Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dissecting John XXIII and John Paul II

from this website


On the same day the Vatican released Pope Francis' first encyclical Lumen Fidei ("the light of faith"), the Vatican also announced that Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II would be canonized by the end of the year. [The report says anytime this year, not by the "end of the year".] A second miracle was approved for the canonization of John Paul II, but for John XXIII, Pope Francis chose to wave the requirement of a second miracle[...........] We asked our Aleteia Experts what they thought about the news.

Held in High Regard

"John XXIII and John Paul II exemplified the same thing--a creative, faithful response to the grievous challenges faced by the Church," Catholic author John Zmirak told Aletiea, "one that rebukes modernity's mistakes but also learns from it. They avoided both relativism and rigidity, walking a tightrope between opposing errors. That's what the Church always strives to do."

Fr. Michael Heintz points to their leadership during trying times. "[B]oth led the Church on earth during truly dramatic days: John XXIII intervened, for example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis and shepherded the People of God through the beginnings of the 1960s ferment. John Paul II was (we now know more clearly than ever) instrumental in dismantling the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and he did so through both cagey diplomacy and valiant moral courage and witness -- and without ever advocating violence." [unlike Liberation Theology!]

"[John Paul II's] commitment to the cause of life was not an abstraction," Fr Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, told Aleteia. "It was palpable. What we read in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), which he considered to be one of the most important of his writings, came to life in meetings with him."

"It was a conviction and a passion that combined mercy and strength, the willingness to confront secular power and the ability to pick up the pieces of broken lives. Whether speaking with him about the help that has to be given to those who have had abortions, or the need to declare that laws allowing abortion are in fact invalid as laws, he was equally strong, and it was clear that what he was saying was coming from his very being, not just from an intellectual grasp of the issues."

Our experts acknowledged that there were problems in the Church during their pontificates, but agreed they thought John XXIII and John Paul II responded as best they could.

"The sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church did take place while these two men were 'in charge' of the Church universal so they should bear some responsibility. Like all people, saints included, the standard is not perfection, but faithfulness," Allan Wright, Academic Dean of Evangelization for the Diocese of Paterson, NJ, told Aleteia. "In looking at the early church we read of scandal with almost every Christian community St. Paul writes too. He wrote to them in order to clarify what the teaching of Christ is, theology, is and then to explain how one ought to act, morality. Pope John XXIII and John Paul II did the same."

Anthony Esolen, literature professor at Providence College, thinks the blame for some of the problems should be spread throughout the episcopacy. "I'm not saying that John Paul II could not have acted more swiftly and decisively. He trusted his bishops too much -- the very same bishops who typically griped at him behind his back for supposedly being authoritarian."  [Imagine if John Paul was not THAT authoritarian and the Holy Father relegated much of the governance to the COLLEGIALITY of the bishops.  Imagine what would have happened!  Oh... It already did.]

Catholic writer and lecturer James Likoudis also placed some of the blame on the episcopacy in general. "Too often ignored was the failure of collegiality during the turbulent post-conciliar disorders as too many Bishops ignored the tidal wave of rebellion within the Church and the onslaught of those who had made shipwreck of the faith." [Many bishops were even guilty of starting the rebellion or were even to naive or don't care enough to quash the rebellion.  Ever heard of what was started in Bukidnon?  Yup.  Then Bishop Gaudencio Rosales gave the renegade liturgist a haven to start his inculturation brouhaha.  He was not given a place in Manila so he started a School of Liturgy in the mountains!  Just one of those kind of things back in the 70s and 80s.]  He also says that "a flood of documents from the Popes of the 20th century, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and other Roman Congregations cannot be ignored in the effort to correct trendy theologians who did their part to eliminate the remnants of Western Christendom."  ["And the word was printed on paper...and started gathering dust." so goes a quote in Vatican circles.  Have you ever heard of a study group among seminarians and even among the laity about Evangelium Vitae?  Nah.  How about Redemptionis Sacramentum and Summorum Pontificum among seminarians, liturgists and laity.  Nah.  Only Chupungcan books are discussed.  Bah!]

Liberal, Conservative, or Neither?

Though some observers portray John XXIII as more of a "liberal" and John Paul II as more of a "conservative", all of our experts rejected the categories being applied to them.  [Personally, I have adjectives more apt for both John and John Paul but I'd kept it to myself.  ;)  They are saints.  Let's keep it that way.]

"It's my view that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are not very helpful or constructive categories for giving an overall assessment of either pope, or any pope, for that matter," [I agree!] Paul Gondrea, professor of moral theology at Providence College, told Aleteia. "These terms are too often overladen with political overtones, or too often mark attempts to fit the Holy Father in a box, to serve in saying something instructive of either Holy Father. And this is because Catholic doctrine itself is neither 'liberal' or 'conservative.'"

He continued: "In truth, as Catholic doctrine itself is much grander than any category we can try and squeeze it in, so too is either Pope John XXIII or Pope John Paul II, whose pontificates at all points sought to uphold Catholic, too large to have a cheap label like 'liberal' or 'conservative' attached to him."

