Archive for May 2014

Stephen Harper: “ Don’t Indulge Non-Scientific Theories”

May 31, 2014



Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a rare interview given to his favourite media outlet the CBC, invoked the role of science when it came to the excellent initiative on maternal , newborn and child health this past week.


“It’s hard for me not to get very emotional about this because we know, we scientifically know, what vaccinations and immunizations have done for us, personally, in our generation and for generations after us.”


The World Health Organization, estimates 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diseases that could be avoided with vaccinations, including polio and pneumonia.


It turns out that some Canadians who apparently get their health info from the internet are not vaccinating their children. There has been an outbreak of measles in a few areas. An area in BC reported 400 kids affected with the disease.


The Prime Minister’s advice to fellow Canadians :


“Don’t indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts,” he said.


This brought a roar of laughter around the famous Craic club in Toronto’s east end.


The reason was obvious. Harper is one of the world’s ecological scofflaws with his embarrassing support of the environmentally massively  damaging Alberta tar sands and his government’s retrograde performance in curbing CO2 emissions.The experts Harper invoked have issued repeated alarms over the looming disaster of climate change. Harper charges full speed ahead as one of the worst offenders . He appears not to be taking his own advice of “think of your children.”




In the same week as Harper’s howler, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu appearing at a conference in Fort McMurray stated the obvious. He urged Canada to give up on industrial projects that unleash more carbon into the atmosphere, which exacerbates climate change.


“Only those who don’t want to listen, only those who want to be blind can’t see that we are sitting on a powder keg,” he said, according to the Canadian Press. “If we don’t do something urgently, quickly, we won’t have a world.”


“The oil sands are emblematic of an era of high carbon and high risk fuels that must end if we are committed to a safer climate,” he wrote. “Oil sands development not only devastates our shared climate, it is also stripping away the rights of First Nations and affected communities to protect their children, land and water from being poisoned.”


For  Bishop Tutu human stewardship of the natural world involves “a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the garden of Eden ‘to till it and keep it’. To keep it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.”



As PM Harper said “Don’t indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts,” he said.


Blue Jays cave to militarist USA

May 30, 2014



How low can you go?

I was disgusted decades ago when the Blue Jays opened their season on Good Friday. Is nothing sacred? Answer no, of course not. We would not think of practicing on Good Friday when I was running ball teams for the Knights of Columbus. It just wasn’t done but as they say that was then and this is now. But then I taught in a Catholic school where the obtuse VP got on the PA and on Holy Thursday and wished the student body, “a good long weekend.”

Now Major League baseball ordered the teams to dress in military camouflage to celebrate Memorial Day last Monday, a holiday unheard of in Canada.

More of the cloying uber-patriotism the USA is famous for but which used to be frowned on in Canada. A few years ago the ugly Yankee owner George Steinbrenner had a fan ejected when the poor sap never got up to sing America the Beautiful at the seven inning stretch.

All of this is post 9/11 nonsense

The caps and jerseys featured “an authentic military digital camouflage design licensed from the U.S. Marine Corps in honor of Memorial Day,” according to Major League Baseball. The Blue Jays Canadianized it by using “a camouflage design based on the Canadian Disruptive Pattern (“CADPAT”) used by Canadian Forces.”

Stephen Harper would have loved this suck up to the Yanks. First we had “the highway of heroes” for the 401, then a bloated military budget and now this hokey genuflection to the military. Don Cherry presumably was over the top.



As Pierre Trudeau once said, it’s tough when the mouse lives next to the elephant. The consumer BS does not recognize the 49th parallel and all this disgusting militarism finds its way here and we go along with it.

Shame on the Blue Jays for capitulating.

Netanyahu plays the pope

May 27, 2014


Can you believe this guy, the chutzpah—telling the pope “Jesus spoke Hebrew.”

First of all so what? What has this got to do with the ongoing oppression of Palestine?
Does he mean to imply that Israel owns all of Palestine  because Jesus was a Jew?

Secondly, the pope corrected him and told him, “No, he spoke Aramaic’.

