The Pope's Apology
Some have felt
comforted that in March, 2000, the pope apologized for the sins of the
past. But he was careful not to apologize for the sins of the Papacy,
but rather for the sins of Roman Catholic church members in the past,
quite a different matter.
Even the secular press detected the deception of the
Last Sunday, the pope asked the world to forgive
countless Christians of sins committed in the name of the Roman
Catholic Church. But he exonerated the Church itself of all
responsibility for those sins. Pope John Paul II wants to have his
cake and eat it, too.
The general confession by the head of a church with
more than a billion members is an extraordinary act of good conscience
and political courage.
At a Mass in St. Peter’s Church in Rome, the pope
apologized for the calamity caused by seven categories of sins
committed through the course of the Church’s history. The list
included, specifically or by inference, sinful acts done during the
Crusades, at the inquisition against Jews, women, gypsies, minorities
and human rights in general.
But the pope insists those sins were committed by
individual Christians only, never by the Church. That’s like saying
Philip Morris employees make cigarettes, but the company doesn’t. The
position is silly and dangerous. Unless the pope recognizes that the
Church has, on occasion, intentionally led members to sin, true reform
Certainly, millions of Catholics believed they were
following the teaching of the Church when doing many of the things for
which the pope now apologizes. That’s because the Church has
systematically taught and enforced many of them.
But the Catholic theology argues that the Church is
holy and can do no wrong. That is a theologically important point
about the divine nature of the church, but it ignores the very human
dimension of the institution. Conveniently, it lets the Church off the
hook for virtually anything.
One prominent Roman Catholic priest thinks the pope
should have made it clear that the children of the Church in need of
forgiveness included popes, cardinals and clergy. He believes the pope
was badly served by the Church’s bureaucracy which, like all
bureaucracies, exists to preserve its own power.
"The pope had a great idea that some in the
Vatican are obscuring with a fog machine," said the Rev. Thomas
Reese, editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine, America, in a
New York Times article Monday.
In other circumstances, there is essentially no
distinction between the pope and the Church. Catholic theology claims
that where the pope is, there is the Church. When the pope speaks, the
voice of the Church is heard.
And that Church taught Crusaders to slaughter
Muslims, directed Catholics to put Jews into ghettos and gave members
the context in which to relegate women to second-class citizenship.
Those are notorious acts the pope now sloughs off as the individual
sins of the faithful. (The Palm Beach Post [Florida, USA],
Friday, March 17, 2000)
In his book Vicars of Christ, page 244, Peter
de Rosa, a graduate of the Vatican’s Gregorian University and former
Professor of Theology and Ethics at prestigious Roman Catholic
Seminaries, stated that eighty successive popes promoted the
The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Israel Meir Lau,
specifically called on the pontiff to denounce the
silence of Pius XII during the Holocaust. (USA Today, March
Instead, the present pope is seeking to canonize Pius
XII. Another Israeli, Avner Shalev, correctly pointed out that the pope—
asked pardon and forgiveness for the individuals
but not for the church itself. (Ibid.)
The Ecumenical Movement which arose out of the
Vatican II Council of 1962—1965 has been a remarkably successful
strategy for Rome. It does not appear to enter the minds of ecumenically
minded Protestants that when they join in prayers for Christian unity
which ignore doctrinal purity, their prayer is essentially, "Lord, take
us back to Rome." No individual of the least intelligence would
seriously believe that a single united church would be Methodist,
Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian or any Protestant faith.
Further, if they read John Paul’s papal bulls, encyclicals and apostolic
letters they would see that he has not conceded a single Protestant
issue. Rome, and Rome alone, is the only beneficiary from the ecumenical
Pope John Paul II has not confined his initiatives to
the United States. It must not be forgotten that Scripture had stated
all the world wondered after [admired] the beast.
The pope had not forgotten the European base of the
Papacy, with its powerful European Union playing an active part in the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the mightiest military
alliance in the history of this world. In 1991 the pope expressed his
dream for a "continent united on Christian principles ‘from the Atlantic
to the Urals, from the Mediterranean Sea to the North Pole’" (Sydney
Morning Herald, November 30, 1991). When the pope says "Christian"
he means "Roman Catholic."
The Papacy spread its tentacles widely as the pope
was given tumultuous welcomes in Hindu nations such as India, Buddhist
strongholds including Thailand and even in Israel. The pope felt it
proper to send a personal letter to Dame Catherine Tizzard, the Governor
General of New Zealand March 19, 1994, in an attempt to influence that
nation’s response at the September 1994 "International Conference on
Population and Development."
Roman Catholic influence in Protestant nations is
found not only in disproportionate numbers in the legislatures, but in
the public service and, more significantly, in the judiciary.
Australia, a nation where only twenty-five percent of
the population are nominally Roman Catholic, the Sydney Morning
Herald of July 10, 1993, revealed that of the seven justices of the
High Court of Australia, Australia’s highest court, six had been raised
as Roman Catholics and three were practicing that faith. It named Sir
Gerard Brennan, Sir William Deane, and John Toohey as practicing Roman
Catholics and the Chief Justice Sir Anthony Mason, Mary Gaudron and
Michael Mc Hugh as having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith. While
Roman Catholics have every right to any post in the nation, nevertheless
86 percent surely is a representation in the highest court of the land
that defies chance factors. Sir William Deane later was appointed
Governor-General, the Queen’s Representative in Australia. He opened the
2000 Sydney Olympic Games in Sydney.
In Britain many prominent Anglicans joined the Roman
Catholic Church in the nineties. These included the Duchess of Kent,
married to Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, the Anglican Bishop of London, the
third highest ranking prelate in the Anglican Church, Anne Widdecombe, a
prominent member of the House of Commons, Princess Diana’s mother and
even Princess Diana herself was considering conversion to Rome before
her death (Women’s Day, January 31, 1994). Even more
significantly Tony Blair, the Anglican Prime Minister of the United
Kingdom regularly attends Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Britain’s chief
Roman Catholic Cathedral. He attends not only with his Roman Catholic
wife, but, on occasions, alone.
