Friday, November 16, 2007

John Paul II Rehabilitated

I don't want to go into the details, but I run into or talk to a lot of dissident Catholics. At NCYC, I met a ton and had a chance to talk to many of them. One thing I have noted in the world of liberal-dissenting Catholicism is the rehabilitation of John Paul II. John Paul was always popular among conservative Catholics; these are the ones clamoring for his canonization and calling him "John Paul the Great." Of course, the traditionalist community has its own beef with him, though we should be thankful for the indult that at least paved the way for the Motu Proprio, among other things. But the liberals and dissenters were no lovers of John Paul II. They were angry at his strong stance against Communism, at his disciplining of Hans Kung in 1979, his 1994 Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which closed the question on women's ordination. They clamored against what they perceived as his authoritarian refusal to undue Humanae Vitae, his support of Opus Dei, his stringent opposition to Liberation Theology and his condemnation of euthanasia and abortion. The list of liberal gripes against John Paul II goes on and on, and anybody who lived through the JPII years can remember how often he was vilified by the dissenters as an autocrat and a reactionary.

But now their tune has changed! I talked to a dissenter recently who spoke nostaligically about how John Paul "reached out to all people" and was really a model Pope. What? At NCYC, which was full of dissenting Youth Ministers and priests of questionable orthodoxy, there were tributes to John Paul II to the uproarious applause of the youth. In everybody I talked to, John Paul's pontificate was looked back on as a time of progressivism and horizontalism. It seemed as if all of the sudden everybody who defied John Paul's authority while he was alive was suddenly longing for his return. Why would this be? Why is he suddenly being lifted up by a community that despised him while he reigned?

I can only imagine that it is because they dislike and loathe Benedict XVI even more than they did John Paul II. Whatever they falsely accused John Paul of (he was not authoritarian in any way) they seem to see in Benedict even more. Unlike JPII, Benedict actually is mandating liturgical change and really is undoing a lot of the abuses of the past four decades (which only got worse under John Paul II). He is doing what JPII ultimately failed to do: act. I think Summorum Pontificum was the last straw. They rejoiced when John Paul died, but after two years of Benedict, they want John Paul back! At least they could ignore him with impunity!

It reminds me of a story from history: at the time of the fall of Rome, the Roman people were oppressed by the Ostrogoths. They begged the Byzantines to come free them from Gothic rule, but when Justinian drove the Goths out of Rome, the Romans found that the Byzantines were harsher masters than the Goths and soon clamored for the return of their Gothic rulers. Perhaps this explains the recent rehabilitation of John Paul II by the progressives. This goes to prove something about John Paul: while he was alive, he did some good things, and some bad things. All of the things I mentioned above were good things (cracking down on Liberation Theology, disciplining Hans Kung, etc.), but he also did some bad things like kissing the Koran, having interfaith prayer meetings as Assisi, allowing pagan rituals at canonizations, etc.

Now, of the good and the bad, what is being remembered here? What is being celebrated? I can tell you, the progressives who are giving him tributes at NCYC are not celebrating his stance on women's ordination or abortion. No, they are celebrating that he "reached out to all people;" they are celebrating the bad things he did, and his orthodox actions are quickly being forgotten. This is why a Pope ought never try to compromise with the world and value inclusivity above truth (John Paul himself called this the heresy of "irenicism"). In the end, John Paul's compromising will be remembered and celebrated while the little bit of disciplining that he did will be quickly forgotten in the frenzied melee to take up John Paul's name in the cause of license against the present pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Maybe I'm way off on this, but it seems to be the way things are going in the liberal community. I don't know if you all have experienced this; maybe you have or haven't. But watch for it, because I predict that the degree of hatred that the progressives have for Benedict XVI will be proportional to the amount of praise we see heaped posthumously upon John Paul II.

6 comments:

Joseph Fromm said...

You have dealt an entire hand of spades, and you have called each spade a spade. Well done!
Joe Fromm

Zach said...

One of the possible reasons too is that they are trying to hijack his reputation. Many of the "JPII generation" have a great loyalty to JPII. If the liberals can distort his writings and memory it wold be a very good way to undermine what good he did do for the Church.

Robin said...

I've noticed that, too.

This is my first time to your blog - it is excellent.

Alexander said...

If you are right then you pointed out something I was thinking of when reading your post.

It seems that the neo-conservative (or neo-Catholics; I really can’t think of a proper term but you get the idea) focused on the good things and ignored the bad. I had some debates recently about why JPII should not be canonized. Everyone who was in favor of his canonization were ignoring my points. Namely that someone who caused scandal to the faith and never did anything to correct it (like apologizing, explaining why it was wrong and making reparations for it) should be canonized.

Absolutely no one could explain why and they could not because it makes no sense to do so but they seemed to simply ignore this and try to twist the argument into something it wasn’t. They just called me a few names and said “that doesn’t mean he’s not in heaven.” Well of course it might have not affected his salvation – the point wasn’t whether or not he is in heaven but whether or not he is worthy of canonization. The fact is these scandalous actions were always happening from early on and no apologies or corrections were made to fix the scandals

But – barring if you are right - on the opposite end the progressives seem to be ignoring the good and focusing on the bad.

JPII was essentially a mixed bag. He was a pious guy but not a very good Pope. He was “too nice” as Athanasius the blogger explains. It is very strange that some people will not take into account everything he has done, said and failed to do before and during his pontificate – good or bad - but rather ignore things because it pleases them. Everyone wants a Pope they can admire, defend and have devotion to who was apart of their lives and time period; I would like that too but some people seem to be creating John Paul II into that Pope whether they be conservative or progressive. Simply ignoring things he did will not magically make him “the great” Pope some people want him to be.

But it seems for now we will have to wait and see if you are right and examine if the progressivists and liberals will do the same as the neo-conservatives.

Coffee Catholic said...

Dealing with liberals is like trying to hold water in your hand. No wait - make that Kool Aid because Kool Aid is so nice and yummy and makes people feeeeeeel good - anyway, dealing with liberals is like trying to hold a big fat handful of Kool Aid: just when you think, "AH HAH! I've gotcha!!" it slithers through your fingers and moves on to the next level of frustrating stupidity.

Anonymous said...

A poignant observation, though I think you mean that the criticism of Benedict XVI will be directly proportional to the posthumous praise of John Paul II.

I personally consider him great, despite his failures. While he didn't act in the way we are acting now, and did not halt the abuses of the post-conciliar era, we must remember that conditions under his rule (especially before 2000) were vastly different to those we have now. The sexual revolution was fresh in the minds of every living Catholic (having either experienced it themselves or been raised by parents who had), whereas now we have a growing army of youth who have seen the errors of our parents and grandparents, and are willing to throw them off.

Pope Leo XIII received the warning that the 20th Century would be the time in which the eternal enemy could do his very worst work - in this light, the fact that JPII managed not only to keep the church from a formal schism and still pump out good orthodox teaching, as well as bring Catholicism back into prominence as a formidable voice in the world despite the transgressions of our fold, is to be commended.

Furthermore, the "reaching out" to people you described (such poor choices as kissing the book of heresies or permitting heathen dances during sacred liturgy) were only one aspect of his legacy. The other was his magnificent use of modern communications, such as radio, television and even the internet, to spread the gospel. JPII was the first pontiff to publish books, and what an impact it has had. While his image was often twisted to somehow reflect the liberal agenda, never before had a pope been so visible, so well known, and so trusted. This has undeniably made the present Holy Father's job easier, as the faithful are now aware that even if their priests and bishops are unworthy of their trust, he is.

Br Anthony, OPL