Saturday, April 02, 2005

Not a Eulogy

Pope John Paul II is dead. Being non-Christian, this effects me quite a bit less than my Catholic wife (she's never really been a fan but is Catholic, still). I've always given the Pope credit for dragging one of the most reactionary and regressive institutions in the world kicking and screaming into the 18th century by recognizing heliocentrism (and thus, pardoning Galileo), making ecumenical inroads by being the first Pope to say Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Atheists aren't necessarily going to Hell (so long as they follow the rules) and generally sweeping up after 1900 years of anti-semitism. He negotiated treaties, helped euthanize Communism and generally tried to play down the fact that he was head of the wealthiest organization on the planet. Sure, he talked a good talk about helping the poor but still lived in palaces while millions of children starved, but one man can't change the world through personal sacrifice... Unless he like, I don't know, emulates Jesus or something.

Still, JP has a horrible record when it comes to women's and reproductive rights, often allying himself with equally backwards trogladytes in the US and other countries. Of course, it's quite possible that the Vatican will elect some Ultra-Conservative nincompoops as a replacement and we'll look back and wish for the good old days of JP II.

Update: Steve Gilliard reminds us of another one of JP II's legacies: the refusal to deal with pedophilia priests and the people they've abused.

For all the good John Paul II did, for all of his courageous stands, for all of his promotion of life and opposition to war, his ultimate legacy may well be the sea of abused children left in a wake from his priests. For no other act has so undermined the faith that parishoners had with their church. The reign of molesters like Shanley, not in isolated incidents, but over decades, is a key aspect of how John Paul II will ultimately be seen. The Chruch's molestation problem exploded in the 1990's and was isolated and ignored. When it came back, 10 years later, the accusations are still ripping the church apart. And in many cases, those who hid these crimes against children were promoted, not sanctioned, like Edward Cardinal Egan of New York.

Then, of course, there are the scandals resulting from gay priests seeking out seminerians for sexualk partners. Last year, pictures of priests and seminerians kissing and otherwise sexually involved. Homosexuality in the priesthood is widespread, because straight men do not want to preclude the ability to have sex with women. The number of priests is declining sharply as each decade passes.

Yet, in many ways, the Pope was such a social conservative, that facing these issues honestly was impossible. The Vatican had to be dragged into dealing with pedophile priests and encourage DA's to get reports of these criminal acts.


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