The late Pope John Paul II is set to have his beatification ceremony, a final step towards being declared a saint, on Sunday, May 1. By most accounts, John Paul is being fast-tracked to saintly status. The current pope, Benedict XVI, waived the initial five-year waiting period, and his elevation of John Paul is the first by an immediate predecessor in a thousand years. But, given Pope John Paul's handling of the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Church in recent years, not everyone is convinced he is worthy of sainthood. Is he?
No, he failed to protect innocent children: John Paul was charming, lovable, and admirably fought against Communists and Nazis, says Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. He was also "disturbingly regressive on social issues," such as marriage and the place of women in the church. But the sexual abuse scandal is what really should disqualify him. By turning away for years, instead of setting a legal standard for removing pedophile priests, "John Paul forfeited his right to beatification."
"Hold the halo"
The process certainly shouldn't be so rushed: "I oppose this beatification and predict history will look unkindly on John Paul, who was in denial as the worst crisis since the Reformation happened in the church," says the Rev. Richard McBrien, a Notre Dame University theology professor, as quoted in The Guardian. And rushing this process without the perspective of time is wrong, says Michael Walsh, a Catholic historian quoted in the same article. "It appears incestuous and akin to the habit of deifying one's ancestors."
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But he was such an honorable man: Admittedly, "John Paul was human, and he made mistakes," says Russell Shaw at Catholic News Agency, but he was also a great, "extraordinary man" who deserves this honor. Not only was he integral to the fall of communism, but he also inspired and moved people around the world with "his dramatic, globe-circling travels." And the noble and open way in which he carried on his duties as he inched toward his own death allowed "the world to witness his weakness in a display of uncommon heroism."
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And he brought people of different faiths together: It would be wrong to let John Paul's inadequate response to sexual abuse by priests "obscure the overriding substance of his papacy," says Dr. Michael Berenbaum at Jewish Journal. During and after the Holocaust, he helped protect Jewish children and saved lives, by sheltering them with Roman Catholic families. Later he brought Jews and Christians closer together, visiting the Holy Land, stressing reconciliation, and demonstrating "that true religiosity — devout, orthodox and pious as it may be — need not demonize another religion."
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