Friday, January 14, 2011

Santo Subito? I Don't Think So

Santo Subito with El Diablo Augusto Pinochet

It didn't take a psychic to see this one coming.  It's been a done deal since the day JPII died.  The chosen date for the beatification is May 1.  May 1st is a day that should warm the hearts of  St. Faustina followers-at least this year- and remind any would be European Communists that May 1 is no longer their 'feast' day.

John Paul II To Be Beatified In the Spring

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI moved his beloved predecessor one step closer to sainthood on Friday, confirming a miracle by John Paul II and setting May 1, the first Sunday after Easter, as the date of his beatification.

The designation means he is considered “blessed” and can be publicly venerated. Sainthood would follow after the confirmation of one more miracle.

Thousands are expected to attend the beatification ceremony. Benedict is expected to celebrate the Mass himself, a much-needed bright spot in his papacy, which in recent months has been weathering a sexual abuse scandal in Europe and violence against Christians in the Middle East.

Wildly popular, John Paul was seen as a man of his time, a Pole who marshaled the Catholic Church’s energies to help end the cold war. But he was also criticized for how he handled a sexual abuse crisis that burgeoned in the United States as early as the 1980s.

At John Paul’s funeral in April 2005, the faithful filled Saint Peter’s Square, some carrying banners reading “Santo subito,” or “Sainthood now.”Benedict honored their wishes, putting John Paul on a fast track to sainthood, waiving the traditional five-year waiting period for the process to begin, but insisting on a thorough investigation into his life.  (I actually think Benedict put JPII on a fast track precisely to avoid a thorough investigation of JPII's papacy.)

Benedict said Friday in a decree that a French nun had been miraculously cured of Parkinson’s disease thanks to John Paul’s intercession. John Paul himself had Parkinson’s. In a statement, Benedict said that a Vatican-appointed committee of cardinals, bishops, doctors and theologians had determined that the recovery of Sister Marie Pierre Simon from Parkinson’s was “miraculous” and “scientifically inexplicable.”
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and John Paul’s longtime personal secretary, said he was thrilled at the news. He said he was “happy” that the wish for “santo subito, that people have been praying for, is finally coming true........”


I find it kind of ironic that I might actually be on the side of the uber traditionalists on the cause of JPII's sainthood and for the same reasons. John Allen, in his column today, sums up these reasons:

Second, some traditional Catholics may object to the apparent haste in John Paul’s cause, arguing that it risks cheapening the canonization process if there’s a perception that a particular candidate is being moved forward too hastily. Perceptions that the usual process has been “short-circuited,” some warn, may suggest that other church teachings and disciplines can be massaged or set aside. They add that according to Catholic theology, the church has no power to “make” a saint – it can simply ratify that a particular figure is already in Heaven. By that logic, there’s no rush, since if John Paul is indeed a saint, formal beatification and canonization won’t add anything.

I would personally add a fourth reason, that this kind of fast tracking also lends itself to questions, not of any perceived or real holiness, but of the espousing of the currently favored theological/political ideology and notions of Catholic identity.  I think it's noteworthy that this canonization is not particularly favored by either the progressive wing of the Church or the uber traditionalists.  This seems to define JPII as  something of a neo con whose main claim to fame will be that he concurred with and became a major player in neo con games of world control.  St. JPII and St Ronnie Reagan will be forever linked with the fall of the Berlin wall, but they will also be forever linked with the oppression of liberal elements in Central and South America and the favoring of any number of despotic rightwing dictators.  (see above photo)

That's on the political side, on the holiness side, JPII and Sr Faustina will be forever linked and this linkage defines JPII's notions of holiness.  They were pretty dark notions of holiness and how holiness should be expressed.  I have spent a number of hours reading Sister Faustina's diaries and came away less convinced of her visions and more convinced she was at least partially delusional and that the Vatican may have had good reasons to suppress her diaries and sanction her spiritual advisor Fr. Sopocko.

