The star-struck Church of Rome

Speaking of the cultural vulgarity of the contemporary Catholic Church (see previous entry), today the late Pope John Paul II, just six years after his death, was beatified in St. Peter’s Square by his successor—the fastest beatification in history. The process has about much dignity as a movie actor putting his handprints in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. No, less, because the ritual at Grauman’s is appropriate to Hollywood stardom, while moving a pope toward sainthood so quickly after his death partakes of a star-struck attitude (and JP II was nothing if not a “star”) that is not appropriate to the Church.

One of the most widespread and damaging misconceptions of our time is the idea that John Paul II was a great Catholic conservative. In reality, he was a leading proponent of the 20th century Cult of Man, the very opposite of traditionalism.

My critical articles about John Paul II are collected here.

- end of initial entry -

May 2

Alissa writes::

Conservatism has been reduced to a handful of abstract universalist slogans, while the only moral or “cultural” issue the Catholic Church seems to care about is abortion.”

I disagree with the latter comment. It reeks of typical liberal criticism of Catholics where they try to undermine Catholicism. [LA replies: “Reeks” of liberal criticism? Please.] If you go to this post at FirstThings, you will see in the comments how liberals use this as leverage against criticism of “gay marriage.” They claim that Catholics don’t care about other moral issues and use this statement for example, “Since divorce is a greater danger to marriage then gays then forget about the gays. I mean these ‘gay Christian couples’ have been together for a long time so homosexuality isn’t an issue! Hypocritical Christians!.” It seems it is almost redefining conservatism. Sorry if I’m too abrupt but when discussing such topics with liberals this is a typical tactic that they use and I’m becoming extremely adverse to it. Liberals take one issue which is important and use it to attack conservatism as a whole or another aspect of conservatism. They use this attitude where conservatives are hypocrites. They don’t seem to understand that conservatism isn’t as reductionist as liberalism. Conservatism has principles sure but a pretty broad landscape of issues within it. There is race, gender, evolution/creation, transcendence and plenty of other issues. Everything is important and divorce and gays would be under the same banner of ills plaguing marriage (e.g. divorce was present at first stages of decay while gay marriage is present at latter stages of decay). I hope I don’t sound whiney but this is becoming too common when discussing with liberals in various forums. At first I agreed with them that perhaps some Catholics were ignoring other issues but when they started to use this to give credibility to certain aspects of liberalism I started to reject it. Sometimes this idea that Catholics only care about abortion may be true but the response is not to use this to attack another conservative position and to try to undermine it. Instead Catholics should attack the basic beliefs of liberalism such as equality, diversity, utilitarianism, hedonism, freedom, progress and other things while not forgetting to have an equal watch on certain issues.

LA replies:

All this is irrelevant to my position, which has nothing to do with liberalism. For many years I have criticized the Church hierarchy for having abandoned its former role as a moral and cultural leader and critic of society. This obviously has nothing to do with trying to undercut the Church’s opposition to homosexual “marriage.”

Bob A. writes:

I am a traditional Catholic and agree with your assessment. Here is a great article on the error of beatifying John Paul II.

Vincent Chiarello writes:

Your statement that the premature beatification of the late Pope John Paul II illustrates the Church hierarchy’s “cultural vulgarity” is right on the money, for it demonstrates once again, if that is necessary, that Vatican officials of this era, most of whom were appointed during the 27 reign of JPII’s pontificate, are really indifferent at best, or openly hostile toward, many of the Church’s traditions. It should always be remembered that the call for “Santo Subito,” (Sainthood Now) status for the late pope was only defensible after he had authorized such a process, hitherto unknown in Church’s history, for the late Mother Teresa.

The late pope was a man of great personal charisma; I can personally verify that, having met him a few times while I served at the U.S. Embassy to The Holy See. As Pontifex Maximus, his political outlook was forged during the Cold War, which made him an implacable enemy of Communism, and thereby established his image as a “conservative,” but his theological mindset was shaped by the Second Vatican Council, whose catastrophic results over four decades, including the death of Catholic traditional liturgical worship, he never renounced. To propose that Pope John Paul II was theologically “conservative” is fundamentally incorrect; that notion appeals to many Catholics today for it is viewed in relation to the feckless and disastrous earlier pontificate of Pope Paul VI.

