Question: I have seen secular newspaper articles and stories in Christian periodicals to the effect that Pope John Paul II has apologized for whatever sins Catholics may have committed against non-Catholics. [T]he Christian media seems quite happy about this. In fact, Jack Van Impe quoted the Pope’s confession and said, “This is probably one of the greatest confessions that’s ever been made.” How do you view this?
Response: Here is the “confession” Jack quoted on his TV program July 23, 1995: “Today I, the Pope of the Church of Rome, in the name of all Catholics, ask forgiveness for the wrongs inflicted on non-Catholics….May this day mark a new beginning in a common effort to follow Christ; His Gospel; His law of love; His supreme desire for the unity of those who believe in Him that they may all be one.”
Remember, the Pope’s “gospel” is not what Paul preached; his goal that “all may be one” must be realized only under the papacy; and the “law of love” must conform to Rome’s Code of Canon Law of more that 1,100 pages.
In this half-hearted apology, which Van Impe calls “one of the greatest confessions,” the Pope confesses nothing, but speaks in generalities. No Catholic priest would accept such a “confession”! Sin must be named and described. The Bible offers no example of a “confession” that says, “I repent of whatever I may have done wrong.” Such a “repentance” gives no evidence either of conviction of sin or of remorse.
Furthermore, the apology is not for what the popes and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church have done, but for what ordinary Catholics may have done. The Pope apologizes “in the name of all Catholics” for the sins of “the sons and daughters” or of the “children” of the Church. There is never an admission that it was the Church itself through its popes and bishops that conceived and led the Crusades, and invented and directed the Inquisitions and other persecutions and slaughters.
Note the official apology of John Paul II from his Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millenio Adveniente:
The Church should become more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling…when they departed from the spirit of Christ…[and] indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter-witness and scandal….
One painful chapter of history to which the church must return with a spirit of repentance is that of the acquiescence given…to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of the truth.
[M]itigating factors do not exonerate the church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face….(Emphasis added)
The Pope dishonestly gives a false impression of where the guilt lies. Staunch Catholic, Comte Le Maistre, writing in 1815 to justify the Spanish Inquisition, says it existed “by virtue of the bull of the sovereign pontiff” and that the Grand Inquisitor was “always either an archbishop or bishop.”
It was the allegedly infallible “successors of Peter” and “vicars of Christ” who invented the Inquisition and enforced it. Nineteenth-century Catholic historian R. W. Thompson declares, “Gregory IX, in 1233, handed over the office [of the Inquisition] in permanence to the Dominicans, but always to be exercised in the name, and byt the authority of, the Pope” (emphasis added). Present-day Catholic historian Peter de Rosa writes, “Of eight popes in a line from the thirteenth century on, not one of them disapproved of the theology and apparatus of Inquisition. On the contrary, one after another added his own cruel touches ot the workings of this deadly machine…for more than six centuries without a break, the papacy was the sworn enemy of elementary justice.” Likewise, J. H. Ignaz von Dollinger, a leading nineteenth-century Catholic professor of church history, confessed: “[S]ince 1183, the view of the Church had been…[that] every departure from the teaching of the Church…must be punished with death, and the most cruel of deaths, by fire.” It was not the “sons and daughters” or the “children” of the Church, but the Church itself through its leaders, especially the popes, who were the enemies of freedom of religion and conscience and who conceived and enforced for centuries the torture and slaughter by the millions of all who opposed them.
The Pope’s alleged “apology” is actually a cover-up that places the blame upon rank-and-file Catholics instead of upon the Church hierarchy where it belongs. The most he admits to is the Church’s “acquiescence” in failing to keep her children in line.
It is a travesty to simply ask forgiveness “for the wrongs inflicted on non-Catholics” without specifying those wrongs. Such a sham apology is an insult to the millions of victims. And that Jack Van Impe would laud this “confession” betrays a blindness both to history and to the current deception of John Paul II’s ecumenism! The Pope deceitfully suits his message to his audience. In Central and South America, he warns Catholics against the very evangelicals with whom elsewhere he advocates unity.
Can we forgive Rome? By the grace that God alone can give, most if not all of the millions of martyrs at the time of their cruel torture and execution surely held in their hearts the words of Jesus: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That prayer, however, even from our Lord, is only answered when sin is admitted and His finished work upon the cross is embraced as the remedy.