A Modest Proposal and the Popes.

Although a contemporary document, it is to the credit of the Pope Paul VI that he too saw the consequences of what Swift saw. It is likewise to the credit of Pope John Paul II that he has asked God to forgive the Church for its sins of the past...

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1. The most serious duty of transmitting human life, for which married persons are the free and responsible collaborators of God the Creator, has always been a source of great joys to them, even if sometimes accompanied by not a few difficulties and by distress...

17. Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men -- especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point -- have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.

Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.

Consequently, if the mission of generating life is not to be exposed to the arbitrary will of men, one must necessarily recognize insurmountable limits to the possibility of man's domination over his own body and its functions; limits which no man, whether a private individual or one invested with authority, may lustily surpass.And such limits cannot be determined otherwise than by the respect due to the integrity of the human organism and its functions, according to the principles recalled earlier, and also according to the correct understanding of the"principle of totality" illustrated by our predecessor Pope Pius XII.[21]

18. It can be foreseen that this teaching will perhaps not be easily received by all: Too numerous are those voices-- amplified by the modern means of propaganda -- which are contrary to the voice of the Church. To tell the truth, the Church is not surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a "sign of contradiction",[22] yet she doesn't because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law,both natural and evangelical. Of such laws the Church was not the author, nor consequently can she be their arbiter; she is only their depositary and their interpreter, without ever being able to declare to be licit that which is not so by reason of its intimate and unchangeable opposition to the true good of man.

In defending conjugal morals in their integral wholeness, the Church knows that she contributes towards the establishment of a truly human civilization; she engages man not to abdicate from his own responsibility in order to rely on technical means; by that very fact she defends the dignity of man and wife. Faithful to both the teaching and the example of the Savior, she shows herself to be the sincere and disinterested friend of men, whom she wishes to help, even during their earthly sojourn, "to share as sons in the life of the living God, the Father of all men."[23]

VATICAN CITY –– In an unprecedented moment in the history of the church, Pope John Paul II asked
God's forgiveness Sunday for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, including wrongs inflicted on
Jews, women and minorities.

The apology was a personal landmark for a frail, ailing pope who vowed to cleanse and reinvigorate
Catholicism for its third millennium.

"We forgive and we ask forgiveness," he said at several points during the solemn Day of Pardon Mass at St.
Peter's Basilica.

The church burned heretics at the stake during the Inquisition. Armies of the faithful slaughtered Muslims
during the Crusades. And during the Holocaust, some Catholics stood silent in the face of Nazi genocide.

The pontiff did not specifically mention such infamous wrongs during the service. Few specific groups were
mentioned and no names were given.

Still, the references were clear, both in John Paul's words and those of the five Vatican cardinals and two
bishops who confessed sins on behalf of the church.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy recalled the "sufferings of the people of Israel" and asked divine pardon for "the
sins committed by a not a few (Catholics) against the people of the Covenant."

After a moment of silent prayer, the pope responded: "We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those
who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we
wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood."

Several Jewish leaders praised his penitential words, but said they expected more during the pope's March
20-26 visit to the Holy Land. During his trip the pontiff will visit Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem,
and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.

The director of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, called Sunday's day of pardon both "significant" and "historic."

But "he has to pay tribute and commemorate the remembrance of the Holocaust, and I know that he is going
to address" it, Shalev said in Jerusalem.

Israel's chief rabbi, Meir Lau, also said he expects more and described himself as "deeply frustrated" by
John Paul's failure to mention the Holocaust by name.

"I hope deeply that the pope of today whom I appreciate very much for his doings and for his condemning
anti-Semitism will complete the asking of forgiveness next week in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem," Lau said.

The 79-year-old pope was dressed Sunday in heavy purple robes, the color of penitence. He leaned on his
silver staff, his voice clear but his hands trembling, a symptom of Parkinson's.

At the end of the confessions, he embraced a large crucifix on the altar for the special Mass, imploring
God's forgiveness.

"We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed
in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed toward followers of other
religions," John Paul said in his homily.

The cardinals and bishops, also wearing purple, cited "contempt for (other) cultures and religious traditions,"
and the treatment of women, "who are all too often humiliated and marginalized."

It fell to the head of the Inquisition's modern-day successor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to confess "sins
committed in the service of the truth."

"Even men of the church, in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with
the Gospel," he confessed. "Have mercy on your sinful children," the pope responded.

John Paul described his actions as an attempt to "purify memory" of a sad history of hate, rivalry,
intolerance and omission. The special Mass was a highlight of his campaign for a collective examination of
conscience at the dawn of the new millennium.

One of the few groups mentioned by name at Sunday's Mass was the Roma, also known as Gypsies, in a
confession of hatred toward the weakest members of society. Lapses by Catholics regarding abortion,
mistreatment of children and "those who abuse the promise of biotechnology" were also mentioned.

