beatification and JPII

John Allen Jr. , Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, is devoting his daily blog this week to the May 1st Beatification of John Paul II. As usual, he attempts to give a balanced perspective on events and issues. Yesterday, he wrote about the continued popularity of this pope despite the fact that his life was often a sign of contradiction . The contradictions have led many to question the wisdom of beatifying the late pope so swiftly.

The most cited reason for delaying or denying the beatification is John Paul II`s lack of action against priests and bishops accused of sexual abuse. Some ultra-traditionalists object to the inter-religious dialogue promoted by John Paul in Assisi, claiming it led to a rise in relativism. Many liberals object to his firm stance against women`s ordination, liberation theology, and the silencing of many theologians.

Despite the controversy, there is no denying the popularity of Pope John Paul II. At the time of his death, the crowds in St. Peter`s square held up banners… Santo Subito – Sainthood Now! That is how holy women and men were recognized as saints in the early days of the church. People saw their sanctity, and celebrated it spontaneously. Many Catholics believe in the sainthood of John Paul II, whether it is officially sanctioned or not.

I wish that it could have been left at this simple and personal level. Patient waiting would have allowed for more dialogue in the midst of the controversy. The Vatican will be paying $6 million for the Beatification ceremonies. Maybe it is not the right moment for Cardinals and Bishops to be parading in all their glory and finery as they elevate one of their own towards sainthood. Or perhaps it will be a much needed PR moment for the Church during these dark days of scandals. Time will tell.

4 thoughts on “beatification and JPII

  1. On September 3, 2000 I attended the beautification of John XXIII, an Irish Benedictine monk, and Fr. Chaminade, Founder of the Marianists. Also beautified in that day was Pius IX. I was shocked to see Jewish and Irish protesters at the entrances to St. Peter’s Square. Pius IX had failed even the Churchs’ initial inquiry for sainthood, he was not a decent human being. He moved the Jews into the ghetto in Rome, kidnapped a 6 year old Jewish boy and had him raised in a seminary, then ordained him. Also, twice the Irish sent a delegation to him during the famine asking him for help and for him to intervene; he told them to go home he would pray for them. He called a Council because he wanted to be declared infallible as Pope. The council of bishops who gathered thought this was outrageous; and the Germans and Americans along with others left Rome. He convened a small group of Italians bishops and had them declare the infallibility doctrine for him.
    So, my joy over Chaminade’s beautification was blunted. I started to see how flawed and political the sainthood process was. The Marianists themselves spent over one million dollars on the beautification process for Chaminade. While their two female founders, who were just as holy, but had no financial backing, were not actively being considered for sainthood.
    I left embarrassed that I had attended a beautification ceremony that glorified someone who never demonstrated even natural goodness, let alone sainthood. I felt that beautifying Pius IX had somehow soiled the honor of my hero, Fr. William Joseph Chaminade and I wish I had not been there to see this.
    When I returned home I read that Hans Küng saw the beatification of Pius IX as evidence of the degeneration of canonizations to “gestures of church politics.”

  2. Thanks for sharing this first-hand experience, Ray. John Allen`s blog post today questions the wisdom of beatifying and canonizing popes. I think the arguments put forward against the process (for popes) are worth considering.

    As a child, I was naive enough to think that all saints were perfect. As I grew older, I began to appreciate the saints who showed their humanness. But, I do think that if there are serious controversies surrounding the life being investigated, then beatification and canonization should be reconsidered. As you said so well, it soils the honor of the many saintly women and men whose lives are worthy of modeling.

  3. I am thrilled to see that Pope John Paul the Great was beatified today. He is clearly fit for the Sainthood. His openness to the World while maintaining a sense of authority had a positive impact on many, including myself. He reinforced my faith in Christ and our Church. I consider this a miracle in itself.
    The questioning of his Sainthood based on the sexual abuse scandal is pure NONSENSE. I put the blame NOT on PJP II, but on the society in the world alone. I would hedge a guess (based on common sense) that the abuse committed by the secular community is FAR GREATER per capita than those committed within the clergy of the Church as well as other world religions. I also put the blame on the American Council of Bishops (I am a US Citizen) for their inaction (as well as their own agendas that have broken from the papal teachings.

  4. John, do you believe the buck stops at the desk of each individual Bishop, at the National Conferences of Bishops, or the Pope? One of the divisive issues from Vatican II is the concept of Episcopal collegiality and subsidiarity. John Paul II believed in and acted from a strong, centralized papacy. This pleased traditionalists, and frustrated liberals.

    Everyone who was aware of an abuse case – from parish to diocese to Episcopal Conferences to the Curia – had a moral obligation to investigate each claim and ensure the protection and safety of God`s people. But, whoever claims the ultimate authority should bear the burden of ultimate responsibility.

    Sadly, as you state, the church and other religions do not have a monopoly on sexual abuse. But arguing numbers is a weak attempt at deflecting guilt. One case of sexual abuse is one case too many. The church has always claimed moral supremacy to the secular community. The sexual abuse scandal and cover-up is perceived (rightly) as a serious moral failure of our church leaders.

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