May 2011 Print

The Beatification of Pope John Paul II

Fr. Dominique Bourmaud, FSSPX

May Day is a traditional day of rest to celebrate the feast of work, especially in Rome, where everybody, Communist or not, knows that San Giuseppe was born in Italy. There, many souls will flock to the Piazza San Pietro for another ceremony which was announced Urbi et Orbi, to celebrate another great worker, John Paul II. Although rumored in Roman circles, it has come as a surprise that Benedict XVI would proceed with the beatification of his predecessor on May 1st. The conciliar Church will gather all its most passionate adherents, with trumpets and organs, to put another halo around the head of their hero: “J. P. II, we love you!” “John Paul the Great,” “Santo subito,” canonize right now the “Sportsman of God”!

Silence Is Consent

Yet, that day, some groups will be noted by their absence in Rome. Most traditionalist groups, who have agonized enough over the crisis in the Church, will not toast or taste the champagne! We consider it our duty to enlighten modernist Rome, however misguided it may be, with our views and rational arguments against such gestures. We think it our right, nay our duty, to show the Church authorities why we disagree profoundly with a celebration which is ruinous and destructive of the most sacred values, so much the more ruinous as it is touches on some of the most sacred religious beliefs: virtues, sanctity, Christian doctrine, and the papacy. This is why, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, Fr. de La Rocque has written a book of complaints, duly argumented, which was given to Rome before May Day.

Now, both liberals and sedevacantists may well laugh at our endeavor. The former will scoff at the detailed analysis of endless quotes, at the judgment of intention we will raise against a Pope simply ahead of his time. The latter, who think there is hardly anything left of the Catholic Church, simply consider that the present leaders are ‘cadaveric’ authorities emptied out of their substance. No doubt, they will be happy that our little work of ‘fraternal correction’ is in fact bringing more grist to the sedevacantist mill.

Yet, this is a necessary gesture of sanity in an insane environment, an act of sobriety in the company of drunkards. For those who have not bowed to Baal, for souls in search of truth, as a testimony for future generations, at least someone must speak his mind and say with the child of the fable: “The emperor has no clothes!”

Canonization and Beatification: Infallible?

Before we get to the meat of the critiques against a beatification of the late Pope, it is worth our while to clarify a few debated questions.

Both liberals and sedevacantists would likely agree that canonizations (and in some lesser way beatifications) involve papal infallibility. The liberals conclude from this that this seals the infallibility of all things taught by the late Pontiff and whoever opposes it, opposes Catholic Truth, God, and His Church. The sedevacantists argue quite distinctly. Given that the teachings of John Paul II are modernist and utterly heretical, and given that these receive the seal of infallible approval from Benedict XVI, it follows that neither of them acts as real and legitimate Pope.

Such extreme positions may necessitate an examination of the initial thesis of their argument: the infallibility of canonizations. The Angel of Theology, Saint Thomas, explains that a particular canonization is between general truths (dogmas) and judgments of particular cases because the Church could err based on false witnesses. “Since the honor given to the saints is a certain profession of faith by which we believe in the glory of the saints, we need to believe piously that in this also, the judgment of the Church cannot err.”1 So, although his judgment is favorable, it is hardly a plain and simple yes.

By the time of St. Thomas, the process of canonization had become both centralized and complex, involving a triple judgment of the Roman court: the orthodoxy of the writings (both private and public); the heroism of the virtues, and the authenticity of the miracles. Yet, this process is as enigmatic as it is enlightening: since the divine origin of the ‘miracle’ is virtually impossible to assert (save rare exceptions since the devil can capably ape God), its authenticity depends on the heroism of the virtues. But to judge of the heroism of virtues can prove also very difficult as we judge them only by their exterior acts as betraying their inner intention, something easily fallible, and so, such judgment refers us to the first one: doctrinal orthodoxy. Hence, all sainthood ultimately hinges on the sound doctrine of the candidate, which, for once, is easy to determine. This is why, when theologians would speak of “infallible canonizations,” they meant precisely that canonizations rely firstly on the doctrinal test.2

This being said, it is not difficult to find how far the present status of “canonization” differs from former times, which makes us very suspicious of their infallible character.3 Moreover, speaking of John Paul II, the method of attributing the miracle is raising some controversy as the person “cured” was never clearly diagnosed, and received medical treatment, blurring hopelessly the “divine” origin of the cure.

