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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Pope John Paul II
This morning at synagogue, before the Pope's death had been announced, our Rabbi said that we should keep him in our thoughts. He read to us a note that the Pope placed in the Western Wall during his visit to Jerusalem in 2000.

God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations. We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer and, asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.
He died after a lifetime of remarkable achievements in the service of his fellow man, of the Church, and of His Creator.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, but remember, as our Rabbi reminded us, that no life spent in the public eye can be free of disagreement and controversy. Now is not the time for that.

Requiem aetarnam dona eis, Domine,
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Grant to the departed eternal rest, O Lord,
And let everlasting light shine upon them.

From Mozart's Requiem
When the Pope was in Toronto a couple of years back for National Youth Day, he attracted MASSES (excuse the pun, but it's most appropriate here) of people, regardless of whether or not they were true believers. But here was a man representing G-d, representing holiness of mind and holiness of lifestyle, and he was likened to a rock idol, like Mick Jagger. They came in droves from across the States, Canada and points beyond to see this man, already quite frail, speak to people, young and old.
I was so afraid then that he wouldn't survive this trip,that Toronto would be on the media map as the last place that the Pope had been. I'm thankful that he did manage to live longer and continue to make his mark on the world for all to see.
May we have the merit to see someone equally righteous and holy take his place at the Vatican.
torontopearl: nicely said.
The President's statement on the Pope's death.
I am suspicious of the remark that "no life spent in the public eye can be free of disagreement and controversy." Pope John Paul II was a very holy man. If there was anything disagreeable or controversial about the man, the truly good aspects of his character overwhelm it. That said, the qualifier seems out of place and I would be fascinated to know what disagreements and controversies our politeness forbids us to mention.
I'll bite.

The Church's handling of the molestation issue (i.e. sweeping it under the rug, stonewalling, moving child molesters from one parish to another, and by doing so facilitating further victimization) would qualify. To put it bluntly, the Church's actions were disgraceful. As the head of the Church, the Pope bears the ultimate accountability for these actions.
I won't bite. Ask me again in a couple of months.
Oven: all I meant by my remark was exactly what you said: "Pope John Paul II was a very holy man. If there was anything disagreeable or controversial about the man, the truly good aspects of his character overwhelm it."
Nomad - I have a few thoughts regarding your attempt to link child molestation to the pope.

First, I don't believe the pope swept anything under the rug, stonewalled, moved a child molestor from one parish to another, or in any way facilitated further victimization. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would love to hear it.

Second, I find that "accountability" for other people's actions is a political notion. For example, a lot of people called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation after the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. I am guessing that you were not one of them, Nomad. So unless you believe that the pope was criminally negligent, I think your notion of accountability is not just.

Perhaps your real gripe is with the Catholic Church. The child molestation crisis, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Crusades are popular "proofs" that the Catholic Church is really a terrible organization and the pope is guilty by association. If you only consider the sensational black marks on the Catholic Church, I can see how you would reach that conclusion. However, you would be overlooking the innumerable (albeit less attention-grabbing) acts of kindness, charity, and comfort that the Catholic Church has provided over the past 2,000 years.

My opinion of the pope is certainly biased by my Christian faith. I believe that God's standard is the only one that matters, and in my very limited understanding of it, the pope measured up pretty well.

Oven - I will ask you in a couple months. You are holding out on me.
I think you sound a little paranoid. I don't have any axe to grind against the Pope, the Church or Christians. I think the Pope was a good man, in general. His Papacy was certainly remarkable. He'll be remembered for many accomplishments, not the least of which was standing up to the evils of communism.

But, I'm also not willing to turn a blind eye to the molestation issue, just because it makes people uncomfortable. Of course the Pope had no control over the individuals involved in the criminal behavior. However, he had absolute control over how the Church responded. The Church responded poorly. It took years for the Church to even admit that there was a problem. As the Church dragged its heels, children were victimized. That will always be a black mark against his reign.
(1) Everyone who abused a child should be punished with jail time; (2) All the administrators and higher-ups who knew about child abuse and did not act to protect the children should be punished (if not jail time then a loss of position).

I don't think there's any reason to drag the pope into this, but it was a big problem and the Catholic Church (even the majority who were not involved) should have taken some important lessons from it. I would even say that future popes should bear some responsibility for creating a culture that prevents such problems in the future because now there is a precedent.

Do we agree on the main points?
Pretty much agree with what you're saying. Where we differ is that I believe that the pope, as the ultimate authority of the Church on Earth, cannot be seen simply as a bystander. He had the power to take an active and forceful role in addressing the problem, and he didn't. Rather, he took a passive role, and allowed the culture of denial to persist.

It doesn't feel like we're going to agree on this, so I'll just agree to differ with you. I concur with both you and Bean that the Pope was a good, and often courageous man. And that he was an inspiration to many. That he could have done better on this one issue doesn't change those facts.
Many people I admire have nothing but good to say about the pope. He saved Jews from the Holocaust(at personal risk) and made nice sounding statments, especially in his kvittel at the wall. However, before we beatify him as the first Jewish saint(oops, has that already been done?) lets not forget his beatifying anti-semites. And, lets parse a bit his statement.

" We are saddened by THOSE who have....."

THOSE? How about US? The two thousand years of Christian oppression and murder of Jews? ok, maybe its only 1500 years. Crusades, Inquisition... we all know them. Where is the sense of responsibility for that? There isn't any. Not in that statement. Now, maybe he didn't feel he was in a position to be more forceful, for fear of being seen as a Jew-phile. I understand that. But why did he have to go and beatify the antisemites? He certainly did more than his predecessors as far as christian-jewish relations, and I certaily give him credit. However, he had a lot more ground to cover and he didn't. I give him credit for a good start, and certainly hakarat hatov for saving Jewish lives and putting his life on the line. But he could have done/said a lot more, but didn't.
Which anti-Semites did he beatify? I'm not familiar with the process and want to do more research on those people and why they are considered so important for the Church.
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