Imagine the nerve of this guy playing silly semantic games with Pope Francis, the man who dared to pray at the awful apartheid Wall which has stolen 10% of Palestinian land.

The Israeli general Moshe Dayan spoke candidly about this dispossession on 1969.
We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state there. In considerable areas of the country (the total area was about 6 percent — ) we bought the lands from the Arabs (or more properly, from their feudal overlords –), Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not know even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal (Dayan’s own village) arose in the place of Mahalul, Gevat — in the place of Jibra, (Kibbutz) Sarid — in the place of Haneifs and Kefar Yehosua — in the place of Tell Shaman. There is not one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
The expelled Palestinian population were the descendants of the apostles. When the expulsion ended in 1948, 800,000 people had been uprooted and 531 villages destroyed.
As for Netanyahu,”the slick talking basso profundo ideologue” as Max Blumenthal called him in Goliath, Israel has plumbed the depths of serious statecraft. Like ariel sharon,Netanyahu has always been a proponent of “All of this land is ours.” he will say anything and do anything to augment this plan of disaster.

Blumenthal who recently appeared in Toronto like many others sees through the “American accented marketing agent…the self-proclaimed master of hasbara (Official BS) the explainer extraordinaire who could obliterate inconvenient truths about occupation and war crimes with emotionally potent talking points. He once told Likud activists, “It doesn’t matter if justice is on your side. You have to depict your position as just.”
Blumenthal describes the crafty manipulation of conservative pundit George Will who was totally taken in by Netanyahu. The latter showed Will a small signet stone found near the Western Wall that was 2,800 years old. It had the seal of of a Jewish official. His name Netanyahu.” Wow! The Netanyahus go back 2800 years to the ancient biblical land.
The only trouble was Netanyahu’s grandfather Nathan Milikovsky had changed his name when he emigrated from Lithuania to Palestine.
And now Jesus spoke Hebrew.
Avi Shlaim the brilliant new historian who left Israel to teach at Oxford has the last word here on Netanyahu, ”the destroyer of dreams, the man of the undivided Land of Israel but not of peaceful co-existence, the underminer of the Oslo accords, the man who gave the right wing settlers free rein to harm,harass and heap humiliations on on the long-suffering population of the occupied territories, a man whose ideological makeup militated against trading land for peace, and finally the man who betrayed the legacy of the founder of the movement by spurning the offer of peace with the Palestinians...” (The Iron Wall, p.606)

The church below the church

May 26, 2014


Miguel Cifuentes, presente!

It was a female Mexican theologian who told the story about walking in the shadow of the cathedral in her town when her granddaughter asked her if that church was their church. “No,” she said, “We belong to the church below the church.”
That was the congregation which met to say goodbye to Miguel who had escaped the death squads in Guatemala and landed in Toronto where he met and married Trish a Catholic teacher who had a similar liberationist  worldview. Over the years Miguel continued his work in the union movement with those on the margins of Canadian life. The union UNITE  represented many lowly paid hotel workers and every year they were a big part of the Labour Day parade.
At  one time Labour was close to the heart of the institutional church. We cobbled  a strong social teaching based on the dignity of the working person. Leo Xlll driven by the Marxian critique of exploitative capital  finally jumped into the fray in 1891 with his encyclical Rerum Novarum
“Wealthy owners of the means of production and employers must never forget that both divine and human law forbid them to squeeze the poor and wretched for the sake of gain or to profit from the helplessness of others.” (#17
The  US bishops in 1940 wrote: “A wage so low that it must be supplemented by the wage of wife and mother or by the children of the family before it can provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter together with essential spiritual and cultural needs cannot be regarded as a living wage. Furthermore, a living wage means sufficient income to meet not merely the present necessities of life but those of unemployment, sickness, death, and old age as well.
John XXlll in his encyclical Mater et Magistra (1961) continued:
We therefore consider it our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace; nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more powerful.
John Paul ll’s powerful encyclical Laborem Exercens (1981) ratified these sentiments.
The right to unionize and collectively bargain was vigorously promoted by the Church and this created stable communities and secure families based on living wages. Sadly the last 30 years have seen market fundamentalism and movable capital shred organic communities and facilitated a race to the bottom.  “Labour priests” began to disappear. Ordinands in these  new religious orders knew nothing about this tradition.
Miguel gave his life in resistance to the ongoing degradation of labour. In the “most religious country of all” the USA minimum wage laws are scandalous. 
What is the point of all this?
All too often unions and working people in the last decades have not seen the institutional church dramatically raise its voice on behalf of labour.  “Pro life” never seems to extend beyond the fetal stage. The actual lives of of working people  were left to the church below the church. These  were the people who march in solidarity in  the Labour Day parade and these were the people at Miguel’s funeral.




