Category: Opinion

Opinion letters
by Various Authors

A trial balloon has been sent aloft showing that the aged Pope is considering an unprecedented action- praying for forgiveness of the sins of Catholic Church in the last 2,000 years. Aimed at appeasing critics that appeal for consideration of the sins of the RC church during the German execution of the holocaust and a few other sad chapters in the history of the past 2,000 years, the Pope may be trying to find a way to move for church unification that special interests in the Vatican can't 'head-off' or deflect.

It could be a seminal event trying to find a way to happen!

Vatican says pope plans historic
apology for sins of Catholics
Associated Press Writer
March 7, 2000
Web posted at: 1:47 PM EST (1847 GMT)

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Fulfilling a major goal of his papacy, Pope John Paul II plans to deliver a historic, sweeping apology for the sins of Roman Catholics over the centuries, Vatican officials said Tuesday.

It was unclear how specific the pope would be, although the very idea has drawn opposition from some cardinals and others in the church.

The pope's homily for the Day of Pardon Mass on Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica is apparently still being written.

But a document prepared by an international group of theologians that was released in Paris last week, and statements by officials Tuesday suggested the pope will at least allude to responsibility by the Catholics in the Holocaust, the Inquisition, the Crusades and acts against other Christians in wars of religions.

Lapses by present-day Catholics, including sins against women, the poor and failure to defend against abortion, could also be included.

"The reference to errors and sins in a liturgy must be frank and capable of specifying guilt; yet given the number of sins committed in the course of 20 centuries, it must necessarily be rather summary," said Bishop Piero Marini, who is in charge of papal ceremonies.

The officials, briefing reporters on the event, also appeared to be setting limits on how such an apology should be viewed.

"It cannot assume the aspect of a spectacular self-flagellation," said Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Vatican's 2000 Jubilee Committee. The pope has campaigned for a collective examination of conscience as the church begins its third millennium.

No pope has ever gone to such lengths to seek forgiveness for past sins, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

The idea for an apology has been on the pope's mind for some time.

"What is interesting is that it is always the pope and the Catholic church who asked forgiveness while others remained silent," John Paul told reporters while flying to Brazil in 1997. "Maybe that is as it should be."

When the pope was planning celebrations for 2000, the Vatican acknowledged that some cardinals wanted him to look ahead and not backward through the church's history.

The theological commission document also spoke of reservations raised by those worried that an admission of fault by Catholics"may look like acquiescence in the face of accusations made by those prejudicially hostile to the church."

During the ceremony Sunday, the pope is expected to drop to his knees in prayer. The theological document released last week broke little new ground and was instead intended to provide the context for the pope's call for a "purification" of the church.

On the Holocaust, the document said it was important to keep a "moral and religious memory" of the injury inflicted on Jews.

"In this area, much has already been done, but this should be confirmed and deepened," the document said.

Some Jews were upset that the Vatican's landmark 1998 document on the Holocaust did not condemn the church hierarchy for a failures to save Jews.

The Vatican and John Paul have consistently defended Pope Pius XII, who served during World War II and is a candidate for beatification.

Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau said the latest reference to the Holocaust was "quite disappointing."
"It adds nothing to the low-key statements made in the past," he said. "It is impossible to correct a crime of the past without any mention, for example, of Pius XII when he stood on the blood of the victims and did not say a word."

And an Italian gay rights group complained that the document failed to ask forgiveness for the treatment of homosexuals, calling them "the most numerous victims of theocratic violence, in the past as today." The church condemns homosexual acts.

What does this mean?
by Richard R. Tryon

This incredible report will set the world abuzz with more questions than any Pope can answer. However, far more profound ones are to be asked than just what sins qualify for the "list" of sins committed by the Roman Catholic Church since Christ was with us.

At the very top of my list is not the terror bestowed upon my Huguenot ancestors, who fled France in 1550, or any other specific event, but the major sin that must be accepted by just allowing that any sin has been committed by the Roman Catholic church. How can it sin if its Pope is infallible? A 'house of cards' is falling!

Is this monolithic church, run by dogma, crafted by the experts in the Vatican in the name of the infallible Pope (in such matters as those to be classified as major sins), about to 'come-clean'. Will it admit- like those who paraded the so-called compact of 1952 between the people of PR and the U.S. that fooled many in PR for just fifty years to believe that they can negotiate with the U.S. government as sovereign equals-will it admit that the RC church is not really lead by an infallible Pope?

How can the Pope publicly confess to the idea that the Roman Catholic Church made one decision that turned out to have been in error? Will it try to weasel like a Bill Clinton, and say that the Inquisition was a sin, but it was not driven by an important decision about a matter of faith? It was just a human whim of a Pope, an evidence of a personal failing only! Making that kind of distinction is not going to 'play well in Peoria' or be accepted in any other city of the world. It only compounds the felony!

What possible positive results can be achieved by this Pope coming to the people and admitting that the Church has not only been guilty of sins of commission and omission ever since it was formed; but that its leaders are not perfect human beings patterned after their image of the Lord because of their careful and prayerful learning, life, and experiences.

