More on barnacles … er … I mean John Paul I


Venerable Aussie rightly criticizes the conspiracy theories which have latched on to JP1’s legacy like barnacles. I disagree with his criticism on linking to Taking Five, though. I debated in my mind on the post, but I knew it would bring predictable commentary on the conspiracy to the exclusion of anything sensible on the man.

I read Yallop’s book decades ago, and had forgotten it till yesterday. At its conclusion, I recall being struck that he seemed to stretch way too far on his story. Like Dan Brown, what he writes is all too plausible, regardless of how incredible it may be. My Aussie friend recommends Sandra Miesel for balance, and her Crisis article (July-Aug 2003). She takes Yallop to task with the buttressing of fellow journalist John Cornwell, who wrote the refutation of the conspiracy in the late 80’s. Read that, too. But my interest in conspiracy wanes as I grow older. I’m more interested in the people themselves than the soap opera swirling around them.

Because Yallop and Cornwell are the best spokesmen for their positions, I’ll frame the story of John Paul I’s death as a debate between them. Both authors are British and lapsed Catholics. Yallop, who displays more overt hostility toward the Church and openly disparages Pope John Paul II, got his start writing true crime accounts for a popular audience. The sophisticated Cornwell, on the other hand, later worked at Cambridge. While Yallop presents his findings as the product of his research, Cornwell dramatizes the research process.

Not the very best example of journalism, mind you. Miesel cuts off her opponent at the knees, then turns him over to Cornwell. I note the smarmy comment about “lapsed” Catholics (technically, they’re “inactive” Catholics) because the good readers of Crisis (wink, wink) certainly are active Catholics. Or maybe it’s meant to dismiss the entire debate as irrelevant, because good Catholics would never criticize the Church.

Miesel does state that “At every level, Luciani was noted for his simplicity and his zeal for social justice. He wanted the Church’s wealth pared down and shared with the poor, at home and abroad. Although pastoral, not cerebral, in style, he took special interest in catechetics and ecumenism.”

This is more of what we should be looking for. Luciani seems to me to be more the leader (pastor, bishop, or pope) that Catholics would like to see. More than that, I suspect a leader like that would be followed. The conspiracy theories do little but obscure the man who is claimed to be a victim. They work against Luciani’s memory, as Miesel and VA clearly demonstrate by their own testimony.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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