|Pope John Paul II and Father Marcial Maciel|
Pope Francis announced yesterday that he Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized at the same time on 27 April 2014. We Are Church responds:
Pope John Paul II was a pope of great contradiction. His tragedy lies in the discrepancy between his commitment to reform and dialogue in the world and his return to authoritarianism within the church.
It was his penchant for spiritual authoritarianism that contributed to the greatest tragedy of his tenure as pope: the sexual abuse of thousands of children globally. By holding church hierarchy paramount above the needs of the people, John Paul II perpetuated a toxic environment in which priests were permitted, often repeatedly, to sexually abuse children as long as the criminal behaviour was kept secret, preserving the public image of untarnished leadership.Perhaps one of the best reflections of this is seen in John Paul II’s strong relationship with the Legion of Christ and its founder Marcial Maciel. Maciel is accused of decades of serious abuse against women and youth, much of which was allowed to percolate due in part to the 1983 bylaws John Paul II approved for Maciel’s religious order that demanded secrecy and prohibited criticism of its founder.It was John Paul II’s same need for hierarchical control that also lead to the constriction of theology with scarring impact on people’s lives. His attempt to discredit liberation theology left thousands working for liberation without the full theological and ecclesial support they deserved while suffering under brutal political regimes.
Spiritual authoritarianism was also seen in John Paul II’s attempt to suppress discourse on gender equality which, in turn, deprived the Catholic world of the gifts women would bring to church leadership. His stance against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people places him in complicity with local churches and governments who continue to deny the civil and moral equality of LGBT persons. Additionally, his repeated denouncements of condom use complicated the moral choice of millions around the world attempting to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and promote sexual health.
The International Movement We Are Church believes that beatification and ultimately sainthood should not be measured by whether a “miracle” can be attributed to a particular person, but rather, whether someone’s life truly embodies the values of Christ who sought, not power, but the well being of God’s people.
And I agree. It remains a scandal to me that John Paul II will be canonized. Canon 212.3 of the Catholic Code of Canon Law states,
According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they [i.e., the Catholic laity] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.
I stand on this canon as I continue not only to exercise my right to dissent from an action that will inflict harm on my chart, but as I follow my conscience and do my duty to dissent in the matter of the canonization of a pope who protected a serial rapist who raped his own children. For all the good John Paul II may have done, he also did very considerable damage to many people, and his canonization will rub salt into the wounds of many Catholics.
For an NCR thread started by Dennis Coday, which is now discussing the We Are Church statement, please see here.