On the Beatification of John Paul II
As the beatification of John Paul II approaches there has been, especially in some (not all) traditionalist circles, rigorous debate about his success or failure as Pope. Because I think every orthodox Catholic must, by definition, be traditional in the Catholic sense (click Tradition and the Living Magisterium for what this must mean) I have a keen interest in the many forms of traditional opinion (and there are many forms of it, ranging from the absurd and schismatic to the more responsible criticisms of the Second Vatican Council).
The strongest and most plausible criticism of his pontificate, it seems to me, besides introducing strange inter-religious novelties and tolerations of pagan expressions at complete odds with what the popes before Vatican II would ever allow, is that while he doggedly traveled the world calling men and women back to Christ and the moral and natural laws, he appeared to neglect the festering neo-modernist dissent within, the evil fruit of which finally burst in the long Lent of 2002 (I think it was) in the sexual abuse crisis.
I had to think long and hard on that criticism and reexamine the record, precisely because there was a prima facie ring of truth to it. But as I did that reexamination over time it became clear to me at least that John Paul saw the City of God being encircled by an unprecedented evil which, if it succeeded, would amount to an unprecedented global persecution which could drive the Church back into the catacombs. He also called the dissenters back to reason and faith, even if I think he may have been naive in expecting he could succeed here without the use of what Dietrich von Hildebrand called the "charitable anathema" (Click here). But then again---to be fair--- one would have to level the same criticism against Pope Pius XII, who, prior to the Council, thought admonishments alone would do that job and so left veritable heretics like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ in his Roman Collar to work much mischief in the Church and world---a mischief which, like that wrought by the infamous Hans Kung, would turn men and women, many of whom who had been originally formed in traditional Catholic theology and principles, into something unrecognizable over time.
After the Masonic sacking of the papal states in Italy in the 19th century, however, the Church has had to move very cautiously lest even worse persecutions await Catholics. We would do well to read Cardinal Manning on these harsh realities (click) and what the Church has been up against.
John Paul sought to reason with the men and women of our time. That's obviously what all his incessant traveling and writing was about. He also, we cannot forget, opposed the planetary wars of this 'New World Order,' urging diplomacy at every turn for the sake of so very many of the innocent (hundreds of thousands) who have suffered or perished since the first Gulf War. Is it any wonder the powers were not amused?
And was it not precisely John Paul II who in virtually every nation throughout every year (almost every day of every year!) of his long tenure as Pope cried out on behalf of the unborn, almost alone on the world stage, and against the ideological population controllers, eugenicists and euthanasia advocates [Click]? One can scarcely think of the name John Paul II without thinking of the poor, the unborn, the weak, the aged and vulnerable--indeed all of those targeted by the 'bottom-liners' who see all of human life in terms of financial interests ---which always means their own financial interests.
One young man preached a truism to me, "There's more to the Church than abortion," he said with no little sarcasm. I asked him what loving our neighbor meant (and not innocent babies in the womb?) and then urged him to consider the possibility of overt, hot, persecution one day, maybe even the gallows and his own neck, because John Paul was trying to save us from that also. Sound impossible? Catholics, it should go without saying, have known this kind of persecution many times and in many places throughout history, even in the 20th century and up to this very day in places. But this young man at my table was submerged in the theological knots and proof-texts of the extremists who fancy themselves canonists, amateur high theologians, though they seem hardly acquainted with the Gospels. He did not see that he was fleeing the Cross in a time of trouble by opting for schism. I pray for his children and grandchildren one day. And for his own sorry self if the euthanasia crowd and organ traffickers approach him when he is sick and /or old. John Paul II took a bullet to prevent that, and not for nothing. For those who might be interested in more on his pontificate and how, seeing clearly a self-styled "New World Order" on the doorstep of humanity, JPII sought to transvalue and redirect the very idea away from the nihilist ideologues at every turn precisely in order to save humanity from the potential tyranny implicit in its ideological de-christianization; you can follow the threads here and then here (be sure to click on "Older Posts" at the very bottom of each page too for previous posts and documentation).
