The miracle of a French nun’s recovery from Parkinsons through the intercession of Pope John Paul II has been confirmed by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Now it must be approved by a commission of bishops and cardinals before a date is set for beatification. But Catherine Pepinster at the Guardian wonders if the Church is being rash:
There’s always been unseemly haste about the canonisation of John Paul II. The church usually has a five-year “cooling-off” period following someone’s death before they can be considered for sainthood – a sensible approach, given the emotions that surround someone’s passing – but Pope Benedict waived this in the case of his predecessor.
Pepinster acknowledges John Paul’s remarkable role in history and his abilities, but she believes the giant blot on his life’s record is his friendship with Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legion of Christ:
Could John Paul not have known about the rumours and allegations swirling around Maciel? It may well be that as his infirmity increased, his aides limited access to information. And plenty of people can now attest to how they have been duped by apparent good, kind and charming people who have turned out to lead double lives. But certainly, there was more than an inkling about Maciel, well before ill-health struck John Paul. Evidence has emerged of Maciel’s abuse of seminarians as long ago as the 1940s. An American bishop sent detailed evidence from a former Legion priest to Rome through official channels on three occasions. Nothing happened. Meanwhile the cash flowed into the Vatican’s coffers from Maciel’s wealthy friends.
Money always speaks. But in the case off our late pontiff, there are likely other explanations. It would have been easy to dismiss the early stories about Maciel’s behavior as persecution of him and his order. And by the time the stories became hard to deny, the pope was very ill. Certainly his judgment of character could be criticized, but expert hucksters like Maciel are hard to detect.
None of this really matters when it comes to sainthood, however, because canonization is not about declaring someone to be gifted and perfect in every way. Instead, it’s about determining heroic virtue — accompanied by a couple of bona fide miracles. When it comes to things like patience, fidelity, long-suffering, courage, love of God and neighbor, kindness, hope, and sacrifice, Pope John Paul II possessed these in spades by all accounts.
As to whether the process should be hurried, perhaps not. But it’s been over five years now, and it’s up to the Vatican to decide.