Sunday, April 29, 2012

John Paul II

While I probably don't know my readership as well as I should, I have a pretty good feeling that this post is going to be unpopular. This weekend, I finished reading
Keys of This Blood by Malachi Martin. It was an interesting book from several angles and something that I think even non-Catholics would appreciate simply from its historical perspectives on the development of international relations, specifically from the birth of the Soviet Union till the 90s.

As a Catholic, I naturally found the more intriguing parts to be the windows into Blessed John Paul II's mindset as he (and the rest of us) endured the continuing collapse of the Faith during his pontificate. It also serves to highlight some of the remarkable contrasts between JPII and the current Vicar of Christ. For example, Martin presents JPII as pretty much certain that Europe was a lost cause for re-invigorating Catholicism. This explains the enormous resources dedicated to Africa and Asia during his reign. Pope Benedict, on the other hand, has clearly made the re-evangelization of Europe a priority. Also surprising were the hints Martin would later flesh out in greater detail in Windswept House, while at the same time including the Legionnaires of Christ as one of the faithful bulwarks of the Church.

Watching the explanations of some of John Paul II's more controversial actions was quite interesting. Per Martin, the Holy Father was convinced that a celestial event was imminent that would alter the course of the world in the favor of the Church against Her enemies. Reading between the lines a bit, I would guess this event was the rumored Warning that would precede the oft-prophesied Chastisement. Needless to say, that didn't happen, so it's difficult to say how the Pope's gamble is to be understood at this point. What you wind up with is a picture of the Pope that is very sympathetic, while still engaging in some criticism.

It is a favorite past time of a lot of Catholics these days to bash the previous Successor of Peter. I'm not talking about the media types who rip him for not ordaining women, saying contraception is bad, and condemning abortion. What we're talking about here are the "conservative," "traditionalist," or whatever critiques associated with Assisi and the like. Without delving into the validity of those critiques, I've got to submit the following for consideration.

More and more, I'm encountering the new crop of priests. They tend to be militantly orthodox. I'm not talking about the bare minimum "I believe in the Trinity" orthodoxy. I'm talking about "contraception is evil," "Hans Kung is a heretic," "EENS," "offering TLMs" orthodoxy. To a man, they claim Blessed John Paul II as their inspiration for the priesthood. Sure, he affected their discernment to the priesthood in varying ways, but they are all positive ways. Nobody says that they signed up because they felt the Pope was screwing up the Church.

Whether the aforementioned group of Catholics wants to admit it, this is what we will ultimately remember JPII for, I think. The Average Joe Pewsitter has never heard of the Assisi meetings. They have no clue about odd events at papal liturgies or kissing the Koran. It's not remotely on their radar screen. The priests I'm talking about know of these things, though admittedly some didn't at the time they entered seminary or even for some time after they were ordained. The thing to realize is that when they did find out, they didn't get discouraged or abandon their calling. Instead, they doubled down. The limits of papal authority/infallibility, not to mention regular old human weakness, did not shatter their faith or their fidelity. We could all learn from this. I know; everything I said is anecdotal. That doesn't make it untrue.

Sure, it's bad these days, but at least we aren't dealing with the Great Western Schism or similar event. Yet. All I'm saying here is that, for all his failings, I think JPII's influence has stocked the shelves of the priesthood with a lot of guys that we're going to be very thankful that we have in the coming years. Remember that the next time you hear someone ripping into him.


Jack said...

Who the heck are these people?

John Paul II is regarded very highly by a majority of Catholics and a majority of Americans.

Throwback said...

Neither side is particularly hard to find. Just google a few of the terms I used in conjunction with his name. The liberal dissenters are especially easy since they make up a significant chunk of the staff at America or the National Catholic Reporter.

Titus said...

Throwback is right, although I manage my RSS feeds well enough to avoid the modernists.

The traditionalist critics aren't hard to find either: hit any trad website and they're out in force.

And the truth is that Bl. John Paul II did, or at least was in charge at the time of, some bizarre things. But he was poorly served by some of his assistants and whatever failings he had were perfectly human. It's lunacy to say that the net result of his papacy isn't positive, especially given the state of things when he took over. Yeah, some bad stuff happened, but howdy doody it could have been a lot worse.

Alexander said...

He did many good things. Recently I was defending JPII against someone calling him a "heretic." However, I still feel he should not be canonized.

bill bannon said...

