Last three popes pioneer new “dogma” of papal fallibility [rather, public apology]

Last three popes pioneer new “dogma” of papal fallibility public apology

Inés San Martín – Apr 16, 2018

ROME– Almost 150 years ago, Pope Pius IX led the Catholic Church in declaring the dogma of papal infallibility applied to solemn declarations of faith and morals, according to which popes are preserved from the possibility of error. It was the culmination of centuries of mounting efforts to provide a sense of absolute certainty that popes won’t, even can’t, get it wrong when it comes to teaching.

Without quite saying it, what the last three popes have done is to pioneer a companion dogma of papal fallibility when it’s a question of practice.

For centuries, supreme pontiffs never publicly apologized for anything; quite literally, being pope meant never having to say you’re sorry. Certainly, this didn’t mean that they lacked reasons to do so, but it was considered unseemly, unregal. It was seen as a sign of weakness, unbecoming of the Successor of Peter.

Saint Pope John Paul II, however, broke the mold, getting the ball rolling when it comes to papal apologies. In 1998, Italian journalist Luigi Accattoli catalogued at least 94 apologies made by the Polish pope in the book When a Pope Asks Forgiveness.

During the 27 years of his pontificate, John Paul II delivered many apologies, speaking in the name of the Church. The wide range of mea culpas included specific people who were harmed by the Church, like Galileo Galilei, to groups of people such as those convicted by the Inquisition, Muslims killed in the Crusades and Africans enslaved with the help of the Church.

Going even further, in the year 2000, during the Great Jubilee, in a “Day of Pardon” John Paul II apologized in the name of the Church for the sins of its sons and daughters against Jews, heretics, women, Gypsies and native peoples.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, helped provided a theological framework for the apology through a document called Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past.

The document served as a reminder that even though the apology was in the name of the Church, it was for the wrongdoings of individual Christians, because the Church itself is always holy.

One could argue that as revolutionary as these apologies were, John Paul II wasn’t apologizing for his personal failures. Instead, he was making the institutional decision to ask for forgiveness in the name of the Church for past sins and mistakes.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI carried that tradition forward, issuing what at the time was defined as an historic apology to the victims of clerical sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland.

Addressing the victims and their families directly in an eight-page pastoral letter, Benedict wrote: “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry.”

“I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured,” he wrote in 2010. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity violated.”

But the German pontiff didn’t apologize only for the Church’s institutional failures, but his own.

The first time he did so was in 2006, after a famous speech on the state of Christianity in the modern world that he delivered at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The lecture, titled Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections, was about the West’s tendency to separate reason and faith.

However, during his address he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who claimed Muhammad brought “things only evil and inhuman,” and that violence is “incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”

Taken out of context, it was seen as an attack against Islam, which sparked wide protests across the Arab world. People were killed as a result.

Five days later, during his weekly Sunday Angelus address, delivered in the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI apologized for his remarks, saying he was “deeply sorry” for the reaction some of its passages had caused.

“These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought,” he said.

In 2009, as part of a broader effort from the man once dubbed “God’s Rottweiler” to reach out to all dissidents, including the traditionalist group known as the Society of Pius X, he lifted the excommunication of four bishops who’d been validly but not legitimately ordained.

Among them was Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson. Headlines about the pope “rehabilitating a Holocaust denier” became the shot heard round the world.

Weeks later, Benedict issued an agonizing letter to all the bishops of the world apologizing for the hurt caused by the affair, expressing “deep regret” over the mistakes made in the process of reaching out to the Society and its members. He even admitted that much of the heartburn could have been avoided if the Vatican had used the Internet to research the four men in question.

Last week, with an apology to a group of Chilean survivors of clerical sexual abuse, Pope Francis moved the ball even further by institutionalizing the tradition of personal papal apologies.

“I recognize and I want you to communicate this accurately, that I have made serious errors of judgement and perception of the situation, especially due to lack of truthful and balanced information,” Francis wrote in a letter addressed to the Chilean bishops.

Later this month the pope is expected to meet with the three abuse survivors, James Hamilton, Juan Carlos Cruz and Jose Andres Murillo, who have been the most outspoken regarding clerical sexual abuse in Chile and the systematic cover-up, but the letter released on Wednesday included an apology “to all those whom I offended.”

RELATED: Pope admits ‘serious errors’ on Chilean bishop accused of cover up

In the words of Cruz, Francis appears to have “opened his eyes to a reality … about thousands of lives who have been crucified” by priests who rape and fondle children.

Although a humbling exercise, apologies can be void of meaning without a follow-through, and much remains to be done in the case of the Chilean Church and its response to clerical sexual abuse.

Those fighting to keep the Church accountable when it comes to the protection of minors do well to have high expectations but also reservations when it comes to next month’s meeting between Francis and the 32 Chilean bishops, whom he’s summoned to Rome to address the crisis.

