Butchering Day

I love this photo of my grandfather Diedrich Peters with a batch of the homemade farmers’ sausages he was famous for.

This was the site of the butchering bees of my childhood

I remember attending hog butchering bees at my grandparent’s farm in Gnadenthal, as a child. We went home at the end of a long day with the trunk of our car full of roasts, pork chops, spare ribs, hams and smoked sausages.

I can still see my grandfather blowing into the casings for the sausage before attaching them to the spout on the machine that would fill them up with meat and using his finger to swipe up some of the raw sausage meat to check if he had spiced it just right.

My Dad as a child on his farm- he is the boy on the horse

My father once wrote a story about what butchering was like when he was a child in the 1930s and 40s.

My great-grandparents Helena Rempel Peters and Paul Daniel Peters were popular workers at butchering bees

Dad said butchering bees usually took place in late October or early November. People might be busy butchering for a couple of weeks if they were efficient and well-liked because they would be invited to help out at so many butchering bees.

His paternal grandparents Helena and Paul Peters and his own parents were always in high demand. Dad said your status on the social ladder of the village of Gnadenthal was at least partially determined by how many butchering bees you were invited to.

Each spring some hogs would be designated for butchering with a V cut in their ear. Often it was a sow with a poor litter record or one with bad mothering instincts. For the last few months of the pig’s life, it was given extra feed to ensure maximum size and weight.

Sunday afternoon visiting in the village between spring and fall often included a trip out to the pig pen to survey the doomed animals and guess how many pounds of meat, rings of farmers’ sausage and pails of lard they would produce.

My paternal grandfather Diedrich Peters with his six brothers from left to right- oldest to youngest- Henry, Daniel, Paul, Diedrich(my grandfather) Cornie, John and Jake.

Usually, five or six couples would attend a butchering bee. My Dad said in their family’s case it was something of a Peters Fest with a number of my grandfather’s six brothers in attendance.

The day before the butchering the pig pen was cleaned and fresh straw bedding was provided for the condemned sows. Knives had to be sharpened. Tables had to be set up in the barn as did cauldrons with their stove pipes attached.

My grandmother Margareta Sawatzky Peters shown here with her family had a lasting scar on her face from a butchering bee mishap

One time my Grandma was helping Grandpa attach a stove pipe to a cauldron and one fell and cut her on the side of her face. Some soot got in the wound and Grandma carried a telltale mark of the incident till her dying day.

The woman of the household hosting the butchering had to prepare food for the dozen or more adults attending the bee as well as their children who usually joined their parents for the evening meal. The hostess was also in charge of the thorough cleaning of the pigs’ intestines which were used as casings for the sausages.

My Dad and his sisters with my grandmother in her nursing home room. While cleaning up my grandparents’ house my fun-loving aunties decided they should all dress up like their parents would have looked on a butchering day during their childhood.

On butchering day the men arrived at the crack of dawn each carrying their own personal butchering knives and were served breakfast by the women of the house. Their wives would follow about an hour later.

Killing the pig with a dagger was considered an art in itself. A couple of my Dad’s uncles were particularly gifted at this.

Water was heated to a scalding temperature in the cauldrons to be used to clean off the pigs’ bristles from their skin. After the bristles were removed evisceration began. My grandfather would cleanly and smoothly slash the carcass in half and then the owners of the pig gave directions as to how many hams, farmers’ sausage rings, ribs and other cuts of meat they wanted.

The timing was crucial as much needed to be done- meat cut, lard rendered, sausage made and hung in the smokehouse and then everything cleaned up. Proper processing of the meat was essential since people did not have refrigerators to store the finished products.

The speed at which a butchering was completed was a matter of pride. Butchering bees that were poorly organized or inefficient were the subject of village gossip.

In the story he wrote, my Dad said the butchering bees were also a time for socializing. Stories were told and opinions were expressed while standing around the table cutting up the meat. Matters for discussion were the village school teacher, the minister, the neighbours, possible romances and farming methods.

My Dad to the left stands outside the pig barn on his parent’s farm in Gnadenthal with my brother and my nephew

In his story, Dad speaks nostalgically about the butchering days of his childhood. They were an important annual event.

