Canonization Fall Out

If you like the social aspect of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, you feel warmed and filled after the recent canonizations:

Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II can rightly be called “the human rights popes.” In their teaching and their actions, they did more to advance the church’s teaching on human rights and to promote the dignity and rights of the human person globally than any other pope. Blessed John’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris brought about a sea change in the Roman Catholic tradition. It declared for the first time the Catholic Church’s full commitment to the modern human rights agenda, encompassing democratic freedoms and economic, social, and cultural rights. Blessed John Paul built on the foundation of John XXIII by unremittingly reminding the world of the inviolable dignity of the human person and her rights on pastoral visits all over the world. This is why in 2011 the United Nations honored him as a “consistent promoter of peace and human rights.” He trenchantly reminded Christians not to dismiss human rights as a product of the Enlightenment, or a “wish list” of political parties. Rather, argued the pontiff, Jesus Christ and his Gospel are the ultimate source of human rights. Moreover, John Paul argued that the rights of the poor and marginalized cannot be postponed because affluent nations and individuals think their “freedom” entitles them to hyper-consumption (see Redemptor Hominis, no.16). He also penned the Church’s most complete ethic and spirituality of labor, Laborem Exercens. John Paul maintained that the Son of God became a carpenter, thereby revealing that all work possesses equal dignity because it is done by a human being. All workers – not just those highly valued by the market – must be guaranteed rights such as a just wage, affordable healthcare, rest, retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, maternity leave, and safe working conditions (no. 19).

But if you are concerned about liturgy and piety, then cool and unsatisfied:

Then we have the canonization of John Paul II, which is being treated in media accounts as the Traditionalist half of a political process. On the same Sunday, both John Paul II and the liberal hero Pope John XXIII will be canonized. We are told that Pope Francis is trying to effect the reconciliation of two spheres in the Catholic world, and consolidate the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, which sought to bring the church up to date with the modern world. This narrative leaves me cold.

Like a lot of Catholic Traditionalists, I have extremely mixed feelings about John Paul II. He inspired many of the best men in todays’s church to join the priesthood. But I do not consider him a representative of Traditionalist views. He made additions to the Rosary, which have been thankfully ignored by the faithful. His allowance for the Traditional Latin Mass was insultingly ungenerous. He made bold ecumenical gestures that seem impossible to reconcile not only with the texts of Vatican II, but also with the teachings of the pre-conciliar church.

I find that John Paul’s writings are alternately inspiring, opaque, and incomprehensible. His governance of the church was lax in the extreme, to the point of negligence. Even before his death, my view was that here was a celebrity pope who traveled while Rome burned in scandal.

John Paul II’s record on sexual abuse was abysmal, full stop, even if there may be some room to doubt his personal culpability. I’ve sometimes wondered if his personal charisma blinded him to the obviously un-Catholic spirit of personal obedience written into the heart of the Legion of Christ, led by the noted abuser, liar, womanizer, and drug-addict Marcial Maciel. Or if his view of priestly abuse allegations were shaped by his experience in Poland, where communist authorities routinely accused priests in order to undermine the church. But for over two decades he was the supreme authority in the church, and he did next to nothing to abate this crisis.

There is still much goodness and grace in the church today, and much growth and heroism among its members in Africa and Asia. But for the Western world, the post-Vatican II era, the one that is supposedly being consolidated and sanctified by these canonizations, has been one of shocking decline in Catholic practice, weakness of faith, and demoralizing immorality. Why the rush to canonize those who initiated and oversaw it?

Meanwhile, Jason and the Callers are up to speed with more reflection on Mary (who blogs here).

53 thoughts on “Canonization Fall Out

  1. “This is not unlike a man saying to his lawyer, “I am counting on you to clear my name.” Well, the lawyer has no actual control over that himself, does he? But what he can do is make a better effort than the ordinary fellow at defending him, just because of his position and training. He knows how to persuade judges and juries to see his point of view, and we entrust ourselves to them as our representatives. We could of course act as our own counsel…but that rarely turns out well.”

    Because, of course, God is a judge toward us, and Jesus has no more compassion toward us than an impartial jury.