Joseph Pearce, Writer-in-Residence and Professor of Humanities at Thomas More College, agrees. "The terms 'liberal' and 'conservative' are not applicable to either of these popes. Catholics, including popes, are either orthodox or heterodox. Both of these popes were resplendently orthodox and, what is more, practiced the Faith that they preached." [Secret SSPX supporter says...I agree.  But the I am pretty sure some adherents of the SSPX beg to differ.  I guess that priest-blogger who branded me "secret SSPX supporter" and that lawyer who called me "pseudo-Catholic" are they themselves guilty of giving me, as Prof. Gondrea said "cheap labels" to box someone based on his blog posts.  Little do they know that I know more of them than they of me.  But!  But!  I do not brand them as ultra-liberal, defender of the Faith, Knight of the Round  Why can't we just be friends, huh?  What's up with you?  Scared of a little competition called "number of hits", huh?  What am I doing to you?  I do nothing to you, you get mad.  I do something to you, you get mad. What now. I do something, or do nothing or I get mad, huh?   :D]

Esolen points out that both taught the same faith. "Both Popes were profoundly orthodox; on no important doctrinal or moral issue was there a dime's worth of difference between them."
[Honestly, I think that blogger needs some refresher course in Theology.  Seriously.]

Fond Memories

"I remember seeing Pope John Paul II at Madison Square Garden," Zmirak told Aleteia. "Encountering the man helped me shuck off the modernist nonsense my religion teachers had been trying to fill my head with. He was not the ignorant Polish reactionary peasant they taught us about."  [But Modernism is not a nonsense, IMHO.]

Gondreau says he was also impacted by John Paul II as a young man. "I recall being a freshman in highschool when John Paul II was elected pope. There was such excitement and wonder at the election of the first non-Italian pope in centuries. And immediately John Paul II captured the hearts and admiration of the entire world. [Like the euphoria brought by the election of Francis to the See of Peter.] It didn't hurt that he quickly and very ambitiously set out to visit his flock around the globe. There was such great hope and such great optimism. [...] It was palpable even to this American high schooler."

Pearce, a convert to the faith, talks about how John Paul II impacted his new faith: "I first saw him during a general audience in Rome in 1990, only a year or so after my reception into the Church, and was greatly edified by my attendance at World Youth Day in Poland in the following year. I also recall being part of a Corpus Christi procession in Rome in around 1995 and attended World Youth Day in Rome in 2000.

"The last time I saw John Paul II in the flesh was at the canonization of Gianna Beretta Molla and several other saints in 2004. His example during the early years of his papacy, especially in his fight on behalf of those enslaved by the secular fundamentalist regimes in eastern Europe, was very important to my own conversion to Catholicism in 1989. Like so many others, I owe a great deal to JPII."

Wright was encouraged by John Paul II's visits to the US. "I was present during all the World Youth Day festivities in Denver, Co in 1993 which was life changing," he told Aleteia, "yet the Mass Pope John Paul II celebrated on Oct 7th, 1995 at Central Park in New York City was much more intimate. Perhaps it was because I went by myself and not in a group that I felt it was intimate in the midst of 125,000 people.

"He spoke more as a grandfather than as a Pope. He concluded the Mass with these words. 'I say to you today, always be brave. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid,' Pope John Paul II then said with a slight smile, 'Do not be afraid. God is with you. Do not be afraid to search for God always. Then you will truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave.'"

A Unique Time in Church History?

While Zmirak doesn't dispute the holines of John XXIII or John Paul II, he thinks "the process of canonization was unduly rushed": [Same here!]  "We have had a good run of holy popes. But we are also rushing to judgment, and allowing sentiment to overpower the Church's traditional process of discernment. Here's a good rule: don't canonize anyone (except perhaps a martyr) whom anyone living has fond memories of, and don't let the men a pope appointed handle his canonization cause."  [Fair enough!]

Fr John McCloskey, a Research Fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington DC, is convinced the Church has been in a special period of her history for Popes. "Speaking as a Church historian, I say with complete confidence that starting with Pope Pius XII up to our present pope we are in the greatest epoch of popes in history above all due to their Holiness."  [Not during Pius IX???]

Esolen goes even further. "We have not had a bad man for Pope since the Council of Trent. We have had plenty of bad presidents, kings, queens, premiers, first citizens, party chairmen, and other addled heads of state, but not one bad Pope in about 500 years."


I say this:

Both were noted for their warm personality and holiness, no doubt about it.

Both have their fair share of critics who questioned the way they governed the Church.

Both have their fair share of admirers of how they ushered in a new era into the Church:  John for calling Vatican II, the PASTORAL Council that reshaped the Church, DRAMATICALLY and John Paul, who placed the Church into an ever more influential role in the political and social life of the WHOLE WORLD.

But again, canonizations are about the person's holiness.

A bad tempered person might be martyred for the Faith and he can be canonized, but is he a role model for temperance?  I don't think so.

These two popes may have had issues not resolved or not handled well during their papacies but their holiness, proven by the miracles that happened due to their intercessions, John during his cause for beatification, John Paul, twice; proves that they have received their eternal reward.  They are now enjoying the Beatific Vision, interceding for us to the Father.

May the two popes pray for the cleansing of the Church of the "filth" inflicting Her.


Ora pro nobis!

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