Ulterior Motives?

Questions need to be raised as to why Benedict XVI is so concerned about speeding up the process of canonization of John Paul II, who governed the Church from 1978 till 2005. After the same John Paul II had beatified the Pope who had convoked Vatican II, we behold that of the one who has incarnated the Vatican II principles for a quarter of a century and has left a huge legacy of conciliar interpretation and practice. If he is beatified, for the average Catholic this implies that all the principles of the Council are written in stone. This is exactly the mindset of Benedict XVI:

I think my essential and personal mission is not to promulgate new and numerous new documents but to bring it about that these documents [of John Paul II] be assimilated, because they constitute quite a rich treasure. They are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was the man of the Council, that he had assimilated the spirit and the letter of the Council and, by these texts, he gave us to understand what the Council wanted and did not want.4

There remains the question of the speed of beatifying someone only six years after his death. It is obvious that Benedict XVI wishes, on the whole, to pursue the direction and the momentum given by both Vatican II and John Paul II. Although he is more conscious of the crisis and liturgically conservative, he is a firm believer in the Council. The present Pontiff may consider that his days are numbered and that, perhaps, time would run against the fame of John Paul II. Does he try to propel John Paul II to the heavenly skies so as to give again to a disintegrating papacy some credibility and reputation in the public eye? Is this his last trump card to play to salvage Vatican II in the landscape of a crumbling Conciliar Church?

The Argument of Doubts about a Beatification

After these preambles, we need to plunge into a summary and analysis of an important book, John Paul II: Doubts about a Beatification. This is, without the shadow of a doubt, a provocative gesture to the whole Catholic hierarchy, the Pope and his Curia in particular. It is to be feared that, unless we act, no one will speak up, and that silence would be taken as a sign of consent. So, we proclaim loud and clear our “Non possumus.” We want to rock the boat. We need to splash the smooth surface of the Conciliar pond, stagnant with its impermeable modernistic waters.

The book is divided into four uneven parts, dealing with the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, and the cardinal virtue of Prudence. Uniform in its general approach, the argument raises the question of the heroic nature of the virtues. Especially in his papal duty, the heroic virtues of John Paul II need to have complied with what Our Lord requested of Peter, to “confirm your brethren in the faith.”5 Regarding the virtues of faith, hope, charity, and prudence, we need to evaluate how much Pope Wojtyla, not as a mere individual, but invested with his Petrine ministry, has fulfilled the command of Christ, so that “the Church of Christ, guardian and protector of the dogmas She has received in deposit, change nothing to them, take away nothing from them.”6 In other words, a Pope can be no ordinary saint. If he is no saintly Pope, he is no saint at all. His sainthood consists in that he acted saintly in his papal ministry, and this to the point of heroism, regardless of the strained and difficult circumstances.

This critical study of the late Pope is obviously looking at his teaching documents and practice because this is the only yardstick by which to appraise his work. The underlying argument is that, if John Paul II has denatured the essence of these virtues, he will have necessarily erred in their Christian practice, and in no way can be seen as a good Catholic, let alone a saint or saintly Pope. To do justice to this inquiry, leaving for more studious minds the pleasure—and merit—of stomaching/enduring/browsing through the endless 441 references, we must at least survey each section in a general fashion. To give a taste of the book’s format, we shall quote the most salient papal texts and compare them to traditional Church doctrine which might, incidentally, tarnish the utopian attempt of Benedict XVI to reconcile Vatican II and Tradition.

The Pope’s faith is man-centered: “Christmas is the feast of man. This message is addressed to each man, precisely as man, to his humanity.”7 This anthropocentric theology remained unchanged throughout the decades, simply manifesting itself more clearly in the last years of his reign. Assisi saw the “hope” of John Paul II of building the civilization of love which would unite the entire human family. But that would mean that Rome had finally succumbed to the old temptations of the idolaters, graciously offering a niche for Christ in the Pantheon of all religions or, as G. K. Chesterton explains it: “Nobody understands the nature of the Church…who does not realise that the whole world once very nearly died of broadmindedness and the brotherhood of all religions.”8 The Pope’s charity to travel the world over was, unfortunately, not the zeal of St. Paul to offer himself as a sacrifice for the conversion of his own nation to Christ, but simply a pact of friendship and love towards all religions, especially Judaism. The last aspect of the inquiry discusses the prudence of the last papacy, with the assumption and conclusion that it put the Catholics to shame and is a scandal to all.

