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A field test of equivocation theory: Apologies by Canadian churches to indigenous people
Unformatted Document Text:  6 7. The act of refusing would also violate the church’s own ethical and moral principles (e.g., repentance), as well as the personal principles of the individuals making the decision. 8. A refusal would demean the victims, many of whom are still part of the church. 9. A blunt refusal to apologize would utterly abandon the opportunity for reconciliation, making it clear that the church would not move towards healing. Taken together, all of these factors combine to create a strong avoidance conflict in which church officials faced many negative consequences for either refusing to apologize or apologizing fully. Obviously, they did not openly refuse, because the four churches involved made a total of six public apologies, so the question is whether they truly apologized, that is, whether the conflict intrinsic to their situation led to equivocal non-apologies. The answer requires a way of assessing true versus equivocal apologies. WHAT IS AN APOLOGY? The Random House Dictionary gives a useful, nontechnical definition of apology: “A written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.” Several scholars have been interested in apologies and gone beyond the everyday definition to draw our attention to other important features. In particular, the philosopher J. L. Austin pointed out that some utterances, such as apologies, are more than expressions of how the speaker feels. Each is also an action in the social world: Language is action, and individual utterances are actions. Austin (1962)

Authors: Bavelas, Janet.
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6
7.
The act of refusing would also violate the church’s own ethical and moral
principles (e.g., repentance), as well as the personal principles of the individuals
making the decision.
8.
A refusal would demean the victims, many of whom are still part of the church.
9.
A blunt refusal to apologize would utterly abandon the opportunity for
reconciliation, making it clear that the church would not move towards healing.
Taken together, all of these factors combine to create a strong avoidance conflict in
which church officials faced many negative consequences for either refusing to
apologize or apologizing fully. Obviously, they did not openly refuse, because the four
churches involved made a total of six public apologies, so the question is whether they
truly apologized, that is, whether the conflict intrinsic to their situation led to equivocal
non-apologies. The answer requires a way of assessing true versus equivocal
apologies.
WHAT IS AN APOLOGY?
The Random House Dictionary gives a useful, nontechnical definition of apology:
“A written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted,
failed, injured, or wronged another.” Several scholars have been interested in
apologies and gone beyond the everyday definition to draw our attention to other
important features. In particular, the philosopher J. L. Austin pointed out that some
utterances, such as apologies, are more than expressions of how the speaker feels.
Each is also an action in the social world:
Language is action, and individual utterances are actions. Austin (1962)


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