Is there no connection between personal holiness and vocation performance?

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.

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  1. catholicmidwest says:

    Seeing as how virtue is the “acid test” of holiness, not appearance or emotion, I’m not sure how the two things can be separated.

  2. St. Rafael says:

    It is impossible to separate the papacy in the life of a Pope. As if the papacy was not part of the life of a man. It is a complete dichotomy in thinking.

    There is a reason why so few Popes are beatfied and canonized. The only saints in hundreds of years are Pius V and Pius X. This because the papacy is such a crucial and very important area in the life of any Pope. It is the biggest responsibility God can give a man. The life and sucess of the his Church on Earth is in his hands of his vivar. His decisions as Pope affect salvation. If he is a success, the faithful are more likely to be saved through the graces, piety, and holiness of the state of the Church, due to his policies. If he is a failure, the faithful would be led astray and damned through negligence and corruption in the Church.

    To be truly a saint you have to go above and beyond hundreds of other men who have held the same office.

    When St. Pius X was beatified and canonized, his papacy was fair game and there was tremedous debate over it in all the proceedings. The Modernists and enemies of Pius, brought out all sorts of decisions, words, and actions, he did as Pope to oppose him. His supporters defended his papacy and showed his administration, leadership, and guidance was exactly why he should be a saint, and the Church had been restored, better off, thriving, and it had all been a success. To this day he is the only Pope canonized, the best Pope of the 20th century, while some say the best Pope in 500 years and in the top 10 of all time.

  3. wolfeken says:

    I think you make an excellent point. If JPII were the U.S. Secretary of State of the leader of the United Nations, we would not be talking about this. He would be canonized, and his personal sanctity tied to his assistance in the fall of Communism would be lauded.

    But he was the Holy Father — the Supreme Pontiff — from 1978-2005, some of the worst years in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

    There are too many people pretending a separation of Pope and Man can easily be made. It cannot.

  4. Maltese says:

    Father, I think this is a great topic to discuss. I know this Pope died a virgin, though he was rugged, handsome, and manly in his youth (and, really, throughout his life). He could write poetry, act, etc., and was an indelibly charming human being. I have read much of what he has written, and, like I said in a previous post, partly Catholicized because of him. Brother Lawrence–a lowly cook in a monastery–said he made his life a prayer, praying while he cooked and did other things. I genuinely believe JPII did the same. Those close to him said he would pray hours at a time. I love him, and would have loved meeting him. He suffered through his disease to the end, giving a great witness to the sanctity of life.

    I say that by way of backdrop to discuss your valid points, Father. He was a piss-poor administrator in my humble opinion (as you insinuated). But as a human being in this vale of tears, had some (nay, many) superlative qualities. How are we to “judge” such a life? Did the Church further disintegrate under his watch? I can only answer, yes. Did he present to the world a benign face of the Church? Again, yes! But again I see all this through the praxis of being a “crazy traddie”. He was a little too sweet and kind, in my fallible opinion. Sometimes you need “tough-love”. Not wanting to be a monday morning quarterback, or a hindsight judger, but, and I know this has been argued ad nauseum, but just at the time when we needed someone to bring some order into the post-Vatican II Church, he became a traveling celebrity, and let the smoke continue to infiltrate the Church. This is no small matter. Eternal souls facing eternity are at stake here. The rot continued under his watch. As you said, Father, there are diabolical forces at work here, a fact we can’t underestimate.

    The Church has always been besieged by evil, and Popes are human beings too, let us remember. I honestly think JPII did the best he could, given the facts of his life, upbringing, the history surrounding him, and the praxis in which he lived.

  5. I have been troubled by the upcoming beatification of JPII. But something you just wrote rang true for me. JPII inherited a mess. My father adopted three children. I was the youngest and I was a baby when I was adopted. My older brothers had been in an abusive home and were adopted as very young boys. They came with lots of baggage. They disrupted our home often and severely. They got involved with drugs and some minor crimes. My oldest brother seems to be a sociopath and my older brother has learning disabilities and is a con artist. My parents did the best they could with them. My parents suffered for them and raised them as well as they possibly could. I turned out reasonably OK. My brothers could have been much, much worse (serial killers or something). So I can sort of understand the argument that without JPII, things might have possibly gotten worse.

  6. daveams says:

    From the Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales, bishop
    (Pars 1, cap. 3) Devotion must be practiced in different ways

    … I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
    Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfils all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

    From Dignities and Duties of a Priest by St. Alphonsus Liguori
    (Chapter 9, The Zeal of a Priest)

    … St. Prosper says that to save his own soul it will not be enough for a priest to lead a holy life, for he shall be damned with those that are lost through his fault. (De Vit. cont. l. 1, c. 20) In one of the apostolical canons we read the following words: “The priest that does not take care of the clerics or of the people should be punished, and if he perseveres in his carelessness, let him be deposed.” (Can 57) Why, says St. Leo, should you take the honor of the priesthood if you will not labor for the salvation of souls? (Ep. ad Turrib. c. 16) The Council of Cologne declared that if a person take the Order of priesthood without the intention of performing the office of vicar of Jesus Christ, or of saving souls, a great and certain chastisement is reserved for him, as for a wolf and a robber, which he is called in the Gospel. …

    Note: I am not saying that these passages apply to Ven. John Paul II. This is intended solely to address the general question “Is there no connection between performance and holiness at all?”

    I would also draw attention to the distinction between performance and success. A person may do their best and “fail” by worldly standards; another person may put forth very little effort and “succeed” by worldly standards. But I suspect it is the former who would be considered a “good and faithful steward” by God. It is our part to plant or to water…it is God’s part to “give the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6).

  7. I forgot to mention that my father passed away in 1999. He was one of the holiest people I knew. He prayed the Rosary daily and had many other devotions. His sons were some of the worst people I knew.

  8. Joseph says:

    In the last instance we have to leave it to the church to decide, if indeed there is a case to be made for sainthood or not, because of the of the persons intent. PJII may have sincerely thought he was doing the right thing by not reining in the wolves amongst the shepherds. I am sure the view upon church matters from the top down is quite different, then the other way.
    What I find perturbing is the aparent impact of public opinion, or so it seems. On the one hand you have a stalled process of beatification for pope Pius XII in the face of wide opposition, and on the other it was santo subito. Is it all a political ? Why the haste in this regard?

  9. I don’t believe you can separate personal holiness from vocation. Most (all?) the canonized became widely-known in life or after death through the exercise of their vocation. My grandmother was what you would call a “saint” with a lower-case “s.” She will never be canonized, her vocation was a wife and mother, and in widowhood a humble office worker. She was not known far and wide outside of her family and neighbors.

    Can you still be personally holy and be bad at your vocation? I don’t believe so. If you are living for and doing God’s Will, won’t you receive grace to be at least adequate at what He has called you to do?

  10. Widukind says:

    I think Mother Teresa said it best – that the Lord expects us to be faithful, not succesful.
    If a missionary, prepared well, preached his heart out, and no one stirred at his message,
    is it the fault of the preacher? More probably it is the fault of the hearers.
    As I get older, I am becoming more and more aware of my limitations and those of others, but I cannot get worried about the failures and blunders of the past and become addled with scrupilosity. At the time, I did my best as I thought how and with all sincerity, and so did a lot of other people. Did I commit sin? I do not belief so, but would I have done things differently? I sure would.
    How many of us would founder under the burden that the pope carries. It is by God’s grace that he ever progresses at all. Finally, let us remember the words of our Lord – to those who show mercy, mercy will be shown. If we hold anyone else to a stricter measure than ourelves, let us be aware
    of our own judgement.

