Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hot Off the Press: Garry Wills and Michael D'Antonio on Decision to Canonize John Paul II

Garry Wills
And the discussion of the plans to canonize John Paul II continues: here's Garry Wills yesterday in the New York Review of Books (with much gratitude to Mary O'Grady for emailing me this link). Wills notes that John Paul II himself beatified John XXIII in tandem with Pius IX, who has long been distasteful to many  Catholic thinkers because his Syllabus of Errors condemned, well, everything, including democracy and the whole enterprise of modernity:

Now Pope Francis has come up with another ablutionary pairing. He is canonizing John Paul II in record time (Benedict XVI had already waived the normal five-years-after-death period to allow the beatifying process to begin.) Though John Paul II is not as hotly resented by liberals as Pius IX, he is still subject to deep criticism. He presided over the church during its worldwide pedophile scandal, and he gave the handling of that problem to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith—the very man who, succeeding him, would waive the time-lapse needed to begin his predecessor’s canonization. (Who can think that a saint in heaven ever protected a predatory priest?) John Paul had treated as "irreversible" his stands on matters such as homosexuality, married priests, and women priests. He is a symbol, for some people, of things that need remedy in the church.

And then he concludes:

There is a kind of sad humor in the effort some good-hearted people are making to promote the canonization of the social activist, pacifist, and founder of The Catholic Worker Dorothy Day, using methods of subsidized glorification that mock her own values and concerns. In the same way, it is a bit sad to see Pope Francis, who has been doing wonderful things in his short time at the Vatican, play the old game of self-certification at the top of a saint-making factory. Many hope he will make needed changes in the church. But in promoting John Paul II he is exalting a man who fought every one of those changes. 

Michael D'Antonio

Anyone considering the news that the current pope, Francis I, has approved John Paul II for sainthood, should also consider that more than anyone, John Paul II had access to information about the full scope of the abuse problem and the greatest power to address it. For more than two decades he granted clergy a kind of due process that is unseen in civil courts, allowing them years to resist efforts to strip them of their priestly rank. Too often, more children were victimized while the pope's bureaucracy moved slowly, and invisibly. Too often, abusers like Murphy [i.e., Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who abused some 200 boys at a deaf school in Wisconsin] died before being held accountable.

And, of course, John Paul and his right-hand man Cardinal Ratzinger, who became pope after John Paul, never accorded that same due process to theologians whom they silenced and removed from jobs. Theologian after theologian silenced during their reign of terror reported that she was never provided detailed information about her ostensible "errors," never given a chance to defend himself against charges made by unknown parties in secret. 

Due process that bends over backwards for priests known to have raped children. No due process at all for theologians whose only error has been to serve the church by following the vocation the Spirit has given them to seek and speak truth at the service of the church. 

As Chris Morley succinctly (and rightly) concludes yesterday re: the drive to canonize John Paul II as fast as can be done, "This is clericalism taken to its utmost." Whose interests does the precipitous canonization of John Paul II serve, if it doesn't serve the interests of the poor in developing nations, of women, of theologians, of LGBT persons, of the many lay Catholics for whom Vatican II was a breath of fresh air?

It serves the interests of the clerical elite in the church, whom John Paul II and Benedict did everything in their power to shore up, to promote, to bolster, and to protect--even in the case of priests found to be abusing children. The canonization of John Paul II is an in-your-face assertion that, no matter what Vatican II stated, priests are the church first and foremost, and the laity are a mere appendage to the clerical elite who constitute the church in a pre-eminent way.

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