Pope Benedict wants his predecessor, John Paul II, to be named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Quickly. He is moving the process of canonization forward with uncommon speed, recently approving beatification of the former pope.
All that stands in the way of John Paul’s elevation to ultimate honor is verifying and accrediting accounts of miraculous healings done in his name.
This feels to me a bit like the process that former presidents and others often go through after they leave office. As the years go by, and we see all the mistakes of the president who replaced them, we begin to remember the former president more fondly, even if, when he left office, he was widely despised.
It also feels like sainthood by popular referendum. When John Paul II died, the crowds chanted his name along with calls for sainthood. Some speculate that Pope Benedict wants to deliver on their demands.
John Paul II was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. He did much that is admirable: helping in a major way to end communist totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe, improving relations between Catholics and Jews, speaking out against the excesses of capitalism and raising up the concerns of the poor.
He also ignored the growing scandal over clergy sexual abuse, and may even have actively suppressed claims. He allowed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the head of the Vatican office in charge of church doctrine, to label homosexuality an “intrinsic evil.”
Was the main a saint? I doubt it. Was he a good man. Most certainly. Was he a complicated human being? Who is not?
Who might I nominate, if they asked me? Rev. Elder Troy Perry wins hands down in my book, along with the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. I might even consider former President Jimmy Carter, not so much for his presidency but what he has done in the 30 years since he left office.
Oh wait, they’re still alive. According to the church, only dead people–and only Christians–can be saints.
Tell that to all who will remember their mothers this Sunday–the ones who are dead, yes, and the ones who are alive.