Chartres 2006
Photo Story

Remnant Tours

Click Here to visit
THE REMNANT Scrapbook!


See Remnant


The Beatification of John Paul II:

Another Extension of the Great Façade?

Christopher A. Ferrara POSTED:5/9/11

( So the deed is done.  John Paul II has been beatified. This despite a pontificate whose course was marked by an accelerating collapse of faith and discipline in the Church, one appalling novelty after another—including the altar girls John Paul broke with all tradition to approve—the emergence of wave after wave of sexual scandal in a Church turned upside down and inside out by plainly disastrous “reforms” the late Pope never ceased to praise, and finally a state of affairs John Paul himself lamented as “silent apostasy.”

Indeed, in order to pull off this beatification—a vulgar but, sad to say, apt phrase for a popularly driven “fast track” process—it was necessary precisely to divorce John Paul II from his own pontificate. As Cardinal Amato declared at a conference called to explain this remarkable approach: “Pope John Paul II is being beatified not because of his impact on history or on the Catholic Church [emphasis mine, here and elsewhere], but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love... ” (Cindy Wooten, “John Paul II being beatified for holiness, not his papacy, speakers say,” Catholic News Service, 1 April 2011).

A Pope beatified without regard to his effect on the Catholic Church!  Beatified for his holiness, not for his papacy—as if the former were in no way to be sought in the fruits of the latter. What can one say?

Cardinal Amato’s decree concerning the beatification skillfully navigates around the subject of John Paul II’s governance of the Church he was responsible for governing. We find instead references to a personal piety and prayer life divorced from the late Pope’s precise duties of state. We find perhaps a veiled excuse for the parlous condition of the Church John Paul left behind: “John Paul II was conscious of the fact that we are experiencing a very trying moment in history, that the Successor of Peter has the duty to confirm in the faith, but he was equally conscious of the fact that the most important aspect was to depend on God.”

Are we to infer from this that Pope John Paul is to be excused from all failures of papal governance, or even that he is to be viewed as heroically faithful, because he relied on God to watch over the Church while he avoided taking firm measures against those who attacked and undermined her with ever-increasing audacity throughout his long pontificate?

Cardinal Amato’s decree gives clear indications of the cast of this beatification as a kind of phenomenological evaluation of a global celebrity, whose celebrity would not have existed without the mass media; a world figure who undoubtedly conveyed a certain Christian religious sentiment that, however, was never a call to the specific embrace and practice of the Catholic religion for one’s salvation, as the innumerable ecumenical and inter-religious “happenings” he arranged and presided over made clear to the members of other religions who praised his open-mindedness.

Cardinal Amato writes of the “full acknowledgment of [John Paul II] in the awareness of the ecclesial community, of the country, of the Universal Church in various countries, continents and cultures.”  He notes “the world’s reaction to his lifestyle,” what “the faithful have felt, have experienced...

The Cardinal further observes that after Vatican II “the manner of presentation, and thus of the self-preservation of the papacy has become quite expressive,” and that the papacy has achieved “its citizenship in the realm of public visibility...” Since the Council, he writes, we have seen a “papacy on the way—thus in conformity with Vatican II—more in the manner of a missionary movement than as a static pole of unity.”  Meaning, one supposes, that before Vatican II the Popes were mere static poles of unity, sadly invisible to the public eye.

Yet it seems that the static pole of the invisible pre-Vatican II papacy provided a much firmer anchor for faith and discipline within the Church, which drifted away throughout the twenty-five years of John Paul II’s ceaseless “International Apostolic Voyages” (as the Cardinal calls them, with initial capital letters) to places where, after the cheers and festivities were over, faith and discipline remained in deep crisis or descended even deeper into crisis, as we saw after the “International Apostolic Voyage” to Ireland.

The Cardinal also cites John Paul’s “meetings with diplomats of ‘first category’” as part of what he calls a “peace offensive,” and “daily meetings with people, with those in charge of ecclesial communities, cardinals and bishops, the Heads of other religions, and with the laity”—all part of an “experience of the Church as a vibrant and energizing inspiration of the vision and mechanisms of the modern world...”

Awareness. Reaction. Feeling. Experience. Expression. Visibility. Movement. Voyages. Meetings. Vibrant. Energizing. Inspiration. Vision. Many words, but all saying the same thing: John Paul II was a phenomenon; he was no mere ruler of the Catholic Church, like the “static poles” presented by his far less popular and far less mobile predecessors, who could not claim their “citizenship in the realm of public visibility” because there had not yet been the “opening to the world” at Vatican II, whose splendid results we are expected to celebrate like the crowd who marveled at the Emperor’s new clothes (while ignoring the conciliar popes’ own occasional  lamentations of disaster).

But there is in the Cardinal’s decree an explosive if inadvertent admission about the ultimate inefficacy, and even the harm, of the phenomenon of John Paul II as a personal presence on the world stage rather than a governor of the Church in the Holy See.  The Cardinal reveals that something has gone terribly wrong with the new model of the Pope as international voyager to media-driven events before vast crowds. Read and ponder carefully:

After the voyage in Poland in 1991, the Pope noticed that, during the Mass in Warsaw, in the farthest parts, the young people came and went away, drank beer or coca-cola, and came back. “It was not like this during the previous voyages,” he noted, “there has been a change in the society’s mentality.”

