On Thursday, Pope Francis released his long-awaited 184-page encyclical on climate change and environmental protection. We will have reactions to this work in the coming days. In the meantime, we consider one particular phrase from that document as it relates to a question recently raised by Debra Macleod in The Huffington Post. Macleod asks whether the Catholic Church should acknowledge its role in the destruction of classical Pagan culture and religion. In the new encyclical, Pope Francis says, “Human Beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.” Using that framework, Macleod’s question can be rephrased.
This coming Friday and Saturday will mark the most sacred of yearly Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur. As a child, I remember my mother explaining that Yom Kippur was “a day to atone for our sins.” Having grown up only culturally Jewish, I stared back blankly. A what? Sin? She eventually clarified by saying, “It is a day to say you’re sorry.” That I understood. In a recent Huffington Post article, lawyer Diane Danois contemplates the words “I am sorry” in relation to her Jewish faith.
It’s time to revisit a hoary chestnut within Pagandom, getting an apology from the Catholic Church for their role in the witch trials of Early Modern Europe (and for other ills against pre-Christian religious adherents). Some of you may remember that this was quite the big deal back in 2000, when the Catholic Church celebrated its Jubilee Year and then Pope John Paul II issued a series of apologies for sins committed by the Church. “Christians have often denied the Gospel; yielding to a mentality of power, they have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions: be patient and merciful towards us, and grant us your forgiveness! We ask this through Christ our Lord … let us pray for women, who are all too often humiliated and emarginated, and let us acknowledge the forms of acquiescence in these sins of which Christians too have been guilty.” In the lead-up to these apologies a group of prominent Pagans (including Selena Fox, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, and Philip Carr-Gomm) asked the Pope to apologize to “Witches and Pagans” harmed by the Inquisition.