*A huge thank you to my aunt Mary Fransen who had saved both the photo of my grandfather with his farmers’ sausage as well as the story my Dad had written.

Other posts………..

My Mennonite Grandmother’s Chicken Noodle Soup

On My Grandparents’ Farm

A Mennonite on the Titanic

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Do I Stay Christian? No!

The title of Brian D. McLaren’s latest book Do I Stay Christian? poses a pertinent question for people who claim Christianity as their faith.

In the first third of his book McLaren provides excellent reasons why it would be better to leave Christianity behind.

Kent Monkman’s painting The Scream shows Indigenous children being forcefully taken away from their parents and sent to residential schools. The Pope said recently that these actions were genocidal.

McLaren claims one reason to not stay Christian is because of the bloody violence the Christian church has employed in its war against other religions. He cites the horrors of the Holocaust, the brutality of the Crusades and the genocide of Indigenous people in many countries by Christian colonizers.

Anneken Jans an Anabaptist burned by other Christians for her beliefs.

McLaren also deplores the way Christians have killed and tortured one another. My own Anabaptist ancestors were burned and drowned by Catholics and Lutherans.

Only a few years ago an American President voted into power by a strong Christian contingent tore children away from their Christian parents and put them in cages. The results have been catastrophic as a recent article in The Atlantic explains.

The movie The Eyes of Tammy Faye showed how money corrupts Christian organizations

McLaren looks at the way the love of money has corrupted the Christian church. Wealthy donors keep Christian organizations and institutions operational and so they hold the power. Clergy often compromise their beliefs and principals to keep the wealthy faction happy. I had to think of all the television evangelists who grew wealthy taking money from their devoted followers.

The current leadership team of the Mormon Church. Photo from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints website

Also problematic is the fact that old white men run the church and have developed most of the church’s theology. McLaren points out how men in Christian leadership have sought to aggressively control the bodies of women while not exhibiting the same zeal for controlling the bodies and behaviours of pedophile priests and abusive pastors.

McLaren examines the failure of Christianity to evolve in the light of new scientific knowledge. This means adherents routinely ignore evidence about evolution, our changing climate or the determinants of sexual orientation. Many Christians seem to leave their intellect at the door when they enter the realm of faith.

McLaren observes that millions of Christians still accept a kind of suicidal theology that welcomes the end of the world and puts more stock in an evacuation plan to heaven than a transformation plan for the earth.

A homeless man reads his Bible outside a shelter and soup kitchen in Mississippi- photo from Mississippi Today

Christianity has been a failure because it has been unable to transform people or make life better for them. McLaren points out that the same five American states with the highest Christian church attendance also come in dead last when you look at longevity, educational opportunities, median household income and happiness. Interestingly they come in first when it comes to number of teen pregnancies.

The Church of our Lady of Grace in Evora Portugal. There are 30 cathedrals in Evora but so few people attend them mass is held in only one church each day. They all take turns.

Finally McLaren says the Christian church is SHRINKLING. It’s a word that combines sinking and wrinkling. The community of Christians is aging and dwindling as more and more young people jump ship. Why stay aboard a shrinkling vessel?

McLaren makes a convincing argument for exiting the Christian faith in the first part of his book.

In the second part he tries to convince readers not to leave Christianity. I will look at his reasons for doing that in a future blog post.

Other posts……….

Abusive Relationships and the Church

What an Audacious Statement!

No More Churches !

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An Extraordinary Netflix Series

I have become utterly charmed by Woo Young-Woo (Park Eun-Bin) the main character in the Korean Netflix drama The Extraordinary Attorney Woo.

The story begins as Woo Young-Woo graduates at the top of her class from law school at Seoul National University and lands her first job with a prestigious firm of attorneys. Woo Young-Woo has autism and has been raised by her Dad, a single parent. The drama in her family background is revealed bit by bit and is portrayed in a realistic but heartbreaking way.

In each episode of the show Woo Young-Woo takes on a different legal case and as she deals with her varied clients we learn more about Woo Young-Woo herself and come to increasingly admire her and understand her.

She defends a man fighting with his siblings over their inheritance, an elderly woman accused of abusing her husband who has dementia, a North Korean defector who has been separated from her child, a village protesting the construction of a super-highway through their ancient and tight-knit community and a non-verbal severely autistic man accused of murdering his brother.

