Volume 93, Issue 81

Friday, March 3, 2000


Poll supports fight for student funding

Internet business boom

Opposition surrounds UWOFA part-timers

Province to make no promises on lower gas tax

Church plans to apologize for past

Scientists not just cloning around


Caught on campus

Caught on campus, again

Church plans to apologize for past

By Tola Afolabi and Marcy Cabral
Gazette Staff

The Roman Catholic Church outlined a plan to apologize for past wrongs this week. It was a move several Western professors declared essential and overdue.

"[Pope John Paul II] proposed it as long as two years ago," said Ronald Trojcak, chaplain at King's College, of Memory and Reconciliation, the document released by the Vatican which outlinined the new apology procedure.

Trojcak said the Church should apologize for past actions in an effort to heal damage. "It's essential. We are to be what we say we are," he said, adding the apology would be an admission to the Church's past evils.

The Church has made other apologies, Trojcak added, noting an apology made several years ago by the Bishops of France. "The Roman Catholic Church made a profound apology to the Jews for its silence about the Nazis."

Bonnie MacLachlan, associate dean of arts at Western, said the Roman Catholic Church was responsible for many crusades and conversions, showing its lack of tolerance for other religious beliefs and systems. "The Inquisition was a conservative movement to stamp out anything that was not orthodox by the Roman Catholic [Church]," she said.

Atoning for actions of the past would definitely be a step in the right direction, MacLachlan added. "We can't go back to the original perpetrators to ask for forgiveness – the effects [of the actions] has been inherited. This is the closest we can get."

MacLachlan said too often, people view apologizing as a sign of weakness and do not want to be seen as fallible. "I think we operate too frequently as individuals who do not take responsibility for our actions.

"We don't feel safe admitting our weakness and our faults," MacLachlan said, adding humans prefer to be closed to criticism and accountability.

Douglas Leighton, associate professor of history at Huron College, said apologizing for ancient wrongs was a controversial issue. "There's a lot of thought that says 'That was then and this is now,'" he said.

However, institutions are always responsible for past actions, Leighton added.

"Institutions have legal existence which still exists after the crimes are ancient history. The institution can be held in some sense liable."

Leighton said care must be taken when viewing past wrongs with modern eyes. "The danger with all of this is that you start to judge the past by modern ethical and moral standards," he said.

He explained the Anglican Church's assimilation of Natives in the 1830s may now be seen as cultural genocide, whereas Leighton said the Church believed they were doing the best thing at the time. "It's tough to apologize for the policy of assimilation," he said.

Public response to the apologies would vary, Leighton added. He explained people associated with the Catholic Church would view it as responsible, while others would find the situation silly. "Modern cultures can go overboard on general apologies," he said.

Trojack said he believed the public was disappointed with past apologies and explained they felt despite the sentiment, the Church showed no shame for past actions.

To Contact The News Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2000