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John Paul the Great

by Tony M.

The final pope of the 20th century is canonized today in Rome. There can be no doubt that he is and will long be called “the great” by Catholics all over the world. Here are some of his accomplishments in a reign of 26 years:

He wrote 13 encyclicals, and dozens of apostolic exhortations, constitutions, and motu proprios.

He gave 877 weekly catechetical audiences, in which (among many other things) he highlighted a new body of explanation on marital love – the “theology of the body.”

He visited 117 countries and had over 650 official audiences with countries’ top leaders.

He helped bring down the Soviet empire, without war.

He painted the clearest and blackest picture of the abortion / euthanasia culture, successfully naming it the “culture of death.”

He popularized youthful vigor in pursuit of evangelization within and without the Church, refuting the claim that the Church is for old fogeys.

Now, that’s what he did during his pontificate. What about before that? During WWII Karol Wojtyla worked and participated in underground scholarly activities, including plays. He worked at stone masonry and a chemical plant to prevent being deported, and in 1942 entered seminary studies clandestinely. He was ordained a priest in 1946, studied in Rome for licentiate in theology and then a Ph.D. in philosophy. He was a parish priest, a chaplain for university students, then a professor, and eventually ordained a bishop. In 1964 he was appointed archbishop of Krakow. During all of this time he learned the art of fighting Nazism and Communism without invoking direct and total confrontation that would force the authorities into outright suppression, prison, and (likely) death (except for one brief event with a mass-arrest). Though he famously pushed the issue when he re-visited Poland as Pope.

Why was he canonized? During his life, and continuing through his pontificate, JPII lived a life of prophetic witness to the Gospel. He refused to back down from threats either against his person or his faith. He humbly proclaimed God’s love for the littlest of us as well as the greatest. He bore his trials and crosses with great patience and good cheer. Few of us are called to bear such large, public troubles, but all of us can bear our own personal difficulties with the same graciousness. No greater thing can be said of him or of any Christian than this: for love he embraced the Cross of Christ and passed the test.

Comments (31)

Powerful and moving, Tony. Thanks for this.

One of my favorite historical figures, and I feel privileged to have lived under his pontificate.

I expect to read about a lot of rad-trads up in arms about his canonization.

Thanks Tony. Those that tend denigrate Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in an effort to elevate Pope Francis need to be reminded that we have been blessed indeed with all three.

Yah sorry Francis... but John Paul kinda sorta PWNED you.

Those that tend denigrate Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in an effort to elevate Pope Francis

There is no way in the world Francis could have become pope, or could do anything remotely like what good he is doing right now, if it had not been for JPII (and Benedict) laying the ground work. Francis is sitting on the shoulders of giants. If he comes up to the stature of even 1/2 of either of his two immediate predecessors he will be lucky.

Or inspired by the Holy Spirit!

All hail the Patron Saint of pedophiles like Marcial Maciel Degollado! Hallelujah! Truly, he was a man of the Lord.

Dunce, have you no shame at ALL?

I feel shame. That is exactly why I would feel embarrassed if I were a Catholic watching the Church celebrate a man who made a conscious decision to hide child molestation in order to protect the Church's reputation. Let's just say there is a reason SNAP opposed his canonization.

Dunce, you are out of order. I can find no documentation around that JPII had actual knowledge of Maciel's horrors, much less that he was intentionally overlooking them or covering them up. The Legionaries' top people who were doing the cover-ups were not telling the Pope. The guy hoodwinked thousands of fairly intelligent observers. The definitive truth did not come to light until 2005, due to papally approved investigations.

There is no question that JPII was not a perfect executive, and as an administrator he left something to be desired. I have myself criticized his role in allowing certain ills in the Church to continue. None of that constitutes grave moral failing. This thread will not become a place for jackals like you to snip at his heels on something as outrageous as this.

Dunce, you jackass, I deleted your last idiotic comment because it has no merit whatsoever. If you wish to comment on this thread, you have to speak in ways that merit appearing on this page. You could even, had you enough brain cells to rub one against another and could think in terms of respectfulness to this blog's foundation, raise worthy questions about the elevation of JPII to the canon: the speed of the process, for example, could bear attention. Or you could ask just what heroic virtues were elicited in John Paul's life. The testimony of miracles is another issue that could be commented on. By someone who could manage to do so without being an insulting clod, that is, which apparently excludes you.

Those are certain valid objections to his canonization, but they pale in comparison to the issues I raised. John Paul hid child molesters and the officials that protected them from justice. Period. If you don't want to accept then feel free to delete this comment too, but you are just running away from the truth. A lot of Catholics have done the same thing since the abuse scandal blew up...they just can't accept it.

Well, that's a claim that at least has the (incredibly small) merit of being capable of being established or not. So, if you want to make claims like that, establish the basis for your claim. Identify the facts. Because (as usual) all you do here is lay out a bald claim without any support. Which is bad behavior in blogging.

