US Catholic Faith in Real Life

John Paul II: Why the rush?

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Even if John Paul II is a saint, we don't need to rush the process. 

Guest blog post by Kevin Patrick Considine

In her recent New York Times opinion piece, "Hold the Halo," columnist Maureen Dowd made a case to slow down or even scuttle John Paul II's beatification. As an opinion journalist, she brings up an important question: Does the "santo subito!" fast track for JPII send the wrong message, particularly to the victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy? To this end, she writes, that although she has powerful memories of the pontiff as a moral force for good in the world, "Not beatifying or canonizing John Paul would be hugely symbolic, a message far more powerful than the ad hoc apologies and payoffs to victims."

To a committed Catholic and follower of Jesus Christ, Dowd brings up a difficult question. To what degree do we overlook the shortcomings of a human being when beatifying them? No one is perfect, not even JPII. But should the bureaucratic flaw of his papacy, in which he failed to deal with the sexual abuse crisis, give us pause about the rush to beatification?

I think it should. I am one who has seen up close the destruction caused by childhood sexual abuse, so this is not a question I take lightly. I have witnessed the horror and pain that it causes. Some overcome the suffering and are healed, whereas others are consumed and destroyed by it.

If that weren’t enough, the crisis has cast disrepute upon on the entire clergy because of the actions of a few. And the many bishops who despicably placed the well-being of the predators over the victims have deeply stained the church.

To be clear, I disagree with Dowd's suggestion that the path to sainthood for JPII should be scuttled altogether. I think the process should continue.  But my question is this: With the sexual abuse crisis ever with us, what message will his quick beatification send, both to the faithful and to non-Catholics, about who we proclaim God and Jesus to be? As a people who proclaim God’s saving presence among us, that should give us pause.

I am part of the JPII generation of Catholics, that is, those who only knew this pope when growing up. So, I have a strong, positive image of John Paul II and respect for the good that he did during his long pontificate. After all, there is a reason why so many adore him and that "santo subito!" has won the day. 

At the same time, there were bishops, contemporaries of JPII, who were involved in holding the church accountable and putting the victims first, such as Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago. This should at least give us pause in our rush to beatify JPII. For there were members of his flock to whom he could have turned in order to alleviate the suffering of the victims and bring them justice. 

Although a man of God, our rush to beatify JPII may be imprudent. If he is indeed a saint, then God has already made a decision. This means that slowing down the path to beatification will do nothing to stop the church from recognizing God’s decision at some point.  So why the rush?   

Guest blogger Kevin Patrick Considine is a Ph.D. Candidate in Theology at Loyola University Chicago.

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Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.