US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A conservative "no" to "St." JPII?

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

This from the blog of UK Telegraph's Damian Thompson: "For a long time now, some conservative Catholics – most of them hardline traditionalists – have been discreetly slagging off the late Pope John Paul II." The charges: JPII appointed bad (read: liberal) bishops; JPII was too open to interreligious dialogue (he kissed the Qur'an!!); JPII coddled sexual abusers (true on the Legion/Maciel case); JPII promoted liturgical abuses (through his master of ceremonies, Piero Marini). In other words JPII wasn't conservative enough!

Thompson, who to my mind has about an inch-worth of depth in the Catholic tradition, goes on to quote some guy (Eric Giunta) at RenewAmerica--a conservative law student--who accuses JPII of allowing "theological liberals and dissenters [to flourish] in all of the Church’s structures, from lay politics and Catholic universities, to the ranks of priests and bishops. . . . The Church in Austria openly dissents from orthodox Catholicism with papal impunity. Fr. Richard McBrien, Sr. Joan Chittiser [sic], Roger Cardinal Mahoney [sic] of Los Angeles, Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Notre Dame University, dissenters galore." (Amazing how freely Catholics impugn the good name of others, no? Would be nice if they consulted the law of the church regarding the right to one's good name. Or even explored the uber-virtue of charity.) 

The liberals reading this (if there are any), must be laughing hysterically by now, since the center and left of the church has long complained the JPII pursued a doggedly centralizing, conservative agenda, from the appointment of ultramontane bishops, the evisceration of the national conferences of bishops, the promotion of uberconservative religious communities like the Legion and Opus Dei, a liturgical retrenchment in the second half of his papacy, the suppression of liberation theology, and the investigation of any number of theologians--the list goes on.

But that the argument goes to the question of whether or not to canonize JPII is a sign of just how political the process has become--abetted, quite frankly, by the late pope himself. Rather than seeing canonization as a recognition of popular piety around a revered figure, as it was in the ancient church, canonization has become a referendum on the politics of the person in question--just consider the cases of Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, the simultaneous beatifications of Pope John XXIII of Vatican II and Pius IX of papal infallilbililty fame (who also effectively kidnapped a Jewish boy who had been secretly baptized by his family's Christian servant--not very saintly) to the current controversy over Pope Pius XII. Consider also the causes who have languished, largely for political reasons, such as El Salvador's Oscar Romero, around whom there is great piety among people, or Dorothy Day.

This controversy around JPII may be manufactured, of course, but it is a sign of just how far "sainthood" has strayed from its original identity as an expression of the piety of the church and become instead a bureaucratic process where a combination of politics and the perceived ability of the deceased to produce two verifiable miracles determine a person's place at the altar. Hardly "traditional" at all.