Posts Tagged “john paul ii”

Pope John Paul II at Madame Tussaud's in New YorkThe canonization of Pope John Paul II has zoomed along at record speed. He was formally beatified in 2011, a mere — and record-setting — six years after his death. It’s a campaign begun by his successor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Just this past summer, a second miracle attributed to him was approved by the current Pope Francis; at that point, John Paul’s canonization was virtually a “done deal.” As CBS News reports, he will be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2014, along with the reformer Pope John XXIII (WebCite cached article):

Two of the most-loved leaders of the Catholic Church, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, will be raised to sainthood together in a joint canonization ceremony — the first such ceremony in the church’s history.

At a consistory in the Vatican, Pope Francis announced Monday that the joint canonization will be held on April 27, the day on which the Catholics celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter, marking the feast day of Divine Mercy.

Not only have the rules been bent in order to speed up John Paul II’s canonization, so too have they been bent in favor of John XXIII:

Normally two miracles are required for someone to become a saint, but in a rare (though not unprecedented) break with the rules for canonization, Pope Francis waived the requirement of a second miracle for John XXIII. This means that the man who led the church from 1958 to 1963 and convened the Second Vatican Council, will be declared a saint despite having had only one official miracle attributed to his intercession.

The plan to canonize John Paul on Divine Mercy Sunday is no coincidence. This solemnity is based on the “visions” and writings of John Paul’s fellow Pole St Faustina. John Paul canonized her in 2000, and at the same time put her Divine Mercy solemnity on the Catholic calendar, the Sunday after Easter. Moreover, as it turns out, John Paul died on Divine Mercy Eve (i.e. April 2, 2005).

At any rate, that Pope Francis wants to canonize both these men on the very same day … one in exceptionally-little time (an unprecedented 9 years after his death), the other in exceptional fashion (without the required second miracle), suggests he’s sending a very intentional message. Vatican-watchers interpret it as Francis’ affirmation of the two tracks that Catholicism followed during the latter half of the 20th century: a reform effort, championed and personified by John XXIII, who’d convened II Vatican; and a reactionary effort, championed and personified by John Paul II, a fierce ecclesiastical conservative.

While this sounds reasonable on the surface, I’m forced to ask what the point of that would be? Is he trying to say he supports both enacting reforms and rolling them back? How does that make any sense? I can’t figure out what the hell the new Pope is doing.

Photo credit: mharrsch, via Flickr.

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John Paul II Monument in Borkowo Ko?cielneThe Vatican has been eager to get the late Pope John Paul II canonized as soon as possible. That process is amazingly protracted and cumbersome. It can take decades or even centuries for people to be sainted. For instance, the Catholic Church took almost 300 years just to beatify the Martyrs of Otranto, and over 500 years to make them saints. Yet, this same wizened and supposedly-deliberate group, as the CNN Belief Blog reports, is on the cusp of granting the same honor to their late associate: (WebCite cached article):

The Catholic Church is on the verge of declaring late Pope John Paul II a saint, a Vatican source familiar with the process told CNN on Tuesday.

The committee that considers candidates for sainthood voted Tuesday to credit the late pope with a second miracle, the source said, asking not to be named discussing internal Vatican deliberations.…

The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification when he died in 2005 [cached], and became “the blessed” John Paul II barely six years after his death — the fastest beatification in centuries.

“For an institution that typically thinks in centuries, this is remarkably quick,” said CNN Vatican analyst John Allen.

In fact, the phrase “record-breaking speed” leaps to mind, and not without reason, as CNN explains:

The record for the fastest canonization is [sic] modern times is St. Jose-Maria Escriva, the Spanish-born founder of Opus Dei, a Catholic order of laypeople and saints dedicated to finding God in daily life. Escriva was made a saint 27 years after his death.

John Paul could shatter that record.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that Pope John Paul II had built up something of a “cult of personality” during is reign, and many of the hierarchs now in charge of the R.C. Church had been appointed by him, or had put them into position to move up into the hierarchy. They appear now to be clamoring to repay his favors posthumously.

