David McGrath: Losing my religion: Reaction to sainthood for Pope John Paul II
41 minutes ago • DAVID McGRATH | local guest columnist
I had trouble with my Catholic upbringing ever since I was a kid.
For it was no secret that I was the worst behaved child in our household, the undisputed champion of fighting, disobeying, talking back. As early as age 9, I felt like a hypocrite while devoutly folding my hands at Mass, the same hands that had earlier stolen the loose change from my mother's purse (sorry, Mom).
My naughtiness led me to ramp up my religious commitment, sending me to the seminary at age 14. After all, a sinner might save his soul, if he could just get a job on the inside.
But the same “high spiritedness” I had back home got me booted from priest school. I personally didn't think that keeping a transistor radio inside the cutout pages of my Bible, so I could listen to the MLB after lights out, meant that I was incorrigible. But they had their own rules.
During that time period, however, I discovered that the priests who were our teachers were a lot like me. Not worse. Just human.
The ceremonies, the robes, the pomp — it was all mostly for show, like how I used to fold my hands.
Father Blaine was as vain as I was. Father McArdle an even bigger hypocrite. Father Floyd was cruel, the king of sarcasm.
Later, when priests from the same generation in our suburban white church chose to remain silent during the civil rights battles, I was surprised even less. For I knew they were ordinary men running the church, the same ones running GE or the NAACP or the NRA. The church was just another business, doing whatever was necessary for money, power and their own interests.
Don't get me wrong. I do not denigrate the genuine Christian message of compassion and love for all mankind. I reference only the clergy who hijacked Jesus' church and never practiced the preaching.
Which is why today, upon reading about the canonization of Pope John Paul II, I am as unsurprised as when a CEO of one of the banks that brought the U.S. to its knees is rewarded with a bonus.
That's because conferring sainthood upon a man who showed no compassion to the innocent victims of heinous sex crimes, perpetrated by his own soldiers, is more of a public relations stunt. Or sham. Or a political attempt at a distraction, at best.
John Paul merits sainthood, say church officials, because of two separate miracles in which individuals experienced recoveries from terrible diseases, after they prayed to the departed John Paul.
Whereas, when he was alive, he failed a bigger test, by having never apologized for the church's horde of sex criminals.
When reports of priests molesting multiple children in America started rolling in around 1985, Pope John Paul II remained mostly silent.
Here is Notre Dame theologian Richard McBrien's assessment of John Paul: “Indeed, he had a terrible record, full of denial and foot-dragging, on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century" (Nation, 5/6/2011).
He refused requests to meet with victims, blaming the media's "sensationalism" of the scandal. Even worse, he allowed that the zero tolerance policy be altered, to grant easier, due process to accused priests.
Admirers of Pope John Paul point out that he spoke 13 languages, traveled the world, opposed communism, and advocated for human rights.
He reached out to Jews, and he actually forgave the man who shot him in St. Peter's Square.
But when the most debilitating scandal in church history occurred, his love was never extended to child victims of predatory priests.
Seriously, wouldn't the heart of a true saint have gone out to those who were so egregiously harmed?
Shouldn't a “Saint” John Paul have said, "I'm sorry"?
Hayward's David McGrath is emeritus English professor, College of DuPage, and author of"The Territory." [email protected]://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/david-mcgrath-losing-my-religion-reaction-to-sainthood-for-pope/article_88ae6cda-fbe4-5190-bd98-1b554c15548f.html