Friday, July 5, 2013


This will not be the most popularly approved blog-post I ever write, but I hope at least that it will not generate hate-mail, even as it will generate posts that strongly disagree.  That’s OK.

Is it too fast for a declaration of the sainthood of Pope John Paul II?  My personal take is that the answer is yes, especially in the context of a Church for which “one day is like a thousand years…” (II Peter 3:8).  After all, it has been only 8 years since that April in 2005 when John Paul passed to the judgment seat of God and the throne of grace (Romans 14:10; Hebrews 4:16).  Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta has been dead since 1997, after all, and it was 66 years before Ignatius Loyola was “raised to the altars.” 
Some will object that John Paul is not worthy of canonization because of his failure to deal effectively and comprehensively with the evil of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.  And no doubt he did not, especially with regard to Marciel Degollado of the Legionnaires of Christ.  I am willing to entertain the possibility that this was less because of lack of moral fiber and more a matter of lack of understanding.  He was, in my mind, similarly myopic with regard to the plight of the sufferings thousands in Central and South America—too convinced that “preferential option for the poor” was Marxism ‘writ large.’  He had little time, for example, for Archbishop Oscar Romero.  And even after his martyrdom (I use the word deliberately) he somehow remained persona non grata at the Vatican.  A Polish pope would be expected to have no time for anything that resembled the philosophy of communism.  I will always wonder, though, when and to what extent the effects of the Parkinson’s really “kicked in” and deprived him of the focus, energy and acumen he’d once had—without which perhaps he could not face the problematic realities of the Church.  Even a cursory reading of his encyclicals shows this:  when he was in his fullest powers his writings were heavily philosophical (think Laborem Exercens); later, the encyclicals were more and more readable (think Centesimus Annus or Ut Unum Sint).

Nevertheless, I am also sympathetic to the point of view that people can be mistaken in their thoughts and behaviors and yet also holy people.  This veers dangerously into the area of personal piety as a “trump card” for public awareness and conduct, but the alternative is equally dangerous:  the thought that all saints must somehow be perfect in all things (and, by implication, on the basis of their own efforts). 
Yet there was an incredible charisma about Pope John Paul II—manifested in his world-wide pastoral visits and the beginning of World Youth Day.  I was in Rome for World Youth Day 2000, and I cannot begin to describe to you the emotional and spiritual impact I felt in watching the Holy Father at the evening vigil at Tor Vergata.  Nor will I ever forget watching the video of his climbing to the Western Wall in Jerusalem to place there a prayer asking forgiveness.  And I will remember as long as I live the day he was shot and almost killed.  I will savor with deep gratitude visual of his going to forgive and speak with Mehmet Ali Agca in prison.  He was deeply in love with the Blessed Mother and the Church (perhaps in large part because of the loss of his own family at so young an age?).  The devotion was infectious.

So do I have a “love-hate” relationship with Pope John Paul II?  No.  But I do have a “love-wait” relationship.  Let history play itself out a bit longer, I would have said.  But having said all that, John Paul II will forever also have an emotional place in my heart.  After all, I sang for him!  And I pray the inspiration he will effect in others’ hearts will be the full flower of his motto, Totus Tuus—I am completely yours, Lord:  no matter what the cost.

1 comment:

  1. Just taking one excerpt from your blog about Pope John Paul. It concerns the effect of his physical stamina on his performance. Parkinson's surely not the sole disease process. We might question why Pope John Paul continued in his papal office with obvious handicaps. Was it to convey to the world the importance of adhering to church procedure in maintaining his office? Was it a sacrificial offering to Jesus Christ in conjunction with Christ's suffering?
    Another thought: Perhaps Pope Benedict's decision to step down from the papacy was influenced by his observation of the previous pope's inadequacies in maintaining church business. The effect of the electronic age and the secularization of society presents a formidable challenge. Pope John Paul's final tenure embraced an age of complete change in advancing church doctrine.
    All things considered, the choice to promote sainthood for Pope John Paul could delineate a break from a former process of evangelization to a more practical 'New Evangelization'. After all, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate advisor of spiritual growth and spiritual decisions when the Holy Spirit is active among its adherents.