I like the way each case is substantive and makes us ask moral and ethical questions and also introduces us to modern day life in Korea.

Woo Young-Woo has a devoted best friend, a photographic memory, loves Kimbap- a kind of Korean version of sushi, and is in love with sea mammals… especially whales.

The series is in Korean with English subtitles

The show does not minimize the challenges Woo Young-Woo faces in the workplace as she tackles the prejudices and assumptions of her colleagues but she perseveres to earn respect and develop important relationships.

I agree with one reviewer who said said she tends to feel a level of trepidation when she knows a series has a neurodivergent protagonist because they can so easily become caricatures. Not Attorney Woo who is portrayed empathetically and sensitively her character unfolding in such a lovely way as we view each episode.

For many weeks The Extraordinary Attorney Woo has been the most watched non-English series on Netflix

I have not binge -watched the show but rather rationed out my viewings so I can throughly enjoy and appreciate each episode and think about it afterwards. Initially the episodes were released one week at a time and now I’ve caught up, so I will have to wait a week for each of the last three.

If you are looking for something a little different than your usual Netflix fare I’d suggest giving The Extraordinary Attorney Woo a try. I think it will be hard for you not to be charmed by Woo Young-Woo. I certainly have been.

Other posts……….

I Taught Chisanbop

A Touching Moment at the Oscars

Viewing on My Own


Filed under Media

The Beer Can

On Sunday Dave and I decided to do a training run for the cycling trip we are taking at the end of this month. After our ride we thought we needed to reward ourselves.

I’d always wanted to go to The Beer Can an outdoor venue that sprang up during COVID and has become very popular. So we stopped in for a beverage and a snack on our way home.

I’ve been impressed with The Beer Can ever since I read about the progressive and proactive way they handled having a camp of homeless people located right near their establishment and how they hosted a community Thanksgiving dinner last fall to raise money for local charities.

I also like the welcoming statement on their website.

The Beer Can strives to create an inclusive, respectful, and accessible space that is welcoming to all.

Their location on the river beside the historic Granite Curling Club built in 1912 creates a unique ambience for The Beer Can.

We found a nice table under some trees and parked our bicycles nearby.

We were there at three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and so it wasn’t terribly busy ….

But the fact that there are two fully equipped kiosks serving food and beverages on the site is evidence that at times The Beer Can is a very busy place indeed.

I enjoyed a strawberry-rhubarb cider

and Dave had a Hazy IPA.

Another group of cyclists arrived shortly after us and the number of bikes parked at the entrance was proof that The Beer Can is a popular watering hole for riders.

I noticed on their events calendar that they offer musical entertainment on Wednesday evenings and local DJ Hunnicutt spins tunes for them on Sunday nights. I’d like to go back for that.

The pandemic certainly wasn’t a good thing for Winnipeg but the fact that it inspired cool places like The Beer Can to open as safe spots to gather for food, drink, friendship and fun is definitely a silver lining legacy of COVID.

Note: Proof that The Beer Can is the place to meet folks was that sitting at a table near us was Manitoba Moose Coach Mark Morrison and we ended up having a nice chat with him and his table companion.

Other posts………

Date Night at Stone Angel

Beer Club Research in Canmore

I Drank A Beer in Austria

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It’s All About the Frame

Jennine Krauchi- The Frame

This stunning beaded picture frame is the first thing that catches your eye when you enter A Hard Birth an exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

The photograph it showcases is by Joseph Langevin and was taken in June of 1870. It depicts Metis leader Louis Riel and the members of his provisional government. Their efforts ensured that Manitoba would have representation in Canada’s Parliament and be an official province.

Jennine Krauchi

Although the photo is a significant one it is the frame surrounding it that takes your breath away. It was created by Jennine Krauchi a master Metis beader who learned the art from her mother who in turn had learned it from Jennine’s grandmother.

Jennine worked on the frame for two years, first drawing out a pattern on paper, a pattern she had designed after carefully studying Metis beadwork dating to 1870. The beads are some of the smallest made and come from Venice.

