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Thursday, October 20, 2016

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis is proving himself to be a genuinely holy man, a brilliant politician and a leader who knows that reform requires a keen understanding of how creating a better future demands sophisticated invocations of the past.

Nothing demonstrated all three traits better than Francis’ announcement that he would make both Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII saints. The obvious political analysis here is correct: On the whole, conservative Catholics will cheer swift sainthood for John Paul while progressive Catholics will welcome the news that an overly long process of elevating John to the same status had reached its culmination. One for one side, one for the other — it’s a good formula for harmony, something Catholicism needs right now.

But much more is going on here. Rapid sainthood for John Paul was inevitable, partly because of widespread devotion to him around the church and not simply in its conservative wing. A campaign to sanctify him took off from the moment of his death. Whatever criticisms might be directed his way — on his sluggishness in facing up to the clerical abuse scandal, for example — there should be no denying his standing as a world-historical figure.

His vital role in the collapse of Soviet communism will always be recognized as the product of faith married to shrewd statesmanship. And, speaking personally, getting to cover John Paul’s 1986 visit to a synagogue in Rome where he robustly and decisively condemned anti-Semitism will always endure as one of the most moving experiences of my journalistic life.

But that story is a perfect example of why it was essential to sanctify Popes John and John Paul at the same time. Without Pope John, there would not have been the John Paul we came to admire.

  • JDavidS

    Oh boy… Two more saints for the dohgans… Not exactly an exclusive club. Seems the only prerequisites are that at one point in time you had to have two feet and a heartbeat. After that it’s pretty much an open field.

  • roaringborealis

    JDavid–I hope your issue is with the Church only, and not part of the current fad of bringing down anyone deemed ‘great’, denying that greatness even exists. The mantra seems to be “if no one’s great, then I’m okay”. This ‘self-esteem-as-highest-virtue’ movement is a race to the bottom. Thankfully, we’re not all aboard, and so great people will continue to do great things, moving humanity along.

    As for the Church, in a world of several billion, what’s a few hundred?

    • JDavidS

      Yes, my issue is with this archaic institution. The Roman Catholic church is nothing more than a crutch for the feeble minded and is the single most hypocritical outfit on this planet. In a world run rife because of over-population this bozo pope preaches no to birth control. They squawk about feeding the poor. How about selling off some of the untold billions the church has squirreled away to help do that? (Yeah, to salve your conscience they do a bit). There’s a saint for all occasions…hell there’s probably a saint for the saints. Then we could go into the serial pedophilia and the fact that so many “leaders” of that outfit have protected and shielded the perpetrating priests from the law. There are the “Magdalene laundries”…basically slave labour. And wasn’t it this church who burned “heretics” at the stake for having the temerity to suggest that the earth revolved around the sun? And how about confession? Yeah, unburden yourself to some clown in a collar. Then, having gained “absolution” you’re free to go out and do it all over again.
      I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point…

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Oh, I am sure the “traditionalists” did everything they could to suppress or disprove any miracles associated with John XXIII. He upset their apple cart just a little too much. Paul VI, while not skeptical, felt the proper approach to any non-martyr Sainthood, involved long-term study and evaluation. Benedict started to push for JP2’s sainthood before the corpse was even cold! They hunted for the two needed miracles (it used to be three) actively, instead of allowing the normal beatification and sanctification process to take place.

  • Katela

    How do you make a man a saint who created in or participated in the systematic cover up of serial rape? Really?

    • Allan Richardson

      I believe a saint was named by Benedict XVI who participated in the enslavement of Native Americans in California (for their own good, of course), Junipero Serra.

      Of course, to the faithful, a saint is not someone who lived a morally perfect life, because only Jesus did that. A saint is someone whose faith resulted in a good (not perfect) example of how to live one’s own life. And true saints confess their faults and work to overcome them, but may not recognize every one of them. Since the culture of the time did not notice molesting of boys by priests, the Pope can hardly be blamed for not eliminating something going on centuries before his time. In John’s day, coverup was not necessary, because few people in the world, Catholic or otherwise, paid attention. We will never know how he would have reacted to the opening up of consciousness to these crimes in today’s environment, any more than we will ever know whether Jefferson contemplated freeing his slaves.

  • Allan Richardson

    As a non-Catholic who remembers Vatican II reforms (such as being able to visit a Catholic church for the first time, and being happy that it was in English) and also remembers Tom Lehrer’s song “The Vatican Rag” from “That was the Year that was,” I found much to admire in John XXIII, not so much in Paul VI (such as his encyclical “De Humanae Vitae” which was humorously referred to as “Paul’s Epistle to the Fallopians.”

    I remember the story about Pope John looking at a blueprint for a new cathedral by an avant-garde architect (possibly Frank Lloyd Wright, but not sure) and writing in the margin “Non sunt angeli” (they are not angels) because the plans contained no bathrooms. I also remember his meeting a Jewish delegation with the greeting “I am Joseph, your brother” from Genesis. John recognized not only the humility of being human and thus imperfect, but the humility of INSTITUTIONAL imperfection, which he showed on both occasions. Without him, the Catholic Church would still be stuck in the time of Pius XII, and we non-Catholics would know much less about what goes on behind the “incense curtain” so to speak.

    Of course, official sainthood means nothing one way or another to me personally, but if his legacy can be preserved better as St. John XXIII (or would it be St. Joseph Roncalli?) then I will cheer from the sidelines.

    The one thing the Catholic Church needs to change in order to help the objective, material, and secular condition of the globe to improve would be the dogma on birth control, taken from a totally out-of-context reading of the story of Onan in Genesis. One reason it finds it hard to change is that the Papacy, like the Episcopacy and the Priesthood, is one hundred percent single men (99 percent NEVER married and thus, at least in theory, never intimate with anyone). I am REALLY dreaming of the first female Pope, Mary Magdalene II (she would surely give credit to the first one as the one Jesus chose before Peter’s Upper Room coup, LOL). Perhaps a female Pope would pay more attention to molestation charges as well as human needs.

    In the meantime, the one form of hypocrisy I applaud is that of Catholic couples using birth control despite the Church. Neither do I believe in shutting down birth control clinics because they OCCASIONALLY perform, or refer women for, early abortions. The world NEEDS to get the population bomb under control and this is not helping, it is hurting. Of course, I condemn the attitudes (but not the people) of Protestants who have pushed the same anti-woman (AND anti-human-survival) policies into state laws in this country.