Below are some excerpts from articles in the secular press shortly before the recent canonizations. I think the sentiments expressed in them are widely shared concerns that are perceived as not only as legitimate but gravely serious. I would agree that they are. Given the following statements and questions they raise, it's hard for me to make sense of why so many traditional safeguards in the canonization process were deliberately waived in order to fast track these particular cases. I cannot help thinking that even the two men canonized would have certainly counselled the prudent course of first resolving the disputed questions surrounding their cases. Given their particular associations with scandals and crises that have rocked the Church in recent decades, these fast-tracked canonizations would appear to be everything that the enemies of the Church and anti-Catholic media could possibly want in order to permanently link the Church to scandal in the public mind. Have a look below, and see what you think.
- "Vatican Under John Paul II Knew About Sex Abuse In Legion Of Christ For Decades, Documents Reveal" (Huffington Post, April 21, 2014):
The late Pope John Paul II and his top advisers failed to grasp the severity of the sexual abuse problem until late in his 26-year papacy, especially concerns about the troubled Legion of Christ order and its leader, the Rev. Marcial Maciel. But the Legion's troubles were not news to the Vatican, according to a trove of 212 Vatican documents exposed in the 2012 book "The Will to Not Know" and placed online at www.lavoluntuddenosaber.com. Here's a look at some of the more pointed criticism about Maciel from the archive, which also included plenty of letters from bishops and Vatican officials praising him and his order....
- Daniela Petroff and nicole Winfield, "John Paul Saint-Maker: Pope Not Involved in Legion" (ABC News, April 22, 2014):
John Paul and his closest advisers had held up the Legion and its late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, as a model for the faithful, even though the Vatican for decades had documentation with credible allegations that Maciel was a pedophile and drug addict with a questionable spiritual life.Is not this a bit odd? Here is a Vatican spokesman essentially apologizing for the candidate for canonization just days before the event. Yet as noted in our earlier article cited above, Prof. Roberto de Mattei states 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." So why should a Vatican official be apologizing about the questioned virtue of a saint? What is the purpose of canonization if NOT to propose him as a model of virtue, and heroic virtue at that? Please note: I am not suggesting that these saints are not in heaven or that they were not virtuous, even heroically virtuous. I am questioning whether questions and confusions about their virtue in the public mind have been adequately addressed and resolved for their canonizations to be judged prudent.
Asked Tuesday about John Paul's overall record on sexual abuse, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, noted that sainthood isn't a judgment on a papacy or even an evaluation of someone's perfection in life.
"The important thing is that the intentions were upright and that there was respect," Lombardi said. "This does not mean that he or she was perfect."
- Brett M. Decker [a Catholic journalist], "Pope puts Catholic rebirth at risk: Column"
(USA Today, April 21, 2014):
Canonizing pontiffs from the era of abuse is not only tone deaf but also exposes a continuing, stubborn refusal to acknowledge the institutional coverup that occurred for decades and that those at the highest levels — including popes — didn't do enough to prevent the crimes, enabling the crisis to continue.
... The other major factor in papal complicity for sex crimes is that popes personally appoint all the bishops in the Catholic Church and are responsible for their tenures. All 5,000 bishops serve at the pleasure of the holy father and resign or retire when their boss says so.
... Some of the most egregious offenders, such as Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, and Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former archbishop of Los Angeles who withheld a list of potentially abused altar boys from police and has settled $700 million in abuse claims, were not only promoted to bishop but also given the cardinal's prestigious red hat by John Paul II.
... The Catholic Church declares individuals to be saints to give the faithful role models of heroic virtue and show how one should live life to get to heaven. Because of their sins of omission in face of horrors at the hands of their clergy, neither John Paul II nor John XXIII should be canonized as exemplars of sanctity.
By extension, someone could suggest that the world has a right to understand the kinds of values that the Church espouses by the values clearly exemplified in the lives of the saints she canonizes. As Jesus said, after all, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt 5:16).
Which gives some pause in light of the foregoing extracts from public media. Will the world know we are Christians by our love? by the clear values exemplified by the saints we've canonized? Things hardly look as auspicious as all that. Sad to say, some wag might even go so far as to suggest that the canonizations come closer to signing the Church's political death warrant before the watching world.
[Hat tip to M.M. and C.R.]