When the Singapore Straits Times of January 6,
1992 headlined, "Pope hopes to capitalise on the fall of communism" in
an article extracted from the London Financial Times, it was
revealing a hope which is now fully realized.
Peregrine Worsthorne, the respected editor of the
London Daily and Sunday Telegraph, wrote concerning
Europe, an article entitled "Now, a Holy European Empire." He was
cognizant of history and the part the Habsburgs had played, as Emperors
of the Holy Roman Empire, in upholding and enforcing European Roman
Catholicism over the centuries. Worsthorne clearly perceived that Rome
had returned once more to that preeminence lost when it received its
deadly wound in 1798. It was worsened by the collapse of the Holy Roman
Empire eight years later. While that empire has passed into history
along with the Austro-Hungarian Empire which extended to 1918, the
Habsburg family is still influential, as Worsthorne’s article denotes.
With the demise of Marxism, and the Christian
revival in Eastern Europe and Russia, the Polish Pope is in a uniquely
influential position. "The Common European Home" is essentially
another phrase for Christendom—to which the Eastern Europeans long to
A few years ago, when the pope addressed a meeting
of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Rev. Ian Paisley
unfurled a banner denouncing His Holiness as Antichrist. Dr Paisley’s
banner was immediately wrenched from his grasp by Dr Otto von
Habsburg, a member of the Parliament.
It was a symbolic scene, because Dr von Habsburg
also goes by the title of Archduke Otto of Austria. In palmier days
Otto von Habsburg would have gone by grander titles still: for he
would have been Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary and Holy
Roman Emperor. One of his responsibilities as Holy Roman Emperor would
have been to uphold the dignity of the Roman Catholic Church—which
might well have meant that at the request of the Pope he would have
incarcerated Dr Paisley in one of his remoter fortresses. (London
Sunday Telegraph, August 25, 1991)
Further, as Worsthorne examined the European
Community he was constrained to write, "If European federation triumphs,
the EC [now European Union—EU] will indeed be an empire. It will lack an
emperor, but it will have the Pope. It is difficult not to think that
Wojtyla [Pope John Paul II] realises this."
As we recall the intrigue between the Vatican and
America which led to the overthrow of Communism in Eastern Europe, where
prelates, priests and laity were encouraged to enter into nothing short
of treasonous activities in the cause of the aims of the Vatican and
America, we should not overlook the overwhelming likelihood that similar
clandestine consultations between these two end-time super powers
occurred before the severe NATO bombing of the Eastern Orthodox
population of Serbia during the Kosovo crisis.
In July, 1999 we visited the Serbian city of Vranje,
situated only 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the border of the Province of
Kosovo. A Christian Serb invited Russell to dinner with an Albanian
Moslem. The Albanian, an intelligent and gentle man, asked in dismay,
"Why do you believe there is so much trouble between us Albanians and
the Serbs?" Russell pointed him to the prophecy of Revelation 13 and
stated, "It well serves the Papacy’s cause to see Moslem Albanians and
Eastern Orthodox Serbs destroying one another." The Albanian man
remembered, no doubt, the fearful slaughter of Serbs by the Roman
Catholic Croatian Ustashe 1941—1945; perhaps he recalled the support of
the church hierachy and the absence of any public word of condemnation
by the Vatican, which was well aware of the genocide. (See John
Cornwall, Hitler’s Pope, Penguin Books, London, 1999, pp.
248—267.) The Albanian reflected for a few moments and then commented,
"I think you are right."
What is certain is that American "Roman Catholic
leaders back U.S. role as world’s police officer" (headline, Forth
Worth [Texas] Star-Telegram, October 27, 1993). In this
article is a report on a document "The Harvest of Justice is Sown in
Peace." This document,
written by some of the nation’s most influential
bishops including Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago and Cardinal
Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles; Archbishop John R. Roach of Minneapolis,
chairman of the bishops’ International Policy Committee; and Bishop
James Malone of Youngstown, Ohio, a former President of the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops,
the United States retains a moral responsibility to
intervene—with force if necessary—in regional conflicts and to
increase humanitarian aid to countries where it once battled
The Kosovo crisis, which climaxed in the 2000 bombing
of Serbia by NATO, ably fulfilled this call of the American hierarchy.
What is certain is that the deadly wound is now so
well healed that the scar is no longer discernible. Russell, a
consultant physician (internist), and Colin, a psychologist, have long
observed the healing of physical and mental wounds. It is no less
interesting to us to observe the progress of the healing of the deadly
wound of 1798 over a period of more than two centuries through fourteen
How did Rome rise from the Papal ashes to fulfill
God’s unerring word, "and all the world wondered after the beast" ?
(Revelation 13:3) This is no minor question. Yes, it is a most
interesting project in ecclesiastical history, but beyond that it points
to an era, this present one, where every Christian must be alert and
seek God with the whole heart. This is not the time for half-hearted
Christianity. It is time to love our Lord unreservedly, remembering
Christ’s words, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
Before we trace the healing of this fatal wound,
there is still one mystery to elucidate: What is this mark of the beast
which will be enforced by economic boycott and a death decree at the end
of time? (See Revelation 13:15—17.) Since this aspect of worship is
crucial to salvation, it is essential that we identify it.