  11. Benjamin says:

    Is there no connection between performance and holiness at all? It seems to me that the connection between performance as pope and personal holiness in his case is not that absolute. The “management” of the Holy See is not “personal performance” at all. The criticism of his legacy may target the whole system (and often the whole Church indeed), not separating properly the personal responsibility of the successor of St Peter from that of others (curial office-holders, diocesan decision-makers etc.) Te Officio Petrina is not an absolute monarchy in its historical sense, but an office (with powers) to facilitate the Christian Unity (it seems so to me). One can hardly blame on His Holiness everything that happens in the Church or in the Vatican.

  12. I think Suz. from Oklah. has a point. Things could always have been worse. That’s about the only view which can give me peace of mind regarding such a brief waiting period. Pope John Paul II’s ecumenical efforts, e.g. the Assissi prayer meetings, did scandalize many simple people’s Faith.

    Should we now take his beatification as the Church’s stamp of approval upon the equalizing of faiths which occured at Assissi? I wish someone would convince me that that is not what happened there. Please!!

  13. gloriainexcelsis says:

    The question is, were souls lost directly because of some things the Holy Father did or did not do, said or did not say, wrote or did not write in his capacity as Pope John Paul II? There are these nagging questions. Examples have certainly been given that might cause doubt.

  14. Oleksander says:

    what surprises me is people think and hold responsible one man can micromanage the religion of 1/6 of the worlds population… and the faith is strong and orthodox in the near/middle east, central (czech aside) and eastern Europe, in India, in Africa, in China… people are far too eurocentric judging the state of the church by what they see in western europe and north america

    have to very much disagree with belloc or whoever it was that said “Europe is the Church” (something along those lines) there has been Latin Catholics in India and China for longer than some Baltic European peoples have been Christian

  15. EWTN Rocks says:

    I don’t know a lot about JPII but from what I do know, he seemed to be a visionary leader, i.e., he was inspirational, courageous, charismatic, innovative, heroic, virtuous, and holy. I found a quote from an on-line article written by Corinne McLaughlin that I thought summarizes it well: “Visionary leaders often enunciate a vision based on principles that become guideposts for humanity. They intuitively draw on the ageless wisdom and present it in a new synthesis to meet the particular need of the times.” Many visionary leaders mobilize and transform others to greatness (in this case, holiness). This is where I believe JPII fell short as he was unable to achieve high level commitment from many bishops. Was he a bad Pope? No, I don’t think so. However, I do believe JPII’s beatification is based on his holiness rather than being a good Pope.

  16. Geoffrey says:

    I do not think the two can be separated, and that is why there are those critical of the beatification. I think ‘Suz. from Oklah.’ got it just right. You can’t blame the parent(s) for ever. The child eventually becomes an adult.

    As for the perceived faults of his papacy, everything can be explained if people would just lay aside their anger. There is no need for anyone to be “scandalized”. Regarding Assisi: please read Stanis?aw Cardinal Dziwisz’s excellent book “A Life with Karol”, in which he discusses Assisi and JPII’s true intentions, which were NOT syncretism. I imagine that Pope Benedict XVI will attempt to clear up any such misconceptions at the upcoming anniversary.

  17. Can you be a saint and a failure as pope? St. Celestine V. Enough said?

  18. Neal says:

    I would love to hear Pope Benedict say that his predecessor did his best, given the terrible circumstances which followed (at least in temporal order) the Council. Then maybe we would be getting somewhere. As it is, regardless of what many people here would like to think, this is a new springtime canonization of a new springtime pope, never mind the enduring cold.

  19. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    You use the term “good Pope”when , if I understand you correctly, you mean an “effective Pope”. Either way, it is hard to believe anyone could question the view that John Paul II was an effective and good Pope.To warrant such a view,it is not necessary that every single aspect of his administration should have been ideal, or even that he should have been free of occasional errors of judgement in day to day activities. Popes , even saintly Popes remain human after all. When Pope John Paul II took the helm of the Barque of Peter she was severely disarrayed by storms and the action of the enemy. He managed to get her back on course, repair much of the damage, restore a great measure of confidence among the crew ,deal with the most outrageous subversives,resume the battle against the external enemy and regain not only the tactical picture but also develop the strategy necessary to win the war. To judge effectiveness, one must take account of the inherited situation and the developing circumstances.
    The “early” Beatification is necessary for the good of the faithful and the Church: to ensure that his legacy and that of the present Holy Father who is perfecting the work, is lifted high for all to see and follow and to be put beyond question, either by liberals trying to raise their heads out of the long grass or carping Lefebvrists peddling the poison of division.

  20. Mike says:

    A line from Shakespeare’s play the “Tempest” comes to mind: “Good wombs have borne bad sons.” A father of a family can not be responsible–other things being equal–for the sins of his adult children. The Pope can’t be faithful to other priests’ vows, for instance. Yes, the management of the Church comes down to his responsibility, but every soul’s his own–to paraphrase the Bard.

  21. Lori Pieper says:

    I don’t like using the word “performance” here – performance suggests something that is successful or gets results. Remember, Bl. Mother of Calcutta said that God does not call us to be successful but to be faithful. I prefer to ask “was he faithful to his vocation?”

    I would say that John Paul II was truly faithful to his vocation of teaching, preaching, praying and sanctifying because he did all those things fulfilling his duty to the best of his ability. That he hasn’t (yet) obtained optimal results is the fault of those many in the world who refused to listen to him.

    Those who carp largely seem to be saying “he didn’t fulfill all of my pet projects for the Church, therefore he was a failure in everything” or “he didn’t do exactly what I would have done, therefore his actions were wrong.” They have much too narrow a view of the Church in my opinion. I was 22 when John Paul II was elected, and I saw the direction of the Church before and afterward. His legacy will be enormous. His teaching and magisterium – even just his Theology of the Body alone — are enough to earn him the title Doctor of the Church. (I don’t think this is just “adulation” as some people have said).

    Vexilla Regis, you have an excellent response. I couldn’t have said it better (though I tried).

  22. dcs says:

    Can you be a saint and a failure as pope? St. Celestine V. Enough said?

    Which is why St. Celestine V resigned.

  23. Geoffrey says:

    “The “early” Beatification is necessary for the good of the faithful and the Church: to ensure that his legacy and that of the present Holy Father who is perfecting the work, is lifted high for all to see and follow and to be put beyond question, either by liberals trying to raise their heads out of the long grass or carping Lefebvrists peddling the poison of division.”


    I don’t recall hearing complaints when Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta was beatified. St. Francis of Assisi died in 1226 and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1228. Were there complaints then back then?

  24. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    A person might be a good pope, but on the whole, their life does not exhibit heroic virtue.

    However, a person who exhibits heroic virtue, would almost certainly make for a good pope (as long as good is not interpreted as effective, which requires outside cooperation).

    So I think that a declaration of heroic virtue is an approval of a pope’s papacy. However, it is not solely an approval of his papacy

  25. Gail F says:

    Lori Pieper: Your view is the correct one, in my opinion. As far as being disturbed by adulation, or whatever — yes, we always need to beware of enthusiasm. But at the same time, veneration by the people has always been an important mark of sanctity. For some reason, the huge outpouring of love for JPII after his death took many people by surprise. Not me. I am not a mindless devotee, I just figured that would happen. And it did.

