Cardinal Biffi 4
The "mea culpas" of John Paul II have been corrected, but not enough (p. 536)
On July 7, 1997, John Paul II kindly invited me to lunch, and extended the invitation also to the master of ceremonies for the archdiocese of Bologna, who accompanied me and thus remains a valuable witness of this episode.
At table, the Holy Father said to me at one point: "Did you see that we have changed that statement in 'Tertio millennio adveniente'?" The draft, which had been sent to the cardinals before publication, contained this expression: "The Church acknowledges as her own the sins of her children"; an expression that - as I had stated with respectful frankness - could not be set forward. In the definitive text, the idea had been changed as follows: "The Church always acknowledges as her own her sinful children." At that moment, the Pope took care to remind me of this, knowing that it must have pleased me.
I replied by expressing my gratitude and manifesting my complete satisfaction with the theological formulation. But I also felt prompted to add a reservation of a pastoral nature: the unheard-of initiative of asking pardon for the errors and inconsistencies of past centuries would, in my view, scandalize the "little ones," those most favored by Jesus (cf. Matthew 11:25): because the faithful, who do not know how to make many theological distinctions, would see these self-accusations as a threat against their serene adhesion to the ecclesial mystery, which (as all the professions of faith tell us) is essentially a mystery of sanctity
And these were the very words of the pope's reply: "Yes, that is true. That will require some thought." Unfortunately, he did not reflect on it sufficiently.