It would be nice if they could instead find a way to devote more of their attention and energy to something other than a dead man. Figuring out how to deal constructively and candidly with the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked their institution for more than a decade, would be one of those things.

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Pliino Lepri, AP / Pope John Paul II blesses late father Marcial Maciel, founder of Christ's Legionaries, in November 2004. The Vatican is now investigating seven priests from the Legion of Christ religious order for alleged sexual abuse of minors.A couple years ago I blogged about the Vatican’s takeover of the long-troubled priestly order Legionaries of Christ. This order’s founder, the late Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, had been a darling of the previous Pope, the Blessed John Paul II. It seems, in hindsight … after years of internal Church investigations that only really began once John Paul had died … that Fr Maciel had been up to no good, and the order itself served as a front behind which he operated as a kind of rogue clerical princeling. My prior blog post on Maciel lays out some of what he’d been up to.

But it turns out the late Fr Maciel wasn’t the only misbehaving Legionary of Christ. Two years after taking over this sorry excuse for a clerical order, the AP reports (via USA Today), the Vatican has begun looking into the affairs of several other Legionaries (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican is investigating seven priests from the troubled Legion of Christ religious order for alleged sexual abuse of minors and another two for other alleged crimes, The Associated Press has learned. …

[T]he Vatican investigation of other Legion priests indicates that the same culture of secrecy that Maciel created within the order to cover his crimes enabled other priests to abuse children — just as abusive clergy of other religious orders and dioceses have done around the world.

This has actually been a long time coming. For years, the Vatican bureaucracy has been nosing around, collecting reports of various abuses by the order and its members. So what have the canon lawyers been doing with themselves, all this time, especially after they’d been running the order for two years now? I have no idea … and I suspect they don’t either. So now that these individual investigations have begun, it would be unreasonable to expect them to be resolved any time soon. We’re in for several more years of waiting for word as to what they finally discover. In other words, the investigations will stretch out long enough that some of those being investigated, or the witnesses involved, will die off; at that point the investigators will decide they have too little information to make any determination.

Photo credit: Pliino Lepri / AP, via USA Today.

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IT07 2928 Pope John Paul II, Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, AssisiContinuing its effort to divert attention to its dismal lack of action in the wake of the clerical child abuse scandal which has pummeled the Catholic Church periodically for many years now, Pope Benedict XVI beatified his predecessor, John Paul II, today, as CNN reports (WebCite cached article):

Catholic faithful from around the world poured into Rome on Sunday as the Catholic Church declares Pope John Paul II “blessed,” a step below sainthood.

There were cheers as Pope Benedict XVI personally beatified his predecessor, and a huge tapestry protrait [sic] of John Paul II was unveiled, showing him as the healthy, vigorous and relatively young man he was early in his papacy.

As I blogged some time ago, this beatification had been preceded by a great deal of salesmanship by the Vatican, which included Facebook and Youtube marketing campaigns. They worked very hard to turn this into something other than the routine affair that beatifications usually are (since beatification is merely another step on the road to the final destination of canonization or sainthood).

At any rate, it’s remarkable that the man who sat atop the Church while the “priestly pedophilia” scandal was brewing — and who was the architect of its policy of refusing to respond to it and refusing to do anything about it — is now “the Blessed John Paul II” and soon will become “Saint John Paul II.” It also comes almost exactly one year after the Vatican seized the priestly order known as the Legion of Christ, because of irregularities in how it was run and because its deceased founder had been discovered to be a sick, amoral degenerate (cached) operating under cover of the order. What makes this remarkable is that the Legion of Christ had been favored by John Paul, was heavily patronized and promoted by him, and even protected by him in the late ’90s and early ’00s when word of its degeneracy started leaking out.

One is forced to ask whether or not John Paul can possibly be thought of as a “blessed” or even “saintly” character, given these facts. The Vatican denies John Paul’s involvement in the corruption of the Legion of Christ; while it’s probably true that he didn’t know everything that order or its founder were up to, it’s still the case that he worked to hinder investigations into it, meaning that he didn’t want them exposed. That’s hardly “saintly” behavior.