Faith in Man, Fundamental Dimension for the Church

John Paul II ascended the pontifical throne with the alarming tone of the loss of faith in the Church:

Ideas contradicting the revealed truths and always taught have spread abundantly; real heresies have been propagated in the dogmatic and moral domain, creating doubts, confusions, rebellions; even the liturgy has been manipulated. Plunged into the intellectual and moral relativism until everything is allowed, Christians are tempted by atheism, agnosticism, a vaguely moralist illuminism, a sociological Christianism with no defined dogmas and no objective morality.9

Someone fully aware of the stakes and the dangers against the Faith would expect to see the Pope, in the heroic practice of the theological virtue of faith, recall in season and out of season the perpetual teaching and to safeguard the deposit entrusted to Peter. On the contrary, evidence suggests that he led the barque of Peter and all Catholics onto novel roads all too perilous for the Faith.

What this first section clearly reveals is a doctrinal perversion typical of the modernists of the early 20th century: the fog around the formerly essential distinctions between nature and the supernatural, between the atheist and the faithful, between divine mercy and justice. The supernatural is redefined on the basis of personal consciousness and dragged down, in the encyclical Redemptor Hominis, to the level of the natural, setting the tone of his pontificate. Divine Revelation is simply man revealed to man; Christ’s Redemption has justified all men by making them aware of their dignity; sin is but an incoherence within the conscience. These are clear witnesses to his “anthropological inversion”: “For, by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.” Thus God sent a Redeemer who “fully reveals man to himself,” inviting him to encounter Christ who, by His redemptive act, has united every man to himself for all time.10

The book stresses that, in his teaching, Pope Wojtyla has disseminated theses incompatible with Catholic doctrine. Here is the list of aspects of the Pope’s views, far from being exhaustive, which are mentioned:

  • On the matter of Redemption: salvation is universal in that it is applied: a) to each and everyone; b) in a perpetual and inamissible way; c) from conception, whichever be the lot of everyone.
  • On the matter of baptism: sanctifying grace is the indissoluble bond between all baptized; it is present in all of them, regardless of their disposition at the moment of baptism; it is not destroyed by sin.
  • On the matter of sin and satisfaction of sin by Christ: sin does not offend divine justice; Christ in His Passion did not satisfy truly and properly the divine justice; strictly speaking, at the General Judgment, God does not condemn the damned, and no one is sure whether there is anyone in hell.
  • Hope of Unifying 
the Human Family

    We are dealing with a Pope who endeavored to raise mankind to high hopes at the turn of the third millennium, who called himself “the messenger of hope,”11 a Pope who entitled his first best seller Crossing the Threshold of Hope. If hope is the ringing note of the late papacy, it is no wonder why about half our book is spent dissecting the identity of this papal hope.

    Doubts about a Beatification lays out clearly the humanistic aspect of Redemption given in the programmatic encyclical of John Paul II, hoping to fulfill “the expectation of a world more human, rooted in the universal acknowledgment of the transcendental dimension of man.”12

    After this naturalistic and horizontal definition of the virtue of hope, our study lays out in steady succession the purpose of this hope, its means, and its profound motive.

