How Sorry Is Sorry Enough? In Some Hearts, the Church Will Never Find Forgiveness (UPDATED)

How Sorry Is Sorry Enough? In Some Hearts, the Church Will Never Find Forgiveness (UPDATED) October 20, 2013

Cardinal Tagle

On October 18, the Archbishop of Manila made a public apology for the sins of the Church.

And once again, the perennial non-forgivers used the occasion of his apology as an opportunity to spew hatred against the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, speaking to about 5,000 attendees of the Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization, expressed contrition for the sins, the hurts that the Church has inflicted on non-Catholics and non-Christians.  According to a report in the Catholic Herald, Cardinal Tagle apologized for those times when the Church has failed to recognize a need:

“We want to say, we want to ask forgiveness to the poor that have been neglected, the hungry, the thirsty, that we did not see or hear. We want to ask forgiveness from the women who have been degraded, dehumanised”.

He continued his apology, asking forgiveness for the children without care, for orphans, widows and the vulnerable.  He begged forgiveness, too, from those who “hurt us”. He added:

“We want to say we forgive you, we love you, and we hope we can start to build a world of love, justice, truth, and peace, not just for ourselves but for the next generations”.

And then the comboxes exploded. 

The perennially incensed enemies of the Church cried for vengeance—demanding that the Catholic Church apologize for the Spanish Inquisition; for the Galileo affair; for poor financial stewardship and misuse of parish funds; for pedophiles’ sins against children; and for how American troops treated Philippine women in bars during World War II.

BUT SEE:  There is nothing—I repeat, NOTHING—that could appease some of these folks. 

Thirteen years ago, Pope John Paul II established a worldwide “Day of Pardon”.  On that day he offered public apologies for the sins of the Catholic Church “committed in the service of truth” and because Christians “have at times given in to intolerance”.

But Pope John Paul II was continually criticized, despite his repeated apologies on behalf of the Church.  He labeled pedophilia “an appalling sin” that has no place in the Church.  In England, he apologized to the victims and their families, expressing his profound sense of solidarity and concern.  He said he had been “deeply grieved by the fact that priests, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young.”

The abuse crisis was a wake-up call; and safeguards have been put in place to ensure that this cannot happen again.  Meanwhile, the Church continues to provide financial assistance and care to those who were victims of abuse during the clergy scandals of the past.

But there are many people who, for some reason of their own, do not wish to accept an apology.

Perhaps they are trapped in victimhood.  Like the woman who loves to complain about her indolent husband or her wayward children, they long for the attention that their martyr status invokes.

Perhaps they see a financial opportunity.  The attorney who builds his practice on clergy cases may perceive the Church as having deep pockets.  It may matter little to him that the riches he amasses would have been spent, but for his litigation, on feeding the poor and educating the children and nursing the sick.

Perhaps—and this may be the biggest temptation of all—they don’t want to forgive the Church because they don’t want to obey the Church.  People in this group include those who prefer to continue in sin, such as sexual sins (premarital sex or extramarital infidelity, homosexuality, pornography), rather than returning to the Church.  The group includes those who love to linger under the covers on Sunday morning, rather than making an effort to get to weekly Mass.

To these groups, and to all who have been injured, let me extend my apology along with Cardinal Tagle’s.  Things have happened in the Church, as in the rest of the world, which are truly reprehensible.

But I ask you:  Will you accept that apology?  Or will you wear your grudge like a badge of honor, embracing malignity, residing in that place of bitterness all your days?

Because if that’s your plan, the one who will suffer the most is you.

*     *     *     *     *

UPDATE:  Now this is exactly what I was talking about.  

Those of you who have commented or contacted me with criticisms of former Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law:  Please consider whether it’s time to let it rest.  He made mistakes, as have we all; but he is a man of God.  It is God’s purview to judge his heart–it is most definitely not your role.  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

You may want to check out my earlier post regarding Cardinal Law.


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