Breaking the silence in Israel

May 23, 2014



In Israel a few years several of us met with some very brave soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force. Yehuda Shaul, an Orthodox Jew from Toronto stood out in his eloquent presentation. In brief, they simply could not stand the daily humiliation visited on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Most of the abuse still remains hidden from the innocent eyes of North Americans. These soldiers did something about it. They collected hundreds of testimonies from soldiers who protected the thugs in the settlements who with virtual impunity harass school children and rip out olive trees by the hundreds of thousands.


When they posted the fruits of their justice efforts in Tel Aviv it caused shock waves among Israelis who wanted to believe in “the purity of arms”, the morality of the IDF so loudly trumpeted by the state. These brutal acts were not “the exceptions” of a “few bad apples” but the daily norms of Occupation.

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On Friday, June 6th 2014, Breaking the Silence will commemorate its 10 year anniversary and 47 years since the beginning of the Israeli Occupation of the territories.

In a one-of-a-kind event, the veterans with a conscience plan to honor the decade of witnessing by reading out soldier testimony for 10 straight hours. That day, hundreds of public figures, politicians, scholars, artists, journalists, musicians, soldiers, and ordinary citizens alike will participate in a nonstop 10-hour public reading of the  testimonies. There will be no performances, no speeches, just person after person breaking their silence about the harsh reality of day-to-day life in the Occupied Territories.

Since the founding in 2004, nearly 1000 soldiers have provided Breaking the Silence with testimony about their military service. this story has been erased from public life and mired in secrecy, with soldiers largely choosing to keep their families, communities and the entire Israeli society in the dark about what they have to do in order to maintain military occupation over another people.

The soldiers are inviting the Tel Aviv public to become part of the event because in their words “ we believe that the moral and social price we pay for this reality is unbearable.”

How many Canadian newspapers will cover this event?

How many Canadian rabbis will speak to this?

Our sad fall from grace under Harper

May 22, 2014



At the centre for Canadian Studies at the Guandong University of Foreign Studies, Chinese academics ripped the Harper government for the sad decline of Canada in International affairs.


Their 400 page tome mirrors what many Canadians have been saying about the shameful sullying of our formerly sterling reputation.

Our PM is described as “a leader who has overseen a sullying of the country’s reputation as its national character is rewritten by the push for dirty oil sands crude.”

The academics added that “Canada once took seriously its role as defender of peace in the international community, a sincere mediator of international arguments and a good global citizen.”

Now bear in mind these are serious scholars not the Chinese government. They did get it right: We have become an international scofflaw, America lite, an outlier and a deep embarrassment to our respected position as a middle power with progressive values. Everywhere diplomats are asking: what the hell happened to Canada?

The answer is Stephen Harper the man who listens to no one and treats our foreign service as an echo chamber for his far rightist views. Hopeless on climate justice, the blinkered defender of the Alberta Tar Sands one festering suppurating wound on our wounded planet. Here is a man who does not understand the “Greater economy” of our generative Mother Earth, the basis of healthy living. You just can not be well on a sick planet

Don’t get former Tory PM Joe Clark started on this either. His latest book How We Lead (Random House) is a devastating look at our fall from grace under the ideologue Harper.