  26. Daniel Latinus says:

    When Pope John Paul II took the helm of the Barque of Peter she was severely disarrayed by storms and the action of the enemy. He managed to get her back on course, repair much of the damage, restore a great measure of confidence among the crew ,deal with the most outrageous subversives,resume the battle against the external enemy and regain not only the tactical picture but also develop the strategy necessary to win the war. To judge effectiveness, one must take account of the inherited situation and the developing circumstances.

    @Vexilla Regis: Well said. This is exactly my sentiment as well.

    I have to say that the Church’s worst day during my life (so far), probably occurred between 1963 and August 1978.

    However, we should not lose sight of the fact that canonization is an act of the visible Church, no canonization has to take place. Canonization is not only a pronouncement on a particular soul’s ultimate destiny, it is also an official endorsement of a person as a public intercessor for the Church, and as a pattern of lived holiness, worthy of imitation. In that light, a person’s job performance and good judgment have to be taken into account.

    OTOH, I wish that the authorities had not waived the usual waiting period, precisely to shut down the controversy that has appeared over this. But the decision was not mine to make, and for better or worse, the cause will move forward. God grant that tomorrow’s beatification will benefit the Church.

  27. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Some angles to consider:

    Even if you grant that a Pope is only heroically virtuous only if he is “effective,” there are different ways to define “effective.” Pope John Paul II touched many peoples lives in heroic ways that were never made public. Remember the little noted story about how John Paul saved a Jewish woman’s life, practically anonymously ( Who knows how many more such incidents like this there are.

    The reality is that many saints –priest, Pope and laity alike — aren’t discovered to be heroically virtuous until long after their death, when the Church can reflect objectively. Public opinion about how “good” a Pope is, is notoriously fickle, especially recently in this media driven age, where “effective” often equates with “popular to the media elite.”

    I think we should trust in the Holy Spirit here, and assume that those who are beatified are indeed holy, according to the standards of the Church.

    To draw a loose parallel, I know many, many parish pastors who are probably saints, who are generally not considered to be “effective.” This is because the majority of parishioners are using unimportant standards, such as how much money he raises, how personally charismatic he is, etc. The real standard is, is he drawing his parishioners toward heaven, but the judgment of the average John and Jane often ignores this. Sometimes the most seemingly “ineffective” priests are the holiest, and get far more parishioners to Heaven than the ones who were praised as “good administrators” or “visionaries.” Think Cure of Ars, for most of the years of his priesthood, as he was hated and scorned. His priesthood would probably have been judged “ineffective” all but a few of his years of service.

    I think you could draw parallels to the papacy.

  28. donantebello says:

    From when Karol Wojtyla was 18 years old until the day he died, his life was some form of immediate danger, whether from the Nazis, the SB (Polish KGB), the KGB, Radical Islam, and/or other unknown geo-political forces. He accomplished more than several lifetimes put together with seemingly insurmountable pressures and complexities whether it be Communist spies within the Church in Poland when he was Cardinal, to moles within the Vatican as Pope. So if he had done everything perfectly and with absolute deft attention to every detail, I’m afraid that we might have to worship him as a god.

  29. Hieronymus says:

    Can you be a saint and a failure as pope? St. Celestine V. Enough said?

    This was covered in another thread, just to touch on this again: there is no proportion between these two examples. Peter of Murone (Celestine V) was a benedictine hermit who lived in the mountains for over 60 years. His sanctity was well known, so when two years had passed after the death of Pope Nicholas IV and the factions could not agree on any other candidate, they picked this very holy man and went and collected him from his hermitage in his 79th year. Understandably, he did not adapt well to this new life — he even had a replica of his mountain hut built so he could live in that. In the end, though, he saw through the disaster of his administration that this was not his calling, and he resigned after 4 months. His successor, fearing what would be done with him by opposing factions, locked him away and he died a few years later.

    His life had nearly nothing to do with the papacy, and he would clearly have been canonized whether he spent those 4 months at the end of his life as Pope Celestine or not.

    Other than their administrative abilities, there is no equivalence between JPII — the “rock star Pope” and second longest reigning Pope in history — and Peter of Morone (Celestine V) — the hermit and monastic father who was pulled from his hermitage to solve a dispute.

    This example keeps coming up with those supporting the beatification, but it really doesn’t fit the circumstances.

  30. The Egyptian says:

    True donantebello, saint or not the memory I love of JP2 is of the communist leader of Poland literally quaking at the knees over the Popes visit to his homeland, He totally befuddled and scared crapless the entire communist dung heap of leadership, for that alone he will always be in my heart, talk about courage and stature, the man towered over them and they knew it. The power of God shown through him, Stalin finally got his answer to his boastful question, ” how many troups does the Pope command”
    Legions Joesph, legions of angels

  31. capebretoner says:

    He was the Pope I grew up with and I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to him while he lived, but he was always there in the background because he was always going someplace no pope had ever gone before. That seemed like a good thing. Many people who could not go Rome suddenly seemed to have been given the opportunity to have Rome (ie: a visit from the Holy Father) come to them. This was great! But as you all know we are an Easter people. What really was the point of going to church or confession. When I myself did go to church all I heard was that my sins are already forgiven etc etc, nothing to worry about there. My question at the time: why bother?

    Then, when the Holy Father passed away, something seemed to change. Many watched with great interest the coverage of his funeral, and I for one could not seem to learn enough about him at that time. I read some of his books and I started to see just what he was all about aside from being a “rock star” pope. He led a life of prayer, devotion and of true service. He was not afraid of suffering; he was devoted to life. He was a holy man.

    His efforts to steer the ship, however, were likely hindered at every turn he took by forces he probably had no control over. He did the best he could.

    As I read somewhere the other day, it’s almost like he was out there visiting everyone, especially the youth, because the generation of his time including many of the bishops was no longer interested or paying attention (the damage was already done) or worse (interested only in continuing with an agenda to inflict more damage).

    Don’t get me wrong, I know there are others who were never happy with what happened in the late 60’s and early 70’s and they suffered and are still suffering. But they were not considered to be in step with the “new springtime” long before the start of JPII’s papacy. Then later some decided to go their own way, preserving the traditions but out of step with Peter. Such a shame this happened, but it did and there is no going back in time to change that fact.

    It seems like JPII decided to make a bee-line straight to the future of the Church, the young people. And he made an impression. It’s the folks he reached out to who are now working toward a more unified Church, who are taking time to learn about their faith and it’s this group that wants back what was lost (or taken away). And his successor, now known as the Pope of Christian Unity, has a posse behind him because of these efforts, helping toward that end. This to me is the real legacy of JPII.

    Perhaps in the end, that was JPII’s mission as Pope. A renewal was necessary for the life of the Church due to the damage that had been inflicted; he went straight to the best source for that renewal and told them they were the hope of the future, the hope for the Church. He gave them reason to turn back to Holy Mother Church and many took him up on it. That was magnificent foresight on his part as a leader and why I disagree with this statement:“Many visionary leaders mobilize and transform others to greatness (in this case, holiness). This is where I believe JPII fell short as he was unable to achieve high level commitment from many bishops”.
    JPII did in fact mobilize and transform others to greatness. In my opinion, he went to where he felt he would have the greatest influence; he was looking to the future of the Church. And those bishops and clergy who ignored him then, are now finding it difficult to ignore that legacy because it has a strong voice, backed by the words “Be not afraid”.