Fleur de leis and shamrocks in the beading reference the Irish and French roots of many Metis families. The survey chain in the corner is a reminder of how Canadian soldiers were sent to Manitoba to survey Metis land that had been in some families for generations.

Jennine says beading is like praying for her. If she is sad or angry she stops beading because she thinks her troubled spirit will impact the quality of her work.

An example of porcupine quill beading by an unknown Metis artist dating to 1840. It is also part of the Hard Birth exhibit which tells the story of how our province joined Canada in 1870.

Metis beadwork was originally done with bones, shells, seeds or porcupine quills on hides. When the Grey Nuns came to the Red River Settlement they taught the young Metis women embroidery and the women adapted the embroidery patterns for beading Indigenous motifs.

Metis beaders are well-known for their colourful and intricate work and Jeanine Krauchi’s The Frame is such a fine example of the art.

Also included in the A Hard Birth exhibit is this special chair Jeanine Krauchi designed for Louis Riel who was prevented on the threat of death from claiming a seat in Canada’s Parliament, even though he was elected to it multiple times. The chair features Jeanine’s marvellous beading.

Other posts about the A Hard Birth exhibit……..

15 Ways To Use a Metis Sash

Stepping on the Chain

What in the World is a Wool Sack?

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Filed under winnipeg art gallery

I’ve Been Captured by A Famous Winnipeg Photographer

My daughter-in-law noticed the photo first and sent me a link!

A photo that included me was featured on the Twitter account of well-known Winnipeg photographer Mike Pratt on Saturday. I’ve long been an admirer of Mike’s beautiful work and I follow him on Twitter but had missed the photo.

Because I make my home in Winnipeg’s Exchange District I have a special interest in Mike’s large collection of gorgeous photos of the Exchange. Obviously, many other people follow Mike online as I do, because I soon started receiving more messages from folks who had recognized me in his photo.

With Les Wiens who donated the bike I won to help support the amazing work of Arts Junktion.

Mike caught me riding my bike on Bannatyne just down from the Ashdown Warehouse where I make my home. I’m on the cycle I won at an Arts Junktion fundraiser, the same cycle that was almost stolen a couple of weeks ago and was rescued by a couple of wonderful paramedics.

This is the statement Mike Pratt made when posting the photo. “Sometimes you see a view that transports you to another place. I felt that about this perspective. We do have a really nice city.”

It was interesting to read the comments on social media about the photo. Many people complimented it for the lines and angles and perspectives. Some liked the trees. Others said it looked like a street in Europe.

I loved the way the buildings on the left-hand side of the photo are reflected in the buildings on the right. Some viewers chose to comment on the weeds on the sidewalk or the fact that they don’t like the bike lanes downtown.

I am trying to think when the photo could have been taken or where I was going at the time.

I love living in the Exchange and I love biking. It’s neat that Mike’s photo captures both those things.

Other posts………

I Live in a Piece of Winnipeg History

Autumn in the Exchange District

A Personal Winnipeg Alphabet

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Tear Soup

The faith community nurse for my congregation asked me to purchase Tear Soup for our church library since I serve as its librarian. When I looked at the book initially it’s format suggested it would be a children’s story.

As I began to read Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen I realized that it was a story about a woman dealing with grief. Making tear soup is a metaphor for that grieving process. Even though Tear Soup appears to be a children’s picture book the story is directed at adults more than at a younger audience.

The illustrations in the book are by Taylor Bills.

Grandy is the protagonist and we don’t ever find out what exactly is the cause of Grandy’s overwhelming grief. But we do see the ways she tries to deal with it and how others try to help her. We learn that some kinds of support are much more appropriate and appreciated than other kinds when people are grieving, and we are reminded that everyone needs to deal with grief in their own way.

Grandy’s grandson Chester is one of the people who tries to help her as she deals with her grief
As she grieves sometimes Grandy is angry at God or thinks God has disappeared

The book paints a realistic portrayal of the grieving process. Its last pages offer concrete advice in the form of lists for people grieving, people wanting to help those who are grieving, and supporting children and other family members as they grieve. There is also a list of organizations that can help people who are grieving.

I am glad our faith community nurse suggested Tear Soup for our church library. It will make a great addition to our Healing and Hope section of books.

