Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Too Much For My Blood

This story is just too much for me to handle.  How far back into the dim recesses of Catholicism is too far back?

John Paul II's Blood To Be Relic In Polish Church
 MONIKA SCISLOWSKA   01/17/11 09:44 AM   AP

WARSAW, Poland — A vial containing blood drawn from Pope John Paul II shortly before he died will be installed as a relic in a Polish church soon after his beatification later this year, an official said Monday.
Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Center, said the vial will be encased in crystal and built into the altar of a church in the southern city of Krakow that is opening in May.

The exact date of the opening is not yet known, but it should be shortly after John Paul's beatification at the Vatican on May 1.

Sionko said the idea came from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and the longtime friend and secretary of the late Polish-born pontiff. The blood was drawn for medical tests at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic shortly before John Paul's death on April 2, 2005, and is now in Dziwisz's possession, he said.

"It was the cardinal's proposal," Sionko said. "He is of the opinion that this is the most precious relic of John Paul II and should be the focal point of the church." (What ever happened to the body and blood of Jesus?  I thought those were the focal points.)

The church in the Lagiewniki district is part of a center that will be devoted to cultivating the memory and the teaching of the late pope – who was born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, southern Poland, and spent decades in Krakow.

Many Catholics in the world are rejoicing over Pope Benedict XVI's announcement last week that he will beatify John Paul on May 1. Beatification is the last major step before possible sainthood.

The idea of displaying the pope's relics has met with some reservations, even inside the Catholic Church.

"The tradition of relics comes from medieval practices of teaching the Bible through images and symbols," said the Rev. Krzysztof Madel, a Jesuit priest in Nowy Sacz who has publicly questioned the usefulness of displaying John Paul's blood. "But in today's rationalized world the message should rather come through teaching about someone's life." (Rumor has it there was also money in that relic 'business'.  Maybe that hasn't changed.)

After John Paul's death, some Polish officials said they hoped John Paul's heart would be removed from his body and returned to his homeland for burial. However, church officials dismissed any possibility of dismembering the body, saying the age had passed for that practice.

Dziwisz said Friday that he has always been against dividing of the body, but that "relics have always existed and will always exist."  (He may be against dividing the body, but not recovering some souvenir blood samples.)


It sure does look like Cardinal Dziwisz is going to play his connection with JPII for all it's worth.  I am seriously at a loss for words because I can not comprehend this story. Contrary to Vatican assertions, the age has not passed for the practice of enshrining relics, just dividing up body parts.  To be honest, I have a hard time reconciling the theology of Benedict with this kind of thing, but then maybe I'm just plain wrong.  It could be the thing to do if the Vatican is hell bent on promoting the kind of cultic Catholicism with which JPII surrounded himself. It's not like this relic business wouldn't appeal to the followers of St Escriva, the not so saintly Maciel, and the guitar wielding song singing Neo Cats.

 According to NCR's Jason Berry, Cardinal Dziwisz did all right off those cultic personalities, so why not continue the trend with the biggest cult personality of them all.  If he plays his personal JPII relics right, why he could become a cult personality himself.  He's already parlayed his relationship with JPII into an international best selling book--a book that made no mention of the hefty 'donations' he received from lay followers of the Legion or Maciel himself.  Makes me wonder what more our esteemed leadership could possibly come up with next. 

There are time it's embarrassing to claim any connection with Catholicism in the twenty first century and this is one of those times.


  1. "There are time it's embarrassing to claim any connection with Catholicism in the twenty first century and this is one of those times."

    It is increasingly embarrassing to claim any connection with Catholicism.

  2. This reminds me of yoo momma jokes. Yoo papa said what? Would be funny except we are all too close in time to this out of wack leadership. So now we have all but Saint John Paul the Great enabler and misogynist's blood right there next to Christ. Oh, forget about Christ, His blood is only there during mass. dennis

  3. This makes more sense if you think about the biology of humans the way that St. Augustine did (and Aristotle). More recent information tends to complicate thinking.

  4. I should be be surprised by this news. Somehow, I'm not.

    I would think it a huge breach of medical protocols for the cardinal to have obtained the vial of blood. So much for patient privacy. While I'm certain there are others here who can speak to that more specifically, for me this is just another reason to avoid the whole Catholic health care system.

    And what's with parting out the body like it was a stolen car? If JPII had wanted to be buried in Poland - despite whatever norms were expected because he was Pope - I would think it could have been done according to his wishes had he made his wishes known.

  5. Even by 'medieval' standards, this appears to be rushing things and would be considered in bad taste. Sure, the relics of Charles de Blois were retained in the expectation of his canonization, but they weren't displayed or 'enshrined' (so much the better as he was only beatified).

