Patrick B. Craine
August 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In an op-ed at Crisis, Steubenville professor Timothy J. Williams argues that the Church should spend less time apologizing for Christians’ alleged past sins, and instead own up to its indifference to the moral evils of our own day.
In particular, Williams is concerned by Pope Francis’ recent remarks that Christians seek forgiveness “from the poor, from exploited women, [and] from children exploited as laborers.” The remarks came after the pope had said he agreed with Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s call for the Church to apologize to homosexuals.
While these apologies have been a mainstay of the last three popes, starting with Pope St. John Paul II, he says Francis has gone beyond his two immediate predecessors:
Pope Francis has taken this cult of “eorum culpa” to new heights, issuing strangely worded apologies that condemn Christians for the very things that are praiseworthy in Christianity. For example, according to the Pope, Christians should beg forgiveness “from the poor, from exploited women, [and] from children exploited as laborers,” even though, historically, no religion or other organization of any kind has ever done more for the poor, the exploited, women, and children.
Of what, ultimately, consists this fondness for issuing apologies on behalf of Christians (and specifically Catholics) of other eras? Sometimes, I ask myself whether these gestures are not just a kind of pharisaical prayer of self-praise and thanksgiving for one’s moral superiority: “The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican” (Luke 18:11). (Just add the prefix “Re-” to the last word, and voila!—moral aggiornamento.)
He then offers a better approach than merely apologizing “on behalf” of past Christians:
Let us apologize on our behalf to future generations who will never have a chance to be, because of the indifference to the crime of abortion on the part of many present-day Catholics. We have just witnessed a very public Catholic, one Sen. Tim Kaine, receiving a standing ovation from his fellow parishioners and a vote of moral approval from his pastor, despite Kaine’s strong endorsement of the most pro-abortion position ever taken by an American political party. Although a handful of bishops have spoken out against Catholics voting for pro-abortion politicians, too often politicians like Kaine will suffer no consequences for their collaboration with absolute evil.
The Catholics of the Middle Ages would not have understood this paradox, this profusion of apologies coupled with pious indifference. They had the habit of speaking bluntly about evil, and finding it in themselves, rather than in others. We would do well to follow the light of their example, living as we are in the true dark ages of humanity.