-APOLOGIES To answer the question of why individuals or institutions might make incomplete or unsatisfactory apologies, the avoidance theory of equivocation focuses on the offender’s situation before the apology and examines the possible consequences of the two obvious choices: to apologize or not. When an offense has occurred, there is considerable pressure on an offender to apologize, especially if the offended party or others have called for an apology. However, there are also many reasons that an apology would be particularly problematic for the churches: 1. The public admission of wrongdoing is harder, especially when the offences are difficult even to talk about: documented instances of forcible apprehension, sexual abuse, beating, isolation, and cultural degradation of some of the children

Authors: Bavelas, Janet.
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concerned with resolving a painful historical period, yet there is little evidence that they
achieved resolution; the lawsuits continue. The next section identifies the constraints
that shaped these apologies, followed by an analysis of apology as a speech act, which
leads to criteria for assessing equivocation in apologies. As will become clear, anyone
who studies naturally occurring avoidance conflicts will encounter painful topics and
many-faceted social, political, and ethical issues, as is the case here. It is important to
emphasize that the purpose of this research is neither to criticize the churches nor to
rationalize their actions but rather to explicate the situational forces that constrained
their decision to attempt to apologize for offences that they acknowledged as serious.
One positive outcome of the analysis could be suggestions for changes that would
make true apologies and reconciliation more likely.
A SITUATIONAL THEORY OF NON-APOLOGIES
To answer the question of why individuals or institutions might make incomplete
or unsatisfactory apologies, the avoidance theory of equivocation focuses on the
offender’s situation before the apology and examines the possible consequences of the
two obvious choices: to apologize or not. When an offense has occurred, there is
considerable pressure on an offender to apologize, especially if the offended party or
others have called for an apology. However, there are also many reasons that an
apology would be particularly problematic for the churches:
1.
The public admission of wrongdoing is harder, especially when the offences are
difficult even to talk about: documented instances of forcible apprehension,
sexual abuse, beating, isolation, and cultural degradation of some of the children


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