  32. Random Friar says:

    To echo fr. Augustine Thompson’s sentiments: some of the holiest friars in the history of our province could not be trusted to run a lemonade stand for an afternoon.

    I wonder as well, if people were as up in arms over the beatification of Pope Pius IX. I mean, he lost the Papal States.

  33. I agree they aren’t entirely separable.

    I do think a Papacy’s results have to be judged *against the forces he was working against*; JPII & BXVI had/have a much much harder job than any pre-70s Pope (as would have JPI, but he was only Pope a month).

    If he had in fact been a failure as a Pope, I might have a problem with it. But I think JPII’s Papacy was actually not merely good but exceptional. Some things he gets blamed for not having done are things no one could have achieved.

  34. Also, I doubt that 1978-2005 was in fact an unusually bad period in Church history, at least judged against other times of crisis.

  35. tzard says:

    I see the disconnect between one’s performance and one’s life of heroic virtue as a sign of the times – and a result of some recent developments in the world.

    First off, there was a time in the dark times of catechesis when it was taught that saints were perfect. Hence – only the exceptional (once every hundred years or so) you get a saint. That has been tried to be corrected starting on Pope JPII’s reign, but it still is in the back of some minds.

    Then there’s the thought that saintliness or holiness is only for those in monasteries – another error (as shown above).

    Then there’s the influence of materialism and the cult of efficiency – which condemns failings, while at the same time denies forgiveness or sin itself.

    The Archbishop may have also been trying to deflect from going into a conversation which he knew was a pointless distraction. A good thought, but a loss of a teaching moment.

    So, I see this approach as an understandable response to those errors – albeit erroneous itself. One’s actions are not “separate” from one’s holiness or heroic virtue – it’s wound up with it. And we must teach people to see others as true Christians – who sin and pick themselves up to carry their cross again. And it’s not the being perfect that is saintliness, but the perseverance. Was there not stories of the good Pope going to confession often? If we believe in the sacrament and trust he did too – then he wasn’t perfect.

    Maybe a flock which doesn’t go to confession often will have trouble understanding what saintliness truly is.

  36. benedetta says:

    I’m still thinking it through some, the post as well as everyone’s comments. Different saints come to mind but I keep coming back to a favorite of mine, St. Juniper.

  37. sejoga says:

    I was contemplating today the question of Blessed John Paul’s beatification in the light of his, frankly, obvious defects in terms of church governance. I’ve had a number of thoughts, none of which is maybe very deep, but here goes:

    1) Just yesterday I was talking with my fiancee about my job as a teacher, and how I kind of beat myself up when I feel like I can’t reach kids that have a lot of potential and just squander it, and how I wish I could “save” students from themselves. Ultimately I concluded that there are only two principles I should concern myself with: One, to do no harm, and, Two, to accept that “saving” even a small number of students over time redounds to my credit. I feel like John Paul is a man who maybe didn’t always steer the Church in the right direction, but I don’t believe he was actively a part of the problem, and I do believe that much of what he did accomplish for the Church was ultimately good.

    2. I’m reminded of a lot of saints, or people who deserve to be saints, who have had questions raised about the quality of the service they provided to the Church, and I don’t think we should just totally discount their sanctity because of their faults. Eugenio Pacelli, for example, certainly deserves to be canonized in my humble opinion, even if he didn’t perhaps handle the WWII situation the best. Mother Teresa had what I consider legitimate complaints raised against the way in which her ministry operated and how it’s money was (mis)spent, but to deny that the number of souls she brought to Christ outweighs the minor mismanagement of her charities would seem grossly wrong to me. Whole books could be written about saints who deserve the honor of being raised to the altar in spite of their deficiencies.

    3. I think JPII’s mismanagement of certain problems and scandals in the Church is almost as much a sign of his sanctity as a sign of his flaws. I genuinely believe that the late Pontiff was such a good-natured and holy man that he was perhaps a bit guileless in believing others to be as sincere and genuine as himself. It’s a fault I have found in many very wholesome people — one’s assuming that others are not hypocrites, because one is not a hypocrite oneself.

    4. All holy people, as Our Lord himself was, are surrounded by Judases who undermine the good that they do. This does not belittle their own virtue.

    These are just a few of my thoughts. In the end, I think this is why beatifications shouldn’t be rushed, because it allows the bad works that spring up around the beatus to be uprooted while the good works flourish, but whether the rapidity of JPII’s beatification has been advisable is altogether a different question from whether it is wrong. And, too, I think we modern day Catholics should remind ourselves that for most of the Church’s history, as well as in Orthodox jurisdictions to this day, the process of raising someone to the honors of the altar has been much less bureaucratic and much more spontaneous than it is in our current climate. I’m not suggesting that the present process is bad or flawed, but we shouldn’t assume that simply because it works quite well, that it’s the only way the process can work. John Paul’s life was clearly exceptional, and so it makes good sense that his beatification would likewise be exceptional.

  38. EWTN Rocks says:


    I really appreciate your thoughts and insight concerning JPII’s legacy and leadership. Perhaps you are correct that he did mobilize and transform others to greatness!

  39. rssalazar says:

    I do not doubt there is a connection between personal holiness and vocation performance. And those results may be bearing fruit as we speak. The increase in global vocations and the devotional life of the newly-ordained priests can and should attributed to the efforts of the late Holy Father.

    Was it a perfect papacy? No! Which one is? But was it and important and pivotal pontificate in the life of the Church. It set the groundwork for the initiatives of Benedict XVI.

    My only gripes are Ecclesia Dei adflicta and the slow reaction to clerical abuse scandals. Nevertheless, they were reactions in the right direction, even if they fell short of their objectives.

    Posterity will obviously be a better judge in assessing effectiveness of John Paul. However, Holy Mother Church, with the prescience that only the Holy Spirit can provide, may be right on this.

  40. Oneros says:

    Holiness is NOT talent or competence.

  41. Leonius says:

    If a Pope is holy then he will also be a good Pope.

    To suggest a Pope can be holy, good man and be at the same time a bad Pope would be to also suggest a separation between the virtues required to be a saint and the skills/abilitities/characterisitcs needed to be a good Pope.

    But there is no separation, the same virtues of Faith, Hope, Love, Prudence, Justice, Temperance & Fortitude that a Saint must have, some in a heroic degree, are what are also required to be a good Pope.

    The Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, would have done better to defend the Popes actions than to promote the fallacy that one cannot be both holy and successful in the world as an easy way to dodge the difficult question.

  42. Jucken says:

    Pope John Paul II wasn’t a bad pope like the butthurt SSPX sectarians want us to believe just because he did what he ought to and excommunicated the schismatic archbishop. He wasn’t a good pope either though, and St. Augustine once said: “In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.”

  43. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I think part of our dilemma is not realizing the difference between a “job” and a “vocation.” I struggle with this right now as my parish goes through some priest-related and people-related problems. This difference in definition is why abuse by a priest is a catalyst for loss of faith more than abuse by a teacher, for instance. It is because of what we believe about the nature of ordination. It is not akin to getting a license to teach. I hope I am making sense, I am laid up with sciatica this weekend and these pills are rather strong.