In the future, most people would probably say, Francis and his successors should set themselves the goal of never having to apologize for such colossal mistakes again.

Humanity being what it is, however, there will undoubtedly be further need for a papal “I’m sorry.” But in a world where acknowledging mistakes is fast becoming a dying art, at least when it comes to the leader of the Catholic Church, by now there’s a blueprint for how to do it, and an expectation for it to be done.

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11 comments on “Last three popes pioneer new “dogma” of papal fallibility [rather, public apology]

  1. [JP2’s (politically correct in content and language – at least in the Vatican’s English translation) public apology (presumably prepared or overseen by his Doctrinal Congregation Prefect, then-Cardinal Ratzinger) on the “Day of Pardon” during the Great Jubilee of 2000]

    CONFESSION OF SINS AND ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS

    Introduction

    The Holy Father:

    Brothers and Sisters,
    let us turn with trust to God our Father,
    who is merciful and compassionate,
    slow to anger, great in love and fidelity,
    and ask him to accept the repentance of his people
    who humbly confess their sins,
    and to grant them mercy.

    All pray for a moment in silence.

    I. CONFESSION OF SINS IN GENERAL

    A representative of the Roman Curia

    Let us pray that our confession and repentance
    will be inspired by the Holy Spirit,
    that our sorrow will be conscious and deep,
    and that, humbly viewing the sins of the past
    in an authentic “purification of memory”,
    we will be committed to the path of true conversion.

    Silent prayer.

    The Holy Father:

    Lord God,
    your pilgrim Church,
    which you ever sanctify in the blood of your Son,
    counts among her children in every age
    members whose holiness shines brightly forth
    and members whose disobedience to you
    contradicts the faith we profess and the Holy Gospel.
    You, who remain ever faithful,
    even when we are unfaithful,
    forgive our sins
    and grant that we may bear true witness to you
    before all men and women.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

    Cantor:

    Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

    The assembly repeats:

    Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

    A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

    II. CONFESSION OF SINS COMMITTED IN THE SERVICE OF TRUTH

    A representative of the Roman Curia:

    Let us pray that each one of us,
    looking to the Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
    will recognize that even men of the Church,
    in the name of faith and morals,
    have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel
    in the solemn duty of defending the truth.

    Silent prayer.

    The Holy Father:

    Lord, God of all men and women,
    in certain periods of history
    Christians have at times given in to intolerance
    and have not been faithful to the great commandment of love,
    sullying in this way the face of the Church, your Spouse.
    Have mercy on your sinful children
    and accept our resolve
    to seek and promote truth in the gentleness of charity,
    in the firm knowledge that truth
    can prevail only in virtue of truth itself.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

    R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

    A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

    III. CONFESSION OF SINS WHICH HAVE HARMED THE UNITY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST

    A representative of the Roman Curia:

    Let us pray that our recognition of the sins
    which have rent the unity of the Body of Christ
    and wounded fraternal charity
    will facilitate the way to reconciliation
    and communion among all Christians.

    Silent prayer.

    The Holy Father:

    Merciful Father,
    on the night before his Passion
    your Son prayed for the unity of those who believe in him:
    in disobedience to his will, however,
    believers have opposed one another, becoming divided,
    and have mutually condemned one another and fought against one another.
    We urgently implore your forgiveness
    and we beseech the gift of a repentant heart,
    so that all Christians, reconciled with you and with one another
    will be able, in one body and in one spirit,
    to experience anew the joy of full communion.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

    R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

    A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

    IV. CONFESSION OF SINS AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

    A representative of the Roman Curia:

    Let us pray that, in recalling the sufferings
    endured by the people of Israel throughout history,
    Christians will acknowledge the sins
    committed by not a few of their number
    against the people of the Covenant and the blessings,
    and in this way will purify their hearts.

    Silent prayer.

    The Holy Father:

    God of our fathers,
    you chose Abraham and his descendants
    to bring your Name to the Nations:
    we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those
    who in the course of history
    have caused these children of yours to suffer,
    and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves
    to genuine brotherhood
    with the people of the Covenant.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen

    R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

    A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

    V. CONFESSION OF SINS COMMITTED IN ACTIONS AGAINST LOVE, PEACE, THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLES, AND RESPECT FOR CULTURES AND RELIGIONS

    A representative of the Roman Curia:

    Let us pray that contemplating Jesus,
    our Lord and our Peace,
    Christians will be able to repent of the words and attitudes
    caused by pride, by hatred,
    by the desire to dominate others,
    by enmity towards members of other religions
    and towards the weakest groups in society,
    such as immigrants and itinerantes

    Silent prayer.

