Some time ago, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints said that the beatification of Pope John Paul II was not a judgment about his pontificate.
The UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald, has some Q&A with Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.
Among the questions and answers we read:
Q: There has been criticism of his legacy, especially on questions of abuse and quite a few people have said that we should wait with the beatification. Do you think he did enough to combat abuse in the Church?
Nichols: I think beatification about a person’s holiness. It’s not a reward for being a good Pope. It’s not a prize for good management. It’s an acclamation that this person was close to God and in his life and work showed us some of the attributes of God, God’s creativeness and his abundant mercy and I think that is the only context to really reflect profoundly on the moment of beatification.
While I don’t think that anyone has suggested that beatification was being given to the late Pope because he was a good manager, what strikes me is the fact that there seems to be a separation of the concepts of a) living a life of heroic virtue and b) living your vocation well.
I am not suggesting that I know how to sort this out. But it seems to me that there was a closer connection between these two important factors in times past, that is, in other causes.
The vocation of “Pope” is not your ordinary vocation. It is a harder vocation, and I’d wager you would agree’, than most other vocations by several multiples. There have to be powerful forces at work on you and trying to thwart you and the Church both from within and without. Some of those forces are diabolical (read: angelic).
Can we really separate how well a Pope popes from his life of virtue?
If a father of a family, for example, didn’t do a very good job being a father to his family, could we still say that he lived a life of heroic virtue? It may be that that father failed in some respects with his children. Perhaps badly. What if there were huge obstacles and terrible circumstances he had to face, and because of them, he failed in some respects, but he persevered in the trying. What if all we could say was that he failed in many respects in his role as father of a family, but had he not tried as hard as he did, think of how much worse it would have been?
I am not by these questions trying to say that John Paul II was a bad father of a family. Don’t get me wrong. I am trying to sort out how we can say that the beatification of John Paul II was about him being holy, not about him being a good Pope. Is there no connection between performance and holiness at all?
I’m just askin’
Perhaps there could be some discussion of this on the part of people with very cool heads.