Is the Vatican rushing JPII’s canonization?

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.

Zoe Romanowsky


Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Zo

  • bill bannon

    weird about Catherine’s essay is that she is having a George Weigel only the legion leader was the failure, not country after country of such victims of other priests with 2 billion in lawsuits just in the US…6 dioceses in chapter 11, 2 bankrupt…and subsidiarity coming to mean that a Pope is never responsible whatsoever as long as there are bishops to blame for the entire 40 year period….20 of which were under John Paul.
    Some of us will decline from the common theological opinion on infallibility. And I liked the man and believe he is in Heaven….but he is not to be imitated as a template for an all round papacy if he did nothing of a zealous nature to protect children and teens under his care….and not even Weigel claims he did. How do you love your neighbor exceptionally and neglect protecting the young males
    under your charge…worldwide?

  • Jeff

    Were the abuses really worldwide? Very few abuses occurred in John Paul’s native Poland for instance, where the Communists routinely tortured priests to obtain anti-Church information and murdered them (Fr Popieluszko). Child abuse would have been a major scoop for the Warsaw Pact governments, to discredit the Vatican and the Pope they were so afraid of. I gather that JP II did not perceive that the problem was so great or that priests were even capable of molesting youngsters. He did however do more than any other Pope in modern times in standing up to the Soviets and he suffered an assassin’s bullet for it. He also spoke against unfettered capitalism and was probably the only major Catholic anti-Iraq war voice. By the way these huge lawsuits in the US are really a by-product of the culture of lawsuits. How one can blame Karol Wojtyla for that, I don’t know. The man was so great on so many levels, it is unlikely he failed morally in one or two aspects while maintaining such a steadfast devotion to God and man in other regards.

  • bill bannon

    You could be young. The young people think this started in 2002 and George Weigel plays into that myth in his last book.There were 500 allegations for the ten years prior to John Paul even becoming Pope…entered in Church diocesan records from 1968 to 1978. He entered in 1978. He is the chief management person in the Church. Canon law says his power is supreme and immediate over all the churches.
    If you entered a top management position, wouldn’t you find out about all pending problems immediately preceding you of young people being molested especially. It took Christ about three seconds to decide to make a whip and drive the money changers out of the temple. The whole incident probably took under two minutes….not 40 years.
    It was in major newspapers in 1985 not just 2002…due to a large case in the US South right after which newspaper coverage, Diane Sawyer did a special magazine piece on national TV. John Paul entered his reign in 1978. The following year the Vatican received an audio tape of Fr. Shanley praising man boy love at a pedophile meeting. In the mid 1980’s…6 years later, promoted to pastor despite more warnings from a lay woman, he molested. The countries are listed at wiki…Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Slovenia, Poland, Norway, Nethrlands, Malta, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Belgium, Austria, Phillipines, Kenya and all but one of the US dioceses.

  • Aaron B.

    I think that when the Baseball Hall of Fame deliberates longer than the Church does, it’s probably fair to say we should slow down. Personally, I’d like to see the waiting period extended to 50 years or so — enough so that all the person’s contemporaries are gone, and it’s possible to get a more objective look at his life. And of course the devil’s advocate should be brought back.

    I do think Pope John Paul II was personally a very holy man who inspired millions and did a lot of good things, but I also seriously doubt we can get an objective view of him yet. We’re just too close to him. On many online Catholic forums, you can’t respectfully question anything he did without getting attacked or banned.

    On the flip side, I think: what’s the harm in waiting? People can already pray to him, like they can pray to anyone they think could be in heaven. The Catholic bookstore in my town has holy cards and medals with him on them. He doesn’t need to be sainted this year for any of that to go on. Why not give it a few years, see if anything else pro or con surfaces, new miracles (I seem to remember not that long ago there were some questions about this one), etc.? What would we lose by waiting?

  • thinker

    The church is not infallible when it comes to proclaiming saints. I liked JPII but truly believe he should not be up for sainthood despite all the good he did. His relationship with Maciel revealed that he was truly blind in some areas and he left a whole bunch of people in the church without adequate protection

  • thinker

    that was meant to be “NOT” up for sainthood

  • Bill Russell

    Thinker: Canonization is infalilbe. Thus the Catholic Encyclopaedia:
    It is the opinion of St. Antoninus, Melchior Cano, Suarez, Bellarmine, Ba

  • bill bannon

    Theologians either singly or as a group have not been assigned infallibilty by any infallible act off the Church. In Tuas Libenter, a letter to the Archbishop of Munich, Pius IX said their universal (not common as above) agreement was a sign not a proof that something in the ordinary magisterium was infallible by way of universal ordinary.
    Your above passage which I’ve read before never even mentions universal agreement. Compare your post title “Canonization is infallible” with the article’s statement: ” Theologians generally agree as to the fact of papal infallibility in this matter of canonization, …”
    Theologians even if in complete agreement are no where given infallibility by a clearly infallible document…or even by Tuas Libenter by Pius IX.

  • bill bannon