Yet I have also scratched my head a bit over what seems a rather precipitous and fevered rush to canonize these two popes. My reservation has nothing to do with doubting the Church's authority to canonize them, doubting their presence in heaven, or thinking ill of these soon-to-be sainted popes who were in their earthly lives undoubtedly sinners just as we all are. (Indeed, we know that among the saints whose veneration the Church approves there were many that were never formally canonized at all, but are nevertheless recognized as saints by the Church.) Rather, in much the way that Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman questioned the timing of Vatican I's declaration of papal infallibility (without in any way questioning the declaration itself), I think there are those who wonder whether there are not reasons for finding the timing of these particular canonizations a trifle imprudent.
Secular and Jewish critics have complained that Pope Pius XII didn't do enough to help the Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust (though I think there's ample evidence to confute that silly conceit), and the Church has slowed down his case and continued to defer it despite very good reasons for promoting it. Critics have likewise complained that Blessed John Paul II did not do enough to help the victims of clerical sexual abuse, as in his alleged passivity if not complicity in the case of the founders of the Legionaries, Maciel Marcial (though I think there is good evidence against his knowing complicity), but administrators of his cause have not let these concerns deter them.
Other concerns have been raised as well. Professor Roberto de Mattei, for example, whose credentials are above dispute, suggests that when the Church canonizes one of the faithful, "it is not that she wants to assure us that the deceased is in the glory of Heaven," but rather that "She proposes them as a model of heroic virtue." The person proposed for canonization therefore might be an exemplary religious, pastor, father of a family, etc. In the case of a Pope, it is assumed that he must have exercised heroic virtue in performing his mission as Pontiff, as was for example, the case for Saint Pius V or Saint Pius X. That sounds like the bar is being set pretty high -- enough, at least, to give some pause in the present matter.
Now it is true that Mattei also goes on to offer reasons why he believes that the pontificate of John XXIII was "objectively harmful to the Church," which goes well beyond my competence to assay, although I have to wonder whether his analysis of the question of infallible judgments in the case of matters not directly pertaining to the doctrinal content of faith and morals does not touch on some significant considerations.
Finally, there is also this video during Holy Week by Michael Matt, which, in the final analysis, I think cannot be simply shrugged off as silly traddy nonsense. I think he is right that Blessed John Paul II would probably agree that his own canonization should not be fast-tracked, but time ought to be taken to set aside all grave doubts -- not only for the sake of the critics, but for the sake of the Church and the candidate for canonization himself. The consequences of not doing so, as he points out, could include providing substantial fodder for the enemies of the Church.
So put me down as an obedient son of the Church who will always happily submit to Mother Church, but a son who is a trifle less than enthusiastic about the timing of these canonizations. What can I say? Maybe it can be chalked up to having Blessed Cardinal Newman as my patron ... well, perhaps. (As I said at the outset, he was less than enthusiastic about the timing of Vatican I's declaration of papal infallibility.) In the end, these opinions aren't going to make any difference to what happens on Divine Mercy Sunday; but I'm grateful for a Church that allows for the expression of concerns by the laity, whatever they may be worth, and whoever may turn a deaf ear.
“The splendid absurdity of the coming event can be grasped when we recognize that John XXIII and John Paul II would both have been condemned for their ideas and their words had they expressed them when Pius IX was in power.”
Commonweal (August 11, 2000), two weeks before Pope John Paul II’s double beatification of Popes Pius IX and John XXIII