Saturday, April 02, 2005

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Today one of the good guys was carried home.

Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Karol Wojtyla. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.


At April 3, 2005 at 3:04:00 PM EDT, Blogger PeaceBang said...

I say this in all seriousness, and with sincere respect for you, Fausto: was he truly "one of the good ones?" Can any man who fails to make drastic changes in the structures that perpetuate priestly molestation of children, who preaches against contraception to starving, third-world populations, and who claims that homosexuality is aberrant be called "one of the good ones?" Among other perhaps not-so-egregious ethical weaknesses?

How do we differentiate -- or do we -- between a faithful man who promoted and upheld a flawed, prejudiced and oppressive Church tradition and tried to do some good things -- and a man who is brave and faithful enough to dramatically reform a system where it is sick, and where Christ's teachings are obviously being violated?

While I am willing to admire the purity of Pope John Paul II's faith and his commitment to the papacy, I hold myself from calling him "good" -- a word I would use to describe someone who was far braver than he in eradicating some of the evils of the Catholic hierarchy, which has caused real pain to thousands of victims in the Boston area alone.

I wish the man peace. I have compassion for the difficulties of his position, and the loneliness of it. But I cannot call him good.

At April 3, 2005 at 3:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Paul said...

John Paul II stood for the principles of his faith and took some unpopular stands. He never played to the crowd. He was a man of impeccable character and deep erudition and the nay sayers and character assasins cannot detract from what he accomplished !

At April 3, 2005 at 5:59:00 PM EDT, Blogger Chalicechick said...

I ageree with PB in spirit, but do mourn this Pope's death. If nothing else, because the next Pope will likely be even more conservative.


At April 3, 2005 at 7:45:00 PM EDT, Blogger Adam Tierney-Eliot said...

I have mixed feelings about the pope. Like CC, I am more than a little concerned for the future. Like PB, I admire him more for his personal faith and commitment than for his specific beliefs... Ah well, I am getting too into the whole thing anyway and I just wanted to say this:

Hey, Fausto! Not to be pushy or anything, but I passed on that Meme thing to you about books and stuff...

At April 3, 2005 at 9:15:00 PM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

Desperate Hosewives is on, then Boston Legal. Will answer all of this later.

At April 3, 2005 at 9:33:00 PM EDT, Blogger Adam Tierney-Eliot said...

In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I have posted a long-winded meditation on John Paul at "Unity." As the minister of a Christian Church in the UUA, I have had to give him and the Roman Church a great deal of thought and consideration lately. I respect your opinion, Fausto, and look forward to reading your response.

Also, no pressure on the meme thing...I promise! I'm not even sure what one is...

Now on to "Iron Chef"...

At April 3, 2005 at 10:52:00 PM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

I was wrong, it's Grey's Anatomy, not Boston Legal. Still, it's the tube for Fausto tonight. Will answer later.

(Hint, though: You're on the money about JP II, Adam, both doctrinally and in application, but it seemed the wrong occasion to dwell on his shortcomings. We've all got shortcomings.)

At April 4, 2005 at 12:30:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider this before you question John Paul II's "goodness": there was an assasination attempt on his life in 1981. After the man was captured and imprisoned, Pope John Paul II visited him in his cell TO FORGIVE HIM FACE TO FACE.

Pope JP II may have had some unpopular opinions and may have been tradition-heavy, but he actually did what he and Christ preached: forgiveness.

Can you believe that? JP II actually went to the man WHO TRIED TO KILL HIM and he FORGAVE HIM.

And some of you can't call him "good" ???

Then I don't know what good is.

At April 4, 2005 at 12:47:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too write with respect. But I never sugar-coat..

I think Pope John Paul II was a good man. Sure, he wasn't "Christian" according to YOUR expectations. But, he was Catholic, not a UU. So DUHHHHHH...of course he wasn't going to be progressive. Catholic heiarchy is conservative, always has been, always will be I'm afraid.

Besides, when UUs tred on other religion's turf (such as saying they "should" endorse gay rights and marriage, and they "should" ordain women, and they "should" do more about the sex-abuse scandals, etc.) then they start to become everything they hate: bigots.

Yes, when you demand a particular social or religious worldview from someone else or from some other group so that they'll think more like you, it's bigotry.

At April 4, 2005 at 6:27:00 AM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

Sometimes we take obvious things for granted to such a degree that we become utterly oblivious to them. This may be one of those times.

Let us then restate the obvious: Catholics are not Protestant.

Spiritual and moral authority, in the Catholic view, does not rest in personal apprehension, nor in the revelation of Scripture, but in the doctrines and traditions of the holy apostolic Church, which stands in an unbroken chain of divine authority all the way back through 2,000 years to Peter and to Jesus Christ himself, the incarnation of God, the eternal Logos, the Alpha and Omega. If Scripture has authority, it is only because the Church selected the canon. If the personal conscience has authority, it is only because it has first been trained in correct doctrine by the Church.

For almost 500 years now, Protestants have been saying that the Catholic view of spiritual authority is a crock. Protestants preach the "priesthood of all believers" rather than the priesthood of the Church, and the authority of personal understanding in discerning moral and spiritual Truth. That's why they are called "protest"-ants -- they protest against the superiority of the Church's claims to moral authority over the authority of personal discernment. For five centuries now that conflict has simmered, and the conflict itself has often caused more evil than the supposed evil that either side sees in the other.