JPII as Cardinal Archbishop of Krackow was instrumental in having the sanctions lifted, and then during his papacy insured she would be canonized.  St Faustina's was the kind of Catholic piety, with it's elevation of suffering, obedience and hell avoidance behavior, which became the hallmark of the theology of most of the various cults of personality that came to the forefront during JPII's papacy. 

It's interesting in reading some of hagiographical biographies of Faustina that her superiors are consistently portrayed as impediments to and disbelievers in her holiness.  They are people who purposely tried to thwart her visions for their own selfish or class reasons.  There is never any consideration that these same superiors might have been genuinely concerned that Faustina was not playing with a full deck and did indeed suffer from delusions and a pathological religiosity.   Along those lines I find it very interesting that she belonged to an order of nuns called the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and then had visions of Jesus defining Himself as Divine Mercy.  It's almost as if Faustina had to 'one up' her own order by envisioning Jesus rather than Mary as the font of mercy.
In any event, given JPII's seeming inability to differentiate between habitual piety and true conversion, or between personality disorders and saintliness, or his willingness to confuse obedience with faith, I don't think I personally can credit him with the spiritual gift of discernment.  I shudder to think that had Maciel's 'wives' not come forward with DNA evidence of Maciel's children we could have had a St Maciel to go with our St Escriva.  And for the same reasons, this conflation of one's personal devotional life above their actual acts in the world.  We are supposed to buy this conflation in the case of JPII. Here's more from John Allen:
"Vatican officials today did not offer any response to substantive criticism of John Paul II, but in past cases when popes have been moved along the sainthood track, they generally insist that beatifying or canonizing a pope is not tantamount to endorsing every policy choice of his pontificate. Instead, they say, it’s a declaration that this pope lived a holy life worthy of emulation, despite whatever failings may have occurred during his lifetime – including his reign as pope."
I think someone needs to remind the Vatican papal saint makers that the book in the New Testament that deals with their predecessors is not entitled "The Prayer Life of the Apostles".  It's entitled "The Acts of the Apostles".  Just sayin'. 
Santo Subito?  I don't think so.  As to the reported miracle, that's more likely due to Santo Placebo, but I'll have more on that notion tomorrow--- because it's an important and understudied notion.


  1. it will be hard for the Church to explain in the future how Saint John Paul II was so saintly and yet enabled so many priests to rape children. It will be hard to explain how John Paul the Great was such a misogynist. It will be hard for the future church to explain all the censorship of so many great theologians. It will be hard to explain away the amoral dealing of the Vatican Bank in this era.This Church is destined to get smaller because it continues to paint itself into ethical corners that can not be easily explained away today or tomorrow. Currently when these difficulties with JP II are mentioned, there is a wall of “obedient” silence from the Vatican. The Church is ignoring these difficulties at their own peril . This man was a splendid leader, the problem was the direction he lead.

    He reminds me of a half back that played Notre Dame football in the 1920's or 30s. While in grammar school, I read a book about this player. In a very important game this man received a punt from the other team and proceeded to run for a touchdown into the wrong end zone. This back got the enduring name "Wrong Way Corrigan." This book and book report made a big impression on me at a tender age. How many books will be written about the poor direction of JP II? Will there be enough computer disc space to hold it all? It all goes to show that perhaps we all are saints! (I mean that sincerely.) Perhaps our God is truly merciful enough to help us somehow to get past the lack of real competence shown by this leader and his successor.

  2. Sancte Placebo, ora pro nobis!

  3. In the beginning stages of one's spiritual life one will see JPII as the "saint" simply because it is thrust as "truth" by the Church hierarchs and on the surface it appears to be true. But when one grows up and reads more and is aware of his/her own consciousness & direct connection to God, as well as a broader perspective of history that is honest, one will defy the saint-makers as well as the "saint."

    It seems to me that Benedict and his ilk are holding on to notions of sainthood only to further their political and economic causes for their own narcissistic gain. Mature adults can see right through the chicanery.

    Elevating JPII's status as saint is unhealthy in many respects and will be hard to explain as Dennis so aptly points out. It is really sad to see the Church doing this and promoting this man who whipped himself to young people who will then think it is ok and normal to whip themselves too, when in truth it is pathologically and theologically disordered.

