In Tertio Mellennia Adveniente, Pope John Paul II wrote:
Yet the consideration of mitigating factors does not exonerate the Church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face, preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness. From these painful moments of the past a lesson can be drawn for the future, leading all Christians to adhere fully to the sublime principle stated by the Council: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power”.(19)
There were some Catholics who considered the Pope’s apology a mistake, reasoning that anti-Catholics would simply use the his words to further their own anti-Catholic agenda.
I came across the following website, whose author takes that very position:
Let me note that this particular apology of John Paul II coincided with the release of the Symposium Report, a large 783-page volume assessing the Inquisition based on up-to-now inaccessible documents from the Vatican archives. The findings of the team of researchers far from justify a papal apology. The opposite is true. They affirm the conclusions of recent academic studies that show the torture chambers, witch-burning, and vindictive power-crazed churchmen were nonexistent, part of the “black legend” invented by the Protestants, emphasized by partisans of the French Revolution, and broadly spread throughout Europe and the United States up to our times [see my tape The Myth of the Holy Inquisition].
It isn’t really possible to either speak about or ask forgiveness in general for the Inquisition, Cardinal George Cottier, a member of the Symposium, pointed out. The Inquisition per se did not exist, he noted, so how can you ask forgiveness for an image spread by public opinion, which is part of a myth and does not correspond to reality? (Zenit, June 15, 2004)
So, did John Paul II’s encyclical just give further ammunition to anti-Catholics?