The Blog: Christopher's Apologies

Controversy surrounding Pope John Paul II’s beatification

AP writer Nicole Winfield has written the article, As John Paul beatification nears, criticism mounts where she presents arguments (not necessarily her own) against the late Holy Father’s beatification.  Some of the arguments she presents, include:

  • The process for canonization was done too hastily
  • Many of the crimes/cover-ups of the priestly abuse scandal happened “on his watch”
  • JP II failed to “stem the decline of Catholicism in the West” by allowing liturgical abuse
  • The cover-up surrounding the Legionaries of Christ
  • An impartial decision making body (most of the people working the case were appointed by JPII)

Additionally, do you think this should be a matter of assessing the holiness and piety of the man alone, which can hardly be questioned, or should the assessment/investigation process for his canonization include an assessment of his papacy as well?

And if it should include an assessment of his papacy, do the arguments above warrant enough consideration to deny or delay his canonization?

This article was the first time I have seen any push back on the idea of John Paul’s canonization.  Admittedly, I think the whole Church has been expecting it since shouts of “Santo Subito” – “Sainthood Immediately” – broke out at his funeral Mass.  Once Pope Benedict lifted the mandatory five year waiting period, it just seemed like a foregone conclusion that John Paul would be declared a Saint (possibly a Doctor) of the Church in record time. 

But one of the reasons for the waiting period is to avoid getting caught up in the wake of a candidate’s charismatic personality.  Did their life and contribution really have a profound lasting effect?  Were their actions, and the cult assembled around them, truly a movement inspired by the Holy Spirit or were people only motivated by a figure with a larger than life personality?

Religious orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans continue to endure (and thrive) because of the continued movement of the Holy Spirit in their midst.  Their founders certainly lived lives of “heroic virtue,” and were charismatic individuals but more than that, they allowed the Holy Spirit to be in control and for the Father’s will to be accomplished through them (i.e. the founding of these two great religious orders).

I am not suggesting for a moment that John Paul was not sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit or that he did yield complete control of his life over to the will of the Father; however, this article has posed some interesting questions for me to reflect upon.  Did the push for his canonization move forward too fast? 

None of this reflection by Vatican “insiders,” AP reporters, or me will change the course of events that have been set in motion.  This whole thing is really breaking new ground in the canonization process because typically people that have been canonized have been dead for at least a couple generations; in many cases, they have been dead for hundreds of years.  Additionally, the lives of these Saints are recorded in volumes that 99.9% of the public will never see.  Not because they are hidden, but just because there may only be one ancient copy of a document being used in the investigation process. 

However, Pope John Paul is a contemporary figure.  Everyone over the age of 15 at least knows who he is and may even have some memory of him (e.g. Attending a WYD, a Papal Visit to their country, or seeing him on TV).  Also, every detail of his papacy is digitally recorded and has been reproduced in articles, books, DVDs, YouTube, etc.  There is no shortage of information on the man, his life, or his accomplishments (and maybe his shortcomings). 

Do you have any thoughts on the whole matter?  Did the process move too quick?  Are the arguments against his canonization valid?  Does the rapid dissemination of information in today’s world mean the canonization process should move faster or should the Church, instead, slow it down in order to really judge the fruits of a particular candidate?



  1. Anonymous

    During the time that the Dominicans were in charge of the Inquisition and the Franciscans were enslaving indian populations in missions, was the Holy Spirit in control and did it allow the fathers will to be accomplished?

    John Paul’s never report even 1 priest child abuser to civil authorities for prosecution. And he never condemned one of his largest financial contributors, Marciel Maciel of the Legionnaires of Christ for his immoral behavior which also included child abuse, wives, and fathering 3 children.

    The Catholic church has lost touch with reality.

  2. Seth DeMoor

    @Teresa – Indeed. Hmmm…. I have yet to meet a 'bad' Bishop here in the US. I guess they are out there, because I continue to hear about them, they dominate Catholic discourse on modern issues.

    I think whomever the Pope may be needs to not be afraid to remove bad bishops, which I believe Pope Benedict just did in Africa.

  3. Teresa


    You make some good points. But, I still think there needs to be a better way of tracking bishops in making sure they're leading their flock towards Christ, following the Church or Magisterium, and not giving into secular society's temptations.

  4. Seth DeMoor

    I heard these arguments years ago, and they hold no water for me.

    Didn't most sexual abuse take place in the 60s & 70s, and was just beginning to surface in 2002? If that is the case, then JPII was only Pope for two years of that time, 78-79.

    Therefore, the question we should be asking is how prevalent was sexual abuse during that same time period of Vatican II in Poland when he was Archbishop and Cardinal.

    Can anyone find those stats?

    PS – the abuse revelations, at least in America, came to the surface in 2002. We all know he was feeble at that point and not really able to pastor as effectively as 5 years before. What would have happened if these revelations would have reached the surface in 1992? I bet he would have been able to handle the situation much more effectively.

  5. Teresa

    The AP story makes some very good points. Maybe the process should be slowed down? Maybe after his beatification on May 1st the process will slow down. The least they need for his canonization is one more miracle.

    I have no doubt that the man was saintly and a man of prayer but I do think he could have handled the priest sex abuse much better. I'm not saying he covered anything up but I think he may have had a little too much faith or trust in his Bishops, in their handling of the priest sex abuse scandals. Plus, how did the seminaries get so corrupt and influenced by secular forces? There has to be some way of watching over all the bishops, making sure their doing right by the Church.

  6. Christopher

    @David…Thanks for the link. I opened it and didn't realize how long it was. It's almost midnight so I'll have to save reading it for tomorrow.

    Thanks for pointing out that I was a little too free interchanging beatification and canonization. I needed to be a little more careful about that distinction. That is sloppy work on my part.

    @ Seth…Thanks for your input on the topic. It is obviously a very emotional issue. The article I linked to was just some cheesy AP story that showed up in my RSS reader. The link David provided is a much more substantial presentation of the arguments I mentioned. I don't say that to sway you away from your position, but just to provide you with a better presentation of the argument.

    I can't say that I've come down conclusively on one side of the argument or the other. I wasn't kidding when I said that today was the first time I had heard any push back on JPII's beatification. There is a lot to mull over.

  7. Seth DeMoor

    Obviously he was a man of prayer. Can't argue that ?

    Obviously he was a man of truth. His writings confirm that.

    He also was a man of discipline in my opinion. He publicly called out that priest in Central America for supporting a corrupt government, there's footage on YouTube.

    My vote goes to the side of corrupt bishops and cardinals who were silent on the issues faced during JPII's pontificate. Honestly, there are over 3,000 bishops in the world (maybe more), how can you expect one man to know about all issues?

    He was a living saint, and there is no way he could have hidden secrets of such moral magnitude like priestly sex abuse. I'm sorry, I just don't buy it.

  8. David Werling

    I agree with just about everything printed here:

    However, this a beatification, not canonization. There was controversy when Pope John XXIII was beatified, though not as vocal as in the case of JPII (which is mainly due to the revelations of the priest-sex scandal in the JPII's case). I suspect that, like the cause for Blessed John XXIII, JPII's cause will continue, but eventually go dormant, if for no other reason than given more time and less enthusiasm, popular pressure will relent and miracles will not be forthcoming.


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