Haroon Siddiqui in the Star summed up Clark’s book like this:

It’s a damning critique of how Harper has changed Canada’s image in the world, from a nation admired for its sophistication in mediating, peacekeeping and working co-operatively in multilateral institutions to one that’s belligerent, divisive and dismissive of the United Nations and other international institutions, such as the Commonwealth, La Francophonie and the Organization of American States.

Clark mentions our pathetic macho posturing on the global stage, bellicose, madly in love with the military in which he’d never serve, sacrificing Canadian kids, pawns on a chessboard in the Afghani conflict. Renaming our roads the Highway of Heroes. Our whole peacekeeping reputation shredded.


And never consulting our diplomats on the ground. What do they know anyway? The pro-Israel ideologue Harper has blessed everything the international pariah israel has done.


Can we recover from this awful administration?

Justin Trudeau, Cardinal Collins and pro life

May 17, 2014



The Toronto cardinal Thomas Collins wrote Liberal leader Justin Trudeau about his proscribing all future Liberal candidates if they were not “pro choice’, now the official party’s platform. Most people regard Trudeau’s policy as foolish and alienating. Collins is not the only one shaking his head. For many the “right to life” position is a strong conscience one. Life is sacred and it begins at conception. This is one Catholic position but it is not the Catholic position.


The stance on abortion has never been absolutist. Two of the giants of Catholic theology  saints Augustine and  Thomas Aquinas stated that  the early fetus  had the moral status of a plant or vegetable. It took months before the fetus was ‘ensouled’ and thus a person. “Six weeks for a male embryo and three for a female” stated Aquinas.If the great Doctor knew modern embryology would this ensoulment be the last trimester? Questions, questions.


No to any abortion is the province of the radical religious right. To most Catholic moralists, there must be nuance here. Bishops are not the sole source of Catholic truth. Theologians and the sensus fidelium, the lived wisdom of the Catholic people including women who have faced this choice—must be heard from. They are part of the teaching church. This is why the absolutist position has never been proclaimed de fide. There are many non-frivolous reasons why women chose abortion. This may be  lamented but is it always immoral? And what about the Catholic insistence on the primacy of conscience? This  is a very complex issue. And the Catholic position is much richer than the absolutist  stance Ubi dubium,ibi libertas—where there is  doubt there is freedom is an ancient truism.


Most people want to see abortions reduced. One way of course is by effective contraception but we  all know where too many male bishops stand on that one. They would not be bishops under John Paul ll. So we have absolutist bishops condemning contraception. Is there something they are missing? Will bishops have to bear unwanted children? Care for those children if conceived ? Do they want to  send women into depression and mental illness? Priests, bishops and theologians are mostly men. Is there any serious listening to those who will bear the brunt bear of rearing children? Does a fertilized egg trump a woman’s experience? Are we dealing with a whiff of sexism in the Roman church? Should  men control women’s reproductive rights?After the massive sex abuse scandal maybe we should look twice at priests’ obsession with the issue of abortion.


Cardinal Collins was on rocky ground when he waded into Pope Francis territory. He told Trudeau the pope could not become a Liberal politician if he had come to Canada. Collins would be  one bishop Pope Francis referred to  for focusing too much on gays, abortion and contraception. We recall Francis saying saying the church has become  “obsessed” with those issues to the detriment of its larger mission to be “home for all.” Collins previously tried to pressure Catholic  schools into proscribing gay and lesbian clubs. He was rebuffed by the teacher union whose membership was much closer to kids in Catholic schools. The teachers made the decision, not the bishop.

The cardinal’s letter chiding Trudeau was appropriate. Slipping Pope Francis into the conversation was a two edged sword. Should Catholics now abandon the Liberal Party? Where will they go? All parties are de facto “pro choice.’  Is there a hidden agenda here? Collins is known to be close to Tory cabinet minister Jason Kenny having invited him to a national bishops’ meeting. Will Catholic voters migrate to the Tories whose policies  on poverty, the environment, and the common good are as far away from Catholic social teaching as you can get. Who knows?