  44. Me says:


    You write, “Can you be a saint and a failure as pope? St. Celestine V. Enough said? This was covered in another thread, just to touch on this again: there is no proportion between these two examples. ”

    The point is that whatever Celestine’s difficulties may have been, he was still Pope and performed poorly as pope. The only thing that JP II’s long reign added beyond Celestine’s short reign is more opportunity for good or bad administration/shepherding of the Church.

  45. Agnes says:

    Vocational performance = holiness? Was he a CEO of a worldwide corporation?
    Wasn’t he just… Peter?

    I like my pastor’s spin on holiness: In this life, holiness is not the state of being perfect, but a willingness to be perfected.

    I believe JPII was endowed with many natural and supernatural gifts. Those given by the Holy Spirit enabled him to lead the Church through extremely trying times as he continued the long, hard road of his predecessors.

    We should trust Mother Church when She says with authority, “This one. This John Paul. He is truly one of my sons.”

    Besides, all those Catholic moms who have named their kids after him can’t be wrong!

  46. EWTN Rocks says:

    Banjo pickin girl,

    Abusive acts are bad no matter who commits them (teacher, priest, father, uncle, etc.) and can have the same emotional, psychological, physical, or spiritual effect. Putting myself in the shoes of someone who is or was being abused, I don’t think it would matter to me if the abuser had a job or vocation – the result (or destruction) would be the same. Re. the priest-related/people-related problem in your parish, are you sure the priest (or other person) is guilty of abuse? It is easy to make an assumption but absent an allegation or fact, you could be causing significant harm yourself. Plus, I think it’s important to consider if it’s appropriate for you to judge (again, assuming no allegation and lacking fact/evidence). Having said that, if you suspect abuse based on testimony or evidence, you should report it ASAP.

  47. catholicmidwest says:

    Like some others in this thread, I don’t really know if “performance” is the right word. I think that my doubts during the last papacy weren’t so much about performance as about behavior and attitudes expressed. For instance, the liturgical functions at the Vatican were not given the, shall we say, attention they deserved, yet nothing was done. He gave the impression that either he approved of the aberrations or he just plain didn’t care, causing them to be propagated throughout the world. It seemed as though he was busier kissing dirt and being the celebrity. But how can a pope not care about the liturgy? The liturgy is the ultimate prayer of the church, and a holy man cares about prayer. There are other things that give me pause too, but they’re all along these lines…….so this example is probably enough to express what I want to say.

    I have real doubts about the speed with which all this is taking place, which I’ve expressed before on occasion. You know, if he was a great holy saint, then he’ll still be a great holy saint in 10 years, and 20 years and 100 years. I don’t know what the rush is.

  48. Nan says:

    Agnes, one of my favorite priests is named for John Paul and is a product of your namesake’s parish.

    I think the man and his office are intertwined; for most people, the Pope is so far distant that all we know are papal statements, writing, impressions from tv and all the information we have is from public acts related to Peter’s chair. Unless we’re in a position to number among our acquaintances someone who knows him personally, which will most likely be a priest or a bishop who has spent a lot of time in Rome, we have no first-hand knowledge.

    I’m happy that Pope John Paul II is to be Beatified; he did a lot of good for many in helping to tear down the iron curtain, canonizing saints, world youth day which inspires many vocations, and taking action on pedophile priests even though many think he did too little, too late. One thing to remember is that the experts of the day thought that merely removing the offender or alleged offender to different territory would be sufficient and that they could be rehabilitated. Most important is that most cases of alleged abuse discussed today were alleged to have taken place decades ago, and in many cases the alleged perpetrator is deceased. I’m suspicious of those sorts of allegations as the accused has no defense at that point although I do understand that those who have been abused feel shamed by the experience and it’s normal not to talk for decades afterwards.

    Saying that BJPII didn’t do enough is the exact response that people make in discussions of Ven. Pius XII and is a ridiculous statement as the Cause for Canonization doesn’t judge the life the candidate didn’t lead but the one led.

  49. catholicmidwest says:

    BTW, the other thing: Just about every pope of the 20th century has had a cause opened for canonization, including even Paul VI, if you can believe that. I personally think it has more to do with the “newer is better” mania of the 20th century than anything else. But…not all of them were probably saints, and at least some of the causes seem to be stalled, and that shouldn’t be a surprise, but apparently it is to some people.

    Sainthood is bigger and more durable than popularity, you know. If a pope is a saint, a little more time getting to the paperwork isn’t going to change that. And if he’s a saint in such a way that his holiness speaks to many people, which is the point of the public canonization, of course, then that’s not going to change either. There is no need to get in a big rush to avoid the expiration date. There will be no expiration date, you understand.

  50. irishromancatholic says:

    The ceremony is set, tomorrow Pope John Paul 2 will be beatified. On this eve it is incumbent upon orthodox Catholics of good will to humbly point out the importance of following the Church’s traditional customs.

    According to Fr. Joseph Fessio waiting five years before beginning the process of canonization is very wise advice. After all, Papacy’s are not quickly assessed, even short one’s. This is what George Weigel doesn’t get. He protests that Blessed Theresa of Calcutta’s traditional waiting period was lifted, so why can’t John Paul II? A Pope could not be more different than a pious women who founds a religious order.

    To Father’s question, is there no connection between personal holiness and one’s vocation. Certainly when we read the lives of the saints we see there is a direct correlation. We see there wise administration as a nun, priest or bishop as a sign of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are often sited (take St Pius X) for the decisions that they made and appointments they approved. And here lies a real problem for the Wanderer/CUFF pseudo-conservative Catholic crowd that is trying to ram John Paul II down the church’s throat. A simple google search will reveal the many statements of JP2 about Maciel the pervert Legionares founder, Cardinal Law, Card. Mahoney, Cardinal Bernadine, and Archbishop Weakland. Liberal Catholics will be able to point to these bishops of JP2 (they will even have the videos with the Pope associating, and praising) and that no man dare say a negative word against Maciel or Mahoney. Saint (Blessed tomorrow) John Paul the Great praised them in that role and so who are we to question Maciel and Weakland? After all, if Saint Pio had praised someone wouldn’t You believe it? Is John Paul no less a Saint, they will say?
    Because John Paul 2 beatification is so close to his death, many files and information have yet to be recorded and released. If in the future, if they show that he had much more knowledge than first thought about all of the scandals in the Church and yet did little to remedy the problem it would be devastating for the Church’s reputation. It would greatly diminish many peoples respect for canonized saints. We already know that the previous Pope was fully aware of the fact that in 1978 there was over 350 seminaries in the U.S. and in 2000 there was only 200. Over half the nun’s in the U.S. left their vocation during his time as Pope. Yet he came to the U.S. and said we are “in a new springtime.” (don’t misread this, there were many personal virtues to the late pontiff. Taking a bullet with great faith and grace is my personal favorite)

    In the late sixties when the Church was about to replace the traditional liturgy of the Church for the banal Novus Ordo, orthodox Cardinal’s Ottaviani, McIntyre, Bacci, and many priests and lay people warned this would be a tremendous mistake. We see the wisdom of their advice in the carnage that followed. Today many orthodox Catholics are warning that it would be better to wait for all the information to come in and follow the church’s very wise customs; it’s waiting period. In the future we will know the wisdom of this advice.

    I have absolute confidence that the Church will adapt it’s former custom of the waiting period and calmly tell unruly crowds screaming “sainthood Now!!” something else: sainthood when we have waited, sainthood when we have prayed with long fervor, sainthood when all the facts to come in.

