|St JPII will be looking down from heaven on the Synod on the family....so says Pope Francis.
While I can't say that I was overwhelmed with last Sunday's dual canonization, I can say one remark from Pope Francis surprised me. It was about JPII and how he was the Pope of the Family. I was not quite sure how this particular designation was merited, but then found out it was merited because that's what St JPII himself wanted to be remembered as, and if there's one thing I know about JPII, he got what he wanted. Pope Francis obliged. He stated so in his short homily as excerpted below from the Tablet article:
In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.
I am not particularly happy that Francis felt the need to point this out. JPII is not my idea of a man who understood the contemporary family even though he was raised in a one parent family. He always appeared to me as a man who understood the importance of maintaining the traditional idea of family because it was useful in a geopolitical sense. The traditional family model underscored male authority, kept women open to pregnancy after pregnancy, was the backbone of the Church itself, and was the established form of enculturating children in their proper gender roles. I have always seen Theology of the Body as more of a social political treatise than a theological work, but then I've always thought JPII was far more interested in playing in the geopolitical field than the spiritual field. He was good at the geopolitical thing and not so good at the spiritual thing. How he suddenly becomes good at the family thing is too typical of his papacy. "I say I it is, therefore it is".
However, if one accepts the geopolitical bent of JPII's papacy, and also accepts that Pope Francis, as a JPII appointee, was a willing player in these geopolitical games, then it makes sense that Francis inform us all that JPII might now be the spiritual driving force behind the Synod on the family. That does not bode well for the transparency and dialogue needed for this synod. I can easily imagine JPII's Theology of the Body will be quoted endlessly, neck and neck with the soon to be beatified Paul VI's Humanae Vitae. There will be rejoicing in fascist family circles and groans from Catholic families who don't qualify either economically or in their actual makeup as a proper fascist Catholic family. And as Bill Lyndsey musingly points out, gays as parts of heterosexual families or as parents with their own families, need not worry about being counted as families or members of families since the 'family' has been the flag behind which a great deal of anti gay crusading has been done by the Catholic powers that be that know everything there is to know about families. (I'm practicing really long sentences so I can be a translator of liturgical Latin.)
I should also point out that with in this past year, gay marriage has also become an excuse for Roman Catholic agitation about the 'war on gender identity'. This is especially prevalent in.....you guessed it, Poland. Which I am led to believe is not just gay men acting feminine (clerical men are immune to this charge), but women taking birth control pills while acting as if they have an intrinsic equality with men.
This naming JPII the 'Pope of the Family and Patron Saint of the Synod on the family' is just one more red flag amongst many when it comes to this upcoming Synod. I figured things weren't going as planned when all of sudden bishops conferences like England's, which had been transparent and seriously attempting to get lay input, suddenly clammed up about the results of their efforts. The dust up between Cardinal Kasper and his cardinal detractors over different approaches to divorce, the sudden need of the CDF's Cardinal Muller to issue a thirty some page defense of Catholic marriage law, and the total silence from the Vatican on the inhumane laws targeting gays in Uganda and Nigeria, are just some of the red flags that lead me to believe this upcoming synod will not be a spectacular pastoral success. I see another potential Humanae Vitae written all over it. Should that come to pass, it will be another nail in the future of Roman Catholicism in the developed world and would very shortly be mirrored in the developing world. One need only look at the failure of the Bishops Conference of the Phillipines who lost a 15 year battle against reproductive rights for Philippine women and their families. My advice to those who will be attending this synod is not to look to JPII for inspiration the Catholic family, but to the lay women of the Philippines because it there the future of the Catholic family resides.