Blessed John Paul II chastises a Central American priest who leaned too much to the left and toward communistic liberation theology
Pope Benedict preparing to beatify his predecessor on Divine Mercy Sunday 2011
Is this an act of the scandal that is Divine Mercy being applied too liberally? Do we prefer a God of justice and retribution over the God of Divine Mercy and forgiveness? Is this the scandal of the cross?
Blessed John Paul II showing Divine Mercy to a less sinful man than the priest above?
Tomorrow, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope John Paul II will be beatified. He will now be called Blessed John Paul II until he is canonized a saint.
He was a man of immense holiness. People recognized his authenticity in this regard. They saw him as a disciplined man with his heart on fire for Jesus Christ and all people no matter what religion or no religion.
But there are some "doom and gloomers" out there who think he didn't do enough to address the crisis of sexual abuse of minors by priests.
It is amazing how short-sighted and bereft of memory so many are. In 1978 when Pope John Paul II was elected, the Catholic Church was in an unprecedented crisis of identity on two levels.
The first level was the crisis of identity of the priesthood itself that contributed to or exacerbated the crisis of Catholic identity of the laity which is the second level of this terrible crisis.
In just thirteen year after the closing of the Second Vatican Council, everything in the Church was up for grabs. A great Catholic culture of many little "t" traditions had been undermined and had all but collapsed. All of these little "t" traditions were very public and ingrained in the psyche of most Catholics.
What are these little "t" traditions? Latin as the official language of the Church and her formal liturgy. Hushed silence in Churches. Tabernacles front and center. Ornate churches. Rectories full of priests. Convents even fuller! Priests who were detached from the lifestyle of the laity. Nuns, monks, sisters, brothers in habits. Catholic schools staffed by religious. Catholic hospitals staffed by religious. Catholic social services staffed by religious. The clergy and religious very clear about their mission, apostolate and identity. Laity very clear about their identity and living their faith at home and in the work place. Marian piety, the Holy Rosary, novenas, Benediction, and religious processions.
These and much more contributed to a powerful Catholic identity.
But within that short 13 year period from the time the Second Vatican Council closed in 1965 and Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978, all of these "little t" traditions were challenged as "pre-Vatican II" and tossed into the trash bin of history. Theologians with a dubious agenda under the banner of the "spirit" of Vatican II exerted more sway and leadership than did the bishops themselves.In fact the bishops followed theologians' creativity and teachings. Priests and religious attending national workshops sponsored by liberal, left-leaning theologians brought home every innovative idea presented and implemented it on the parish level as soon as possible.
These "deconstructionist" practices included ripping out altar railings, forcing people to stand for Holy Communion and to receive in the hand, the multiplication of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, the stripping of ornate churches and altars and placing shabby, cheap accouterments in place of these, guitar Masses and super-creativity in the place of practiced tradition for the liturgy and prayer. Devotions to to the Blessed Virgin Mary was out as well as sacramentals used by Catholics. Friday abstinence was tossed aside and days of fast eliminated, such as ember days.
And then on top of all of that, priests, religious sisters and brothers thought that celibacy would be out. They were influenced and seduced by the sexual revolution of the 1960's and embraced it privately and publicly sometimes. Thousands of priests and nuns married each other which meant they dated each other while they were still in vows.
Every short of sexual innovation came into vogue especially those practices that were considered taboo. Living together without the benefit of marriage started to take root.
Those who had disciplined their abnormal sexual desires believed that the sexual revolution gave them a license to experiment too. This led to priests engaging in sexual relationships with teenagers and boundary violations with others. Bishops overwhelmed or influenced by the spirit of the times looked the other way, abdicated their responsibilities or sadly participated in the free for all. Even pathologically motivated clergy got away with murder sometimes molesting scores of children with out impunity. Sociopaths and the pathologically compulsive in their sexual appetites, while a tiny fraction of the clergy, contributed to thousands of molestations of prepubescent children. However the greatest problem existed with homosexually inclined priests who satisfied their appetites in an unbridled way with adult looking teenagers. While both forms of abuse are abhorrent,especially combined with the Godly authority that the clergy wielded, these are not equal in terms of the pathology.
In other words, Pope John Paul II inherited a mess. But with the help of his closest adviser, Cardinal Ratzinger, he made tremendous inroads in reestablishing a Catholic identity for the laity and for the priesthood and religious life. However, he did not take a punitive approach to aberrant behavior. It wasn't until judgment day began in earnest in the new millennium that more punitive action was to be developed and undertaken. Some believe now that the pendulum may have swung too far in the opposite direction. Time will tell.
It only takes a few moments to let the toothpaste out of the tube. It takes much longer to put it back in. Pope John Paul began the process of putting the toothpaste back in the tube. This most important work continues today with Pope Benedict and will no doubt continue with his successor. The true teachings of the Second Vatican Council are now being espoused. There is also a recognition that not everything the Second Vatican Council taught was infallible or not subject to change. There is serious discernment concerning some errors taught by the Second Vatican Council. Apart from already defined truths that the Second Vatican Council points to, it was not a dogmatic council but rather a pastoral one. In this regard (pastoral) there can be little set in concrete never to be challenged or changed as time develops.
Pope John Paul was of heroic holiness and a hero of a reformer in a difficult time of transition for the Church. He will be a saint! He sought to reestablish the great discipline of the Church on celibacy, chastity, Marian devotion, clear doctrine in the areas of faith and morals and he disciplined errant theologians. That was a great beginning but much more must continue.