It is only in the light of such atrocious nihilist ideologies and wars that John Paul's constant emphasis on the "dignity of man" can be understood in the Catholic sense. When the whole village is on fire, one must act, even when other problems closer to home sorely need attending (and should have been attended to by the local bishops where abuse occurred). This so-called "New Order of the world" has set the world on fire and brought it into the abyss of nihilism. John Paul, I believe, sought with all of his might to counteract this emergency and to redirect 'globalization' in a way that allowed freedom for the Church, for Catholic teachings, and protection for the poor and vulnerable of the earth.
Then consider something else that this Pope was up against, as George Weigel has shown [Click here], subversion, infiltrations, spies.
Note / update, in view of the announced canonizations of popes John XXIII and John Paul II---(Taken from previous posts): Some argue that Pope John Paul II, despite the profundity of his thought / teaching may have been as hampered as much as helped by Vatican II itself. In light of the controversies which has dogged the Council from the beginning perhaps much more is in order. Would it not be profitable to revisit Vatican II with a view to correcting some of the ambiguities found in the official texts, and to align problematic texts / concepts more explicitly with the clearer teachings and praxis of the "pre-Vatican II Church"? Especially in the area of liturgy a greater realignment is, very many think, necessary. Doubtless Benedict XVI, JPII's successor, made a start; but is it not only a start?
The question begs to be asked: Did Vatican II in itself, and despite the best intentions, strengthen or weaken the Church globally? The statistics tell woefully, it would seem. Isn't it time to learn to take the meat and leave the bones after so long a time?
Too much has changed, and hardly always for the better it should go without saying. Time has made this certain, despite alas, the uncritical ideologues who see only the meat, which doubtless exists in the texts of Vatican II, but who minimize all those ambiguities and bad fruits which have been unexpectedly bequeathed to us (so many scandals, confusions, massive church and school closings, dwindling vocations, the banality of so many liturgies globally, etc----none of this should be ignored. John Paul II and Benedict XVI began the work of the reform of the reform, but it can be hardly yet near completion.
Surely it is time for another sober reassessment in light of all that has transpired since the Council; Even if the problems arguably began before Vatican II, it was the Council itself which opened so many floodgates making contradictory currents the sometimes terrible realitities we have experienced as Church since then. An ongoing objective assessment of the Council, many believe, needs to be undertaken by the hierarchy before very dangerous currents flow into what could yet become even worse. Is it not folly to think everything is all wine and roses and to shut our eyes to the dark side of things that have transpired.
The aim in this piece has been to affirm John Paul II for what he was, a genuine and often profoundly thoughtful pope, concerned for the welfare of Christ's Church in view of the present and intensifying nihilism of the times, the "culture of death" he so bravely fought against on all fronts (totalitarianism, war, abortion, euthanasia, transhumanism, eugenics, scientism, usury and beyond); but that should not place either himself or this pastoral Council beyond the reach of ongoing legitimate constructive suggestions from the vantage point of the still clearer traditional statements of dogmas, norms, and praxis. Otherwise I fear that neglect of these duties will mean that errors or deficiencies of certain directions must in time fall of their own terrible weight.
JPII apologized during his watch for alleged historical Catholic wrongs or excesses. Certainly then, if all of that was supposed to mean anything it must also show that a pastoral (as opposed to dogmatic) Council (and its terrible implementation) can be pruned of problematic textual ambiguities and tendencies in liturgy, action (implementation ) and in praxis tendencies which have hardly always produced good fruit towards the salvation of souls. We can retain the good, then, and tighten up and clarify what is needed. Pope Benedict certainly was not afraid to constructively critique the Council in its texts, liturgy and general implementation. Does not more need to be done?
Popes Today should, many of us think, consult more extensively the popes of yesterday, especially (but hardly only) the popes of the past 200 years because these popes (and many bishops and other Catholic thinkers with them) saw very well the directions in which the world was heading, and they had already proposed brilliant answers with a view to rallying Catholic thinkers and people across the globe. Whether we are talking economics, secularism, the encroachments of outright nihilism or that "Universal Republic" (NWO) which they so often warned against, etc., these 19th and 20th century pre-Vatican II popes in particular left very little un-thought and they were incredibly lucid in their responses. In their day they made so many lasting converts by the compelling force of both their prescient understanding and their analysis. As G. K. Chesterton, himself a convert, said,
"Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about."Note: At the bottom of each page click "Older Posts" in order to view previous recent posts. See label 'John Paul II' (right margin, bottom) for more on this pontiff.