Sunday, April 3, 2005

Other comments on John Paul II

Here's a selection of some of the obituary articles on Pope John Paul II that I've come across so far.  The final one is something I'd never heard before.

John Paul II's Mixed Legacy by Andrew Greeley,, accessed 04/30/05.

One can proclaim his greatness and influence, praise his determination in the face of death, and celebrate his long reign--and still raise questions about his legacy. The Catholic Church today is polarized by deep disagreements between progressives and those who would restore the status quo ante the Vatican Council, between laity and lower clergy on the one hand and the Roman Curia on the other, between those who favor the decentralization suggested the Council’s theory of “collegiality” and those who favor ever tighter control from Rome. The next Pope, who may well be chosen because he is seen as a "healer," will have a very difficult time and will risk being torn apart by the centripetal energies in the Church.

Beliefnet also has a full coverage page on the passing of John Paul II.

America editorial The Legacy of John Paul II 04/18/05 issue, accessed 04/03/05.  America is a Jesuit magazine.

... John Paul was often mislabeled as a conservative. True, he stressed traditional church teaching. He also allowed his subordinates to silence and remove theologians from teaching positions. But anyone who listened to him carefully realized that he did not fit into the normal liberal-conservative boxes of American politics and culture. True he opposed abortion, the use of condoms, gay marriage, women priests and a married clergy. But he was to the left of liberal Democrats when it came to opposing capital punishment and the war in Iraq and supporting foreign aid and the United Nations. And while he opposed women's ordination, he also opened practically every other churchposition to women, from altar servers to diocesan chancellors.

Pope left his mark on church, history Al Jazeera 04/03/05

The Pope was by no means an unconditional supporter of the values of capitalism and democracy, although he could be prevailed on not to inveigh lengthily in public against the evils of the West.

Among these he counted unemployment, poverty and the wealth gap between North and South. ...

He became the first pope to pray in a synagogue; the first to enter a mosque in an Islamic country; and the first to preside at a meeting of the heads of the major world religions.

The real hero in reconciling Christians and Jews by David Rosen Ha'aretz 03/04/05.

The two most significant events in terms of Christian-Jewish reconciliation were his visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome in 1986 and his visit to Israel in 2000. The scene of John Paul embracing the chief rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, reached millions of believers who did not choose to or who could not read his writings. He described the visit to the synagogue as the most important event of that year, one that would be remembered for "hundreds of thousands of years" and gave "thanks and praise to Providence" for the occasion.

Full diplomatic relations were inaugurated between the Vatican and Israel in 1993, and then the Pope made an official visit to Israel in 2000, in a clear rejection of the traditional position of the Church that the Jews had been exiled from their land because of their refusal to accept Jesus and were condemned to wander. The visit had a powerful effect, primarily on the Jews of Israel. Most of them, especially traditional and Orthodox Jews, had never met a modern Christian. The common image of Christianity among them was negative, drawn from a tragic past.

John Paul II Boston Globe editorial 04/03/05: [H]e reached out to people of other faiths, especially Judaism. He struggled to maintain a Christian presence in the Mideast and to cultivate a dialogue with Islam. He made the Catholic Church a force for ecumenism.

AOL-Jer Dmorey6160 04/02/05: While I do not agree with many of the Church’spolicies, which I think are antiquated and somewhat misogynist <why can’t a woman be a Priest? Why can’t a Priest get married? What is wrong with the use of Condoms or B.C. Pills?> , I have a deep and lasting respect and admiration for Pope John Paul II. He was a man of absolute integrity.

This is a curious one.  For a different view of John Paul's role in opposing Communism in eastern Europe, I saved a link to this article yesterday: Kämpfer für Frieden und Rückschritt von Ingolf Bossenz Neues Deutschland 03.04.05.  Neues Deutschland is the paper of the Party for Democratic Socialism [PDS], the "postcommunist" successor party to the former East German Communist Party.  The article title means "Fighter for Peace and Going Backwards."  It contained both praise and some sharp criticism of the late Pope, including: Unbeirrt hielt Johannes Paul II. am Zölibat fest, verdammte jegliche Form künstlicher Empfängnisverhütung, verbot definitiv die Diskussion um Frauen als Priester, stellte Homosexualität als Abnormität dar und schreckte selbst vor dem Vergleich der Abtreibung mit dem Holocaust nicht zurück. [Translation: John Paul II held on unfailingly to celibacy [for priests], condemned every form of artificial birth control, definitively banned the discussion about women as priests, portrayed homosexuality as an abnormality and didn't refrain even from comparing abortion with the Holocaust.]  Bossenz reports rather cynically on his efforts to overthrow the Communist regime in Poland, suggesting without details that the Vatican cooperated with the Reagan administration in funneling money to the dissident Solidarity union movement.  But he notes with approval that John Paul II condemned the Iraq War as a "danger for the fate of the human race."