    Arguments for prayer to Mary and the saints make me sad. These people don’t seem to know their Savior.


  2. Skin and blood…what kind of relics are those?

    Whatever happened to the good old days when the relics were on permanent display for the faithful to venerate?

    Do some still profit by selling relics against Canon law and eBay rules?

    The good old days when there more dead pieces of bones than you would imagine any saint ever having, and more dead body parts…


  3. Any Romanist who claims that the Church of Rome is undivided is either blind or a liar. If the rad-trads were upset about JP2 then you’d better believe they’re particularly worried about Francis. Frank may appeal to the disillusioned youth of South America and Africa, but not by tradition or theology – he appeals to them by hinted revolution (which he doesn’t do much to dissuade) and the whispering hope that the Roman Church will finally climb out of the peat bog of tradition and theology and embrace something a bit more open and little less smelly and bell-y. My rad-trad friends are in a cold sweat.

    We have no problem claiming that our government and country is divided along party lines, and yet there are very few on either side of the aisle who deny the power of the President. Does not the Church of Rome fall into this same paradigm? Rad-trads begrudgingly bow to Pope Frank just like Republicans still pay their taxes. But honestly, with Francis at the helm, I can’t but wonder how much more similar these two cases may become as Papa Frank’s Church seems hell-bent upon becoming more of a Political Beast than being a Bride of Christ.

    I suggest the Roman Catholic Church change its name to the Roman Union and be done with it.


  4. Seth,

    It seems that unlike your Rad Trad friends, the particular CTC Apologetic doesn’t care about what happens on the ground. As long as they know that someone, somewhere is defining things infallibly, then there is unity. I’m sure if we talk about this long enough, Bryan will swoop in with a link to a 10,000 word essay on how Protestants who see disunity are begging the question because we aren’t defining unity in a RC way, which is, of course, whatever Bryan and Co interpret the Magisterium to mean when it comes to defining unity.


  5. No need for further worries on these fronts. None. The now canonized Misters (Popes) have been “invoked” in Rome. With such heavy-hitters working the angles above-departed Popes after all– putting in good words (along with Mary and a large phalanx above), all these concerns should be resolved. Let us rest assured, they’re working above. Hopefully, they’ll prevail upon Jesus to release some of those merits in the treasury of the saints.

    Just in from Rome and the two invocations one to each Mister (Pope). Let’s make it a daily thing. . Let us be a good cheer!


  6. It is odd to me that some of you would claim that such disagreement and dissent that exists in the modern Catholic Church is somehow proof that the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be. Have you guys read the New Testament? The church in Acts had plenty of disagreement and dissent. There were even bad actors. It was a pretty common theme. Yet, there was also an a church that, despite not every member always steeping perfectly in line, defined the holy faith and practice for all. Same goes for the early church. Many of the earliest Christian documents are letters written by bishops (such as 1 Clement) to other churches for the purpose of adjudicating a disagreement.

    From the first paragraph of 1 Clement, “we consider that we have been somewhat tardy in giving heed to the matters of dispute that have arisen among you, dearly beloved, and to the detestable and unholy sedition, so alien and strange to the elect of God, which a few headstrong and self-willed persons have kindled.”

    So, unless you want to argue that the Church that existed in Clement’s time was also not the Church that Christ founded because that church had some disunity and ‘rad-trads’ of their day I fail to see how this charge hurts the claims the of Catholic Church today. And if you do that, we’ll talk about the disunity that was present in the New Testament church and then you’ll have to argue that the New Testament Church was not the Church that Christ founded either for the same reason.

    Not only that but it is frankly the truth that the unity claimed by the Catholic Church does not depend on the Church not having any ‘rad-trads’ or ‘Pelosi Catholics.’

    You don’t have to wait for Bryan’s response to your objections. He has already written it.


  7. Sean P,

    Anyone can link to self-published material to make a point. Who cares?

    And yeah, we reject the claims of your church, kind of like how you rejected the claims of the church you were raised in. I rejected fundie-ism. Nothing new under the sun. So why all the fuss?

    Take care.