    The Holy Father:

    Lord of the world, Father of all,
    through your Son
    you asked us to love our enemies,
    to do good to those who hate us
    and to pray for those who persecute us.
    Yet Christians have often denied the Gospel;
    yielding to a mentalíty of power,
    they have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples,
    and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions:
    be patient and merciful towards us, and grant us your forgiveness!
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

    R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison.

    A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

    VI. CONFESSION OF SINS AGAINST THE DIGNITY OF WOMEN AND THE UNITY OF THE HUMAN RACE

    A Representative of the Roman Curia:

    Let us pray for all those who have suffered offences
    against their human dignity and whose rights have been trampled;
    let us pray for women, who are all too often humiliated and emarginated,
    and let us acknowledge the forms of acquiescence in these sins
    of which Christians too have been guilty.

    Silent prayer.

    The Holy Father:

    Lord God, our Father,
    you created the human being, man and woman,
    in your image and likeness
    and you willed the diversity of peoples
    within the unity of the human family.
    At times, however, the equality of your sons
    and daughters has not been acknowledged,
    and Christians have been guilty of attitudes
    of rejection and exclusion,
    consenting to acts of discrimination
    on the basis of racial and ethnic differences.
    Forgive us and grant us the grace to heal the wounds
    still present in your community on account of sin,
    so that we will all feel ourselves to be your sons and daughters.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

    R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison.

    A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

    VII. CONFESSION OF SINS IN RELATION TO THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE PERSON

    A Representative of the Roman Curia:

    Let us pray for all the men and women of the world,
    especially for minors who are victims of abuse,
    for the poor, the alienated, the disadvantaged;
    let us pray for those who are most defenceless,
    the unborn killed in their mother’s womb
    or even exploited for experimental purposes
    by those who abuse
    the promise of biotechnology
    and distort the aims of science.

    Silent prayer.

    The Holy Father:

    God, our Father,
    you always bear the cry of the poor.
    How many times have Christians themselves not recognized you
    in the hungry, the thirsty and the naked,
    in the persecuted, the imprisoned,
    and in those incapable of defending themselves,
    especially in the first stages of life.
    For all those who bave committed acts of injustice
    by trusting in wealth and power
    and showing contempt for the “little ones”
    who are so dear to you, we ask your fogiveness:
    have mercy on us and accept our repentance.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

    R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison.

    A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

    Concluding Prayer

    The Holy Father:

    Most merciful Father,
    your Son, Jesus Christ, the judge of the living and the dead,
    in the humility of his first coming
    redeemed humanity from sin
    and in his glorious return he will demand an account of every sin.
    Grant that our forebears, our brothers and sisters,
    and we, your servants, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit
    turn back to you in whole-hearted repentance,
    may experience your mercy and receive
    the forgiveness of our sins.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    R. Amen.

  2. I can only imagine the reaction that pile of maudlin socialist BS got from, oh, St. John Chrysostum. St. Thomas Aquinas, SS. Pius V & X, Isabella the Catholic, etc. when it appeared in the “Heavenly Herald”, upstairs….
    /
    Another Wojtylan exercise in ecclesial hari-kari, predicated upon trendy tosh and mewly piffle.

  3. First this:
    “Almost 150 years ago, Pope Pius IX led the Catholic Church in declaring the dogma of papal infallibility applied to *solemn* declarations of faith and morals”
    So the author has some notion that infallibility is not monolithic; it doesn’t apply to a pope’s everday actions, even teaching actions, unless they are in some way solemnized.
    /
    Then this:
    “Without quite saying it, what the last three popes have done is to pioneer a companion dogma of papal fallibility when it’s a question of practice.”
    How can there be “pioneering” here, when this is what the Church has always taught?
    BY DEFINITION, practice is NOT a declaration of faith or morals.
    /
    Oh, BTW, no pope “leads the Catholic Church in declaring dogma”. When an actual spoken declaration is made of a dogma, it is always the pope alone who does so. As for other dogmas, they simply come down to us from Tradition, they are not declared as such.
    /
    The author shows herself incapable of understanding basic reality, not to mention showing herself grievously ignorant of basic Catholic doctrine.
    /
    Then this:
    “Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, helped provided a theological framework for the apology through a document called Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past.
    The document served as a reminder that even though the apology was in the name of the Church, it was for the wrongdoings of individual Christians, because the Church itself is always holy.”
    Absolutely incomprehensible retardation.
    HOW can we individual sinners apologize for OUR sins, in the name of someone or something ELSE?
    AND, if the Church is always holy and sinless — as it assuredly is — WHY does it need to apologize for itself?
    BUT, we individual sinners are supposed to apologize not only in the name of someone else, BUT FOR THAT CHURCH, WHICH HASN’T EVEN SINNED.
    Absolute, stark raving lunacy.
    This contemptible stupidity is a rotten fruit of the attempt to square the circle, to BOTH hold the traditional doctrine that we individual sinners are only members of the Church, and not the Church Herself, and hold the Modernist doctrine that we are the “People of God”, and “We are Church”.
    /
    As an aside:
    The “holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson” never denied the “holocaust”. He has always acknowledged that it *happened*. What he denies is two things:
    1) That six million died. He claims the number is far less than that.
    2) That they were killed by gas.
    /
    The author should be barred from the journalistic profession.