Other posts…………

Tears in a Bottle

It’s Okay to Cry

Station of Tears

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Filed under Books

The Lake is Like Glass

“Kids get up. The lake is like glass.”

Those words of my mother’s echoed through my mind when I woke up on Thursday to watch the sunrise at the lakeside cottage my grandfather bought in 1960 when I was seven years old.

The cottage is now owned by my brother and his wife. Dave and I were their guests for a couple of days this past week.

By the time I was enjoying a lovely breakfast prepared by my sister-in-law the lake was no longer like glass and sunlight was dancing on rippling waves

When I was a teenager my mother often spent many weeks at the cottage with us kids, driving the boat for our endless rounds of skiing, cooking wonderful meals for us and supervising our many adventures.

My father a family physician, would come out on the weekends when he wasn’t on medical call and spend time doing all the maintenance tasks needed to keep the cottage operational.

Mom who didn’t swim herself was always game for getting us up and out onto the water whether on the surfboard, skis or swimming out to the floating dock. So if the lake was calm like it often was in the early mornings she would try to cajole us out of bed with her accolades about the glassy surface of the water.

My brothers snowmobiling at the cottage in winter – the siding on the cabin was blue at the time
My brother has kept a piece of the old blue siding up in the cabin

I have lived in three different countries and in more than twenty houses, apartments, residences and condos since I was born. But the cottage at the lake has remained a constant even though its appearance has constantly changed.

In the early years when my grandparents owned the cottage, I spent time there with my cousins.

Later when my father took over ownership I went there with my family and friends.

My son with his friends at the cottage in the early 1990s

During the years my own children were growing up my sister and I spent time at the cottage every summer with our four sons who often brought their friends along.

My sister and I took turns cleaning and cooking or entertaining and supervising the kids but always had time for long chats together as we sipped gin and tonics in the evening or our coffee in the mornings looking out over the glassy lake.

We both had very busy lives in different cities with thriving careers and many community involvements so our time at the lake was a real getaway for us and an opportunity to reconnect.

The cabin today

Of course, lots of changes have happened. My brother and his family have really updated the cabin and it looks fantastic while still keeping its nostalgic cottage feel.

One difference is the old sign we always had for the cabin has been retired to a different spot and a new sign paying tribute to my brother’s family’s affection for the Lord of the Rings books and movies now graces the spot near the road.

I think it’s wonderful that my brother is putting his own stamp on the place just as each previous generation of the family has.

The cottage signage has changed with the times.

Five generations of our family have spent time at the cottage and it is now in such caring and capable hands that I suspect its legacy will carry on for generations to come.

In my happy place at the cottage

I’m glad because that means I can continue to make regular pilgrimages to the place that holds many happy and meaningful memories for me.

Other posts……….

Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore

Two Trees and a Marriage

Where I’m From

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Filed under Family, Nature

Senator Plett’s Statement Is Puzzling

Explaining his endorsement of Pierre Poilievre for Conservative Party Leader Senator Don Plett said, “we have a woke society out there that we need to move back to where we were in the days of, absolutely, Stephen Harper — but also in the days of Brian Mulroney and our very founding forefathers.”

Fathers of Confederation – by Rex Woods- from the Parliament of Canada website

I take it by founding fathers Senator Plett means the fathers of confederation who came together in 1867 to establish the Dominion of Canada.  It puzzles me why Mr Plett would want to move us back to where we were then. 

It was a time when women were not considered people but the property of their husbands and fathers. Women couldn’t vote, run for public office, or legally own land. It was illegal for married couples to use contraceptives and women couldn’t charge their husbands with physical assault. 

Children at the Brandon Residential School

Founding father Sir John A. MacDonald openly admitted to carrying out a plan to starve Indigenous Canadians so they would be forced to move to reserves, and during his term in office residential schools for Indigenous children were established.  Neither Indigenous Canadians nor Asian Canadians could vote at the time.

Mr Plett must know of MacDonald’s plan to annex Manitoba territory without granting it provincial status or representation in Ottawa.  Louis Riel prevented that. Riel is a forefather a Manitoban like Mr Plett should admire, although I doubt he would want to return to Riel’s tumultuous era in the Red River Settlement. 