    After Catholics have to deal with the consequences of abandoning the Church’s waiting period and caution in making Saints they will once again see the importance of following Holy Mother the Church’s wise traditions.

  51. jflare says:

    Others have likely stated much of what I would mention, but I’ll add a few trifles anyway.
    Most of those who criticize Blessed John Paul II (I’m watching EWTN’s coverage of the Mass as I write) focus too much on problems–like sex abuse–that our late Holy Father could not realistically address himself more quickly than he did. One needs to know about the existence of a problem and have the ability to create a ready apparatus to solve it. I don’t believe the Curia or anyone in the Vatican truthfully had an effective answer before the hints of abuses became a tidal wave.

    I would offer you the following thoughts regarding JPII’s tenure as Pope.
    Essentially, it’s the story of a thousand mustard seeds that will probably take at least two more decades to truly impact the Church:
    – Experts wished to provoke the Church to alter it’s teaching on contraceptives, premarital sex, and the like.
    – Other experts wished for the Church to abandon the discipline of celibacy.
    — John Paul II reminded the Church of the true meaning and purpose of sexuality and human fulfillment by offering us a Theology of the Body in a series of Wednesday audiences.

    – Some felt the Church had grown too old, stiff, and boring for young people.
    — John Paul II began World Youth Day events which invited young people to become more involved in their Church and more active in their faith.

    – Two factions had begun to press the Church toward open schism; traditionalists wished to ignore Vatican II, modernists wished to ignore the “pre-conciliar Church” entirely and develop a completely new Church.
    — John Paul II appears to have tried to keep a major traditional order–SSPX–in line, while still honoring the wishes of the Council fathers.
    — When MSgr Lefebvre finally went too far in 1988, even as he excommunicated him and the four bishops he consecrated, John Paul II created FSSP by means of enabling some traditionally-minded priests who wished to remain faithful to Rome.
    — John Paul II challenged his brother bishops to enable celebration of the Latin Mass by means of allowing them to authorize Mass in the traditional form in their dioceses.

    – Two superpowers struggled for influence around the world.
    — John Paul II aided dramatically in confronting the Iron Curtain; the machine of the USSR fell in no small part because of the prayers and love that one man offered to challenge an inhumane block.
    — John Paul II chastised the other superpower to look beyond material wealth and see the human dignity of every person.

    – Numerous factions ’round the world wished to create–or impose–a secular utopia.
    — John Paul II led the way in being fearless in prayer.

    Many of these mustard seeds have already begun to bear fruit. I think in 50 years, people will likely be wondering why anyone held reservations about Blessed John Paul II’s successes.

  52. Imrahil says:

    Dear @sejoga,
    >>Eugenio Pacelli, for example, certainly deserves to be canonized in my humble opinion, even if he didn’t perhaps handle the WWII situation the best.

    The thing is: Aside from holiness – which I’m convinced that Pius XII has – there are other considerations the Church has to ponder in canonzing; not every holy man needs to be canonized. This way if there were in fact positive indications that he positively, even unguiltily, failed in WWII – may he in Heaven forgive me – I’d humbly and privately oppose his canonization until accomplished for political reasons. That being said, I think it is firmly historically proven that he did not fail. With proven I mean of course not anything yet greater than the kind of proof historical science can offer.

    However, I see even his attackers only circling around the statement that he reigned during WWII and there was a genocide at the same time. It is this pseudo-mercy that has a German pop group made make a song refrain: “It is not your fault that the world is as it is, it’d only be your fault if thus it remains.” No. The latter is, generally speaking, not my fault either. What Pius XII’s attackers seem for me to say is that there choices where every choice is a wrong choice. And such a proposition needs in itself to be opposed to the highest.

    As for blessed John Paul II – may he pray for us – I’m rejoicing about his beatification. It was during his dying that I wanted to pray along the rosary and, from the (seemingly nonsensical) wish of obtaining an indulgence from him (which I round-about learnt then about in the internet), went to confession first after a long time.

  53. bookworm says:

    The question of personal holiness vs. vocation “performance” also applies to lay people. I believe there are several instances of married female saints/blesseds/venerables/Servants of God whose husbands and/or children were of less than stellar character (St. Rita of Cascia; St. Elizabeth of Portugal; Bl. Marie Marguerite D’Youville; Servant of God Cornelia Connelly). Are they any less holy or “failures” at their vocation because their spouses and children exercised their OWN FREE WILL in a different direction than they did? So why would a pope be any less holy because a lot of people exercised their own free will in disobeying him, or because he could not humanly solve every problem in the Church?

    It’s ironic that St. Celestine V, who has been cited by several commenters as an example of a failed/incompetent pope who was nevertheless holy, is thought by some literary commenters to be the “coward” who “made the great denial” in Canto III of Dante’s Inferno. Dante placed him in the “vestibule” of Hell with damned souls who refused to take a stand for good or evil during their lifetimes and only looked out for themselves or drifted along with whatever was popular. Supposedly, Dante saw Celestine as a pope who was so selfishly concerned for his own personal salvation that he allowed a much worse pope (Boniface VIII) to take his place. (However, there are other commenters who believe the unnamed “great denier” is Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of responsibility for Christ’s death.)

    If nothing else, the inclusion of St. Celestine in the Inferno goes to show how being too “close” in time to a certain pontificate or being too personally affected by some of its results may cloud the “big picture” of the man’s actual personal holiness.

  54. Banjo pickin girl says:

    EWTN, No, there is no abuse problem AT ALL in my parish or any other I attend. I was merely stating there is a difference between vocation and job and making a point about people’s perceptions. And problems at any parish on any level are likely to just snowball if not looked at from the Church’s point of view. I am sorry I was unclear but PLEASE don’t read more into what I said.

  55. Fr Levi says:

    Perhaps it should be kept in mind that the Church does not create saints in the canonisation process, she recognises them . Does anyone really doubt that John Paul II has already taken his place within the Communion of Saints? I stood before his tomb some years ago & it seemed to me then that this was something I could know to be true. I see no reason to doubt it now.

  56. Agnes says:

    “Agnes, one of my favorite priests is named for John Paul and is a product of your namesake’s parish.”
    @Nan, see you at Mass then, but maybe not your favorite priest – JP jr. is at the beatification and, if home already, suffering ecclesial jet-lag! See his articles in the Catholic Spirit re: his namesake and a series on the new missal.

  57. Scott W. says:

    Can we really separate how well a Pope popes from his life of virtue?

    Probably not, but we can certainly separate Catholics from outside teeth-gnashers that want to dictate our canonization process.

  58. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s important to remember that we’re looking ONLY at the behavior, decisions, and the holiness that they would have issued from, on the part of PJP2. We’re not looking at the possible holiness of the people around him.

    The beatification doesn’t make me very nervous, but the sainthood cause being rushed through certainly does. I agree with irishromancatholic, who said, “After Catholics have to deal with the consequences of abandoning the Church’s waiting period and caution in making Saints they will once again see the importance of following Holy Mother the Church’s wise traditions.” One of these days, we’re going to get full of ourselves and canonize an outlier with as yet undiscovered issues, if we don’t watch it.

