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When Once One Grovels

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Those who praise the Pope’s apologies for the supposed sins of Catholics in virtually every time and place are overlooking something: the Pope having commenced this unprecedented procedure, he (and his successors) will be hard pressed to stop it. The Pope will be expected to serve as a permanent source of ecclesial apologies whenever someone feels offended.

Thus, within hours of the Pope’s departure from Athens (where he apologized for all of our alleged “sins” against the Greek Orthodox), His “Beatitude” Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, flew off to Moscow to assure Russian Orthodox patriarch Alexis II that the Greeks “are now waiting for further positive steps from the Roman Catholic Church.” That is, they are waiting for more apologies. As for the Greeks, they don’t see that they have anything to apologize for. The fault is all Rome’s. This is the process John Paul II has unleashed.

And now, according to the Albany Daily News, the Anti-Defamation League “is criticizing Pope John Paul for his silence in the face of anti-Jewish statements by Syrian leaders in his presence” during the Pope’s trip to Damascus following the Athens apology. The ADL has taken out a full page ad to be published in the New York Times, which declares: “Pope John Paul II, we were greatly saddened by your silence.”

So now they want the Pope to atone for his “sin” of remaining silent concerning the statements of non-Catholics against Israel. William Donahue, the President of the Catholic League, has had enough: “It is time for those who are serious about good Catholic-Jewish relations to stop with the ‘it's never enough' refrain and get real,” reports the Albany Daily News.

But the refrain of “it’s never enough” was only to be expected once the Pope started apologizing to the world for all the alleged sins of Catholics. Whether he intended to or not, the Pope has constituted himself as a kind of one-man roving commission of apologies, constantly receiving requests to apologize for Catholic “sins,” even as they accrue on a daily basis. Hence the immediate demand for an apology for the Pope’s own “sin” of “remaining silent” in Damascus. /

No other pope in Church history apologized to the world for the sins of other Catholics, living and dead. Perhaps this is because it is rash to presume sin in others, and theologically impossible to ask forgiveness for the sins of the dead, who have already been either forgiven or condemned by God. The bitter fruits of the papal apologies of John Paul II demonstrate why none of his predecessors attempted such an exercise. For, once the Vicar of Christ apologizes to an unbelieving world, the world’s appetite for this spectacle will be as large as its hatred of the Church itself.