    The purpose of John Paul II’s new hope is mostly temporal. His “dream” is to promote the coming of a “civilization of love,” an answer to the “imperious need of the nations to dream of a future of peace and prosperity for all.”13 According to him, the dream started to become reality at Assisi:

    The dream of the human family: I made mine this dream when, in October 1986, I invited to Assisi my Christian brethren and the leaders of the great religions of the world to pray for peace….I had before my eyes a great vision: all the nations of the world as pilgrims, from different place of earth, to gather together near the Only God as in one single family.…All can realize how, in this spirit, the peace among nations is not a remote utopia.14

    He had it in mind “to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty.”15

    In order to achieve such an outlandish goal, the Pope explained that prayer (humanistic and social, respectful of the rights of all) and the diverse religions were the means of salvation and the means of bringing humanity together, since all religions are means of reaching the divinity, “even when they belong to different cultures and traditions.”16 They become messengers of peace: “I have always considered that the religious leaders played a vital role to feed the hope of peace and justice without which there is no hope for mankind.”17 This is the “spirit of Assisi” which subjects all religions, starting with the Catholic one, as servants for the “dream” of John Paul II. Indeed, interreligious meetings “beget a humanism, that is to say a new mode of looking at each other, of understanding each other, of thinking about the world and of working for peace.”18 From this comes the imperative command that both Church and State promote religious liberty as an inalienable right of each person. From this, it follows that the State is utterly incompetent in religious matters.

    The Pope, based on his anthropological—humanistic—theology, finds two motives of hope. The first is that God dwells in the heart of each man,19 from the very fact that as a person, man is made to the image and resemblance of God. The second reason is that God wants the unity of all men, both supernatural and natural, the former being the salvation of all, and the latter being the unity and peace of mankind. “Mankind is called by God to form a single family.…God loves all men and all women on earth and He gives them the hope of a new era, an era of peace.”20

    Charity of the Truth or Philanthropic Love?

    Among the requisite signs of heroic charity are the common ones which involve the practice of the works of mercy, including the correction of those who err to bring them back in the way of salvation. Heroic charity will have the charity of truth towards infidels even in the midst of strenuous circumstances, following the example of Christ who “If he was good for the strayed and the sinners, did not respect their erroneous convictions, however sincere they might have seemed.”21 This book concentrates on the relations of John Paul II with the Jewish religion because he had specifically and extensively dealt with them, and this sets an example of his relations with all major religions.

    The critique launches its attack on four points. The Pope has shown an improper respect for the Jewish religion, speaking of the “spiritual treasures of the Jewish people,” 22 the “religious testimony of our people.”23 This false respect explains why he never called the Jews to convert to Christ, avoiding “the shadow and the suspicion of proselytism.”24 He has carefully avoided the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the real fulfillment of the Sacred Scriptures.25

    Moreover, placed under the bushel is the question of Jewish infidelity and the crime of deicide (not the individual but the collective responsibility of Judaism, as was the constant teaching of the Church Fathers): “To the Jews as a people one cannot impute any ancestral or collective fault for what has been accomplished during the Passion of Christ.”26

    On another score, the Pope made scriptural allusions which are plain delusions. Old Testament terminology is used which suggests that present-day Judaism is still the offspring of Abraham, the father of all believers27; that the Jews are still “the people of the Testament,28 the People of God of the old Testament, Testament which has never been denounced,”29 “Through your [of Abraham] descendants all nations of the earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me,”30 giving a proper and perpetual value”31 to the Old Testament. To foment fruitful relations with the Jewish faith, the Pope requests that exegetes avoid the sorrowful New Testament texts which reflect past events which are better left aside.

    The late Pope concludes by saying that Judaism is an integral part of the Church, since every Jew is unconsciously a Christian and our older brother: “We, Christians, acknowledge that the Judaic religious heritage is intrinsic to our own faith. ‘You are our older brothers.’”32 Hence, at the Assisi meeting of 1986, the Rabbi Toaff was placed on the right of the Pope among the leaders of the Christian religions whereas the non-Christian religions were on his left.

    From complacent, the friendly gaze has become complicitous. The Pope’s attitude reflects the stern warning of St. Augustine, that the truth of love did not respect the love of truth and thus love itself has turned untrue.

