(Catholic Herald) - We have short memories; we take our recent history too easily for granted. Few people, it seems – at least among those who imply that the problems we still face as a Church were actually Pope John Paul’s fault – remember the state of the Catholic Church at the end of the reign of the unhappy Pope Paul VI, during which forces of disintegration were unleashed within the Church which brought it to the edge of losing all credibility as a defender of basic Christian orthodoxy.
This work of darkness was brought about, not by the Council itself, but by some of those, certainly, who had attended it. It was certainly not the work, as some still confidently claim, of a liberal pope: for if Pope Paul was such a convinced liberal, what about Humanae Vitae? What happened during his pontificate was clearly far from his intention. At a homily he preached in 1972, he is reported as saying, now famously, that he had “believed that after the Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms, and of darkness … And how did this come about? We will confide to you the thought that … there has been a power, an adversary power. Let us call him by his name: the devil. It is as if from some mysterious crack… the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”
He was speaking particularly about the liturgy: but just as disastrous was the unchallenged rise during his pontificate of the so-called “alternative magisterium” of Küng, Schillebeeckx and the rest of their malign brood. It was a time of great destruction; and to destroy is always easier than to rebuild. Recovering from the aftermath of the Council will take 100 years. But Pope John Paul began the fightback: he set the barque of Peter, and the Church with it, firmly back on course...
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Yes, we can find some faults with this pope, especially since we have so much material to work with. He was, after all, the pontiff for nearly twenty-seven years! That being said, when we step back and look at the big picture, we can clearly see this man was placed in a situation where all the odds were against him -- along with all the forces of Hell too! He suffered two assassination attempts. The first was the shooting in 1981, and then the second was a stabbing in 1982. He later succumbed to a fatal case of Parkinson's Disease, which severely debilitated him in the years leading up to his death. Then as the final insult to injury, he watched the news media slander and berate the Church over stories of sexual abuse and cover up that occurred decades earlier. Undoubtedly, the grief over this tragic turn of events shortened what was left of his life.
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to stand against the post-conciliar "Tyranny of Relativism." He held his ground, and did everything he could to absorb the impact of the tidal wave. His actions helped preserve key elements in the Church while the torrents of waters gushed around insde, leaving nothing but broken glass and muddy debris in their wake. Was he a perfect pope? No. Was he the best man for the job? He would have told us "no." Was he a good pope, a faithful Christian and a Catholic saint? It looks like history will likely tell us "yes." Because you see, it is not for his pontificate that Pope John Paul II is beatified today. It is for his personal holiness. The man lived a Catholic life that should be an inspiration to us all. The fact that he was pope just called attention to it.
The former pope is beatified this first day of May, the month of Our Lady, which John Paul II held a deep devotion for, the motto of his papacy being "Totus Tuus" meaning "totally yours," expressing his personal consecration to Mary. It is simultaneously the second Sunday of Easter which is "Divine Mercy Sunday," a holy day created under his pontificate, as requested by Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Polish mystic and seer Saint Faustina Kowalska who was also canonized under his pontificate.