    I guess Benedict sees that if JPII can be declared a saint, maybe then he will too. Its intent is pure narcissism if you ask me. If JPII is a saint, then I guess everybody is a saint, even Pinochet.

  4. Dennis I think in the future JPII is going to be exhibit A for the mindset that took a tremdous two millenia spiritual tradition into the oblivion of history.

    Or to put this more hopefully, he will be exhibit A for why ROMAN Catholicism headed off into oblivion. I believe this reduction of Roman Catholic influence is absolutely necessary if Christian 'catholicism' is ever going to be able to become the community and belief system Jesus might have intended.

    Careful study of the JPII papacy, just based on the surface facts we currently have, paint a picture of a man obssessed with global power and global power dynamics. I still get stuck on the fact his first act in office was to take sole control of the Vatican bank and his second act was to take money from the bank--most of it apparently from donations to Mother Theresa order--and build his 250,000 dollar heated swimming pool.

    That's why I suppose the historical reasoning for his canonization is to be his personal holiness rather than any judgement about the acts of his papacy. What a complete crock of shit. However, it is another glaring example of the kind of mindset which says obedience in the little things or the strictly personal things, justify any odious actions on the big things. So we are expected to overlook JPII's disastrous handling of the sexual abuse crisis and his overt promotion of Maciel on the basis of the fact he was apparently completely celibate. I could go on but you get my drift.

  5. Butterfly I don't think Benedict is really concerned about his legacy as a saint, but his legacy as a pope--and he's right to be worried about that.

    For whatever reason he is perfectly willing to concretly define Church teaching to forms of expression which do not appeal to higher levels of spiritual maturity. I do agree part of that has to be for financial reasons, although that would appear counter intuitive on the surface, but I honestly think the really wealthy people who finance the Vatican really believe for both personal spiritual reasons, and more pragmatic economic power reasons, that a Catholic Church aimed at and for the 'simple' people is best for them and actually does reflect God. Keeping women barefoot, pregnant, and cooking is the most efficient way to maintain the status quo of large scale economic exploitation of the poor by the rich. They want a church sanctuary and altar which reflects their spiritual thinking and wealth and pews full of people which reflect their economic thinking and exalt their own status.

    JPII's papacy and now Benedict's has to be the cat's meow for these folks. In the meantime the Mafia seems to run the Vatican bank through Opus Dei and Central and South American drug money has built more than one Church and supported more than one Church run charity program.

  6. "I do agree part of that has to be for financial reasons, although that would appear counter intuitive on the surface, but I honestly think the really wealthy people who finance the Vatican really believe for both personal spiritual reasons, and more pragmatic economic power reasons, that a Catholic Church aimed at and for the 'simple' people is best for them and actually does reflect God."

    Too many of us realize the fact that the wealthy that support the Catholic Church to keep their wealth and lifestyle actually do not reflect God.

  7. This beatification/canonization thing is a waste of time and money--as are all such namings of individuals as"blessed' and "saint". The church has more important areas that need attention and reform. And the world has so many problems that cry out for Kingdom solutions. But we are quibbling about who is "holy"or holy enough or holier than others etc. etc..

  8. Part I

    I honestly I think that we all, excepting for a very few extremely evil people, are the saints. Was JP II extremely evil? He has some qualities of it in that he enabled abuse of children, that he truly was a misogynist and that he truly had to know of the evils of the Vatican bank. Yet--- we can not judge that far. I think if there is an after life with a great God then we are all expected to join the party. We are all in the same class. Some are more spiritual in that they see all of God’s creation as one, and each part effecting and affecting each other part, and that there really is an equality of humans and perhaps we are learning to let all living animals become part of this equality. There are atheists and theists that understand and life more or less by this concept. They seem to me to be more saintly.