  8. AB.

    Two responses have been given to me this morning yet neither has provided anything that would qualifiy as a meaningful rebutal to my point. My point stands.


  9. One other thing, Sean.

    I came into contact with our host DG while in adult Sunday School, summer 2012. I had no idea he was a blogger. He has actually published material, and been defending Xianity for years and years. CtC makes no sense to me. DG is an author, so he does what he does. You guys, as far as I can tell, are trying to justify your break with Reformed-dom. You will get no sympathy from us. Why not close your blog and take up golf? Why does CtC exist?

    Take care.


  10. Well, Andrew, I guess we stay open because we don’t measure our success or failure by whether Andrew Buckingham ‘gets us.’

    PS – there are several published authors among us as well as Sunday school teachers.

    PPS – I am not looking for your sympathy.

    PPPS – I am a golfer already.


  11. Sean, when you can reconcile Pope Francis’ call for end to war and Urban 2’s call for the Crusades, get back to me on your careful reading of the NT.

    In a stirring Easter message to the world, Pope Francis prayed to the Risen Jesus, “to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent”, and “to the scourge of hunger”.

    He called for an end to the conflicts in Syria, the Central African Republic, and the violence in Nigeria, South Sudan and Iraq, and appealed for a negotiated settlement in Syria, the Ukraine and Venezuela and prayed for the success of the resumed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Here’s what a previous pope said about war and conflict, how Jesus gave it meaning.

    Your brotherhood, we believe, has long since learned from many accounts that a barbaric fury has deplorably afflicted an laid waste the churches of God in the regions of the Orient. More than this, blasphemous to say, it has even grasped in intolerabe servitude its churches and the Holy City of Christ, glorified b His passion and resurrection. Grieving with pious concern at this calamity, we visited the regions of Gaul and devoted ourselves largely to urging the princes of the land and their subjects to free the churches of the East. We solemnly enjoined upon them at the council of Auvergne (the accomplishment of) such an undertaking, as a preparation for the remission of all their sins. And we have constituted our most beloved son, Adhemar, Bishop of Puy, leader of this expedition and undertaking in our stead, so that those who, perchance, may wish to undertake this journey should comply With his commands, as if they were our own, and submit fully to his loosings or bindings, as far as shall seem to belong to such an office. If, moreover, there are any of your people whom God has inspired to this vow, let them know that he (Adhemar) will set out with the aid of God on the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, and that they can then attach themselves to his following.

    The problem isn’t what the church claims for herself. It is what Jason and the Callers see in her.


  12. Patrick, don’t be distressed. We’re rather pejorative toward protestant liberalism and their claims to being a true church, much less the church. It’s this whole bit about perspicuity and Gal. 1:8 and recognizing our Shepherd’s voice. But, we’ve been here done that. We reject the CIP for lack of credibility of the MOC and numerous subsequent moves after that leap, that affirm us in our supernaturally inspired decision.


  13. DGH.

    You have no way of knowing if Pope Francis would have responded any differently to a plea from a Christian country that was being invaded by a Muslim army. There, as scripture teaches (Ecc 3:8), “A time for war…a time for peace.” To compare Pope Urban II’s response to Muslim invasions of a Christian land in 1095 and Pope Francis’ comments about modern violence in various parts of the world is simply a stretch. You also assume that Pope Urban II did not also desire peace.


  14. Patrick, that’s why we don’t ground our hope in the Audacity of any of our leaders and why Paul was disenchanted that any would claim to be of Paul or Apollos, that attitude being an example of non-inspired, mere human reasoning. I know you guys like to play both sides of that fence as it suits the point you’re making at that moment, but beyond being inconsistent, it’s not apostolic.


  15. Hey, and while we’re all about posting for new people who come along, and popes, and war, and all that jazz, definitely don’t pass this one up, if you have some pennies to spare. Great for my commute listening so far.



  16. Sean, and you haven’t been living on planet earth if you think the papacy would actually call for war and not receive the kind of treatment Don Sterling has.