Collins is always front and centre at “pro life” rallies. Fair enough but he is never seen at pro life rallies for the  earth and its threatened climate.  Is this not a pro life issue? Abortion  will never  be settled at the ballot box. Canadians are stale mated here On the other hand Canadian Catholics need to raise their voices on climate justice, the major moral issue of our time. The institutional church and religious leaders like Cardinal Collins seemingly have no pastoral plan to combat the ongoing degradation of the earth. Bishops are never seen at climate justice  rallies.They need to heed the brilliant nun Sr.Elizabeth Johnson who names the present situation: “Christian churches often choose not to face this calamity with the energy they spend on other matters. It’s as though the planet were undergoing its agony in the garden, and we, the disciples of Jesus, are curled up fast asleep.”


Wide awake on abortion, fast asleep on climate justice, a recipe for irrelevance. A failure of episcopal leadership.

Poor judgement: “Radiant holiness.”

May 14, 2014



Catholics wonder how a palpable fraud and sycophant like Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the disgraced founder of the reactionary religious order the Legionnaires could pull the wool over so many eyes in the Catholic church. When the serial priest pedophile and father of children was finally cast aside by Cardinal Ratzinger and described by the future pope as living “a wasted, twisted life”. He had done much damage to the John Paul ll papacy. The latter’s promotion of Macial as “an efficacious leader of youth” called into question the pope’s suspect judgment and gave a necessary rethink to his papacy, As if the shocking canonization of Josemaria Escriva didn’t. another papal sycophant who poured money into Rome and got a free get out jail card from Pope JP ll who made Opus dei a personal prelature.
The Polish pope had a narrow vision. He should have copied leo xll who when they asked him about his successful term as pope (1878-1903) replied that he was never afraid to promote those who disagreed with him. The Woytyla record proved just the opposite and stopped reform dead in its tracks. The Catholic Church is still suffering from too many lame appointments.
JP ll was a sharp guy but like all of us circumscribed by his environment, in his case a narrow Polish background. He failed to reform the church in this image, particularly in the more educated countries where Catholics had grown immeasurably in their theological sophistication. The real heroes of this period were those brave theologians and lay people who resisted his attempts to do an end run around Vatican ll.25 lost years. a massive failure of nerve.
The pope did find many idolators who cast their sails to his narrow vision. Many of these were promoted and in diocese after diocese, new papal automata cropped up in parishes and in the media. Like W.H. Auden’s Average Man , “When there was peace they were for peace and when there was war they went.” The same ones now are thrown into confusion as a new wind blows from Rome
It is hilarious to watch the right wingers like George Weigel try to skirt their previous endorsement of arch fraud Fr Marcial. In 2002 Weigel wrote
I have been deeply impressed by the work of the Legionaries of Christ in the United States, in Mexico, and in Rome.If Father Maciel and his charism as a founder are to be judged by the fruits of his work, those fruits are most impressive indeed.”
What were the fruits? Huge amounts of money which rolled into the Vatican, pay offs to cardinals who should have known better, a far right wing order which turned its back on the thrust of the Council and genuflected to anything to come out of Rome.
Jason Berry the great New Orleans journalist assiduously tracked the promoters of Marcial and his order. He wrote:
The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon, and CNN political analyst Bill Bennett were among them. Glendon, now a Harvard law professor, scoffed at “old slanders”.
Boy was she wrong.
To say that Weigel, Glendon and Neuhaus — who asserted Maciel’s innocence as “a moral certainty” — were duped is to overstate the obvious. Clearly, they were influenced by John Paul’s own personal support for Maciel. Neuhaus even stated that there was no doubt about Marcial’s innocence. It was “a moral certainty.”
Weigel as Berry pointed out consistently whitewashed JP ll’s blindness in the pedophilia crisis. His 992 page tome on Pope Woytyla totally avoided the issue.
Berry again:
The book ignores widely reported clergy abuse cases that rocked America and Ireland in the 1990s: the charges that brought down Covenant House founder Fr. Bruce Ritter; the resignation of Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, N.M., amid allegations from young women; the $119 million jury verdict against the Dallas diocese in 1997 that was a subject of great conversation in the Congregation for the Clergy, according to former priest Christopher Kunze, who worked there at the time. Were these not issues for the pope?