Would Mr Plett like to go back to 1867 when less than half of eligible Canadian children attended school and having access to medical care depended on whether people had enough money?   Should we return to a time when it was assumed poverty was the result of some moral failing and any kind of support the poor received came only from the church?

My grandparents did not want society to return to the way it was in the past. – photo of my grandparents Margareta and Diedrich Peters by my aunt Mary Fransen

I am indeed indebted to my forefathers and foremothers who chose to come to Canada and start a new life here, but would I want to go back to where society was in those days as Mr Plett thinks we should?  Not for a second.  

My grandmother often told me how grateful she was that her granddaughters were living in a time when societal attitudes towards women and how they were treated had improved so much. My grandfather repeatedly said how happy he was about the educational opportunities afforded his grandchildren, Opportunities he didn’t have.  Neither wished for society to return to an earlier time. It puzzles me why Mr Plett does. 

What is also puzzling about Mr Plett’s statement is his condemnation of what he calls our current woke society.  According to the Oxford Dictionary woke means being aware of injustice, particularly in the area of racism. Does Mr Plett not realize the two prime ministers he praised in his endorsement both did something groundbreakingly woke during their tenure in office?

Panel by Cathy Busby called We Are Sorry– at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2010

Mr Harper was the first Prime Minister to apologise publicly for the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools admitting it was wrong and caused great harm. 

Nelson Mandela often expressed appreciation for Mr Mulroney’s support in ending apartheid in South Africa

Mr Mulroney is well-known for the landmark speech he gave at the United Nations in 1988 in which he denounced the apartheid regime in South Africa. 

Although I might critique Mulroney and Harper for many aspects of their political legacy it would be wrong to say, as Mr Plett implies, that they weren’t aware of the existence of racism or injustice. They both spoke out very publicly about it. 

 I was not surprised to hear Mr Plett endorse Pierre Poilievre but I was puzzled about the reason he gave for doing so. It didn’t make sense. 

Other posts……….

Looking Back Instead of Forward

A Television Series Senator Plett Should Watch

Getting Involved at the Human Rights Museum

The Long Wait and Forgiveness

Images of Apartheid

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Three Things I Am Thinking About This Morning

First Thing

I was waiting for my bus near the art gallery where I work and two men who I suspected from their slurred speech and uninhibited behaviour were either inebriated or high were sitting on the ground leaning against a building right near the stop. They were in torn dirty clothing and barefoot. I was alone at the stop and they began whistling at me, telling me I was beautiful and asking me whether they could come home with me. I ignored them but felt extremely uncomfortable as their compliments became more effusive and their suggestions cruder.

An elderly Indigenous woman with a cane who had been standing quite some distance away waiting for the bus under a shady tree came over to me. She didn’t say a word. She stood right beside me till my bus came. With her at my side, the men became completely silent and didn’t speak again till my bus arrived.

I’ve been thinking about why the woman’s presence had such an effect on the men.

Visiting my cousins in Taiwan

Second Thing

We had my cousins who make their home in Taiwan over for supper last week. They talked about whether American Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi would follow through on her intention to visit Taiwan. We know from our own visit to Taiwan that the country is deeply committed to its independence from China and Pelosi’s support of that position has clearly angered Chinese officials who are making all kinds of threats. I have a subscription to the New York Times and one of their columnists praises Pelosi for standing up to a bully while another says her visit there is utterly reckless.

I’ve been thinking about who is right.

The Doctrine of Discovery made slavery or death the only option for indigenous North Americans who didn’t convert to Christianity.

Third Thing

My friend John has been blogging about The Doctrine of Discovery. It was a 15th-century papal edict that said Christians could lay claim to any land they discovered that was not already inhabited by Christians. If that land was home to pagan people, attempts could be made to convert them. If these conversion attempts failed the pagans could be made slaves or killed.

Some people think the Pope should have clearly and openly repudiated that edict during his time here in Canada. My friend John contends that the statements the Pope did make during his visit seriously undermine the legitimacy of the doctrine.

I have been thinking about whether I agree.

Other posts…………

What is The Doctrine of Discovery?

Learning About the Chinese Cultural Revolution From Fifth Graders

She Had A Baseball Bat

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Filed under Reflections