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Der kränkliche Papst Johannes Paul II. am 22. September 2004What does a vast multinational institution do, when it finds itself in the throes of a pervasive, years-long global scandal which it cannot and will not deal with? Why, it diverts people’s attention to something other than the scandal!

Hence, the Roman Catholic Church is promoting the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II with an online advertising campaign, as reported by the Catholic News Agency (WebCite cached article):

With the help of Facebook and YouTube users, the Vatican hopes to create a broad audience for material on the life and teachings of the soon-to-be beatified Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican’s television center and Vatican Radio have teamed up with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to produce two new webpages on YouTube and Facebook.

The Facebook page offers audio and video content to prepare “friends” and any other passersby for the beatification of the late-Pope on May 1, 2011.

I can’t help but note that, previously, the Vatican and its current leader, Pope Benedict XVI, hasn’t had much good to say about the Internet; for example, he warned young people from getting too wrapped up in it (cached). I guess Benedict suddenly finds the Internet is OK, but only if young people use it to celebrate the beatification of his predecessor?

I also can’t help but note that John Paul’s beatification will conveniently take place 20 days before evangelical “Bible scholar” Harold Camping says the Rapture will sweep the world clean of all its Christians. Whew!

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Rev. Marcial Maciel Degallado (2004)In addition to all the bad news that’s broken about the Roman Catholic Church … during the last couple months, as well as the last few years … a single, multinational Catholic scandal has been brewing since the late 90s. It involves a Catholic clerical order known as the Legionaries of Christ; specifically the reprehensible lifestyle of the order’s founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado. Maciel had once been a favorite of Pope John Paul II — in spite of scandals and rumors that swirled about him for decades — but after that pope’s death, the scandals became impossible for the Vatican to ignore. After several years of investigations and various forms of hyperbureaucratic procrastinations, the Vatican has finally had enough of the late Rev Maciel’s order, and is taking it over. The Hartford Courant reports on this latest development (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican’s decision to assume leadership of the scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ won acceptance Sunday from the order itself and praise from those who abandoned the conservative movement now discredited by revelations that its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least one child. …

The reaction came a day after the Vatican issued an extraordinarily blunt statement about Maciel and the religious order once championed by Pope John Paul II for its orthodoxy and ability to attract new vocations at a time when the number of priests was falling drastically.

The Vatican on Saturday announced that Pope Benedict XVI would name a papal delegate to govern the order and that a special commission would study its founding constitutions to reform it. The decisions were made after five Vatican investigators reported to the pope about their eight-month global inquiry into the order after its late founder was so thoroughly discredited by revelations of his double life.

In announcing the papal takeover, the Vatican excoriated Maciel for creating a “system of power” built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him to lead a double life “devoid of any scruples and authentic sense of religion” and allowed him to abuse young boys unchecked.

Maciel, his order, and its lay arm the Regnum Christi had gotten away with a great deal for a very long time, especially under John Paul II, who admired Maciel’s apparent militant dogmatism. But no amount of Vatican favoritism could protect the Legion forever.

The Courant has been beating the drum of Maciel’s wrongdoing for many years now, having run a number of stories on him. Most of that time the paper had been accused of being “anti-Catholic” and harassing an old man … but most of the accusations leveled at him turn out to have been accepted as true — by the very same Vatican which once had been reluctant even to consider them! Here are some of these stories the Courant has run (cached list):

Of course, the Courant‘s Vatican-admitted veracity on the matter of Rev. Marcial Maciel Degallado will not dissuade those who continue to whine about it being an “anti-Catholic” paper when it comes to its coverage of other matters, such as that of Dr. George Reardon, the late pedophile doctor whom even now — in death — the archdiocese of Hartford (which runs the hospital he’d worked for) continues to spend lots of money and political capital actively defending (cached article). To those folks, no amount of criticism can ever be leveled at their Church … not even truthful information. To them, nothing negative about the Catholic Church, no matter how much veracity it might have, can be reported about it. It’s impermissible to these people. Their Church is sacred, holy, and perfect … and the only reason anyone might have to say even the slightest bad things about it, are avowed “anti-Catholics.”