    The fact that a person is celibate and debases himself with personal pain, does not equal holiness as both Coleen and Butterfly have pointed our. Celibacy is a deprivation that does not in of itself engender holiness. Does fasting or lack of food engender holiness, it may but as long as we do it as a sacrifice for a short period of time. Depriving ourselves of nutrition and vitamins for a whole life time or giving ourselves less than is required is as much self abuse as is overeating. Self abuse is often deadly it leads to physical disorders. We see it in people that eat too much or too little. This does no one any favors and is really deadly. cont to part 2

  9. As far as celibacy is concerned, it prevents us from developing good and intimate personal relationships. It causes a the development of schizoid personality and in the case of many celibates, personality disorder. This does not make a person more saintly, it does the opposite. Celibates fail to learn the first thing about spirituality and holiness and that is how to live intimately with another. Now many of us saints may fail this test and be involved in sever emotional family distress and divorce. Yet better to lust then love than to never have loved at all. To remain celibate causes particularly in men their own unsatisfied lust. Besides all the power games that this causes “celibate” men, it also causes them to live the life of the hypocrite and they very often masturbate themselves calling this action a mortal sin in others or these men simply break their vows. I have always expected as much, and for this reason left a very uncelebate seminary, (this was true of both the seminarians and the staff) but the research of Richard Sipe is very telling. dennis

  10. Dennis I agree that Sipe's research points to some serious issues with celibacy and it's effects on individual priests.

    I think we need to redefine what we mean by holiness. It should mean a 'whole' person who is whole in the sense that they are no longer controlled by fear and don't project their fears on others. When one is not controlled by ego fears one is capable of non judgmental love. Interestingly enough, animals seem to know who those people are as evidenced by St Francis of Assisi. Real holiness should bring peace rather than self worship or guilt and it is not a product of ritual behavior---a point Jesus made repeatedly about the religious leadership of his time.

  11. Your comments are very interesting, Dennis. I think Sipe has done a lot of important studies of the celibacy issue. What you say in this regard is surely food for thought. When I was younger I was under the impression that 95% of priests were living lives of chaste purity but now I realize that this is not true. In some ways, Pope John Paul II was a great man. I think he did much to end communism and more than any other Pope he traveled to many countries sharing the gospel of Christ. He seemed to have a great love of people. But I think that some people did not care for the fact that he was Polish and would have preferred an Italian Pope as he was the first non-Italian Pope in 400 years. So I think that some people looked down on him because of his nationality. But as many here have stated, he failed in addressing the problem of abuse of children and this was surely a great failure for him and for the Church.

  12. I wonder how many healthy priests who are not elderly are actually living lives of chaste purity (that is they don't ever experience orgasms). I wonder how many priests in the past felt that they were unclean and due to a lack of education in such matters were under the impression that most other priests were chaste and pure and that they were defective. Many priests in the past suffered from problems with alcohol. I wonder how many such problems were caused in part by feeling bad about their sexuality. I hope that with the abuse crisis that seminarians are given courses in human sexuality and that they learn about these matters. The Church has a lot to learn and a ways to go but hopefully they can start to move in the right direction.

  13. Mareczku you're asking good qestions, but I would take the questions one step further and ask how many priests were victimized by profound loneliness and a lack of meaningful relationships. When any given person seeks to fill that more basic need they all too often resort to very bad strategies. When loneliness is coupled with the lack of physical touch such a state implies, sexual acting out becomes more likely.

    I once had a teacher in grad school who maintained humanity was God's way of experiencing relationship throug touch, hence the need for a material universe, and hence all the dysfunction when we act from a guilt infested belief system when it comes to touch.

  14. If the Church canonises Pope John Paul, then he is a saint (to us real Catholics, anyway).

  15. Beatifying isn't quite canonization. More than one pope ran out of gas at this step.

  16. Regarding rdp46's comment, Pope John Paul II was no misogynist. Credibility in commentary comes with knowing more of the facts. Pope John Paul II was a profound bible scholar, and understood the teachings of Christ in a very insightful way, particularly with regard to women:

  17. In the three and a half years we've been doing this blog JPII's 'mulieris dignitatem' has been discussed more than once.

    Most of us who have professional training in medicine or psychology do not limit our understanding of gender roles or sex differentiation to Genesis. JPII had a nasty tendency to see what he needed to see in his biblical study. This is why he can completely ignore nasty little facts like marriage in the bible was a property contract and usually polygamous.