Expert Answer Forum
Pope's apology QUESTION from Jeremia Saturday, July 29, 2000 I am sometimes in a chat room where religion is the topic and most of the people are non-Christians. One of them asked me when I was attempting to defend the Catholic faith these two questions: 1. Has any pope in history done anything bad? 2. Why was the pope apologizing to people of Israel when he visited that country this year? I will direct him to check your website for answer for the next few days.
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on July 30, 2000 Dear Jeremia
Of course popes sin like everyone else. Is there a church that does not have sinners? Is there a religion where people are perfect?
When people ask this question, they usually have in mind the corrupt popes of the Middle Ages. Regrettably, there have been popes and bishops who have committed great evils and lived in a perpetual state of mortal sin. There have been 263 popes, and less than a dozen have lived as hardened sinners. Several dozen popes are saints, like St. Pius V, St. Gregory VII, St. Leo the Great, etc. A number are beatified or will probably be beatified (Pope John Paul II will probably be a candidate). In spite of some notable blemishes, the papacy has an enviable record.
The subject of the corrupt popes is raised as an objection to the Catholic doctrine of infallibility. The doctrine of papal infallibility has nothing to do with a popeâ€™s behaviour because it operates independently of a popeâ€™s moral character. It states that when a pope defines a teaching ex cathedra, that is, when the pope speaks in his capacity as leader of the Universal Church, the teaching will be free from all possibility of error through the action of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of how good or bad a pope is, the Holy Spirit will ALWAYS guarantee it.
Papal apologies are also put forward to refute the doctrine of infallibility. Once again, they do not apply. The pope is not apologizing for dogmas or doctrines but for the sinful behaviour of Catholics. During his trip to Israel, The Holy Father apologized for the actions of Catholics against Jews, particularly with regard to the passivity of Catholics during the Holocaust. You can read an article. about it at the Zenit.org site. These apologies do not in any way touch upon the issue of papal infallibility.
For further reading, see A List of Popes with links to their biographies.
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin
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