Monday, April 18, 2005

Vatican Insider Agrees With Moi, Do Not Rush Canonization

Fr. John Neuhaus has a rome diary thing going and today's entry included an on air discussion with a Fr Peter Gumpel:

Gumpel is from an aristocratic Austrian family and has had personal encounters with popes going back to Pius XI. A "relator" (an independent judge) in the office dealing with the causes of saints, the Jesuit Gumpel has been working in Rome for more than 50 years.

Ah, the perspective and patience of time:

While he believes that John Paul II will be and should be declared a saint, he is strongly opposed to rushing the process. The procedures established in the 16th century--including the rigorous examination of alleged miracles by the best medical science of the times--is essential, he insists, to avoid the awkwardness of the subsequent discovery of possibly embarrassing facts. He is also cool to the idea of declaring the late pope "John Paul the Great," although there is no official procedure for applying that title. "Does it mean that other popes were not so great?" he asks. To which I counter, "Does declaring him a saint mean that other popes were not so saintly?" We agree to disagree on the appellation "John Paul the Great."

I have mentioned here my opposition to rushing the canonization process. It serves absolutely no useful purpose, in my opinion. And like the esteemed gentleman, I don't have much use for "the Great."

"The Great" is archaic. It means abslutely nothing to us in this day and age. I think this is a cheap attempt at hagiography. In fact, I think a lot of what's been done including the "santo subito(?)" is an attempt at "I-was-there-hagiography." No one is denying the greatness of JPII, but one can't help but feel that so much is being forced so that it would look great in the history books, hagiographies and biographies.

In the mid 90s I had a website in which I put up a picture of JPII and titled him "John Paul II the Great." I got the idea from someone on EWTN who said that this Pope would be called "the Great." So there was a time I was with it. But the real motivation was more a conservative thing. It was largely a conservative statement as it is now.

If the process is rushed for JPII and this "the Great" thing sticks, then his conservative legacy will beat up his liberal legacy and that's what would dominate the history. On the other hand, if more time is taken for a more careful analysis of his papacy and legacy, his candidacy for canonization is no less at risk, but the divine luster will rightly come of the rose. There will then be time to acknowledge the good fruit and the few bad seeds of his tenure. Truth will trump hagiography and history and we all would be the better for it.


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