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Chapter 20

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 pope’s apology:

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 is unlikely.

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 inquisition.

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 13, 2000)

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 movement.

Pope John Paul II has not confined his initiatives to the United States. It must not be forgotten that Scripture had stated that,

all the world wondered after [admired] the beast. (Revelation 13:3)

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 return.

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,

stated that—

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 Communism.

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 subsequent pontificates.

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.

 


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