Catholic leaders around the world have offered their own pleas for pardon for various lapses. Bishops in
Europe have acknowledged that not enough was done to save Jews during World War II. In the United
States, church leaders have confessed a host of sins, including racism, anti-Semitism, the sexual misconduct
of priests and the treatment of homosexuals and divorced Catholics.

JERUSALEM, March 11 –– Shortly before his death in 1904, Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, was
granted an audience with Pope Pius X in Rome. He came right to the point: The Jewish people, scattered
across Europe, dreamed of a national home in the Holy Land of Palestine, Herzl said. Could they count on
the Vatican's support?

The pope, dispensing with pleasantries, spoke plainly. "The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we
cannot recognize the Jewish people," said the Holy Father, according to Herzl's diary account of the
meeting. "And so if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we will be ready with churches and
priests to baptize all of you."

Now, on the cusp of a new century, an extraordinary thing is happening. For the first time, an incumbent
pope is to make an official visit to the Jewish state and Palestinian-controlled territory later this month.
There, in addition to his personal pilgrimage retracing Christ's steps in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and
Galilee, John Paul II will pay homage to the Jews in their homeland in a way that would have been
unimaginable in Herzl's time, or even a generation ago.

"This event really does embody this amazing historical and ideological transformation," said Rabbi David
Rosen, head of the Anti-Defamation League's Jerusalem office.

Still, as the pope's six-day visit to the Holy Land nears, Israeli Jews are of several minds about the event.
Many or most Israelis, particularly secular Jews, are more or less pleased that the pontiff is coming. But
others are uneasy, and some, especially the most observant religious Jews, are actively hostile.

By most measures, John Paul has done more--considerably more--than any previous pontiff to make
overtures, and amends, to Jews.

Having grown up on friendly terms with Jews in a small town in prewar Poland, he became the first holy
father to make a recorded visit to a synagogue--Rome's, in 1986. He condemned the Holocaust as an
"indelible stain" on the 20th century and made a pilgrimage to the death camp at Auschwitz in the first year
of his papacy.

The pope led the church to apologize, in 1998, for the acquiescence of many Catholics in the liquidation of
European Jewry in World War II, and in a special Mass today, he is expected to offer a prayer
acknowledging that and other wrongs committed by Catholics. He has nudged church teachings and
doctrine into a strikingly friendlier posture toward the Jews, encouraged interfaith dialogue and, in 1993,
established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

"He's done more for Catholic-Jewish relations in 20 years than the Catholic Church has done in 2,000," said
Father Michael McGarry, rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute near Bethlehem.

The pope's gestures and pronouncements are all the more astonishing considering the glacial pace at which
the Vatican usually shifts its views. When a pope last passed through the Holy Land, in 1964, Paul VI never
publicly spoke the word "Israel," refused to meet with the country's chief rabbi and made clear that his
one-day tour of Christian holy sites did not confer official Vatican recognition on the Jewish state.

Jews are ambivalent about the pope's trip, largely because of the Vatican's public silence during the
Holocaust and the bitter historical dispute that swirls around the role and influence of the wartime pope, Pius

The Vatican insists that Pius XII worked quietly and wisely to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust, and
that vocal public intervention by the Vatican may have only brought retribution from the Nazis, against Jews
as well as Catholics. But many Jews believe that by keeping quiet, the pope was guilty of complicity in the
slaughter, or at the least passivity.

Jewish leaders around the world, noting that standard Catholic liturgy included prayer for the "perfidious
Jews" until the mid-1960s, regarded the 1998 apology as partial. They were disappointed, and in some cases
angered, that it seemed to absolve the Vatican itself of any role in nurturing antisemitism.

In a Gallup poll conducted last weekend for the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, three of five
Israelis took a positive view of the pope's trip here. But nearly as many, 52 percent, doubted or rejected
outright the church's sincerity in apologizing for the role of Christians in the extermination of Europe's

Those doubts may only be reinforced by the Vatican's release of a document March 1 dealing with the
church's "errors of the past." Although seemingly timed for the pope's trip to Israel, the document contained
no apology.

The pope is expected to treat the topic personally today during his "Day of Pardon" Mass. Yet whatever the
particulars of his message, it is unlikely to dissolve the doubts of many Jews.

"We don't have a lot of room in our hearts for this man and this religion," said Channa Flam, a
Brooklyn-born, devoutly religious Israeli whose father's family was wiped out in the Holocaust. "We don't
have a lot of room in our hearts for forgiveness."

To be sure, the government is going all-out to make the pope's trip a success, spending millions in
preparations, finessing Saturday Sabbath restrictions on travel, and laying on helicopters, hundreds of buses
and a custom-built, armored, tractor-like popemobile to navigate the tortuous, narrow streets of Jerusalem's
Old City.

Mindful that the pope's March 21-26 visit will pack a powerful symbolic punch, Israeli authorities are
determined that it will inaugurate a new era of amity between the world's 1 billion Catholics and 13 million
Jews. The police code name for the trip was not chosen at random: "Operation Old Friend."

