Thu, 08 Feb 2024 Feature Article

Apology, Not Apologia

Apology, Not Apologia

Chide me not, laborious band, For the idle flowers I brought; Every aster in my hand Goes home loaded with a thought. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

'Mea culpa' is a latin expression in a prayer of confession in the Catholic Church. Literally translated, it means 'through my fault' it is an interjection which admits wrong-doing or an expression of guilt over an action.

In the Catholic Church, the prayer of confession of sinfulness is known as the 'Confiteor', and issued at the beginning of Mass or when one is receiving the Sacrament of Penance.

'Confiteor' begins, “Confiteor Deo omnipotenti et vobis, fratres, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, opera et omission: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa …”, translated as, “I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers (and sisters, subsumed) that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault …”

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature (and poetry) in his 14th Century 'Troillus and Criseyde' says “… Now, mea culpa, Lord! I me repente …”

'Apology' relates to an expression of regret for a mistake or a wrong. It implies an admission of guilt or fault, simplicitor.

'Apologia' on the other hand, does not admit guilt or regret. It is rather used as a desire to clarify a point or give the grounds for some cause, belief or position. John Henry Newman wrote, 'Apologia pro Vita Sua' (A Defence of One's Own Life) in 1864 in which this great English theologian, academic historian philosopher, poet, writer born into the Anglican ministry, appointed Vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford, converted into Catholicism as a Catholic Priest and became a Cardinal.

In October 2019, he was canonised by Pope Francis, after his death in August 1890.

Earlier, the Greek philosophers, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle had described 'apologia' as an oratory to defend their position on issues. These were attempts at justification rather than an expression of remorse. Plato and Thomas More's use of 'Apology' (1534) demonstrates how language use varies over time.

Ours is not an 'apologia', but an 'apology' in the right sense of the word. In 'An Episodic Weekend' published in Daily Guide on February 1, 2024, we commented on some petty slips in the congregation booklets distributed by the University of Ghana at the 2024 congregation at the Cedi Conference House, e.g. 'Representive' instead of 'Representative', the controversial use of exclamation marks, so we would query “No No No!! (Daily Graphic: January 24, 2024)

Because the University itself had written, “Sincere congratulations and wishing you all the best!!!” Three exclamation marks instead of one. What is wrong in having two exclamation marks instead of one.

And we write: 'Kufuor, misses his wife… and who does not know, Kufuor's wife was our own mother, Theresa Kufuor, about whom we had written, “Human as we are, death is inevitable, and at the thanksgiving service of the former First Lady, Theresa Kufuor, at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kumasi last Sunday, the Archbishop, Gabriel Yaw Anokye, stressed this 'fact of life' …” So, why should anyone, in the image of Beelzebub substitute the name of our loving mother, Theresa, and quote another? But, there should be no need to pass the buck (shift the responsibility for something to someone else).

For us, it is an admission of guilt; we have no defence, not even to say 'it was a slip of the pen'! We are nowhere near the U.S. President Harry S. Truman who kept the sign, 'The buck stops here' on his desk in his oval office.

Again, we appreciate Joe Biden's 2021 statement with respect to the insistence on the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “The buck stops with me” and remain baffled over Donald Trump's “The buck stops with everybody” in his answer in 2019 to the federal shutdown.

It has been argued that those who criticise should expect to be criticised in return: so we take every criticism as our kismet (fate). It is simply a quid pro quo (Latin for: something for something), a reciprocity of actions. It is also said that one must admit his own guilt if the situation calls for it.

Then act immediately. Any delay will be disastrous. It is better to swallow one's pride, and not be too stubborn or stiff-necked.

'Apology' can be said to be an acronym, and Kate Summers gives the wider definition: A is for 'accepting' I was wrong. P is for 'pleading' for your forgiveness. O is for 'omission' of your feeling. L is for 'losing' my pride and saying I'm sorry. O is for 'ownership' of my mistake. G is for 'gracious', asking for your grace Y is for 'yielding' my errors.

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By Africanus Owusu-Ansah