    Prudence of the Flesh 
and Spiritual Scandal

    For the last section, the book reviews some gestures of the late Pope which constitute what St. Thomas defined as a theological scandal, that is, “a less proper word or action which gives an occasion of fall.”33 Here is the list again, far from exhaustive, which speaks for itself:

  • Far from warning souls, the Pope often promoted the respect of other religions incurring the risk of promoting their errors too.
  • The Pope has often participated in the false worships given to false gods.
  • He has several times discouraged the conversion to the true faith.
  • By his repeated acts of begging pardon, he has devaluated the image of the Church in the public eye.
  • By his example, he has invited the Catholics to despise ecclesiastical law, especially on participating in false worship and in eccentric papal Masses.
  • Of course, the late Pope tried to dissipate by his words the misunderstandings created by his actions and the liturgical aberrations. But he has left the image of a Church which, by his revolutionary attitude, has redefined its place in a pluralistic society as a mere option. In this again, he has seriously sinned against the virtue of prudence.

    Which Sainthood?

    After Assisi, the Masonic lodges were jubilant:

    Our interconfessionalism earned us the excommunication issued by Clement XI in 1738. However, the Church was certainly in error if it is true that, October 27, 1986, the present Pontiff united at Assisi men of all religious confessions to pray together for peace.34

    What are we to conclude as to the sanctity of the late Pope? This is the churchman who sang the glory of man rather than “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.” This is the Assisi leader whom the lodges vindicate as one of them.

    No doubt, Blessed Karol Wojtyla will find a place in his encompassing ecumenical martyrologium open to new martyrs and saints. He will be glorified as a hero together with those whose praises he sang, like Luther, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. Is he your man? Well and good for you! As for me—as the French say—he is no saint of my parish!

    Fr. Dominique Bourmaud has spent the past 26 years teaching at the Society seminaries in America, Argentina, and Australia. He is presently stationed at St. Vincent’s Priory, Kansas City, where he is in charge of the priests’ training program.

    1 Quodlibet. IX last article.

    2 Jean Bois, “Canonisation dans l’Eglise romaine,” D.T.C., Vol. II, col. 1647. Any doctrinal suspicion would bury the process forever. Cf. Benedict XIV, De servorum Dei beatif. et beator. canoniz., l. II, c. xxv-xxxv, LII, t. IV, pp. 3-68, 204-210.

    3 See Frs. Lorber & Gleize, “On canon. of John Paul II,” The Angelus, January 2007; Fr. Calderón, “Infallibilité des canonisations et lois universelles,” Sel de la Terre, No. 72, Spring 2010.

    4 Benedict XVI, speaking to the Polish television, 10/16/2005.

    5 Lk. 22:32.

    6 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus.

    7 Message of 12/25/1978.

    8 The Everlasting Man (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1925), p. 214.

    9 Speech of 02/06/1981.

    10 Redemptor Hominis, §8, italics in the original.

    11 Homily, 01/25/1998.

    12 Christmas message, 12/25/1978.

    13 Letter to Card. Etchegaray, 09/05/2003.

    14 Letter to Card. Etchegaray, 08/28/2001.

    15 Message of 11/12/1986 to the Eucharistic Congress of Nicaragua.

    16 Letter to Card. Arinze, 10/15/1996.

    17 Discourse of 10/28/1999 to the Interreligious Assembly.

    18 Letter to Card. Kasper, 09/03/2004.

    19 “Every authentic prayer is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who is mysteriously present in the heart of each man.” Discourse of 12/22/1986.

    20 12/08/1999.

    21 St. Pius X, Notre Charge Apostolique.

    22 Discourse of 09/11/1987.

    23 Discourse of 10/09/1998.

    24 Discourse of 11/06/1986.

    25 Discourse of 05/22/2003.

    26 Discourse of 04/13/1986, at the Synagogue of Rome.

    27 Discourse of 03/12/2000 at the Yad Vashem Memorial.

    28 Universal prayer, 03/12/2000 begging for pardon.

    29 Discourse of 11/17/1980 to the Mayence Jewish community.

    30 Discourse of 09/11/1987 to the U.S. Jewish community, misquoting Gen. 22:18, which was referring to “your seed” in the singular, meaning Christ.

    31 Discourse of 11/17/1980 to the Mayence Jewish community.

    32 Discourse of 03/23/2000 to the Great Rabbis of Israel.

    33 Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, Q. 43, art. 1.

    34 Armando Corona, Grand-Master of the Great Lodge of the Equinox and of the Springtime, Hiram, April 1987, in One Hundred Years of Modernism, p. 317, (Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2006).