Monday, July 8, 2013

The Construction of Saints: For Whom Is a Particular Saint (e.g., John Paul II) Made?

In her book Saints and Postmodernism: Revisioning Moral Philosophy (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1990), Edith Wyschogrod writes:

All saints are more or less constructed in that, being necessarily saints for other people, they are remodeled in the collective representation which is made of them (p. 7, citing Pierre Delooz, "Towards a Sociological Study of Canonized Sainthood in the Catholic Church," in Saints and their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology, Folklore, and History, ed. Stephen Wilson [Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983], p. 195).

If Wyschogrod is correct about this point--and I think she is--then the question arises, For whom is John Paul II being made a saint? I doubt he's being made a saint for survivors of clerical sexual abuse, or for those who are so hungry and thirsty to see the top leaders of the Catholic church resolve this problem and end all coverup about it.

Is John Paul II being made a saint for the poor of Latin America and for those who consider Oscar Romero a saint?

Are women in the Catholic church especially delighted to see John Paul II canonized, after John Paul announced by fiat that women can never be ordained and that discussion is now definitively over? Gay and lesbian Catholics, who well remember that it was under his papacy that we were first tagged by his right-hand man and successor, the man who has driven the canonization process, as intrinsically disordered? 

Is it theologians who are jubilant that John Paul II will be raised to the honors of the altar after he and his successor, who is the driving force behind John Paul's hasty canonization, silenced over a hundred theologians, created a chill in Catholic theology that forced theologians to remain silent, and turned the clock back on Vatican II?

I wonder. Just as I have long wondered for whom it was that Saint Irene of Athens was made a saint, when she had her enemies (and her own son!) blinded for refusing to bow to her. Or, for that matter, I've wondered mightily why Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer was elevated to sainthood, with his close ties to the Generalissimo who made life so miserable for so long for so many people in Spain, who defended Hitler, and who, according to the testimony of his personal secretary, went into rages, calling her filthy names and forbidding her to record anything negative about him.

Escrivá's friend Franco made null and void all the laws in Spain that had previously protected women, and returned women to a situation of legal servitude after his rise to power in Spain, so that women could no longer testify in trials, become university professors, or control their own property, but had to submit to their fathers or husbands as they made decisions about their property. In Franco's Spain, women would not even own a bank account without having their father or husband as a co-signatory on the account.

I wonder.

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