Saturday, April 26, 2014

Why John Paul II Does Not Deserve Symbiotic Sainthood with John XXIII

Religious and public media are abuzz with tomorrow's planned joint canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in Rome -- a first in the history of the Catholic Church and also the first time the current pope will celebrate the ritual with his retired immediate predecessor among the concelebrants.

There is also much discussion of which pope is the real saint being recognized and which one is enjoying a sort of symbiotic sainthood.

The most popular coverage would have it that world-stage extrovert John Paul II, the first of the two to be fast-tracked heaven-ward, is the big fisherman in this tale, with Pope John XXIII as a jolly afterthought -- even though it was John XXIII who convoked the revolutionary Second Vatican Council, pushed it toward aggiornamento with the modern world, and (among other things) made a non-Italian pope a real possibility for the first time in centuries.

Count me part of a less visible but more vocal crowd who finds this thinking entirely backwards.  Not only is John XXIII the real saint, with Vatican II the only miracle anyone should need for proof.  More than that, John Paul II does not deserve to be called a saint at all -- and it is demeaning to the memory and accomplishments of John XXIII to attach John Paul II symbiotically to the real sanctity of Good Pope John.

The primary reason this symbiosis is so irrational and unjustified is that John Paul II dedicated his entire papacy to trying to undo what John XXIII and Vatican II accomplished.  Until the election of Pope Francis, I feared that John Paul II had largely succeeded.  Francis, fortunately, put the breaks on many of John Paul's reactionary moves, including neo-clericalism, neo-ritualism, and above all, the Vatican opposition to liberation theology.

It's nice of Francis to placate the John Paulistas with canonization, and to provide cover for John Paul's apostasy toward Vatican II by letting him bask in the long-deserved glorification of John XXIII.  But let's be clear:  it's John XXIII, whose style and substance Francis reflects so genuinely, who deserves to be called a saint -- not the pope who tried to scuttle John XXIII's reforms.

In the case of John Paul II, what should have been the straw that broke sainthood's back was his failure to stop the priestly pedophilia crisis, which he knew about as far back as 1984.  If trying to destroy Vatican II was not enough, surely punishing sex abuse victims and their families with disinformation campaigns and legal stonewalling should have been more than sufficient to derail his train to glory.

In this regard, Father Thomas Doyle has a commentary just posted by the National Catholic Reporter, in which he gives his own first-hand account of what John Paul II knew about the crisis and when he knew it.  Doyle, a canon lawyer who has represented priest abuse victims for thirty years, knows what he's talking about:  he was on the staff of the papal nuncio at that time and was the staffer who prepared briefings, incident reports and in-person orientations for the highest ranking Vatican officials.  John Paul II had direct knowledge of the scope of the problem and did nothing about it for years -- except to make the scope and the duration of the problem worse.

Of John Paul II's canonization, Doyle has this to say:

"The past 30 years have led me to the opinion that his sainthood is a profound insult to the countless victims of sexual assault by Catholic clergy the world over. It is an insult to the decent, well-intentioned men and women who were persecuted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during his reign, and it is an insult to the memory of Pope John XXIII, who has the misfortune being a canonization classmate."
Father Doyle takes on "some of the bizarre statements John Paul's two main cheerleaders have been making..." -- referring to long-time John Paul American apologist George Weigel, who has slithered his way into the title of NBC News Senior Vatican Analyst, and to JoaquĆ­n Navarro-Valls, John Paul's press officer.

Anyone who values Vatican II and Pope John XXIII who called it should read in grim detail the evidence that Father Doyle hurls against the record of John Paul II and Doyle's forceful skewering of the cheerleaders' attempts to distract us from that evidence.

Doyle shows undeniably that making John Paul II an official saint is a colossal mistake.  Perhaps official Catholicism won't rectify it any time soon.  But history has already convicted John Paul II, and there is nothing in history to redeem the evil that he did.