Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Pope John Paul II should not be canonized

Once again, the Catholic world has been rocked by yet more allegations of sexual impropriety by Legionnaires of Christ founder, the late Fr. Marcial Maciel. It seems the now-disgraced founder-cum-pervert fathered more children than previously suspected; the latest claimants to his paternity purport to have evidence that the late Pope John Paul II knew of Maciel's sexual dalliances, and turned a blind eye to them. (If true, it would confirm the prior journalistic scholarship of author Jason Berry.)

The allegations highlight what for all too many Catholics is the elephant-in-the-room when discussing the ills which beset the modern Church: the extent to which the late Pope John Paul II was an enabler of these perversions, from sexual and liturgical abuse to theological dissent and the scandal of Catholic politicians who support the most immoral of social policies with the tacit or express blessings of their Church.

One does not need to deny or disparage the personal sanctity, thoughtful conservatism, or religious orthodoxy of the late Pontiff in order to acknowledge that his Pontificate, by all accounts, was a glorious failure. Yes, he aided in the fall of Eastern European Communism, but the Pope of Rome is not primarily a mover and shaker of state politics, but a Christian pastor whose mission it is to save souls, convert the lost, and govern his church in such a way that it resembles, as best as possible, the city on a hill, the light of the world whose radiance cannot be hid under a bushel-basket.

In terms of raw statistics, the Catholic Church shrank under the late Pope. Catholics comprised 18 percent of the world's population in 1978, the year Karol Wojtyla assumed the Chair of St Peter. At his death Catholics comprised 17 percent.

It'd be foolish, of course, to let such numbers stand alone as leading Catholic indicators, but in terms of the quality of world Catholicism the evidence, while not as quantifiable, is no less apparent or tangible. If one is looking for the fruits of the Wojtylian pontificate, several studies of the modern church paint a representative picture: Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, Amchurch Comes Out: The U.S. Bishops, Pedophile Scandals and the Homosexual Agenda, The Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal, Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, and the pioneering work of Dr. Richard Sipe and Roman Catholic Faithful. These sources approach their subject matter from very varied ideological backgrounds, but they all paint a very bleak, but well-documented, picture of the prior pontificate.

Though Catholics and others are loathe to admit it of an otherwise beloved Pope, John Paul II oversaw a church which deteriorated in both its inner and outer life. His callous indifference toward the victims of priestly sexual abuse in refusing to meet personally with a single one of them, and his stubborn refusal to compel the resignation from office of any of the bishops who aided, abetted, and covered-up the abuse, are testamentary to his utter failure: not as a Catholic or a theologian, but as a Pope.

And this is precisely why he should not be canonized. For in the Catholic (and popular) understanding, canonization is not simply a technical decree indicating one's everlasting abode in Paradise; it is, in addition, the Church's solemn endorsement of a Christian's heroic virtue. The question the Catholic Church must ask herself is: Was John Paul II a model of "heroic" papal virtue?

Contrary to leftist media reportage, the late Pope was not an authoritarian despot, bent on enforcing Catholic orthodoxy on an unwilling church. Quite the contrary: theological liberals and dissenters flourished in all of the Church's structures, from lay politics and Catholic universities, to the ranks of priests and bishops. Not a single pro-abortion Catholic politician has been excommunicated from the church; only a handful of openly heretical priests were asked to stop teaching theology, but were otherwise permitted to exercise their priestly ministry unhindered. The Church in Austria openly dissents from orthodox Catholicism with papal impunity. Fr. Richard McBrien, Sr. Joan Chittiser, Roger Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Notre Dame University, dissenters galore: the overwhelming majority of prominent far-leftist, theologically modernist Catholic organizations, speakers, and theologians are Catholics in good standing with their church, and are frequently given an official platform at church-sponsored institutions and events. To give just two more examples, several Catholic parishes and universities flaunt themselves as "gay-friendly" in a directory published by the Conference of Catholic Lesbians. These speakers and institutions are in just as good standing with the Church as so-called "orthodox" Catholic pundits and writers.

After John Paul II, the Catholic Church is virtually indistinguishable from the Anglican Communion. Everyone has their seat at the table, liberal and conservative, high church and low. The "official" teaching of the Church may lean toward religious conservatism, but this is just one option out of many which a loyal Catholic may avail himself of and remain in good standing with his Church.

The late Pope's governance of his church was laissez-faire, he personally adhering to conservative Catholic orthodoxy but not wishing to impose such on Catholic clergy or institutions. Ironically, the Papacy has been rather critical of governments who take such approaches to their economies; should it be the model for a church which regards itself as the one true religion?

The canonization of Pope John Paul II is an issue which concerns not only Catholics, but allWashington Times recently named Pope Benedict the de facto

As noted earlier, the Papacy is the third-rail of orthodox Catholic discourse. The respect Catholics have for the Papal institution renders the living or recent claimants of that seat virtually impervious to criticism, as if such critique automatically rendered one implacably uncharitable or schismatic. When civil society regains its conservative bearings, history will not be kind to what any unbiased observer must regard as the gross pastoral negligence of the 21st century's first Pope; if Catholics want to come out of the present cultural quagmire with their intellectual integrity intact, they must fearlessly shed the light of truth on that Pontiff's pastorship, and be sure to end up on the right side of history's verdict.
traditionalist conservatives. For better or for worse (depending on one's religious outlook), the Catholic Church is the largest religious institution on the planet, and historically regarded as a fairly conservative one. The leader of world conservatism. Just as conservatives do not wish to see their foundational principles redefined by the nomination and election of conservatives-in-name-only, so the canonization of the late Pope would represent (among other things) his church's influential imprimatur on a model of Christian pastorship that has eroded the foundational conservative principles of one of the world's oldest and most venerable conservative institutions.

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