Friday, April 29, 2011

John Paul II Beatification Approaches: A Selection of Commentary

And from one royal spectacle to another: John Paul II will be beatified this weekend, and here's a selection of articles that, to my mind, provide valuable commentary as the beatification nears:

John Paul II actually stifled much of the optimism and hope that flowed from Vatican II. His condemnation of liberation theology disheartened the poor of Latin America. His failure to understand either feminist theology or the rising role of women in today's world contradicted many of his other commitments to human rights in the secular world. His misunderstanding of gays and lesbians was disheartening.

On John Paul’s role in the church’s long nightmare, the Rev. Richard McBrien, a distinguished University of Notre Dame theologian, wrote, “Indeed, he had a terrible record, full of denial and foot-dragging, on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century.”

John Paul’s beatification may give a media boost to the Vatican, but Pope Benedict’s negligence earlier in his career has also done severe damage to the papacy; media coverage last year spotlighted how Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict was then known, failed to dismiss several known abusers. How can any pope be a voice for peace, proclaim the sanctity of life and speak for human rights while giving de facto Vatican immunity to bishops and cardinals who concealed child molesters? John Paul bequeathed a quagmire to Benedict: an archaic tradition of Vatican tribunals subservient to bishops and high church officials.

Kristine Ward, "Beatify but Verify," National Survivors Advocates Coalition News:    

The haunting question of why Pope John Paul did not lift up the innocent victims of sexual abuse by priests and nuns with the dynamism he displayed on other life issues or rid the Church of perpetrators with the vigor of annihilation that he showed toward communism should cling to St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday like volcanic ash.

Only truth will clear the air.

In more than 25 years as the most powerful religious figure on the planet, John Paul II did almost nothing to safeguard kids across the world. He repeatedly and effectively brought his unparalleled global influence to bear on other crucial issues but ignored or promoted stunningly complicit church officials. Church officials can’t have it both ways. They can’t claim to want victims to heal, while paying massive tribute to a man whom evidence shows turned a blind eye for decades to child sex crimes and elevated corrupt clerics like Cardinal Bernard Law.

When we honor those who enable or conceal wrong-doing, we essentially condone wrong-doing.

And so it goes, one spectacle to another, and things don't seem to change--not fundamentally--over the course of years.  Not easily.  And not frequently.  

Not even in an institution whose raison d'ĂȘtre is to keep the memory of Jesus alive in the world--a dangerous memory, as Johann Baptist Metz never ceases reminding us.*  Dangerous not merely for the world but also for the church, since the Jesus we remember in our eucharistic celebrations and proclamation of the gospels did not court power, wealth, and influence.

Instead, he rubbed shoulders with the wretched of the earth.  He invited himself to their tables.  He shared their meals and took upon himself their shame and exclusion from the tables of the powerful, wealthy, and influential.  And he was crucified as a result.  And his resurrection is a result of all the choices that led him to that humiliating death.  Those choices, with the solidarity with the wretched of the earth that they enact, are the precondition for the resurrection, which keeps Jesus alive beyond death, over the course of history.

I won't be watching the beatification spectacle any more than I watched the Kate and Wills show.  But as it takes place and the eyes of the world turn from the royal stage in London to the royal stage in Rome, I do wonder: will we catch any glimpse of the crucified one in this spectacle?

I tend to look for him elsewhere.

*On this theological concept, see Michael J. Iafrate's magisterial reflections at

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