    If you think that’s ridiculous, consider how we got full of ourselves in the 1955-1985 time frame and nearly wrecked the temporal structure of the Church with our enthusiastic existentialist BS. People pre-V2 would have thought it absolutely impossible. But indeed, it did happen. And what happened was a profound shock to many, driving many away in disbelief and anguish, and leaving many more in confusion and apathy for decades. Most of the church, from the most pious on down, would have said that God Himself would not permit what happened, but He certainly did. And in the final analysis, to some degree, and in some ways, it really doesn’t matter how legitimate parts of V2 might or might not have been. The damage has been done. We haven’t repaired the damage and some of it is, after all, irreparable because temporal modality exists. The wounds still bleed just as the wounds of the “Reformation” still bleed after all these centuries.

    Lesson that should be taken from all this: God doesn’t take our freedom to be impetuous idiots away. When we “hear voices” and charge off on a cause we can’t be stopped until sheer reality slaps us in the face. We don’t listen to ourselves (OR God) when we get in one of these manias for improvement; history has shown this very clearly. God works slowly and so should we, listening and listening and listening. Otherwise we will screw up a percentage of the time. In areas where a percentage of screw ups is not acceptable, like making saints, we have to be very, very careful. Else reality is going to slap us hard, in the form of an unwanted surprise that was there all the time but that we either didn’t discover or refused to see.

    The Church will recover from the “Spirit of Vatican II”, with grievous wounds. She would also recover from a St. Mistake, with grievous wounds. But WHY go there? Especially when it’s so easy to avoid, AND if PJP2 is really a saint after all, there is no risk whatsoever in allowing the customary time to pass. No risk at all, unless you are of the opinion that JPJ2 is a weapon to be used in some type of a political or ideological war–left against right, us against them. Is that what’s really going on???

  59. AJP says:

    There is a connection between personal holiness and vocation performance. As some others have noted, what it comes down to with John Paul II is whether the failures of his pontificate were due his own willfull negligence, indifference, etc or whether he tried his best but was stymied by forces beyond his control. There is a huge difference between the two as far as beatification/canonization is concerned.

    What concerns me so much about today is that it will take years, generations perhaps, to make the judgment about whether JP2 tried his best or not. It’s not a call that we can make so soon *especially* because many of those wicked forces beyond JP2’s control are still very much in power in the Church and in the world. It’s just too soon, and I shudder to think of the hit the Church will take if we get this wrong (e.g., a year from now some information about JP2 knowing about and ignoring Maciel’s perversions or the like comes out). I hope and pray the Church has not gotten in wrong, that JP2 really did do his best and was stymied by others, but we need more time to discern this.

    I do like how Divine Mercy Sunday was chosen as the date for the beatification. I hope that when JP2 is canonized it also is done on Divine Mercy Sunday – Divine Mercy Sunday of 2105.

  60. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Fr. Levi, yes you are right. Saints are by definition those who the Church is certain are in heaven and can intercede for us. John Paul II is my model of redemptive suffering.

    I wonder too, a corollary to our conflating “job” with “vocation” is our conflating “Church” with “business” as if evangelization is the same as selling a product. That is certainly the model for some of the Protestant communities but it isn’t for ours. The difference between “job” and “vocation” is the difference between temporal and eternal. The same with “Church” and “business.”

    Again, pardon any of errors I may make due to my sciatica pills. Salvifici doloris isn’t just a job it’s an adventure!

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    Re your first two paragraphs, AJP, you are absolutely correct. This is the truth as far as the examination of holiness goes.

    Moreover, on top of this is the business of holding someone up for emulation. Remember that there are heroic holy people who are not raised to the altars for one reason or another, and it does no harm. It merely doesn’t offer them up for the inspiration of others. There are many reasons why the church might canonize someone holy. And some reasons why they might not, which have nothing to do with whether they are in heaven or not.

    Holding PJP2 up for emulation is what many people have in mind because they’re hoping that holding up someone who was so very popular may help the Church’s fortunes. I think this is what is behind this push. The powers-that-be are hoping, in desperation, to capitalize on the fervor they heard in Rome at his funeral, even though it surprised even them. They fear that if time passes, they will lose some kind of populist “magic.” And I’m sure it’s being used to push a set of views, which I may or may not agree with, but I’m not sure that is the right point, after all.

    They’d also better make sure that AFTER they get the business you talk about examined, that they come up with non-ambiguous explanations for some of the other things that seemed inexplicable. I won’t name them here, but you know what they are because of the twisted excuses we’ve so far heard for them. OR they will get “emulations” that they don’t expect, and that will NOT help the church’s fortunes.

    [And actually, they may get all kinds of things, because of the nature of his popularity, which was not all on the basis of his holiness, by any measure. A lot of it was political and cultural.]

  62. EWTN Rocks says:

    Fr. Levi you said, “Does anyone really doubt that John Paul II has already taken his place within the Communion of Saints? I stood before his tomb some years ago & it seemed to me then that this was something I could know to be true.”

    I don’t doubt it. When you know something in your heart and soul to be true, it is true. That to me is more than belief – it rises to the definition of faith, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.

  63. St Elizabeth Seton certainly had problems with her sons…did that mean she wasn’t holy? Maybe it meant that she was proven holy through her sons’ trials they brought upon her?
    This whole thing about Blessed John Paul II being “tried” through the “legacy” of his papacy…tried through the media and liberal/arch-conservative pundits who like to make all kinds of judgments “ring side” (comfortable enough, yeah?) do not in the least make me think this man is not worthy of being “blessed” nor “canonized”…history alone gives evidence that the proof of one’s relationship with God does NOT mean that one is perfect on every score, on every level. If the Church deems him worthy, then shut up! That’s my opinion.

  64. Tim Ferguson says:

    There are various ways to measure performance, especially when one talks about a pope. Certainly, John Paul had his flaws, and certainly problems persisted despite his actions, or even because of his managerial style. Yet, I did a little statistical digging this weekend. According to the Annuario, when John Paul was elected, there were 757 million Catholics. At the end of his reign, there were 1,098 million. The number of priests dropped off, but the decline stopped the massive hemoraging of their previous decade, and the number of diocesan priests increased. The number of seminarians went from 63,882 in 1978 to 113, 044 in 2004 – not too short of doubling during John Paul’s pontificate. Full stats here:

    It’s easy to point to the problems, and to focus mostly on our experience in America and the Western world, but throughout the larger world and Church, the pontificate of John Paul II brought a lot of growth and positive things for the Church – Christ was proclaimed to a wider and wider audience and the people responded in faith.

  65. RichardT says:

    St Thomas More doesn’t seem to have been a bad parent (although he did travel away from home a lot for work, and getting himself executed for treason can’t have helped his children), but we don’t associate his canonisation in any way with his virtues (or otherwise) as a parent.

    However that disassociation between spiritual virtues and everyday life seems more difficult in the case of a priest or pope.

    Do we expect a Pope’s role as pope to be more a part of his spiritual life than we do a parent’s role? Probably we do. Should we? I don’t know.

  66. I wrote this, from the perspective of a traditional Catholic, in response to this question:

  67. RichardT says:

    I think I also read that St Louis, King of France, was a hopeless father, spending most of his time on crusade and being noted at the time as hardly ever asking for news of, or communicating with, his wife and children.

  68. Jason Keener says:

    I think personal holiness and one’s unique vocation are tied intimately together. In the case of Blessed John Paul II, I think there can be little doubt that he lived a life of heroic virtue and gave of himself totally in his role as a Successor to Peter. I wish that Pope John Paul II would have addressed certain problems more forcefully (like the liturgical crisis, etc.), but perhaps the late Pope was doing the best that he could do. Saints are not perfect people who can correct every problem, but they are people who give of themselves totally out of love for God, flaws and all.