To bring the Catholic hierarchy down to the level of the common man can only yield one great and positive result. It shows that Protestants and Roman Catholics are all represented by fallible men and women. With one act of penance and admission of guilt, this Pope can go down in history as the one who solved the greatest of the problems that prevent church unity. All protestants can accept this common truth.

To be sure, there are many more divisive problems, the least of which is completing the list of sins of the past by the only Christian church of the first millennium (including, of course, the Eastern Orthodox). Many special groups with advocates shouting loudly will insist that their perception of being sinned against, not only belongs on the list, but that their matter should be higher on the list! To them it matters on both counts!

To take just one issue, consider: Will this action open the doors for women in the RC church to be ordained? Has the Church sinned against women? Just ask any one!

Will the Church admit that when it told Galileo that he didn't know what he discovered it was committing a sin? Can it concede that Bible scholars and Vatican experts working only with the evidence of the past, are sinning, because they do not know what God has revealed to others? Can they surrender their claimed 'monopoly' on truth?

If the Pope can leave a lasting mark of this sort, his tenure will be recognized by all, who think about these matters, as the tme when the RC Church finally broke free of its greatest sin- that of thinking it can be infallible. The rest of the list is for those who want to be on it to argue about.

A legacy can be left that could lead to the solution of many problems:

1. If the time comes for just one Christian heritage to be accepted by all worship liturgical variations, that avoids man-made dogma, it will be hard for the civil war in N. Ireland to be maintained as a religious war.

2. If such a common ground is found, then Christianity can be show cased to the non-believers as a religion based upon just the fundamental truths about Christ, relatively free of the adornments created by man in the name of 2,000 years of expression of faith, that have included many errors and sins of omission and commission.

3. Perhaps modern science can help eliminate some of the human sins that relate to such issues as:
a. Creationism vs Evolution- or what have we learned about this issue since Darwin's classic work?

b. What moral questions must we teach men and women to consider before being confronted with parental responsibility so that abortion is almost never taken as a personal choice? Included must be a consideration of the need to multiply the population.

c. How do we put an acceptable copy of God's revealed code of morality into the daily life of our social, business, education, and governmental culture without giving any secular power to clerics? And how do we put positive secular examples of moral conduct as an example for the clerics? Both need live by the same set of moral rules.

If progress can be made in this millennium on this agenda, Pope John Paul II will have answered the question of one Fidel Castro, among many others, who have criticized the Roman Church for its haughty attitude that makes it look like it can commit no sin!

Update of 3-12-2000 He did make the admission of Church sin

Pope Seeks Pardon for Catholics

.c The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (March 12) - Pope John Paul II asked forgiveness Sunday for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, singling out the mistreatment of Jews and the violation of rights of ethnic groups.

The Day of Pardon Mass in St. Peter's Basilica was a highlight of the pope's campaign for a collective examination of conscience as his church begins its third millennium.

The pope's homily did not single out specific groups or historical moments, but special prayers during the Mass addressed general categories of oppression.

On behalf of the church, five Vatican cardinals and two bishops made a confession of sin, with a response from the pope.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy, raising the issue of the treatment of Jews, said ``Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by a not a few of their number against the people of the covenant.''

``We are deeply saddened by the behavior 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,'' the pope responded.

Oher confessions touched on treatment of racial and ethnic groups and ``contempt for their cultures and religious traditions'' and toward women ``who are all too often humiliated and emarginated.''

The 79-year-old pope, in a purple robes, leaned on his silver staff during the Mass. His voice was clear but his hands shook, a symptom of Parkinson's.

``We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed toward followers of other religions,'' John Paul said in his homily.
At the same time, John Paul said he was seeking pardon for sins committed against Catholics, describing his action as an attempt to ``purify the memory'' from a sad history of hate and rivalry.

In preparing for Sunday's Mass, Vatican officials cautioned against viewing the event as a ``spectacular self-flagellation.''

John Paul's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said last week that pope would ask ``pardon from God,'' not from individual groups who have been wronged.

Jewish groups in particular had hoped the Day of Pardon would further the church's condemnations of Catholic treatment of Jews, particularly the actions of its leaders during the Holocaust.

But there was no mention of the Holocaust.
One specific group mentioned was the Roma, also known as Gypsies, in a confession of hatred toward the weakest members of society.

Lapses by Catholics regarding abortion, mistreatment of children and ``those who abuse the promise of biotechnology'' were also mentioned.

``How many times have Christians themselves not recognized you in the hungry, the thirsty and the naked, in the persecuted, the imprisoned, and those incapable of defending themselves, especially in the first stages of life,'' the pope said.

Jewish leaders asked for reaction stressed the importance of the pope's action in seeking forgiveness, although they said they would have preferred specific mention of the Holocaust and the role of church leaders.

``It was not an individual Christian who ordered the ghettoes established,'' said Italian Jewish leader Tullia Zevi.

``There is no doubt that the request for forgiveness is very significant and even historic, coming from the pope in the name of Christian believers,'' said Avner Shalev, chairman of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, which the pope will visit later this month during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Shalev said he expected the pope would address the issue of the Holocaust during his visit.

