Sunday, May 1, 2011

John Paul's Beatification: A Solution for the Divided Church? Perhaps Not

We won.  You lost.

Now please get lost.

That's the refrain I'm hearing over and over these days from those jubilant about the beatification of John Paul II.  That, and the refrain that success is counted in numbers--success is counted in numbers for the Christian church.  For followers of Jesus.  The bigger the crowd, the more awesome the show, the more obvious is the victory of Christianity.

Of us over them.

Of us over those who continue to point to Jesus dying virtually alone and powerless on the cross?

We won.  You lost.

The abuse crisis is over.  Get over it.  Get over yourselves, survivors.  Because it's all about you.  Can't you see the importance of this show?  And the numbers, for God's sake!  We won and you lost.  You don't count in any grand scheme of things--and that's what the leaders of the church have tried repeatedly to tell you for years now.  You're dispensable and you need to get over what has happened to you.  

Get the message now with this beatification?  We won.  You lost.  Get over yourselves.

Get over yourselves, tired old Vatican II liberals.  We won and you lost.  The numbers prove it.  (And the money.  And the power.  And the spectacles we can mount.  And the media attention we can attract and massage to our advantage.)

I hear many of my brother and sister Catholics exulting that John Paul II has been beatified and all kinds of refractory other Catholics have now been slapped in the face.  Decisively.  I hear what my brother and sister Catholics are saying to me.  Loud and clear.  

Get lost, finally.  And don't let the door hit you in the rear as you walk out.

And perhaps they're right.  

Perhaps they're right because their church, the church of John Paul II--of the John Paul II they love to use as a weapon against me and large numbers of their brothers and sisters--seems to have a serious problem on its hands for many of us who expect somehow to find the face of Jesus within our church.  If it's the face of the crucified one we hope to see in the church now, we might be well-advised to put the church of John Paul II behind us.

The problem that those using John Paul as a weapon have created for their church is this: it's the problem of finding some connection, any connection at all, between their church of numbers, big shows, wealth, power (and cruelty to survivors of clerical sexual abuse) and that tormented man who died virtually alone and a failure on the cross.

Because he, that man whose twisted, pain-racked naked body hangs on a cross in every Catholic church in the world, made himself one with the poor, despised, suffering, with rag-tag outcasts and, yes, with survivors of sexual abuse.  And neither I nor many Catholics being taunted to leave the church of John Paul II now seem able to see the face of that poor crucified man anywhere at all in the mean-spirited rhetoric that the disciples of John Paul II have been slinging around these days, as the previous pope is beatified.

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