When I was a most stupid priest, stupider than I am now I think (which is hard to do), I used to think that the apologies on behalf of the Church wrought by Blessed John Paul II in view of the sins not of the Church (which, as The Church, cannot sin) but rather in view of certain individuals, was all just plumb wrong. The Church cannot sin! thought I, correctly. And that’s all the further I thought. I was quite shallow, really. Not that I’m not still that way!
But there is more to this. Did not Christ Jesus take on our sin as if it were His own? Did He not – as in Saint Paul’s shorthand – become sin for us? Does He not constitute the Church in His very Person, making us members of His very Body?
I have for some time been of the perhaps scandalous opinion that Christ’s redemptive actions were like Him going to confession to our Heavenly Father, reciting all our sins as if they were His own. As a penance, he is condemned to death. He does this willingly, for us, out of love, while we are yet sinners, crucifying Him with our sins. He takes it all on Himself. “I’m sorry, Father,” He says for us, apologizing, begging for forgiveness for us.
Was Blessed John Paul II so far wrong in apologizing for others? On second thought – so many years later – I don’t think so.