  17. Even Reformed protestants, well maybe not all of them, have an understanding of a Just War doctrine.


  18. Meanwhile, Scott Hoezee asks a good question:

    So how is it that he {John Paul II] is a full saint already in 2014? Well, Pope Benedict XVI waived the 5-year rule to fast track his predecessor and ever since, all the other stages (as I understand it there are three classifications that lead up to the final designation of “saint”) were likewise moved right along. Today, it seems, people want their heroes declared saints as fast as possible so they can still have living memories of the person who becomes an official saint. What good would it have done devotees of John Paul II had the process not begun until 2030 or something? What if John Paul II had to wait as long as the other pope elevated to sainthood last weekend, John XXIII? Had John Paul II waited that long, his sainthood would have come in 2056. But that would be, like, forever. Nevermind that long and prudent wait periods of discernment used to be de rigeur, a fast-food culture of the moment demands swifter action (even if it means cutting back on cautious discernment and holy patience).


  19. Sean Patrick
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Even Reformed protestants, well maybe not all of them, have an understanding of a Just War doctrine.

    And I heard from someone, somewhere, that the Pope is Catholic. Who knew?

    See, we can all talk in platitudes. Growing up, we called it having a keen perception of the obvious.

    Sean P, just don’t let your golfing blogging habit interfere with your duties at home. Speaking from experience, here, is all.



  20. Sean,

    You have no way of knowing if Pope Francis would have responded any differently to a plea from a Christian country that was being invaded by a Muslim army. There, as scripture teaches (Ecc 3:8), “A time for war…a time for peace.” To compare Pope Urban II’s response to Muslim invasions of a Christian land in 1095 and Pope Francis’ comments about modern violence in various parts of the world is simply a stretch. You also assume that Pope Urban II did not also desire peace.

    Sure we do. Those Muslims still hold those “Christian” lands. If it was okay to launch Crusades then, why not now? Perhaps because Rome has changed it’s dogma about holy war?


  21. Every so often a Caller drinks too much Red Bull, shows up here, spouts off, comes down from the high, retreats, and repeats the cycle six months later…

    Ecumenism at its finest, in other words.


  22. Erik.

    You are right. I don’t spend very much time reading the blog or comments here. Every once a while I do and sometimes I am compelled to offer a comment. That is what must human beings do. They offer a comment or two and then move on with their lives. From where does this expectation come that if one doesn’t stay here and offer a comment on every single discussion or tangent that they are ‘retreating’ or that it reflects the weakness of their view???

    In this case, I ‘spouted off’ in response to some direct criticisms of Catholic disunity. I showed how the disunity of the Catholic church is no different than the disunity of the early church. That was all. Nothing was said to counter that. I have nothing more to say about it.

    Call that ‘retreating’ if it makes you feel better about your position I guess. It really doesn’t bother me.


  23. PS.

    For an illustration of why people are much more likely to post on Called to Communion than here, we have never, in 4+ years at Called to Communion ever posted or allowed a post from anybody doing a victory dance simply because a commenter hasn’t returned for a day or two. In fact, we’ve never allowed or posted any victory laps whatsoever.

    Maybe we do mean something different by ‘ecumenism’ than you?


  24. Erik, look on the bright side. I got a caller to talk golf with me. Now he’ll go back to CtC to ponder ancient marian devotion for the next six months.

    Sean, I’m sure the other 1.4 billion catholics are eternally grateful for sticking up for your church in this blog. Just like the 30k or so OPCers throw me a party every time I quote Machen in the CtC realm.

    Just try to enjoy yourself, like this is a golf game. And you’ll be happier. It’s true.



  25. For an illustration of why people are much more likely to post on Called to Communion than here,

    There’s so much I could say to this, but instead, I’ll just steal from the dude, as is my custom and just tell you: I don’t think so!

    (insert your favorite emoticon here, yo).


  26. Chortles weakly
    Posted May 1, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink
    Maybe Leithart is right.

    Oh, come on! Give me Stellman, Cross, heck, even Keller.

    But don’t go Leithart on us, C-dub. I’ve now seen it all..


  27. And yes, that was a joke.

    But imagine Cross, Leithart, Stellman and Sean P as a foreaome in golf. Or sub out Sean for Keller.

