The Roman Catholic Church has made saints of many nobodys for many centuries. So it is hardly surprising the church now seeks to make Pope John Paul II a saint.
John Paul is hardly a nobody but he is undeserving of sainthood. The church doesn’t need a Devil’s Advocate to make a powerful case against him.
One thing alone is damning: he consistently buried rather than confronted the great nightmare of priestly pedophilia during his 26-year papacy.
As Nation magazine wrote: “The pope failed time and again to take decisive action in response to clear evidence of a criminal underground in the priesthood, a subculture that sexually traumatuzed tens of thousands of youngsters.”
The U.S. conference of bishops in 1989 urged John Paul to shorten the lengthy process of defrocking child molesters. He refused. Molesting priests were transferred to another parish — to molest again.
He ignored letters from sexual abuse victims. Even when litigation and prosecutions mounted, John Paul remained silent.
The Rev. Richard O’Brien, Notre Dame theologian, points out that John Paul “had a terrible record, full of denial and foot-dragging on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century.”
Yet Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told reporters that the Christian virtues of John Paul were on trial not his papacy.
“Sin exists,” Amato said. “Our sin exists. But this doesn’t impede the holiness of others.”
Amato’s remark is perfectly jesuitical: a rationalization, a specious argument. It is casuistry: deceitful, deceptive, dissembling.
Nevertheless, Pope Benedict XVI put John Paul on the fast track to sainthood, waiving the five-year waiting period to begin the process shortly after John Paul’s death in 2005.
The Rev. Maciel Degollado, Mexican founder of the wealthy and powerful Legion of Christ, was praised by John Paul as a model priest in 2004 despite the fact that he sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children. John Paul’s Vatican blocked an investigation.
During the John Paul pontificate many Latin American priests turned to liberation theology to fight oppressive regimes, injustice, rampant poverty and inadequate health plans. They argued that social and economic revolution was central to the church’s mission.
But John Paul opposed liberation theology, deeming it “too Christian.” He too resorted to jesuitism, claiming that “spiritual values” were more important than “economic determinism.”
Yet he talked a good Christian game. In a 127-page book entitled “Jesus: His Essential Wisdom,” John Paul is quoted 12 times, more than anyone except Jesus.
One John Paul quotation: “Christ is so human!” His church, unfortunately, is not. It is so reactionary about so many matters.
It ousted an Australian bishop earlier this month because he urged the ordination of women and married men to ease the priest shortage.
The church opposes abortion which the 1973 Supreme Court Roe decision in 1973 made clear was fundamental to the liberation of women.
The church opposes contraception which most Catholics use. Proof: the birth rate in Catholic countries of Europe and Latin America is close to — or even below — replacement levels.
Similarly, the Vatican opposes homosexuality which most Catholics support as a human right. Indeed, surveys show that Catholics are more accepting of same-sex relationships than the American public in general.
The church still opposes divorce as “against natural law” even though 52 percent of marriages in America end in divorce. But it is OK for Charismatic Catholics to pray and speak in tongues because it is “communication with God.”
And last November the Vatican was so retrograde that it revived exorcism! Why? Because it was being overwhelmed with requests for the ritual by people “who fear they are possessed by the devil.”
When pleas were made to make Pope John XXIII a saint, John Paul agreed if the archreactionary Pope Pius IX was included in “the deal.” That’s politics — Machiavellian politics.
John’s Vatican II moved the church from the 13th to the 20th century. John knew that “the church is not a museum of antiques but a living garden of life.”
Dorothy Day of The Catholic Worker was a rare Christian, living, preaching and practicing the message of Christ. She and the CW were anti-war and pro-labor, deeply committed to the poor and always backing progressive measures.
Yet she has not been canonizd while scores of marginal figures have been. Why? “Saint Day” had an abortion and a “love” child. Moreover, as a socialist she was much too radical for the reactionary Vatican.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.