A LASTING LEGACY
8 April 2005
Well, we certainly have been inundated with "death" this past month, haven't we?
First it was the death watch for Terri Schiavo, then the overlapping death watch for the pope, then finally the death of Terri, then the Pope's death, then the death of Johnny Cochran and now the death of Prince Ranier. Poor Ranier has been overshadowed by John Paul's death and I suppose there will be no dignitaries from the States attending his funeral.
It's amazing to think that by the time they close off public viewing of the Pope's body, more than 2 million people will have filed by, the average wait in line being 24 hours.
I've touched on my feelings about this Pope a bit in my blog but I feel compelled to discuss it here as well.
There is no denying that this was a man who had an enormous impact on the world. This is a man who obviously had very strong principles and lived his life according to them.
My problem is that I disagreed strongly with many of his principles. And you have to wonder what impact the strength of those principles has had on the Catholic Church, whose membership is dwindling drastically as people, especially younger people, are having difficulty finding a "home" there.
Not surprisingly, I took great exception with the Pope's feelings toward the gay community. Pope John Paul II seemed to lift homosexuality to the top of the list of modern evils. Within the past six months, he referred to homosexuality as "intrinsically evil" and earlier declared gays and lesbians "disordered," "self-indulgent" individuals who "threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people."
But there was also no pastoral outreach to homosexuals, since the two stars in this area, Sister Jeanne Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent were ordered to stop their ministery to the gay community.
Then there is the suppression of women within the church. The church is adamant that priestly "powers" remain solely the domain of men, though women hold pastoral positions in most other relgions. There are female ministers and female rabbis, but no female priests.
The National Catholic Reporter explains that "The pope championed an anthropological concept called complementarity. The idea is that bodily differences give men and women different, but equally important, roles that complete one another. The concept was employed to support the ban on the ordination of women to the priesthood."
NCR goes on to state, "In 1979, an American woman religious, Mercy Sr. Teresa Kane, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, in a welcoming address, urged the pope to include half of humankind in all the ministries of the church. John Pauls stony silence in response became a defining moment for many Catholic women. Kane herself was frozen out of future prominent roles in the church."
The Catholic Church remains a bastion of good ol' boys who will let women come in to polish the pews and arrange the flowers, but don't give them any significant positions of authority. A nun in Boston was essentially "fired" because she participated in the baptism of the child of a gay couple, which the Vatican says is a "right" reserved for men. (Perhaps the "firing" had more to do with her ministering to the gay community and her public stand that she believes that safe sex saves lives.)
But at the same time that women are continuing to be relegated to the status of second class citizens, pedophiles have been allowed to roam freely about parishes with no restraint. It may be said that the Pope was unaware of the extent of the problem until the American scandal began to unravel, but even before that happened, there were "places" where priests with a "problem" could be sent for "treatment," and then sent back into parishes to work with children again, so it can't have been that much of a surprise.
However, what was the Vatican response? Has anybody ever apologized? Has there been any outrage coming from Rome? Cardinal Law, the biggest offender of the church hierarchy is now living a life of comfort and authority at the Vatican, his printed biography on the Vatican web site not even hinting at scandal under his rule, much of the wealth of the Boston diocese transferred to the Vatican to prevent it from being tapped by the victims of the Cardinal's failure to control the priests who were his responsibility. (A new definition of "The rule of Law"!)
This pope demanded complete submission to his authority. He excommunicated the pro-Latin Mass Archbishop Lefebrve and the theologian Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, who argued for greater flexibility in adapting the Catholic message to an Asian context (Balasuriya's excommunication was revoked when he signed a declaration of loyalty).
He fired theologians Hans Kung and Charles Curran, who questioned papal infallability. "Under John Paul, the list of thinkers who were investigated and silenced, whose books had to be revised or whose teaching careers were interrupted, was sprawling. At least four Catholic leaders from Brazil alone were gagged, including a bishop, Dom Pedro Casaldaliga," says the National Catholic Reporter.
In his encyclical Dominus Iesus, the Pope proclaimed the Roman Catholic church to be the "mother" of all the Christian denominations and stated that non-Catholics and non-Christians were in a "gravely deficient position," further increasing the divide between the Catholic church and all other religions.
This pope has put the lives of millions of people at risk by his failure to allow dissemination of information on safe sex practices. According to this Pope, the sex act is not to be used recreationally, but was designed for procreation and nothing should be done to interfere with that. This at a time when AIDS is running rampant in the Third World and literally wiping out entire African countries. Yet the Vatican remains firm in its resolve that no condoms may be used, not even to save lives.
More than a million children, mostly in the third-world, are left motherless annually by the greater than 500,000 women who die of pregnancy-related complications each year. Many suffer devastating child-birth related injury. For example, in some cultures, women are ostracized from their homes and villages due to the extremely common (80,000 per year) but horrifyingly devastating rectovaginal fistula.
Even in more "civilized" countries, in this day when overpopulation is such a big problem, it is criminal that the Church remains so adamantly against responsible sexual activity. No birth control information may be passed out at Catholic medical clinics and no tubal ligations may be performed. Children are a gift from God and we are to take as many as he chooses to send us. Well, I'm sorry but I stopped believing that the day I nearly threw Ned against a wall and realized that I was so overwhelmed that I was a danger to my children. I had five children in six years, three in diapers, two nursing and no end in sight, since I seemed to get pregnant at the drop of a hat. That was the beginning of the end for me. I stated then, and I state now, that the day the Pope takes a week to care for a large family, change diapers, deal with the squabbles, etc., is the day that I believe any of this "children are a gift from God" business from a celibate old man.
I do not take from this man the good that he has done in the world. His impact is evident from the millions who have lined up to pay their respects. But I also want to be realistic and acknowledge that this is a man who has also contributed to a lot of bad in the world. He has created many problems, contributed to problems, put lives of people at risk, and alienated whole sections of the world population. Perhaps the biggest harm he has done to the church is that he has left us with a like-minded hierarchy (only THREE of the under-80 year old cardinals were appointed by this pope), which will insure that the negativity which has developed in the Catholic Church is likely to continue under the reign of the next Pope. The legacy of John Paul II.
According to the New York Times,
PHOTO OF THE DAY