    Noodle salad, as they say..



  28. Patrick, maybe it’s just a personality quirk, but I’ll never understand the superior piety or virtue of being a condescending, patronizing, passive-aggressive jerk. I much prefer just plain aggressive without the jerk bit. Of course, with your guy’s virtual trophy case reserved for pastors who’ve left their churches in the lurch or seminary students who’ve grieved their families with their departure, maybe CtC works hard to cover all opportunities. But, it has long been a marker of devout RC piety to fly the holier than thou flag. Do you all make sure you’re a half-beat off on the responsorials too? That was always my favorite.


  29. DG Hart.

    Those are ‘victory laps?’

    No. Those are posts about the Catholic tradition and Catholic doctrines and contrasting them to other positions. That is what we’re all about. You shouldn’t complian. You should want us to contrast the Catholic position to your position since you think your position is true and ours is false.

    A victory lap would look like all the back slapping that goes on over here. Stuff like, “Every so often a Caller drinks too much Red Bull, shows up here, spouts off, comes down from the high, retreats, and repeats the cycle six months later…”


  30. Yes, Patrick, because the virtual trophy case isn’t a matter of back slapping and self-congratulation but ‘ecumenical dialogue’. Try harder to be more honest and virtuous, it’s not coming through very well.


  31. And yours is sizing up websites that don’t agree with yours?

    Why are you here, again?



  32. sean.

    Let me get this straight. We are guilty of dishonesty why exactly? Because we put forth the Catholic position and argue for it and occasionally Protestants agree with us and become sacramentally united with the Catholic Church?

    We also recently hosted a long post by a Protestant blogger who does NOT agree with us.

    Your complaint, as it stands, is empty.


  33. Sean M, CtC is entertainment. Watch as they try to bring down the big bad Protestant empire. All we do is sit back and watch to see what tired old tactic they bring up today.

    What’s really funny is, as Erik put it, see just one of them happened to eat their wheaties today and takes on big bad daddy of them all, the Darryl G. Hart hisself.

    I’ll be golfing. Yo.


  34. Sean, a victory lap is triumphalism and CTC is all about that. As I’ve said many times, when you can summon up the courage of TradRC’s like Unam Sanctam and actually criticize the church in all of its features, I’ll know you’re not dancing the Makarena and drinking the koolaid.


  35. Sean, as empty as your trophy case. Still haven’t answered that one? Why have a blog that feels like a fundamentalist Baptist evening service — lots of testimonies?


  36. Patrick, dishonest to the degree you celebrate poaching and sell it as ‘ecumenical dialogue’. This isn’t a new trail and I’m not walking fast, keep up better.


  37. sean.

    So, what bothers you is that we allow people to share their journey. I don’t see how that is dishonest.

    Like AB, I have to run though not playing golf.

    Queue the victory lap after I leave.


  38. Patrick, yes, that’s it, share their journey. Now, if you’d signed off, “In the Peace of Christ”, the experience would’ve been complete. Patrick, try harder do less.


  39. I have to run though not playing golf.

    Sure…. we know what you are really up to.

    Mister Patrick.


  40. To listen to Pastor Leithart’s wish list is like witnessing the request for a blueprint for the reconstruction of the Tower of Babel. A kind of final punishment as God begins His new project of building another covenant.

    What would really underscore my point is a reading of the letters between Torrance and Florovosky.

    He’s either so desperate to repair the church (laudable to be sure) at any cost or completely unaware of the true nature of such a project, if it is to be able to present to the world the true Being, attributes and desires of God; to be able to reconstruct unity without recreating the conditions that led to the inevitability of the Reformation. Not to mention the problem of charismatic leadership and who follows who.

    Such a church would remain alive most likely by sheer will to power and the synthesis of all heresies. I ain’t nobody but you can count me out.


  41. CT (the miserable crank) weighed in on his thoughts about this debate at Biola:

    After the debate, I had the pleasure of riding with Peter in Rusty Reno’s car on a kind of ecumenical First Things bar outing. And I can report that, whatever theology divides us, we do appear to be united in our selection of good beer.


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