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A field test of equivocation theory: Apologies by Canadian churches to indigenous people
Unformatted Document Text:  5 in their care. 2. Within the institution, the acknowledgment of ethical or moral failing is more difficult because a church’s standards are higher than, for example, those of business corporations or many individuals. 3. The residential schools were, and churches still are, hierarchical, yet an apology reverses that status: The institution must seek forgiveness from those over whose lives it once had virtually absolute power. 4. The offenders were not “the church” as an abstraction and probably not the individual making the apology. It would be easy to argue that current members should not apologize for things they did not do, that is, for the acts of others in the past. (However, as one apology pointed out, “we are the bearers of many blessings from our ancestors, and therefore we must also bear their burdens”; United, 1998; this point will be address further in the Discussion). 5. The legal consequences of a full apology, taking responsibility for the offences, could involve considerable cost for the institution, whose officials are accountable for its financial status. (This issue will also re-appear in the Discussion.) However, the other option, that of refusing to apologize, also has a number of negative consequences, especially for churches as institutions and for their individual representatives: 6. Overt refusal would risk serious public disapproval; it is hard to imagine that, after a victim had asked for an apology, a church would say publicly that it had no intention of apologizing.

Authors: Bavelas, Janet.
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5
in their care.
2.
Within the institution, the acknowledgment of ethical or moral failing is more
difficult because a church’s standards are higher than, for example, those of
business corporations or many individuals.
3.
The residential schools were, and churches still are, hierarchical, yet an apology
reverses that status: The institution must seek forgiveness from those over
whose lives it once had virtually absolute power.
4.
The offenders were not “the church” as an abstraction and probably not the
individual making the apology. It would be easy to argue that current members
should not apologize for things they did not do, that is, for the acts of others in
the past. (However, as one apology pointed out, “we are the bearers of many
blessings from our ancestors, and therefore we must also bear their burdens”;
United, 1998; this point will be address further in the Discussion).
5.
The legal consequences of a full apology, taking responsibility for the offences,
could involve considerable cost for the institution, whose officials are accountable
for its financial status. (This issue will also re-appear in the Discussion.)
However, the other option, that of refusing to apologize, also has a number of negative
consequences, especially for churches as institutions and for their individual
representatives:
6.
Overt refusal would risk serious public disapproval; it is hard to imagine that, after
a victim had asked for an apology, a church would say publicly that it had no
intention of apologizing.


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