01/20/18

When Popes Become Penitents: The History of Papal Apologies

Pope Francis being cheered for by nuns upon his arrival at the Cathedral, in Santiago, Chile

Papal apologies for the Catholic church’s behavior are a relatively recent phenomenon. Pope John Paul II, who held the title between 1979 and 2005, was the first to issue them. His successor, Benedict XVI, timidly followed that precedent; but it is Pope Francis who has turned the symbolic apology into something of a masterstroke, helping to shift the church’s atonement from a focus on historical wrongs to accepting moral responsibility for more current events.

In January 2017, Pope Francis met with Chilean survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to apologize to them personally. It was a strikingly intimate gesture that demonstrates how the concept of papal apologies has evolved. Here’s a look at some of the most important apologies the church has made.

Galileo

Galileo before the Holy Office in the Vatican. The astronomer was condemned by the Tribunal of the Inquisition for having defended the theories of Copernicus.

John Paul’s first papal apology in 1992 was for the church’s treatment of Galileo. In the 17th century, the church had branded the astronomer a heretic for (correctly) asserting that the sun was the center of our solar system. Because this contradicted the church’s position that Earth was the center, the church forced Galileo to choose between recanting his position or burning at the stake. He decided to recant, and spent the last several years of his life on house arrest.

This first apology was one of over 100 that John Paul issued during his time as pope, most of which concerned the church’s historical misdeeds. Yet not everyone was happy about this new turn in the papacy.

“There were some misgivings because many thought that would weaken the public standing of the Catholic church,” says Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University. “Some bishops or some cardinals evidently grew tired of this pope who thought that it was good for the church to apologize.”

Slavery, Colonialism & the Holocaust

On March 26, 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem asking for Christian forgiveness.

In 1993, John Paul continued to address the church’s behavior in past centuries by issuing an apology for the church’s role in the African slave trade. Similarly to Francis’ 2015 apology to indigenous people in the Americas regarding the Catholic church’s role in colonialism, this gesture addressed something that happened long ago but continues to negatively affect communities today.

But John Paul also apologized for some things the church had done more recently, which proved to be more controversial than his attempts to redress historical wrongs. One example is in 1998, when he apologized for the church’s inaction during the Holocaust.

“In doing that, John Paul had to be careful,” Faggioli says. This is because there was and still is a controversy about how much Pius XII, the pope during World War II, did to help Jewish people during the Holocaust. Pius has been criticized for remaining largely silent about the atrocities.

“John Paul didn’t want to get involved in a historical dispute,” he says. “And so he made a case on the need of Catholics to repent and to be aware [of] their responsibility during the Holocaust without addressing directly the issue of what the pope during World World II had done.”

Sexual Abuse

Pope John Paul II sending an e-mail at the Vatican, in his first message sent to the world directly over the Internet, apologizing to victims of sexual abuse by priests and other clergy, including nuns, in the developing world.

John Paul’s 2001 apology for sexual abuse by the Catholic church stands out in comparison to previous apologies. That’s because unlike the historical ones or even his apology about the Holocaust, John Paul was now addressing something harmful that church leaders had done within the past few decades.

This was the first expression of regret that the church had made about the large number of priests who had sexually abused children, which the church had actively covered up. Benedict XVI, who was much stingier about papal apologies overall, issued a second one regarding sexual abuse in 2010. Pope Francis issued the third in 2015 and another in 2018, specifically to survivors in Chile.

Although John Paul began the church’s attempt to reckon with both the sexual abuse of priests and the church’s complicity in that abuse, Faggioli says that Francis has pushed this recognition even further. “Under John Paul II, and to some extent to Benedict XVI, there is still the idea that the sex abuse crisis was a North American problem.”

But for Francis, this abuse is a larger, ongoing problem that the church must reckon with.

Francis’ Modern Issues

Pope Francis meeting with the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame at the Vatican on March 20, 2017.

Francis’ focus on sexual abuse also demonstrates another shift of his papacy. While he still issues apologies for historical wrongs, he’s also focused on the church’s more recent and even current behavior.

In 2016 and 2017, Francis issued apologies to refugees for some Catholics’ unwillingness to welcome them to their countries; to the LGBT community for the church’s discrimination against them; and to Rwanda for the church’s role in the country’s 1994 genocide.

Unlike the early ‘90s when John Paul first expressed formal regret over the church’s behavior, “an apology for Catholic sins in the 17th, 18th, 19th century, would not be breaking news today,” Faggioli says.

Since he became the pontiff in 2013, Francis has completely changed the type of behavior that people expect a pope to ask forgiveness for.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

02/12/16

Catholic bishop to women, gays: I’m sorry

By Michael O’Loughlin

Hands-clasped-forgiveness

If you’ve ever felt unwelcome at Church because of your gender, race, or sexual orientation, a Massachusetts bishop has a message for you: I’m sorry.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield used the occasion of Ash Wednesday to mark Pope Francis’ Jubilee of Mercy by apologizing to and seeking reconciliation with Catholics in Western Massachusetts.

Rozanski, sent from Baltimore to lead the 217,000-member diocese in 2014, said that ongoing fallout from the clergy sexual abuse scandal, shuttered and merged churches, and less than welcoming parishes have caused a rupture between the Church and some of the faithful.

He says he is seeking forgiveness.

“There are many people hurting in our Catholic community from the pain caused by our past failings as a diocese, as well as the grievous actions of some who ministered in our church,” he wrote in a pastoral letter on evangelization. “The reality of this pain is that it still echoes many years later, as was given witness in our recent diocesan survey.”

Through that survey, completed by 3,000 local Catholics, Rozanski said he learned that some Catholics don’t feel welcome in churches and thus stop participating in the faith.

“Still there are others who have distanced themselves because they feel unwelcomed. The reasons here can vary, but key among them are race and cultural differences, a sense of gender inequality as well as sexual orientation,” he wrote. “Others have been treated unkindly, impatiently, or rudely by clergy, religious, ministers, and staff of parishes — all which is unacceptable.”

Mitchell-T.-RozanskiI ask your forgiveness,” he continued.

He said parishes “must be inviting and energetic environments, founded both in our traditions but also the reality of everyday life,” and urged local Catholics to “to evangelize those who were once, but are no longer with us.”

“We need you, we need your presence, your gifts and your talents. We need you to complete our community, to enrich it, to make it better and more effective,” he wrote.

He quoted one of the people who took part in the diocesan survey, who wrote, “The gay community feels that they aren’t welcome. They don’t want to espouse another religion; therefore, they don’t attend church at all. Hopefully, a special outreach could be done to them.”

Rozanski said that revitalizing the diocese through evangelization would be a “daunting task,” but urged Catholics “to walk beyond our parish boundaries, without fear, to demonstrate the faith we celebrate in liturgy takes form in the reality of the world around us.”

Rozanski opened the letter by asking several questions about love and forgiveness, urging Catholics to look the Pope Francis as an example of how to love like God, who “looks beyond our faults and failings and loves us just as we are.”

Pope Francis launched the Jubilee of Mercy in December, opening a special holy year during which Catholics are encouraged to go to confession and walk through designated holy doors in order to have their sins forgiven. The pope has made mercy and forgiveness the hallmarks of his papacy.

“Do you believe in a God who loves you?” Rozanski asked. “Do you believe in a God who forgives? Are you able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you? Are you able to ask forgiveness from them?”

Complete Article HERE!