The question is how the Pope could have failed to notice this change before 1991 even though his reformist predecessor had seen and publicly warned that the smoke of Satan was entering the Church.  Another question is whether John Paul II ever wondered whether, in coming to the people as a celebrity, arriving by helicopter and Popemobile at Masses that were festivals rather than solemn gatherings, he would in the end reduce himself precisely to celebrity status: beloved but not obeyed; viewed with fleeting interest, like a movie, between breaks for refreshment and other channels of entertainment; the main character in a Mass become a show, during which the consumption of beer and Coca Cola somehow seemed appropriate during lulls in the action before one could receive a Host in the hand (not a few of which have been kept as souvenirs).

In the course of his homily at the beatification Mass on May 1, Pope Benedict declared that John Paul II had “directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God... He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an ‘Advent’ spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.”

With all due respect for Benedict and the memory of John Paul II, the faithful have a right to ask: Where is the evidence to support this astonishing claim? How can we be expected to believe it in the face of John Paul II’s own admission, at the very end of his pontificate, that silent apostasy reigns throughout a once Christian Europe? How can we accept it in view of Benedict’s own admission that in the nations “where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation” we now see “a progressive secularization of society and a sort of eclipse of the sense of God, which constitutes a challenge to find the appropriate means to propose again the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ.”  [Vespers Homily, June 28, 2010].

How is this very statement of Benedict’s not an implicit verdict on his own predecessor’s failure, throughout a 27-year-long pontificate, to propose the Gospel to the world in some new and compelling way that “restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an ‘Advent’ spirit?”  And how is it not an implicit verdict in favor of the “static poles of unity” before the Council, whose firm governance maintained the Bark of Peter intact in the midst of the same storms that today, as Benedict lamented only days before he himself became Pope, make one think that the Church is “like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side”? [Good Friday Meditations, 2005].

In considering the beatification of John Paul II we must never lose sight of what the Church teaches about beatifications: that they are permissions, not commands, to venerate, and thus are not infallible acts of the Magisterium. As the Catholic Encyclopedia explains, canonization involves “a precept, and is universal in the sense that it binds the whole Church,” whereas beatification only “permits such worship...”

For this reason, the Church actually forbids feast day Masses honoring a beatus outside the localities where he or she lived or worked. Hence “[e]ven after the beatifications of Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the Vatican insisted on maintaining the restrictive rule even though bishops around the world requested permission to have feast day Masses in their dioceses.” [Cathy Wooden, Catholic News Service, April 20, 2011] Even as to John Paul II, therefore, no feast day Mass may be offered in his name outside of Rome and the Diocese of Krakow without permission from Rome.

But, as predicted in the Statement of Reservations concerning this beatification (signed by more than 5,000 faithful Catholics from all over the world), the public perception in this age of the mass media will be, nonetheless, that John Paul II is a great saint the whole Catholic world must venerate without need of any canonization. There will be an extension of the Great Façade to create the appearance of sainthood where the Church has never declared it, just as there was the appearance of a prohibition of the traditional Mass where none had ever existed.

And, it seems, the Vatican apparatus will assist in the creation of that false impression by doing what it has done since the Council: make what is optional or even forbidden de facto mandatory through widespread permission. Cardinal Vallini, the Vicar General of Rome, has already told the press that “the Vatican recognizes that Pope John Paul is a ‘universal figure’ and, therefore, public Masses are likely to be approved for more dioceses than just Rome and Krakow, where he served as archbishop.” The first step in de facto (but not actual) sainthood has already been taken: the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has authorized the offering of one Mass in thanksgiving for the beatification in churches throughout the world, within one year of the beatification, given “the exceptional character of the beatification of the Venerable John Paul II, recognized by the entire Catholic Church...”

One might object that the Vatican strictly refused permission for Masses outside of the usual places for Bl. John XXIII and Bl. Mother Teresa (before her canonization) even though they too were “universal figures... recognized by the entire Catholic Church.” But then one would be asking for a consistent adherence to prudent Church law that, as we have seen, has already been abandoned on the “fast track” to beatification in a case whose file was labeled Santo Subito: Immediate Action.

What is done is done.  But in reality, no matter what anyone says, we remain free to pray for John Paul II instead of to him—even in the Diocese of Rome itself.  And we remain free as well to pray that the Holy Ghost will never allow the calamity of the last pontificate (or the one before it) to receive, per impossible, the perpetual and infallible imprimatur of a formal canonization. May Our Lady intercede for us, for Holy Church, and for the late Pope John Paul II.

  HOME    |    PRINT SUBSCRIBE    |    E-EDITION    |    ADVERTISE    |    NEWS    |    ARTICLES   |    RESOURCES    |    ABOUT    |    CONTACT
Web Format and Content   ©  1996-2010 Remnant Press