Ironically, it was this same Council, praised by the late pope, that diminished the stature and importance of the papacy and its ability to take direct action when and where needed. For example, when during the priestly scandals (they were overwhelmingly committed by homosexuals, not pedophiles) it became clear that the Bishop of Milwaukee, Rembrandt Weakland, had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay “hush money” to his lover, the Vatican remained silent. To argue that this was an American clerical affair, as the U.S. Bishops did, is to recognize just how impotent the Vatican has become. Yet, JPII did precious little to end the candidates for the priesthood who had homosexual tendencies, with the result that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has paid more than a half billion (no typo) dollars to victims of homosexual priestly abuse.

In the end, all of these “distractions” were of minor import, for those in positions of importance in the Vatican were interested in using the personal popularity of JPII, including his “rock star” status, to gain some favorable press coverage to counteract the disastrous events of the past several years. Those who have questioned this procedure have never questioned the personal qualities of the late pontiff; those are beyond cavil, but never in the history of the Church has a pope been beatified not only in record time, but by severing the pope’s personal qualities from his actions as pope. In the final analysis, therefore, Pope John Paul’s contributions to the Church were of secondary importance. Pope John Paul II may have been many things to many Catholics, but a traditional conservative is not one of them.

John E. writes:

I have at least a quibble with the superlative you have attached to the speed of the beatification process of Pope John Paul II. I think it is a very accessible fact that St. Francis of Assisi was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1228, less than two years after his death in 1226. St. Anthony of Padua was declared a saint in 1232 by the same Pope, not even a year after his death. Perhaps the process was different back then than it is today? At any rate, both of these saints were added to the canon much quicker than John Paul II, who actually has yet to be granted sainthood.

Star struck? It may be so, but it does not appear to be unprecedented.

LA replies:

I was just repeating the news article which I believe I linked, which said it was the fastest beatification process ever.

Further, two exceptions to the superlative in 2,000 years do not change the basic situation. And certainly it appears that no pope has been so quickly beatified.

Vincent Chiarello writes:

A reply to John E.’s comment about the exceptions in which St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua were canonized in less time than the five year rule.

Allow me to quote directly (my translation) from the Italian edition of the Vatican Annual (1991), under the history and development of the Congregation for The Cause of Saints, which bore that title only after Pope John Paul II, in 1988, changed its title from the original Sacred Congregation of Rites:

” … on the 22 of January in 1588, Pope Sixtus V created the Sacred Congregation of Rites, to whom he entrusted the task of regularizing of the exercise of divine worship, and to deal with the Cause of Saints.”

Hence, your comment is more in line with Church history than the exceptions made of the two saints John mentioned, both of whom were canonized well before these rules and procedures were put into effect. Since at least 1588, therefore, a year of historical importance not only in Italy, but England and Spain as well, no pope has been beatified unless the appropriate time period was observed.

May 3

Allisa writes:

You wrote:

“All this is irrelevant to my position, which has nothing to do with liberalism. For many years I have criticized the Church hierarchy for having abandoned its former role as a moral and cultural leader and critic of society. This obviously has nothing to do with trying to undercut the Church’s opposition to homosexual marriage.”

It is not irrelevant. I’m not criticizing your position (which perhaps may be true about the Catholic Church) but that you should not ignore how liberals take advantage of it. I even agree that the Church hierarchy has abandoned its former role as a moral and cultural leader and critic of society. I see many instances of it. I’m simply warning that liberals may (and have indeed) use this as an opportunity to attack conservatism as a whole or a certain part of it (to undermine conservatism from within). I think it’s best that you are aware of it. I think that we should and must criticize the Church where it needs to be done but we should beware of liberals taking advantage of this. It’s a sad thing indeed. Conservatism needs to be cleaned but liberals even take advantage of these moments and try to replace or ‘infuse’ a blatant liberal position and pass it off as conservative.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 01, 2011 07:27 PM | Send

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