Yet it will take more than official goodwill to overcome centuries of suspicion, hatred and bloodshed. Even
among Israelis who wish the pope well, or who favor closer ties to promote the welfare of Jews living in
predominantly Christian countries, it often doesn't take long for a conversation about the Catholic Church to
veer off into the minefield of historical memory.

In a recent interview, Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, an Israeli member of parliament from the ultra-Orthodox
United Torah Judaism Party, said he appreciated the pope's overtures to the Jewish people. Yet in the space
of a 90-minute interview, he managed without prompting to make mention not only of the Holocaust, but
also of the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms against Jews in czarist Russia and the Crusades, among other
blood-stained milestones in the grim history of Christian treatment of Jews.

For centuries, Ravitz said, the Roman Catholic Church taught contempt for the Jewish people--a teaching
that Pope John XXIII resolved to eliminate only in the early 1960s.

"If you are a human being with normal feelings, you can't just wipe it away," he said. "Just because the pope
says something new, will the Christian world accept it?"

The lingering suspicions and long memories, if held most strongly by only a minority of Israelis, have
found expression in grumblings among religious Jews in advance of the pope's visit.

In some of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, graffiti and posters have appeared on walls
condemning the pope as "wicked" and an "idolater." Religious militants of the Kach movement, which Israel
has outlawed for its extremist views, spray-painted warnings on the walls of the chief rabbinate's offices in
Jerusalem protesting the pontiff's visit and warning Israeli officials not to meet with him.

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a prominent American rabbi, recently told an international convention of Jewish
veterans that as a young parish priest, the pope was passive during the Holocaust, and that Israelis should
not receive him with celebration.

And a large group of rabbis and laymen, representing rabbinical councils across Israel, signed a petition
calling on the pope to cancel a Saturday Mass in Nazareth. Although Nazareth is populated entirely by
Arabs, the 2,137 signers of the petition were concerned that Israeli security arrangements for the Mass at the
Basilica of the Annunciation would entail a "massive desecration" of the Jewish Sabbath.

These stirrings of discontent, although they do not represent the mainstream of Israeli opinion, have alarmed
some officials and threatened to obscure what most analysts agree is a remarkable journey by a pope who
has made reconciliation with Jews a hallmark of his papacy. Last week, Haim Ramon, the Israeli cabinet
minister in charge of arrangements for the trip, had to fly to Rome to discuss with Vatican officials how to
control the fallout from the pope's plans to say Mass and travel on the Jewish Sabbath.

"Everything is being reduced here instead of seeing this as a wonderful opportunity for celebrating this man
who represents Jewish-Christian reconciliation," said Yossi Klein Halevy, a respected Israeli author and
journalist. "We're trivializing it and dredging up grudges."

Klein Halevy, who grew up in Brooklyn in the 1960s and '70s, underwent his own transformation of
attitudes toward Christianity and the Catholic Church, much of it under John Paul's papacy. For him, as for
some other religious Jews, the Christian cross itself represented a kind of menace.

"Jews see it as a visceral threat, and that's how I grew up," he said. "Growing up in Brooklyn I'd be afraid to
walk past the church. I'd cross the street to avoid it. The question was, do you cross the street or walk past it
and surreptitiously spit?

"I had to actively train myself to first of all not fear the cross, and then learn to respect and then learn to
appreciate it as a symbol of devotion. But that was a conscious act of training."

Other Jews have not reexamined their attitudes toward the church. And in recent years and months, many
have detected enough new irritants in Catholic-Jewish relations to justify their resentments.

In 1998, for instance, the Vatican touched a nerve with many Jews by canonizing Edith Stein, a brilliant
Jewish intellectual who became a Carmelite nun and was killed at Auschwitz. The Vatican regards Stein as a
Christian martyr of the Holocaust. But many Jews believed that by singling out for sainthood a Jewish
convert who died at Auschwitz, the church was attempting to expropriate Jews' overwhelming suffering.

That suspicion flared when Carmelite nuns opened a convent near Auschwitz in 1984, and again in 1998
when Polish Catholics erected more than 100 crosses just beneath the death camp's barbed-wire-topped

Some Israelis also have long resented the Vatican's diplomatic support for the Palestinians' national
aspirations, and there are concerns the pope will reinforce that position when he meets with Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat during his trip to the Holy Land.

Just last month, the Vatican signed an agreement with Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization recognizing
the "inalienable national legitimate rights of the Palestinian people"--in effect, a call for statehood. And in a
thinly veiled swipe at Israel, whose annexation and declared sovereignty over all of Jerusalem the Vatican
rejects, the agreement states that "unilateral decisions" affecting the city's status are "morally and legally

"Catholic-Jewish history is not just about tears," said Father Thomas Stransky, a Catholic scholar who has
done ecumenical work in Israel for many years. "But there've been a lot of tears."