    I must agree that it seems to be in horribly poor taste. Oddly, I must agree with Veronica in that it doesn't surprize me. There's such a big push to canonize JPII (whether he is deserving of it or not is entirely another discussion) that I would not be absolutely shocked to hear that the Vatican will waive the requirement of a second miracle (if one was not forthcoming) as an impediment to canonization.

  6. This whole thing is just too creepy. The blood is, in fact, medical waste, and should be properly disposed of as such.

  7. Clever of Cardinal Newman to have his coffin mulched, ensuring that he would not be a prey to the relic ghouls.

  8. Veronica I had the same questions, but then I thought who says Dizwisz actually has what he says he has other than him. Maybe a DNA test is in order--just to be sure. After all this is no longer the Middle Ages, or so I've been told.

    Anon, that's a sure sign that Newman was a man ahead of his times and apparently our time.

  9. This week, a monk was arrested in Greece for carrying a nun's skeleton in his baggage. He said he was returning a saint's relic to the monastery. The police called it theft and desecrating the dead. The Archbishop of Cyprus suspected "the work of charlatans with a financial interest". It's hard to forget that story when reading of Cardinal Dziwisz and his vial story.


  10. This just all goes to show how backward and regressive this Papacy and Curia really are. They are bloody off their rockers and poor examples, the worst examples of "christian" leadership. In my opinion, they are worse off than the leadership during medieval times. They have not learned anything from the Gospels. Not only is this embarrassing, it is outrageous and sickening.

    end of rant.

  11. Colleen, it did not even occur to me that the man might be lying about what he says he has. Which means, 'hooray for me!' because I can still give more positive credit than is possibly due... ;)

  12. I hope I don't offend. During a long walk through the woods with my dog I contemplated this diary.

    On the one hand we have the rather dubious intervention of the cardinal to obtain the blood. In addition we have the rather obsolete philosophy associated with saintly relics. Then there is the common squeamish reaction one might expect with ossuaries bloody relics etc. They all put me against the whole idea.

    But then I remembered how I was moved to the core of my very being by a different exhibit in a secular setting.

    Your reaction to this story are very similar to people who commented 10 years ago. (And again this year.)

    Ten years ago I took a group of young people to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It would have been John Lennon's 60th birthday so the Hall had an extensive exhibit of the man's life and music that took up most of the upper floors. I was puzzled by the number of people who were crying as they descended the escalator. They had witnessed the clear bag containing Lennon's blood stained eyeglasses. I had to see for myself so I went up to the floor, that was almost deserted and wandered about in vain trying to find the artifact, or relic, of the man's life that had moved them so.

    It turned out that I had walked right by the exhibit a half dozen times. In a simple, nondescript column was a small window at about waist height. One had to bend over to witness the contents of that recessed display. It held all that returned home with Yoko that horrible evening so long ago.




  13. I can see my self moved by that, Lennons glasses. Maybe it is because he touched so many people in so many inspiring ways, and seemed to devote his life to peace. Maybe when the life is authentic, and the person has passed, maybe the relic can trigger in us the willingness to accent?

  14. p2p,

    You know I am a great fan of Lennon's. I particularly like the song Imagine. i listened to it over and over sung by both him and Joan Baez. The words, though decidedly areligious, are in fact very spiritual. I listened to this song several times on the last anniversary of his death and found it inspired me to change some of my actions toward others.

    Several years ago, while visiting Southern Europe seeing several old Cathedrals, I viewed several relics even whole skeletons of saints of the past and I felt well a little weird, but certainly not touched. I wonder when people feel touched by a relic, how often does it inspires them to work on their own spirituality and how often is it purely an emotional experience with little lasting consequences. I must admit, I can not remember a lasting consequence of seeing one relic, and I saw many famous ones, but when I listen to Imagine, I am alway inspired to work for a better family, community and world. Is this just me or do most people have more positive spiritual experiences when they view relics of body parts? What kind of experience do people have when they viewed John Lennon’s eye glasses? What did it inspire in them? dennis

  15. I had to do some thinkig about this as well. There was a time in my life I had way too much sports memorabilia for my own good although I have to admit there were a lot of good personal memories associated with some of it. I no longer have the memorabilia but I still have the memories.

    The one sports trophy I kept is in the shape of a toilet. That's because it was from a big charity tournament and the winners were honorary ass holes for taking it that seriously.

    In a more serious vein, natives have their tradition of medicine bundles, and although it isn't quite the same idea, these personal bundles do have a sort of residual power--in some cases a lot--and become very much like relics upon the death of their owners.

    I think what irritates me about this story is I have a very definite opinion of Dizwisz and I seriously question his purity of motive when it comes to anything having to do with JPII.

    By the way, I can't get the song Imagine out of my head right now. Thanks guys.