At a time when the Catholic Church is again embroiled in controversy over sexual offenses by priests, a Chinese newspaper in Malaysia is reporting that the Catholic Church has been the recipient of an apology. The offense involved desecration of the sacrament of holy communion by Islamic reporters. Here is the text of the apology:
“Al Islam magazine apologises for its article-Al Islam in Church to investigate claims of apostasy among Malay youth-published in our May 2009 issue, because the article has inadvertently offended Christians, particularly Catholics.
The aim of the investigation was to verify claims made by the general public regarding the issue. Al Islam also does not intend to insult the Christian religion, let alone invade or interfere with their house of worship.
Likewise, the two journalists involved also apologise for not realising what they did during the performance of their tasks has offended the feelings of followers of that faith. Al Islam hopes such acts will not recur.” – Editor Al Islam
My analysis: This apology is a good first step but it could be strengthened in a couple of ways. It leans towards the problem of saying “I’m sorry that you were offended” rather than clearly stating that their actions were unacceptable. In addition, it would be helpful to hear more about HOW the acts will not recur. In addition, the newspaper could describe their regret in more detail, make a donation or other form of restitution and it could request forgiveness from The Catholic Church.
In closing, I want to recognize that there are language and cultural barriers involved in this situation. It has been said that in Eastern cultures, saving face is very important and so I’d offer commendation to the editor for having made the bold step of offering a public apology. May the two sides grow in peace and understanding, as reflected by this response from the Catholic Archbishop, Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam:
“I accept the apology and no (further) legal action will be taken against Al-Islam on this matter,” added Pakiam, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei…the Catholic community is appeased. I extend my peace and goodwill to the editor and journalists.”
What cultural issues to you see with apologies?