The former ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon was similarly duped:
The recent revival of long discredited allegations against Father Maciel would come as a surprise were it not for the fact that the U.S. is currently experiencing a resurgence of anti-Catholicism. One would have thought that Father Neuhaus’s meticulous analysis of the evidence in First Things had put the matter to rest once and for all. As one who sat near Father Maciel for several weeks during the Synod for America, I simply cannot reconcile those old stories with the man’s radiant holiness.”

Radiant holiness.


Tom Doyle on Pope John Paul ll’s blindness

May 8, 2014


Tom Doyle OP was the ultimate insider as an American canonist, a prelate on the way up the food chain. Very early on he warned the US hierarchy about the gravity and the ticking time bomb of the sex abuse scandal. He was assured that his warnings would reach John Paul ll.His persistent defense of the abused cost him him canonical career but probably saved his priesthood.


In an NCR article worth reading he laid out the whole sorry mess of episcopal denial and the institutional circling of the wagons by largely JP ll bishops, the grey men whose prime loyalty was to the church and not the victims. As we now now this became the worst scandal of the Catholic Church since the Reformation and cast a cloud over JP ll’s whole pontificate. Many sites have reprinted his comments which gives a more balanced approach to John Paul’s term as pope.


Doyle pulled no punches and stated quite boldly:


The past 30 years have led me to the opinion that his sainthood is a profound insult to the countless victims of sexual assault by Catholic clergy the world over. It is an insult to the decent, well-intentioned men and women who were persecuted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during his reign, and it is an insult to the memory of Pope John XXIII, who has the misfortune being a canonization classmate.



Here is Doyle’s conclusion written on Holy Thursday of this year.


This was in 1985, not 2002. It is hard to believe that this pope, who was supposed to be one of the smartest men alive at the time, could not have understood the gravity of significant numbers of priests raping and violating little children. The excuse that he did nothing because of his “purity of thought” is as ridiculous as the excuse that he wanted to preserve the priesthood for which he held such high esteem.

Joaquín Navarro-Valls, John Paul’s press officer, said Friday that he didn’t think the pope or anyone else understood the gravity of the crisis. Other than the fact that this assertion is also ridiculous, a number of people in the church did understand the gravity: the mothers and fathers of the children who were violated and even the general public, who were clamoring for action even back in the mid-’80s.


Navarro-Valls said after 2002, Pope John Paul immediately began taking action. Other than making nine recorded public statements, all of which were sufficiently nuanced to be innocuous, and calling a meeting of the U.S. cardinals to tell them what everyone already knew, he did nothing positive.


He did, however, do a few negative things. He was ultimately responsible for short-circuiting the investigation of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. He refused to investigate the accusations against Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna. He promoted the careers of some of the bishops and cardinals who intentionally inflicted horrendous damage on victims and expended vast amounts of donated money to stonewall the process of justice, e.g., Cardinals Bernard Law, Roger Mahony and George Pell, to name but a few. Perhaps the most egregious nonaction was completely ignoring the pleas of thousands of victims, many of whom wrote directly to him. Victims and victims’ groups bombarded the Vatican with letters and requested audiences or at least recognition by the pope, especially at the World Youth Day celebrations. Not only were their requests ignored, but not one ever even received an acknowledgement of the receipt of their communication.


The sexual abuse scandal of our era has been the Catholic church’s worst nightmare, and it has been going on for 30 years. The enormity of it all challenges the English language for words that can accurately describe it. The spectrum of large numbers of priests, bishops and even cardinals from around the world sexually violating children, one of the vilest crimes imaginable, challenges the capacity to grasp the enormity of such evil. Yet it not only happened, but it was enabled by those who have professed to follow the Gospel and lead others on the same path.


On Sunday, the institutional church will accord its highest honor to the one man who, more than any other alive, could have ended the nightmare and saved countless innocent and vulnerable victims. But he did not. It was not a question of he could not, but he would not.