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John Paul II the GreatAccording to a newly-published biography by one of the men investigating the possibility of his canonization, the late Pope John Paul II engaged in the practice of self-flagellation. This biography adds a few other revelations about him, including that he had investigated the possibility of resigning as Pope if it proved necessary, and had even set up a possible mechanism by which he might have done so. Time magazine reports (WebCite cached article):

Book: John Paul II Whipped Himself, Weighed Retiring

A new book by the priest in charge of the Vatican’s official case for Pope John Paul II’s sainthood is packed with fascinating — and, apparently, meticulously verified — revelations. The one that grabbed most of the headlines was the claim that John Paul whipped himself with a belt, an act of corporal penitence designed to draw the flagellator closer to Christ’s suffering, and one that is usually associated with a very distant century, or a Dan Brown novel.

“As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear, John Paul flagellated himself,” writes Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish prelate who collected testimony in his role as “postulator” for the Pope’s canonization. “In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip.”

The Roman Catholic Church has always had a kind of push-me-pull-you relationship with the practice of self-flagellation (or ritually flogging oneself). It has what has periodically been viewed as a scriptural support, e.g. these passages:

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

Self-flagellation, then, is a kind of ritual “killing of the body” or mortification, which is supposed to — at least spiritually — “kill” the physical impulses that interfere with salvation. While self-flagellation goes back to the early history of Christianity (and may have been practiced in pre-Christian times as well), the Roman Catholic Church has not always smiled on the practice. In the 14th century a disparate collection of Catholics, known as the Flagellants, became well-known, and the practice came into vogue. Pope Clement VI, after a brief period of indulging them, officially suppressed the Flagellants.

Since then, the Catholic Church has taken a middle-of-the-road approach to self-flagellation: As long as it’s not too obvious, too public, too brutal, too obsessive, or physically injurious, it’s acceptable for Catholics to engage in the practice. Nevertheless, I find it odd that a Monsignor might view the late Pope’s self-flagellation as evidence of his piety and as supporting his sainthood; the Church’s repression of the Flagellants suggests that Catholicism does not view self-flagellation as being as “holy” a practice as has been suggested.

Another revelation is that John Paul II laid the foundations of a mechanism by which he might have resigned, if needed. For the most part, over the last several centuries, Catholicism has presumed that the Pope is supposed to remain the Pope until death, that resignation is something that’s just not done. Of course, this assumption flies in the face of history, because some Popes have, in fact, resigned; e.g. Gregory XII, whose resignation effectively ended the Great Western Schism. At any rate, Pope John Paul II set up a mechanism that might have gotten around the supposition that Popes cannot resign, as Time explains:

According to the book, John Paul on Feb. 15, 1989 signed a document clearing the way for him to step down if necessary. Five years later, suffering from a growing number of ailments, including the lingering effects of a 1981 assassination attempt, the Pope updated details of the procedure “in the case of infirmity which is presumed incurable, long-lasting and which impedes me from sufficiently carrying out the functions of my apostolic ministry.” He also charged his then doctrinal chief, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now known as Pope Benedict XVI — to investigate the implications for the church of having a living “Pope Emeritus” while his successor tried to establish his reign. The vexed question of papal resignation has become increasingly important as a result of modern medicine’s ability to potentially extend a Pontiff’s life long past his ability to effectively run a 1 billion-strong global church.

As it turned out, in spite of his many medical issues, John Paul II ended up never taking advantage of this resignation option.

Ultimately, the late Pope is on track to be beatified later this year, and sometime in the next few years, canonized. I’m not sure how this book makes any kind of compelling case for that, in spite of its title.

Photo credit: Todd Ehlers.

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