We UUs sometimes forget that we are supremely Protestant, and are heirs to that 500-year conflict. We may no longer be as focused on Christ or Scripture as our historical Protestant forebears were, but we stand with them in perfect solidarity on the point of personal conscience. When we see something that strikes us as wrong, we feel morally bound to name it. If the doctrines, traditions, or power structure of the historic Church strike us as imperfect or harmful, we feel it is wrong not to give our witness to that Truth.

To be sure, we UUs stand farther out on a limb than most other Protestant denoms in feeling the obligation to bear personal witness even if it means gainsaying tradition: issues of feminism, oppression and homosexuality that continue to divide even most other Protestant sects are issues where we alone have reached a general consensus and speak for the most part with a single voice. We should not, however, mistake our internal consensus on these moral positions as universal acceptance of them outside our own little house.

Catholics especially do not enjoy such freedom of conscience. In their world, to speak against the hierarchy or doctrines or traditions of the Church is to speak against God Himself. The Supreme Pontiff, as the leader of all Catholics and personal successor to Christ on earth, especially does not have that freedom. Rather, it is his sacred duty to defend the historic teachings and institutions of the Church as eternal truth against what the Church considers to be the transient falsehoods of the moment.

I know; I can hear you chafe. I'm chafing too. See? We're Protestants.

That being the case, though, I don't think it's fair to judge a Catholic leader by our own radical Protestant moral standards. I think JP II, while not being one of the greatest Popes (John XXIII would be my candidate for that honor), was nevertheless a decent one. He valued the worth of the human individual. He led Eastern Europe out of the bonds of communism. He defended the oppressed and poor, and spoke against the corruption of industrial materialism in both its communist and capitalist forms. He began to admit and apologize for past mistakes of the Chatholic Church. He sought dialogue and reconciliation among the various fractured elements of Christianity, and between Christianity and other world faiths. In particular, he took long strides, and long-overdue ones, to heal the toxic rift between Christianity and Judaism.

No, I don't agree with everything he did, and some of the things he did just downright offend me. Nevertheless, he also accomplished a mountain of good in the world. More, I daresay, than I will have done when the roll is called Up Yonder. I can honor him for that, even while I assert my protest against certain of his and the Catholic Church's moral positions that strike my Protestant eyes as evil.

At April 5, 2005 at 2:44:00 PM EDT, Blogger PeaceBang said...

I spent some of yesterday with an old(er) Catholic man (70's?) who relished giving me his list of the pope's sins, ommissions and failures (he's the member of one of our local parishes that is scheduled to be closed -- or maybe it was already closed). I wound up saying, "Well, it's a hard job."

I appreciated a deeply faithful CATHOLIC expressing a pained disappointment at all he thought this obviously principled and faithful man could have and should have done in his 26 years.
Most bitter of his complaints was that the Pope apparently (I don't remember this) tried to dismiss or downplay the pedophila scandal by claiming that it was all a sell-more-papers thing cooked up by the Boston tabloids (like the Globe is a tabloid).
It made me feel like less of a louse for being critical myself.

Thanks for that last post, though, Fausto. Beautifully spoken.

At April 5, 2005 at 3:44:00 PM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

My mother's cousin the nun would probably agree with him. (At our blogger's picnic, you must remind me to tell you the story of my very non-Catholic mother's private audience with the Pope.) For another thoughtful Catholic critique that similarly finds JP II wanting, see the op-ed page of today's New York Times. Thomas Cahill, biographer of John XXIII and author of the "Hinges of Civilization" book series (The Gift of the Jews, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, and How the Irish Saved Civilization, among other titles) wrote a rather harsh assessment (click the link to read it; registration required) of JP II and his papacy. An excerpt:

In using ekklesia to describe their church, the early Christians meant to emphasize that their society within a society acted not out of political power but only out of the power of love, love for all as equal children of God. But they went much further than the Athenians, for they permitted no restrictions on participation: no citizens and noncitizens, no Greeks and non-Greeks, no patriarchs and submissive females. For, as St. Paul put it repeatedly, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus."

Sadly, John Paul II represented a different tradition, one of aggressive papalism. Whereas John XXIII endeavored simply to show the validity of church teaching rather than to issue condemnations, John Paul II was an enthusiastic condemner. Yes, he will surely be remembered as one of the few great political figures of our age, a man of physical and moral courage more responsible than any other for bringing down the oppressive, antihuman Communism of Eastern Europe. But he was not a great religious figure. How could he be? He may, in time to come, be credited with destroying his church.

At April 5, 2005 at 3:48:00 PM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

(Oops. Looks like I linked the second page of Cahill's article. If you click the link above, click back to the first page. Or use this one: The Price of Infallibility)

At April 22, 2005 at 9:54:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Paul said...

As a Unitarian I respected John Paul II. He was a man who lived what he believed and did not kowtow to popular public opinion. I have sensed in some UU's recently an intolerance that makes me shudder when I think of what we have gone through over the centuries. I sense a "follow the party line" or else mentality and I will never do that ! Freedom of conscience is as dear to me as freedom of religion!


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