AP-NY-03-12-00 0817EST

Text of Pope's Forgiveness Appeal

By The Associated Press

Excerpts from Day of Pardon Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday,
where Roman Catholic leaders asked God's forgiveness for a host of sins
by Catholics throughout history.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy confesses sins against the people of Israel:

``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.''

Response by Pope John Paul II:

``God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring
your Name to the Nations: We are deeply saddened by the behavior 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.''


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on ``sins committed in the service of truth'':

``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.''

Response by the pope:

``In certain periods of history Christians have at times given into
intolerance and have not been faithful to the great commandment of love,
sullying in this way the face of the Church... .''


Cardinal Francis Arinze on sins against women and ``the unity of the
human race:''

``Let us pray for women, who are all too often humiliated and
marginalized, and let us acknowledge the forms of acquiescence in these
sins of which Christians too have been guilty.''

Response by the pope:

``Lord God ... at times the equality of your sons and daughters has not
been acknowledged, and Christians have been guilty of attitudes of
rejection and exclusion... .''

Mar 12, 2000 update by Richard R. Tryon

Well, the story is now out in full force! The Pope did what nobody talked about for a few days beforehand. His words are unmistaken able. He did admit to the failures of the church as its sins. Now we have to wait to see who else sees any connection with sin and infallibility? It is hard to believe that Popes can sin but not be fallible? OK, you can find a way to claim that matters of doctrine are not linked to any of the sins. But, do you really think this idea will stand the test of close scrutiny?

Certainly one can’t claim that the Pope at the time of any Inquisition was not one that was infallible. If so, what changed to make any later Pope infallible? The Second Vatican Council found this discovery, but did it say that it was only forward looking? Have their been no sins since? Or none that involved matters of faith?

I will continue to pray for a broader interpretation in hopes that it will help bring church unity- not as one monolithic enterprise- but as one in the sense of accepting all liturgical manners as being acceptable in the eyes of Christ or Lord.

As an evidence of how important it is to the Roman Catholic church to try to ‘clean-up’ its act by making a public apology, one only needs to read the report below that shows how significant numbers of people, living close to the Vatican, have publicly taken to actions which tend to make the church seem unimportant. This too is a most unfortunate reaction to an institution that should not have so much ‘dirty-laundry’ and ‘skeletons’ in its closets.

If the RC church is to enjoy real reform, it will have to undo a lot of its past anointing of those that did not deserve it and move to be far more open to ideas that include more significant roles for women, marriage of priests, and a sign of a willingness to meet protestants on a level playing field.

Bad popes ``canonised'' in anti-clerical spoof

By Jude Webber

POGGIO MIRTETO, Italy, March 12 (Reuters) - For Pope John Paul Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent and a solemn and unprecedented day of seeking forgiveness for the sins of the Roman Catholic Church.

But for the town of Poggio Mirteto 50 km (30 miles) north of Rome it was a day of anti-clerical celebration with the spoof canonisation of what the organisers said were three of the Church's biggest baddies.

As dusk fell, a fake Pope John Paul III and a fake cardinal took the stage in front of the cathedral to the strains of religious chanting.

Beside them, also in costume, were the three prospective ``people's saints'' with a bishop in a white mitre and a witch in a black hood.

To applause and cheers, they proclaimed eighth century Pope Stephen II patron saint of fraudsters, 16th century Pope Paul III patron of sodomisers and his contemporary, Pope Pius V, as patron saint of heretics.

``We aren't Catholics and we think you have to fight the Catholic religion by making fun of it,'' organiser Alberto Menabene told Reuters.

Of the three ``people's saints,'' only Pius V belongs to the Church's pantheon of saints, revered for his personal goodness.


Anti-clericalism runs deep in Poggio Mirteto. In the 19th century the town held a referendum to withdraw from the papal states and link up with the nascent Italian kingdom.

Menabene said he was amused by the coincidence that the ``canonisations'' coincided with the Pope's ``mea culpa.''

In his forgiveness day homily at the Vatican, the Pope apologised for Christians who had used violence in the service of truth -- a reference to the treatment of heretics.

Menabene said the Pope was unlikely to apologise for the ``miracle'' he ascribed to Pope Stephen II -- conning France into giving the papacy land that laid the foundations for the papal states.

The basis for the handover was a forgery recording the gift by Constantine, the first Christian emperor, of the Western Roman Empire to the papacy.

``It was a gigantic fraud that created a church state that lasted 11 centuries,'' said Menabene, 74.

He ascribed a litany of sins to his second ``saint,'' Pope Paul III, calling him a ``champion of nepotism'' for naming two teenage grandsons as his first cardinals.

Menabene said Paul III should be revered as the patron saint of sodomisers for absolving his own son of raping a bishop and having him murdered.

The third ``saint,'' Pius V, is perhaps best remembered for excommunicating Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1570.

Menabene, however, said Pius' gift to the Church was the publication of a catechism in which the Biblical commandment ``Thou shalt not commit adultery'' was extended into ``Thou shalt not commit impure acts.''

That was tantamount to trying to go one better than God -- the ultimate heresy, he said.

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