The red book on my shelf may be a relic, but it is also a reminder of the very dark side of the institutional church, a side John Paul helped reveal.


Thomas P. Doyle is a priest, canon lawyer, addictions therapist and longtime supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims.

Maureen Dowd on papal blindness

May 4, 2014



Saint John Paul ll according to the papal diktat  has entered the realm of those specially favoured by God. He was accompanied by the roly poly peasant pope, the man who turned the triumphalist Catholic church upside down Giovanni Roncalli. this  apparently pleased both wings of a highly polarized church.

We should understand that saints are humans, like all of us, have their flaws and that  is perfectly fine. Saint John Paul ll was no exception. A towering figure on the global stage, he was less  than inspirational in his own Catholic church. He was a man who constantly counseled  his co-believers to “be not afraid” yet he inspired much fear in those employed in the institutional church. He arbitrarily attempted to impose his view on the whole church. It was an anti-democratic, imperious view which constantly ignored collegial input from  fellow bishops and, as for the laity, he never considered  their views particularly if they did not buy his brand of restorationist policies.

One of his most obvious failings was his poor judge of character. He constantly promoted anti-intellectual and rigid dogmatists to vacant sees. These men were largely considered by church watchers more notable for their slavish adherence to everything which came out of Rome. They were never interested in the sensus fidelium of the people they were sworn to serve . They acted as branch plant managers of the unipolar line emanating from Rome. So many bishops had poor listening skills and were tone deaf to the signs of the times, the Spirit wisdom bubbling up in history—the cry of women, the voice of the people of God, the cry of the anguished  heart, the cry for ecumenical relations.


These men were part of the lost years, the ice age of Catholicism. The JP ll appointees in the end were idolaters of hard line papal edicts. In diocese after diocese the great men of Vatican ll were replaced by the grey men of John Paul ll.  Paralyzed by their dedication to an institution, they circled the wagons  and ignored Christ among  the vulnerable and broken lives of the sexually abused and their  shattered loved ones.

Two Catholics in the public eye, reacted to JP ll s elevation to sainthood. One at a time.

First, the lay voice of Catholic columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times. Dowd began her article by reminiscing about her own baptism as she attended mass at Nativity her childhood church. She then launched into a barely controlled tirade against the canonization of JP ll.


John Paul was a charmer, and a great man in many ways. But given that he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain’t no saint.

Dowd acknowledged the many talents of the late pope already acknowledged here, but then she quoted Ken Briggs, the well known religion writer:

This is a political balancing act, Unfortunately, the comparisons are invidious. John opened up the church to the world and J.P. II began to close it down again, make it into a more restricted community, putting boundaries up. He has a cloud hanging over his papacy.”



Then Dowd moved into high gear, opinions widely shared by many Catholics:

One of John Paul’s great shames was giving Vatican sanctuary to Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, a horrendous enabler of child abuse who resigned in disgrace in 2002 as archbishop of Boston. Another unforgivable breach was the pope’s stubborn defense of the dastardly Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pedophile, womanizer, embezzler and drug addict.

Again we have here a stunning lack of papal judgment on the character of people whose greatest talents were fund raising and flattery.

Maciel according to his journalistic exposer Jason Berry was “the greatest fund-raiser for the postwar Catholic Church and equally its greatest criminal.”


Dowd again:

His order, the Legionaries of Christ, which he ran like a cult and ATM for himself and the Vatican for 65 years, denounced him posthumously in February for his “reprehensible and object. The statement followed a United Nations report upbraiding the church for turning a blind eye to child abuse by priests and the sins of Father Maciel, who had serially abused adolescent seminarians, some as young as 12, and had several children with at least two women. His sons also claimed he abused them..

Dowd went on to criticize JP ll for his woeful inaction in this area. Many Catholics agree with her. Saints like all of us have blind spots. Dowd is no less a Catholic for pointing this out.

Given the searing damage the scandal has done to so many lives and to the church, that rationalization that pope was kept in the dark doesn’t have a prayer. that the accusations were phony one He needed to recognize the scope of the misconduct and do something, not play the globe-trotting ostrich.