The article for Monday's edition by the same author is completely positive on his legacy: Abschied von Papst JohannesPaul II. von Ingolf Bossenz Neues Deutschland 03.04.05.  Maybe their old habits of changing the party line day to day hasn't entirely died out.  Or maybe they've just decided to imitate FOX News.

[Correction 04/11/05:  Ingolf Bossenz' byline was erroneously included on the latter story at the Neues Deutchland Web site when I posted this.  It has now been corrected there.  For further comment on the Pope and this FOX News comment, please see A correction and ... ]

This article provides a Southern Baptist perspective: Pope John Paul II, champion of pro-life and pro-family causes, dies at the age of 84 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press (of the Southern Baptist Convention) 04/02/05

A firm believer in the protection of human life from conception until natural death, he frequently spoke out against abortion, euthanasia and -- in his latter years -- cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

Earlier this year in a new book, "Memory and Identity," he said same-sex "marriage" was part of a "new ideology of evil."

The pope and conservative evangelicals were worlds apart on theology and doctrine but found common ground on many social issues.

Reading this article would leave one with the information that John Paul II opposed abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage.  One would also come away not seeing anything about his opposition to the death penalty and the Iraq War, or to his engagement on behalf of programs to benefit the poor.  John Paul II, unlike many in America's Christian Right, also cared about human life after birth.

That point is made well in this article: Compassionate conservative by Amy Sullivan Salon 04/02/05.  Amy Sullivan is becoming one of the best liberal writers on politics and religion around.

You could be forgiven for thinking that "culture of life" was a concept created not by John Paul II but by George W. Bush. Few people have done have more to popularize the phrase -- if not its correct spirit -- than our current president, who used it even before his first presidential campaign in 2000. While the use of "culture of life" was almost always intended to communicate Bush's position on abortion, it was actually part of a larger strategy to reach out to Catholic voters.

The phrase was a central part of what is arguably John Paul II's best-known encyclical, Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"), which he released in 1995. Bush's savvy Catholic advisors -- including conservatives Deal Hudson and Tim Goeglein -- knew that the phrase would immediately resonate with Catholic voters while indicating nothing more than vague pro-life sentiments to non-Catholics. Bush's communications staff did the same thing with Protestant hymns and phrases, using code words that went over the heads of those who didn't recognize them while resonating deeply with those who did. ...

But a fair look at John Paul II's use of the phrase and his political priorities must conclude that although he was undoubtedly concerned about abortion and stem-cell research and euthanasia, that list is far from complete. The pontiff also wrote about "the dignity and rights of those who work," and he spoke out against the widening gap between the world's rich and poor. He opposed both Gulf Wars in no uncertain terms and strongly communicated his outrage when the abuse at Abu Ghraib was revealed. During a 1999 visit to the United States, John Paul II spoke out against the death penalty, calling the punishment "cruel and unnecessary" and successfully petitioning for the commutation of a death sentence for a Missouri prisoner when he spoke in St. Louis.

And this is something I also haven't seen anywhere else: Papst Johannes Paul II - 1920 - 2005. Er hat weltpolitisch markante Spuren hinterlassen von Thomas Hofer Profil 14/05 (Vienna), accessed 04/03/05.

Angeblich nicht als Papst, wohl aber in der Zeit davor, hatte Karol Wojtyla sogar als Exorzist gewirkt. Der ehemalige Exorzist der Diözese Rom, Corrado Balducci, bestätigt das, schwächt aber ab: „Nur in besonderen Fällen“ sei Karol Wojtyla ausgerückt und habe „Befreiungsgebete“ angewandt, wie Exorzismen in der katholischen Kirche seiteinigen Jahren euphemistisch heißen.

Offiziell wird diese Seite Karol Wojtylas meist verschwiegen. Exorzismen sind im Vatikan ein Tabuthema. Doch über die tiefe Spiritualität und die Glaubenswelt des Polen spricht die Episode Bände.

[Translation: Allegedly, not as Pope but rather in the time before, Karol Wojtyla even acted as an exorcist.  The former exorcist of the Diocese  of Rome, Corrado Balducci, confirms that, but downplays it: "Only in special cases," he says, did Karol Wojtyla turn out and apply "liberation prayers," as exorcisms in the Catholic Church have been called euphemistically for several years.

Officially, this side of Karol Wojtyla's is kept quiet.  Exorcisms are a taboo theme in the Vatican.  But it speaks volumes about the deep spirituality and the belief-world of Poland [in which Wojtyla lived].]

1 comment:

purcellneil said...

I admired the Pope as an individual, but as leader of the Roman Catholic Church he was the head of a global organization, and must be judged primarily on his leadership.  

The decisions he made, in appointing Cardinals and Bishops, and in defining the Church's stand on birth control and homosexuality, were tragically destructive to the Church's mission and will undermine that great institution for years to come.