His insight into how some non believers can be saved outside our structure and how their cultures makes this separation almost inevitable was astounding. The catechism echoes him in stating that God is not bound or limited to the sacraments...
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.... God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

On the other hand, on the Old Testament both he and Benedict are so bothered by God commanded violence therein, that both men insinuate in their writings that God didn't really order such acts. See section 40 of Evangelium Vitae wherein John Paul attributes the OT death penalties to a less refined culture never dealing with the fact that Scripture has them given by God in the first Person imperative...over 30 times. Benedict mentions the massacres in section 42 of Verbum Domini and rejects them as moral and infers that biblical scholars with expertise in historical context must expound these. Well the entire 12th chapter of Wisdom is a long explanation of why God doomed the Canaanites. Benedict is going to have to remove that chapter from the canon to get his way....and that ain't happening. The result is that both men, influenced by modern hermeneutics to a fault in this case, have really denigrated the death oenalty in public even though their ccc 2267 allows for its rare use while even at that strangling the rare use it grants. That event undercut all Tradition praising by the same men. You can't tell women, Tradition is against their being closed...while you're dumping Tradition on the death penalty like a bad stock on Wall Street...and doing it due to modernist trends in hermeneutics ( Fr. Raymond Brown who erred at times in dymythologizing...served on the Pontifical Biblical Commission during the regimes of JPII with Benedict at CDF....entering in 1996 but dying in 1998.). Neither Man raised questions about Brown who in Birth of the Messiah stated that Mary never said the Magnificat...offering speculation and no proof on such a sensitive area.
Popes are always conservative on birth control but that makes people think they are therefore conservative on the Bible....not at all. In the interview book, Benedict opines that maybe there really were no stone tablets on Sinai and maybe Moses simply knew what God wanted as ten commandments. Not me. Count me out because once you play that game, others like mlitant gays can play that game also...and you've legitimized the roots of their rap.

Throwback said...

I'm not sure those statements in the CCC mean quite what you think. Baptism by desire or blood, for example, are certainly not sacraments but they have the same affect as the sacrament of Baptism.

Aside from that, IIRC the Catechism affirms that the death penalty is perfectly licit, either in defense of others or for the purpose of expiation.

I will concede that I haven't read Verbum Domini or the interview book you mention, so I can't really comment on those.

bill bannon said...

The revised ccc says it's licit and then proceeds to say it's legitimate so rarely it almost is never needed. Well since world wide, less than 50% of murderers are even caught, modern penology is only protecting anyone from a certain % of murderers in their area. In Rio, the arrest rate for homicide is 14% which means contrary to what ccc 2267 says, modern penonolgy is not protecting a family in Rio from 86% of murderers. In Guatemala, modern penology (life sentences) are protecting you from 3% of murderers because that is the arrest rate there for murder.
The last two Popes said in the ccc that the dp is ok but outside the catechism, John Paul called it "cruel" and both men seek its abolition...which means neither thinks it's ok. Wherever it is abolished, murder in prison...inmate on more likely by lifers because its a free kill. Mississippi recently reduced it solitary cells from 1000 to 150 because it saved them 18 million $ in doing so. Solitary is the only other thing you can do to a lifer murderer who murders in prison. Jeffrey Dahmer and Fr. Geoghan were both murdered by lifers in non death oenalty states.

Throwback said...

A couple of things here:

First, the CCC entry there is referring to licit use of the death penalty in the context of protecting society. The expiation point made immediately before that is totally ignored. This is murky stuff, but the past teaching is clear enough to make sense of it, I think.

Second, that any pope might feel restrictions on capital punishment are needed due to the pervasiveness of the culture of death or flaws in how it is currently carried out isn't a big deal for me. I do think that JPII had comments that were a bridge too far, but the point stands that as long as expiation is agreed as a valid rationale, things are ok.

Third, I'm a former attorney. I can't support our current use of the death penalty, even though I acknowledge the state's right to do so. I've seen too many juries and far, far too many judges who are complete idiots to be confident in their ability to deal with an issue as weighty as whether or not a person should die.

bill bannon said...

In the US there is no deterent even in death penalty states when appeals average ten years ( 20 in California ).
Ten years is longer than some thugs would last on the street in Brooklyn. In a good system, one could limit death penalty cases to situations wherein evidence was downright bountiful...e.g. witnessed by crowds ( Gabby Gifford incident); well defined video like the recent Camden chicken restaurant case.
When Romans 13:4 was inspired by God and written, it was within a culture of death...the Roman empire in which there was infanticide as the solution to sickly infants. When we execute as in that Connecticut case of the Petit family, we are affirming that we value life...the life of innocent females who just got back from Church....and who were then raped and burned to death by two sloths.

Throwback said...

I realize that anecdotes make for poor data, but what you call "bountiful evidence" is not all that relevant in this day and age. Most people who could be an asset to a jury find some way out of being called or sabotage themselves during voir dire.

I do not trust the legal system to make this sort of adjudication anymore. A long time ago, maybe. Not now.