Irish Thomist and others reminded me that Pope John Paul II has a substantial list of apologies to his name. In fact, I dare say I either never knew, or likely forgot, the sheer number of apologies PJPII gave.
He apologized for the treatment of Galileo.
For Catholics' involvement in the slave trade.
For the conquest of "Mesoamerica".
For burnings at the stake, etc, during the Protestant Reformation.
"Injustices against women".
"The inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust".
The execution of Jan Hus in the 1400s, which probably led to most people asking "Who the fuck is Jan Hus?"
"For the sins of Catholics throughout the ages for violating "the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and [for showing] contempt for their cultures and religious traditions"."
"For the actions of the Crusader attack on Constantinople in 1204."
And, capping it all off, apologies for the Catholic sex scandals, the "stolen generations of Aboriginal children", and to China during its colonial era behavior.
I do not deny the Pope's sainthood. Nor do I deny I hold him in esteem. He accomplished much good in his lifetime.
But the above is not an example of that good. They are, for the most part, marks on his record.
There's a lot I can say here, but I'm going to zero in on a single point.
Is there such a thing as collective guilt, or isn't there?
I can understand organizational guilt. Insofar as the Church, as its whole body, was involved in atrocities during the Protestant Reformation, I can understand an apology on the part of the Church. Galileo was an official action, but there's nothing to apologize for there, and Galileo was (like his opponents) ultimately wrong anyway.
But when he's apologizing for 'the sins of Catholics', and he's apologizing on behalf of 'Catholics', period? It does not fly. Rather, it only flies under one condition: the condition that there is such a thing as collective guilt.
In which case, Black America owes everyone else an apology for the crimes of black males.
Women worldwide owe everyone an apology for the number of dead infants that have been butchered in their wombs.
Atheists at large are required to apologize for the sins of everyone from Stalin to Mao to even the far more inconsequential Madelyn Murray O'Hare.
And that's not just owed. If collective guilt is a real thing, such that someone can literally apologize (or demand an apology) on behalf of an entire and diverse people - then I demand those apologies in turn.
If the logic, however, is that there's no such thing as collective guilt, but hey, bad things happened and this 'was a nice gesture' and 'helped encourage dialog', I will say two things: to hell with 'nice feelings' for their own sake, and the Pope's apologies clearly yielded nothing, and therefore didn't even lead to results on the pleaded practical end. In fact, they did damage by perpetuating the idea that Christians should be bending over left and right apologizing, without ever expecting a 'thank you' for their collective acts of greatness - and there are many.
No. Not even Pope John Paul II's endorsement of these things can make them right. The man made mistakes.
And the best part is, he wouldn't deny it. He'd just apologize.