  4. 9,999 out of every 10,000 eager beaver “journalists” should be barred, period.
    /
    Journalism has always been a moral and intellectual sinkhole since Gutenberg’s technology was hijacked by heretics.

    • Absolutely. My sin of omission.
      It would be interesting to study *why* journalism attracts so many libs and liars.
      (Oh, wait. A lib is a liar by definition.
      Come to think of it, a liar is a lib by definition.)
      /
      My suspicion is that
      1) Just by the fact that “journalism” presents a good opportunity to influence public opinion, it attracts prideful, know-it-all people; the kind who think that opinions are true by simple virtue of being their own, so that they feel no drive to actually learn anything (even grammar!) before they shoot off their mouths.
      2) Liberal-owned mass media favor, coddle and overpay those who suck up to them, but browbeat, banish and blackball all others.

  5. Ego te absolvo, NIN. 😉
    /
    By the bye, if I am ever invited to address a session of the London Logicians League, I will send an advance copy of my remarks to you for editing, okay? 😎

  6. One more item. My old home town is still “blessed” with three local TV news shows, AM, noon, 6, 11, the usual. Once, one of them hired a reporterette that could have been cast as Helen of Troy. She was stupefyingly gorgeous and just as brilliant as her incredible looks. Of course, a much better offer from a much larger metropolis spirited her away in no time. But for a short time, that station OWNED the 6PM slot by several orders of magnitude.
    /
    Honestly, she stuck to facts and was a consummate professional. I was driving near one of the downtown court buildings one morning as she and her cameraman were hustling across Delaware Avenue in heavy traffic to cover a trial or hearing story.
    /
    Imagine: Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea.
    /
    The whole street became silent. Cars, cabs and busses simply just stopped dead in their tracks.
    /
    I don’t know if Miss Wonderful was a Liberal or a Conservative. You could not tell. But at that moment, on lower Delaware Avenue, not one male of the species could have cared less.
    /
    I actually have a few other favorable tales to tell from local TV news heroes and heroines but nothing can compare with that morning. You had to be there to believe it. And funny thing, I bet she never even noticed… 😎 Class tells.

    • Doesn’t this say a LOT about how human nature, “journalism” and the mass media work?
      Regardless of this particular woman’s objectivity and professionalism, does anyone think she would have been so successful without her looks?
      Which means that you will be watched and listened to at least as much according to the sheer accident of your external physical appearance as you will for the truth of what you say.
      We are absolutely contemptible.
      Like little children, we can be bought with a little candy. In the case of adults, eyecandy.
      If it was in my power, I would outlaw from journalism all those, male or female, who are rated above 6 on the goodlooks scale. To have people paying any significant attention to your mere external appearance is an obstacle to what they should be paying attention to in a news program: facts.

  7. A quick mention of two “Great Moments” from TV newscasts, if only to sum up the total of those personally encountered:

    1. Tom Jolls, WKBW-TV weatherman in Buffalo, January, 1977… “The Weather Outside” format had Tom out in the news station parking lot just as the Blizzard of ’77 struck. He used a rotatable blackboard as a prop and when a hurricane-force blast hit, the flimsy construction flipped, gyrating wildly and giving the audience a view of radio host Danny Nevereath setting up an aluminum beach chair, stripped to his waist and wearing sunglasses. Dan was famous for his wacky pranks and that image will be forever stuck in the mind of every Buffalonian who went through the week-long ordeal. 😎

    2. TV Reporterette, San Diego network affiliate, May, 2014… I don’t recall her name but she was covering the seven-locations wildfires that broke out, all in one day, in heavily populated parts of North County, San Diego. She dropped everything she was doing during her broadcast from a residential street to race up a driveway and use a garden hose to halt an advancing fire caused by large embers wildly propogated by 50 mph gusts that day. Just to be within a mile of any fire zone was dangerous enough, but each local TV stations’ news teams went right up to the fire lines and, in that young heroine’s case, were doing the work of an already overtaxed group of first responders, all of whom deserved the accolades this town heaped upon them once they defeated the infernos.

    Addendum: Chicago DNC Riots, 1968: Dim Dan Blather Decked Onto the Floor of the Convention. Perhaps the funniest moment in an otherwise forgettable fake news career. 😉



  8. Moses: May the waters of the Potomac rise up and cleanse this campus…



    Moses: Almighty God was considering adding an eleventh commandment to hire orthodox faculty for Holy Cross and Notre Dame.

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