Public Apology between Ritual and Regret

Symbolic Excuses on False Pretenses or True Reconciliation out of Sincere Regret?


Since the 1990s we witness a rise in public apologies. Are we living in the ‘Age of Apology’? Interesting research questions can be raised about the opportunity, the form, the meaning, the effectiveness and the ethical implications of public apologies. Are they not merely a clever and easy device to escape real and tangible responsibility for mistakes or wrong done? Are they not at risk to become well-rehearsed rituals that claim to express regret but, in fact, avoid doing so? In a joint interdisciplinary effort, the contributors to this book, combining findings from their specific fields of research (legal, religious, political, linguistic, marketing and communication studies), attempt to articulate this tension between ritual and sincere regret, between the discourse and the content of apologies, between excuses that pretend and regret that seeks reconciliation.
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Biographical Note

Daniël Cuypers is Professor of Labour Law and Discrimination Law at the University of Antwerp. Daniel Janssen is Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and international guest Professor at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Jacques Haers is Academic Director University Centre Saint Ignatius Antwerpen and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven. Barbara Segaert is Scientific Coordinator, University Centre Saint Ignatius Antwerpen.

Table of contents

Introduction Daniël Cuypers: When Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word: An Apology with a Legal Disclaimer Regret and Sincerity Nick Smith: An Overview of Challenges Facing Collective Apologies Danielle Celermajer: Apology and the Possibility of the Ethical Nation Raymond Cohen: A Time to Heal: Pope John Paul II’s Penitential Gesture at Jerusalem’s Western Wall Benjamin R. Bates and Jason A. Edwards: An Attempt to Heal Rifts in Medicine: Collective Apology and the American Medical Association’s Attempts at Reconciliation with the African-American Community Davide Denti: Public Apologies in the Western Balkans: The Shadow of Ambiguity Daniela Bolivar, Ivo Aertsen and Inge Vanfraechem: The Ritual of Apology and Restorative Justice: Exploring the Victim’s Perspective Ritual and Discourse Zohar Kampf: The Discourse of Public Apologies: Modes of Realization, Interpretation and Mediation Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler: Post-Transitional Apology: Expressing Contrition Whilst Addressing the Holocaust Transitional Justice’s Failure Willemine Willems: From Apology to Excuse: Abuse Cases within the Catholic Church as Public and Scientific Objects of Research Lisa S. Villadsen: The Regretful Acknowledgement: A Dignified End to a Disgraceful Story? W. Timothy Coombs: An Overview of Challenges Facing Collective Apologies: Their Use in the Corporate World Daniel Janssen: Apologies in Written Messages: What Are the Effects?