Today, in addition to Francis’ dedication of the Vatican City State to St. Michael (and does that place need defense of the attacks of Hell!) and in addition to the release of Benedict’s final encyclical, which is Francis’ first encyclical (thus perhaps shifting “Reading Francis through Benedict” to “Reading Benedict through Francis”), His Holiness confirmed the decree of the Congregation for Causes of Saints concerning a miracle worked through the intercession of Bl. John Paul II, thus clearing the way for his canonization.
At the same time, His Holiness of our Lord decided that he would go ahead with the canonization of Bl. John XXIII even though there is no additional authenticated miracle.
Let’s be clear: Pope’s can do that.
John Paul II strayed from the usual time line in the case of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, in 2002. There was eventually a miracle attributed to St. Juan Diego, one of the more amazing miraculous healings I have read about. I digress.
Here is what I think is really going on with these canonizations.
The decision to canonize Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II at the same time, at the time when we are observing the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, is a kind of “canonization” of the Second Vatican Council.
So, why does John Paul II have to be involved with that? Why is not Bl. John XXIII enough to do that?
Some will suggest that John XXIII appeals more to liberals while John Paul II appeals more to conservatives. Putting them together is an attempt to bridge the divide. I don’t think so. This isn’t quite like the double beatification of Bl. John XXIII with Bl. Pius IX, a move which probably sought to soften the Pian aspect.
This canonization has more to do with putting yet another stamp of approval on the Second Vatican Council. It is here to stay, if you were in doubt.
But wait, there’s more.
The canonizations have even more to do identifying the proper lens or hermeneutic by which we are to interpret the Council: the pontificate and the magisterium of St. Pope John Paul II.
This move is intended to identify John Paul II as our helper in interpreting difficult and controversial aspects of the Council.
There are controversial texts in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The whole of the Council itself is controversial. Enter John Paul II. He was a bishop at the Council who helped write important passages in Gaudium et spes. During his heroically long pontificate John Paul, in his magisterium, commented at some point on virtually every controversial or disputed point in the Council documents and on the event of the Council itself. He may not have solved, settled, definitively pronounced, on every controversial issue, but he offers commentary and insight on them.
Try to think of some controversial aspect of the Council or it’s documents that John Paul II did not write about or preach about.
I think what Francis is saying by this is that, if you have a problem with any aspect of the Council, turn to the papal teaching of St. John Paul II for clarifications and help in interpretation.
Some who don’t like the magisterium of Pope John Paul II will say, “No, Francis is pointing their personal virtues.” That’s because by the canonization, John Paul’s magisterium is getting a boost. Ask yourself which documents of future St. John Paul II the LCWR (aka The Zittelle) rush to cite. Do they want to see canonized the one who issued Ordinatio sacerdotalis? No. In effect, the bodies of magisterial teaching of these two Popes are, by the canonizations, getting a serious boost.
I don’t know what this means for reading Vatican II in continuity with Vatican I, with Trent, with Lateran V, with … with… with…. I know that I won’t stop reading Vatican II without those other Councils, back to Nicea and Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, I think Francis steering us to John Paul II as an additional interpretive lens, for a proper hermeneutic of reform.
Agree with Francis’ move or not, I think this is what the Pope is doing. Francis is firmly in the Benedictine, Ioanno-Pauline line. Furthermore, I think Benedict would have done the same thing! If anyone doubts this, she should reread Benedict’s 2009 letter to bishops about the SSPX! For example:
One cannot freeze the magisterial authority of the Church in 1962 and – this must be quite clear to the Fraternity. But to some of those who show off as great defenders of the Council it must also be recalled to memory that Vatican II contains within itself the whole doctrinal history of the Church. Who wants to be obedient to it [sc. the Council] must accept the faith of the centuries and must not cut the roots of which the tree lives.
In effect, the Second Vatican Council is here to stay. What we make of the Second Vatican Council is, as Francis is signalling, is also here to stay.