  69. jflare says:

    Mr. Werling,
    If I may be so bold, your linked article demonstrates a great deal of the reason I’m often wary of traditionalist claims. Essentially, the article howls loud and clear that Blessed John Paul II stank as a Pope because..he didn’t do things exactly the way the traditionalist camp wished. He didn’t lower the boom on any number of modernists, but only acted against the traditionalists. ..Or so we might believe based on the article.

    Stating it delicately, you seem to me to ignore or dismiss a great deal.

    I find it quite odd that you’d proclaim–essentially–that a modernist cabal put him in the papacy in the first place. Do you believe that the College of Cardinals will be guided by the Holy Spirit in choosing a pope? Or not?
    If the Holy Spirit acts (and acted), I have to believe our late pope to have been guided by the same Holy Spirit.
    If the Holy Spirit did NOT act, but his election was a human work..why not declare the seat to have been empty for 26 years? (And why not also berate his successor, who is known for having been a close coworker for most of that 26 years?)

    On the whole, I find the article’s assessment..much alike to a political pundit trying to chastise a president. Until you’re in the hot seat yourself and forced to suffer the consequences of your every possible trifling misdeed, it’s awfully easy to throw barbs.

  70. Centristian says:

    “Popes, even saintly Popes remain human after all. When Pope John Paul II took the helm of the Barque of Peter she was severely disarrayed by storms and the action of the enemy.”


    “He managed to get her back on course, repair much of the damage, restore a great measure of confidence among the crew ,deal with the most outrageous subversives,resume the battle against the external enemy and regain not only the tactical picture but also develop the strategy necessary to win the war.”

    And our agreement ends here. That’s the part of Pope John Paul II’s reign that I completely missed, I’m afraid. John Paul II seemed not to heroically counter the silly and effeminate character of the papacy, liturgy, and Church in the latter half of the 20th century, but to positively lead the way by his own regrettable example. Every papal liturgy was more unfortunate than the one before, and the Church became a place wherein mass public emotional displays seemed to replace genuine Catholic worship. Pope John Paul II didn’t fix that, he positively energized it.

    The Church of the 70s, 80s, and 90s was an unmitigated disaster. The “JP2 Church” was a silly Church, a church that seemed more interested in revelling in the glow of one personality than in the truth of the Gospel. And that personality whose glow everyone was revelling in did nothing to counter that. He brought the papacy down to the level of the street and the papacy is now having a hard time finding its way back to its traditional environs.

    What small measure of the appearance of traditional Catholic piety there may have been in the mainstream Church during Pope John Paul II’s pontificate was mostly centered around the various private revelations that the pope seemed endlessly fascinated by and which he over-emphasized (it seems to me) in the life and culture of the (ever-sillier and ever more sentimental) Church. It became nearly an article of Catholic Faith that John Paul II’s life was miraculously saved in 1981 by the hand of “Our Lady of Fatima”.

    Today we see some few precious signs of improvement…in Rome, principally…and the reason for that is that John Paul II’s successor is doing precisely the opposite of what John Paul II did. Does that mean that some of us will be clamouring, one day, that Benedict, too, should be beatified a few years after his passing? If so, why? Because he undid what Blessed John Paul II did? That seems, after all, to be what those of us who praise Pope Benedict XVI are, in fact, praising him for.

    I will not say that John Paul II was not a holy man. That would be presumptuous and perhaps a little absurd. But I find I have a hard time reconciling his renowned personal holiness with his awful (sometimes quite scandalous) presentation of the liturgy (and of the Church in general). How does a saint revel in Masses turned into clownish love-fests characterized not by reverence, tradition, and beauty but by emotionalism, sentimentality, and liturgical abuse? To me, it is genuinely baffling.

    It is not, as I see it, simply a matter of saying “well, one can be a saint on the one hand and a poor administrator on the other.” I don’t think anyone would much care if John Paul II (or any other pope) were simply a poor administrator. I don’t think anyone really views the pope as the Church’s chief administrator so much as the Church’s principal shepherd. He is the first shepherd of Christendom–that’s what the pope is in essence–and as I see things, that is where he dropped the ball.

    Why didn’t his sanctity and ‘heroic virtue’ compel him to lead by example, at least, even where he was slow to correct through discipline? How could such a holy pope have allowed the Church to become such an unholy mess, for decades? How could the perplexing vision he had for the Church emerge from sanctity? It’s all very difficult to fathom.

    If the Church says that Pope John Paul II is “Blessed”, so be it. But how faithless is one to imagine that it must be in spite of his papacy, rather than because of it? On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to say, “holy man, bad pope”, then what must we ultimately take away is the point of the papacy? Or of beatification? Or of the effect of personal sanctity upon one’s behaviour?

    Whether or not John Paul II is enjoying the beatific vision or not at this very moment has nothing to do with my personal regret that this beatification occurred so soon after his death. It doesn’t even seem like the Church had fully recovered from the funeral festivities, yet, and to see his corpse yet again hailed and applauded and cheered with waving flags and banners by a sea of cheering, waving revellers just made me think, “honestly, enough already.”

    Can we not accept that John Paul II isn’t the very soul of Christ’s Church, that he isn’t the center of the universe, and can we not at last move beyond him? When is enough going to be enough? Will Rome immediately begin making plans for his canonization 5 years hence, I wonder? Must the “JP2 Church” endure forever?

    If this pope truly was a saint, he’ll still be a saint 100 years from now. Let’s leave him alone for a century (or two, for that matter) and see what judgments posterity makes regarding his pontificate. Then, if the Church of 2111 or 2211 is still in awe of him, let them canonize him. It will mean much more then than now, with all of John Paul II’s living friends, co-workers, and partisans doing all of his lionizing.

  71. jflare says:

    “Why didn’t his sanctity and ‘heroic virtue’ compel him to lead by example, at least, even where he was slow to correct through discipline?”

    He did.
    Too often, we don’t wish to admit to all the times that he provoked us toward traditional expressions of faith. If not for John Paul II, I might not have developed ANY interest in a Rosary or Stations of the Cross. It’s precisely because he DID offer those examples–and others–that I ever considered them in the first place.
    I certainly didn’t see the local Church encouraging much traditional devotion when I was younger….

    BTW, I don’t think waiting 100 years would necessarily mean much more. If anything, it might actually mean LESS. By being forced to acknowledge his failings, I”m forced to admit to some of my own failings. But by knowing what he all he DID do–and having an inkling of why–I’m that much more provoked to struggle for excellence myself.

    Blessed John Paul II lived in MY world too, suffered the struggles that I, MYSELF, suffer. Only he suffered them far more than did I. No, I’m not making him out to be a new Christ, but rather emphasizing how he made Christ’s suffering all the more real to me, in my daily life. Same goes for Blessed (Mother) Theresa.
    In spite of all that our modern world threw at THEM, they still persevered.

    I can too.

  72. cl00bie says:

    I love Pope John Paul II, but I find this rush to canonization as unseemly. There doesn’t seem to be the time, research and care being exercised that is used with other saints who are being considered (such as the cause for Fr. Nelson Baker of Lackawanna, NY).

    This reminds me of the 70’s where Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. There is a degree of bias here that I believe could undermine the research.

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