Thursday, February 3, 2011

More Responses to John Paul II Beatification by Catholics with Ministerial Backgrounds

A number of days ago, I posted some reflections of Australian priest Fr. Eric Hodgens about the legacy of Pope John Paul II.  I noted that, in my view, it's important to hear the testimony of priests like Fr. Hodgens as the Vatican gears up for the canonization of the former pope.  Because Fr. Hodgens' years of pastoral ministry span the springtime period from Vatican II through the restorationist reign of JPII up to the dismal present, he has a long and valuable perspective on what the restorationist project of the last two popes has meant concretely for the Catholic church.  And for many of those who have given their lives to ministry in the church.

Today, I'd like to draw attention to more commentary in the same vein  from a group called WEORC.  WEORC is a Chicago-based group of former priests and religious women and men who have moved on to other vocational paths.that the group.  This organization published an essay a few days ago responding to the plans to beatify JPII.

WEORC sees both light and shadow in the legacy of the former pope.  He stood for freedom in the Eastern-bloc countries, called the Catholic church to account for its longstanding history of anti-Semitism, and directed attention to youth.  But the shadow side was strong and even predominant in the papacy of this pope, WEORC also proposes:

And what of his shadow side? Fundamentally, his style of governance was that of a commissar. Ironically, he was a mirror image of the Soviet system which he opposed so strongly. It featured a party line, which was non-negotiable. The supreme leader was engulfed by a cult of personality. Apparatchiks were rewarded and promoted. Dissenters were banished to the ecclesial equivalent of Siberia. A pervasive spy system monitored and reported instances of non-compliance, which were promptly corrected or punished. The chain of command featured lesser commissars who echoed the behavior of the man on top of the pyramid. And it was all sanctioned by Almighty God himself.

Like the Soviet system, this style of governance had strengths and weaknesses. It was rigidly centralized, clear, pervasive, and well defined. It inspired great loyalty among many and, of course, deep consternation among others. It paid lip service to Vatican II while subverting many of its key reforms which appeared messy and inefficient. It caused an existential schizophrenia among many clergy and laity.

WEORC concludes that this shadow-side of the papacy of JPII paved the way for the horrific situation in which the Catholic church finds itself today with the abuse crisis.  And so this group has serious reservations about the plans to canonize the former pope, whose "soviet style pontificate" created an iron curtain in the church, with the very bishops who have covered up and excused the abuse of minors by priests now claiming to own the moral voice of the church in a unique and superior way.  And asserting an iron-fisted, exclusive right to determine who and what is Catholic, and who will chart the course of the church for the future.  WEORC wonders how we can be considering the beatification of a pope who created such an iron curtain in the Catholic church.

And, as a complement to that valuable testimony from people who have given many years of service to the Catholic church in various ministries, I'd also like to point readers to an article that appeared at the Huffington Post site late yesterday.  The picture accompanying Paul Kengor's glowing tribute to the faith of Ronald Reagan is worth a thousand words.

I think that we can look forward to much, much more of this kind of analysis, to this retrieval of the two rock-star hero-saints of the neo-conservative end of the 20th century, in days to come.  As the centennial of Reagan's birthday dovetails so neatly--curious, isn't it?--with the date announced for the beatification of John Paul II.

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