Father Michael Pfleger spoke from the pulpit of Trinity United Church last Sunday; he was very critical of Senator Hillary Clinton. After his remarks from the pulpit last Sunday, Fr. Pfleger said, "I regret the words I choose on Sunday. ... I am deeply sorry if they offended Sen. Clinton or anyone else who saw them." THAT'S NOT AN APOLOGY!
A true apology involves:
1. the law convicts and convinces you that you have sinned,
2. you are deeply sorrowful of that sin,
3. you repent of that sin and seek God's absolution.
Fr. Pleger did not truly apologize. He "regreted" the words he choose. Regret can be a verb used to indicate an apology, but in his case it fails to be so because of what he said later: "if". To use this preposition in this context is to make the statement a subjunctive, rather than a indicative, clause. If I offended you, then I am sorry; but if I have not offended you, then then there is no harm done and I am not sorry (because no offense has been given).
Sadly, Fr. Pleger's non-apology is symptomatic in our 21st American culture. He is another in a long line of public apologies that fail to truly be an apology. We are so concerned with political correctness, that we are tempted to not take responsibility when we misspeak.
One of the blessings of the liturgy is that when we confess our sins, we take responsibility for them. The old faithful confession goes like this: "O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being." Now that's a confession! It's dripping with penitent words and is in the indicative mood.
Most importantly, this confession gets to the heart of the matter: we have sinned against God. He has the ability to punish us now and eternally for our sinfulness. He is the one we have offended with our sinful lives. But when the law convicts, the gospel is right behind to promise us full and complete absolution. True forgiveness follows a true apology. Our standing before God is certain and sure. Yes, we are sinners; we confess that and we hear God's gracious words of forgiveness, words that are all the more sweeter and comforting because we have owned up to our selves and admitted that we are sinners.