MSW on JP2 Bishops

Michael Sean Winters at NCRep “remembers” Pope John Paul II here. I think it is possible to be fond of the man, yet remain critical on some points. Peter can be the template. We can admire the man, invoke him in litanies at baptism, celebrate his feast day, and see what the Lord saw in him. We can avoid the foot-in-mouth, cluck at the betrayal and subsequent hiding, but still acknowledge the man as a saint.

I think Mr Winters nails the fatal flaw of the saint-to-be:

My biggest complaint about John Paul II’s pontificate is that he was often a terrible judge of character. He surrounded himself with men, some of whom were corrupt in every sense of the word, who treated people unjustly and in small-minded ways.

Not only the curia, but by extension, the bishops his “own men” were suggesting:

His episcopal appointments in the U.S. were sometimes brilliant but more often not. Placing Cardinals Bernard Law and John O’Connor on the Congregation for Bishops resulted in twenty years of mediocre appointments or worse here in the U.S. with some, only some, happy exceptions.

Bishops. *sigh*

As John Paul’s illness left him incapacitated, just as the sex abuse crisis blew up in ways it could no longer be ignored, his poor choice in co-workers prevented the kind of vigorous response that was needed. When the history of the Church’s sex abuse crisis is written, it will be Benedict XVI who will more and more be seen as the hero. Of course, the mention of Benedict requires that I acknowledge not all John Paul’s appointments were corrupt: Whatever one thinks of Cardinal Ratzinger’s tenure at the CDF, he was not corrupted by money or power or intrigue.

Well, no. Not money or power. Intrigue? I’m not sure on that point. Cardinal Ratzinger was certainly dogged by ideology. Perhaps not a corruption so much as an indulgence.

As for the hero of the sex abuse and cover-up crisis, I daresay that the pope who will be the hero might not yet have died, retired, or even been elected. As pope, Benedict went after talkers, and with a viciousness characteristic of his days as CDF head. Bishops who were directly responsible for chasing people away from the faith–well, not so much. I don’t know that Bill Morris ever was the cause for someone leaving the faith. The same can’t be said of American highlights such as Bernard Law or Robert Finn or Roger Mahony. Though in the last case, it was more clear that a bishop could be vilified without ejecting oneself from the Church. Or getting the spelling right.

As for the issue of bishops covering up for sex predators, this was a matter that Pope Benedict could not sort out. But really, John Paul II didn’t even have the radar device to recognize it. The “orthodoxy” and the “tradition” hamstrung the need to address the immorality of the situation.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to MSW on JP2 Bishops

  1. Liam says:

    The other signal flaw of the JP2 regime was the encouragement of direct denunciations to Rome. Human beings have a strong tendency (anyone say “original sin”?) to become what oppresses us (the point of which is that we should ever be mindful of this tendency in ourselves when we go about seeking to do good and avoid evil). This denuciation feature mirrored, in its own way, an aspect of totalitarian culture.

  2. Todd says:

    I had never thought of that connection. Parishioners complaining to the pastor, the bishop, etc., certainly yes.

    • Liam says:

      Frankly, the signal disjuncture between the current pontificate and the two preceding pontificates has been that Pope Francis appears quite allergic to the culture of leapfrogged denunciation. This culture has been recolonizing in the Catholic DNA for the past 3 decades after a few decades of abeyance, and I think that symptoms of withdrawal are showing.

  3. I completely agree with you that we have not yet had the hero of the sex abuse scandal. At least, pope wise. Per Liam’s comment, I don’t think we should wait for one. Part of the problem of JP2’s top down approach is the laity is now waiting for the Vatican to fix everything, including the sex abuse crisis. I’m sure that there is a lot that the laity can do in order to fix this problem,

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