A lot of people have been talking about it — and late Saturday, The New York Times offered this:
At the funeral of Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square, banners rose from the sea of mourners reading “Santo Subito,” or “Saint at Once.” He was a giant of the church in the 20th century, spanning the globe, inspiring generations of believers with his youthful magnetism, then aged infirmity, and, as the Polish pope, he helped bring down Communism over his more than 26-year reign.
Days after his death in 2005, cardinals eager to uphold his conservative policies had already begun discussing putting him on a fast track to sainthood while devotees in Rome and beyond clamored for his immediate canonization, drowning out notes of caution from survivors of sexual abuse and historians that John Paul had persistently turned a blind eye to the crimes in his church.
Now, after more than a decade of doubts, his reputation has fallen under its darkest cloud yet, after the very Vatican that rushed to canonize him released an extraordinary report this week that laid at the saint’s feet the blame for the advancement of the disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick.
The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, revealed how John Paul chose not to believe longstanding accusations of sexual abuse against Mr. McCarrick, including pedophilia, allowing him to climb the hierarchy’s ladder.
The findings detailed decades of bureaucratic obfuscation and lack of accountability by a host of top prelates and threatened to sully the white robes of three popes. But most of all, critics say, it provides searing proof that the church moved with reckless speed to canonize John Paul and now it is caught in its own wreckage.
“He was canonized too fast,” said Kathleen Cummings, author of “A Saint of Our Own” and the head of a center on U.S. Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. She said that given the “really damning evidence,” in the report, had the church waited at least five years, and not mere days, to begin the canonization process “it would probably not begin for John Paul II because of his complicity in the clergy sex abuse scandal.”
The Times also quotes George Weigel:
“Saints make errors of judgment, this was clearly an error of judgment,” said George Weigel, a biographer of Pope John Paul II and an official witness during his beatification process. “McCarrick was a pathological liar. And pathological liars fool people including saints.”
Mr. Weigel said that if perfection were a prerequisite for sainthood, St. Peter himself would not have made the cut. Indeed, infallibility, which is sometimes attributed to popes, is not a necessary saintly attribute, and history is full of saints who were not exactly saints during their lifetimes.
Weigel had more to say in the pages of First Things:
That John Paul II was deceived by McCarrick’s prevarication is not in dispute. That the deception may have reflected the Polish pope’s experience of communist secret police methods in Poland, where charges of sexual impropriety were often used against Catholic priests and bishops, is not in dispute, either. But neither should there be any dispute that John Paul II was the victim of a deception: a man in whom he had reposed trust, Theodore McCarrick, lied to him about his true character. Saints are human beings, and saints, in their humanity, can be deceived. But let the focus of wickedness in this tawdry affair be identified accurately as Theodore McCarrick, not John Paul II.
Polish bishops, the AP reports, are voicing their own defense of the late pontiff:
The head of the Polish bishops conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, said in a statement that John Paul had been “cynically deceived” by McCarrick as well as other U.S. bishops.
It was the Polish bishops’ first response to the publication this week of the Vatican’s two-year investigation into McCarrick, which implicated John Paul and his secretary in covering up McCarrick’s sexual abuse…
…Gadecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, formally asked the Vatican last year to elevate John Paul to the church’s greatest honor, naming him a “doctor of the church” and patron saint of Europe. But he recently acknowledged that Francis had rejected the request and that most bishops conferences ignored his request for support.
Meanwhile, National Catholic Reporter on Friday took a bold step, calling on the U.S. bishops to “suppress John Paul’s cult”:
As with every saint, John Paul has a vibrant cult — people across the world who celebrate his memory by encouraging devotion to him, placing his name on churches and schools, and hosting processions and parades on his liturgical feast.
Given what we know now about the long-lasting repercussions of John Paul’s decision-making, the U.S. bishops, meeting next week for their annual conference, should seriously consider whether American Catholics can continue such practices. They should also discuss requesting that the Vatican formally suppress John Paul’s cult. Abuse victims deserve no less.