Now, if you had put forward such a claim about Bernard Law - that he hid child molesters - that would be easy to show, you could produce data readily. Not least because he (finally) came forward and admitted the facts. (Though you would still have to actually identify the facts that support your claim.) What you would be able to produce for JPII is problematic, though, because (a) as Pope he was not responsible for Maciel the way bishops are for their priests (the Pope does not have direct oversight of religious orders except by extraordinary acts of intervention - which has to be justified by a reason, based on an investigation, which is what eventually happened), and (b) he did not have the capacity to "hide" officials like Bernard Law from investigations. But in all likelihood, you couldn't care less about the ACTUAL details of Church authority and who has the power or responsibility to do what, you would rather just trumpet false allegations because they are easier than digging out facts.

If you don't want to accept then feel free to delete this comment too, but you are just running away from the truth. A lot of Catholics have done the same thing since the abuse scandal blew up...they just can't accept it.

As usual, you have garbage for brains. I had been talking about the priestly sex scandal more than a decade before it blew up in 2002. But I don't have an inside channel to bishops, nor a source of certain data. I did call a bishop out on the matter, in a private forum. I thought that the bishops who had been willfully turning a blind eye should have summarily resigned their posts, (as well as subject to legal sanctions) and the ones who had been guilty of child abuse themselves should have been thrown in prison. So much for running away from the truth.

But it is also the case that numerous priests have been accused falsely, sometimes out of pure malice. And as a result, superiors who, themselves finding the evil abhorrent and unthinkable, incredible, who heard of such accusations, did not automatically credit them with truth but tended to believe them to be scurrilous slander, would hesitate to wreck a priest's carreer on the basis of an accusation. Thus in some cases the "failure" by a superior would not be willfully turning a blind eye but rather slowness to overcome a problem. And this is not malice in the will. What you want to pretend is evil will was, instead, primarily misjudgment and mismanagement.

Any future comments by Dunsany on this thread that do not contain factually verifiable claims, supported by documentation, will be summarily deleted or modified to suit our purposes.

Well, I think it's at least safe to say that JPII will never be given the surname "Scourge of the Pedophiles."

George, I thought that was your handle. Oh, wait, that was "Scourge of those who remain obedient to the popes validly elected in ordinary consistories." Almost the same thing, right?

Delete this if you wish, but my old friend Richard Sipe has dealt with and documented Vatican failures on this count for many years. This does little else but bring down the ire of the unteachable and willfully ignorant upon him.

I never see him refuted, only reviled. Will it be any different here on W4? I don't know. We shall see.


Michael, the link is a dead end at the moment.

I know you are not a crank, but I strongly suspect that Richard Sipe (former Benedictine) is. He wrote a condemnatory book Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes that supposedly exposes the secrets. I have only read accounts of it, so what I have is completely second-hand (by people who liked the book, by the way), but here's a sample:

Perhaps of greater value is the books explication of how canon law encourages -- and even requires -- church leaders to engage in secrecy so as to prevent scandal.

Oh, yes, of course. I suppose there is not one word about the fact that the canon law requirement he is talking is the requirement that a priest not reveal anything about a confession, under pain of excommunication. But that, of course, is a GENERAL rule about all confessions, not about the ones that hide sex secrets of priests, it is a widely publicized rule (not secret), and the reason for it has nothing to do with protecting priests. Oh, and there is the general norms about not damaging others' reputations without need, but of course that doesn't actually apply to an abusive priest. There's more like this. How about this:

The sexual abuse of children by priests is found condemned over and over again in the unorganized decrees of local churches that were promulgated before the first comprehensive collection of laws and commentaries ... appeared in the middle of the 12th century.

Right. But there is this niggling inconsistency: if the bishops were all so fired secret and covering each other about this, then how did ecclesiastical condemnations of the behavior get out? No, no, the reason the Church was condemning it was (a) Church officials found that some priests were engaged in the behavior, and (b) they publicly condemned it because they regularly went around condemning problem sins (sex abuse being just one), which means that (c) the Church officials were not condoning and keeping it secret. Sin, even in the clergy, isn't new: St. Athanasius, floors of Hell, and skulls of bishops... And I know about priests and bishops who refused to condone even one instance of the behavior: in one case locally, a priest was accused (of sex with an adult) and then out on his ear that day - and this was long before 2002. So I know it wasn't universal, and there is the little problem that if it wasn't universal, then the sound, good bishops (especially the ones who didn't give a fig for "advancement", of which there are always some), would have been making waves a lot earlier than 2002. The whole story has credibility problems, and the 'evidence' consists (at least the snippets I saw) of half-truths that are intentionally misleading.

What do they teach in schools these days? Not logic.

I am not likely to spend money and time to read a book by a _former_ Catholic priest and take his word for it that Pope Benedict and JPII and Pius XII and, I suppose, Pope St. Pius X, knew all about the widespread sex abuse and cover-ups, right from the beginning. Not without a much better reason than I have seen so far. It sickens me that there were indeed many bishops who were involved in the sex abuse (some directly), something I knew about years before 2002, but the hypothesis - apparently fabricated out of half-truths - that ALL of the hierarchy is directly implicated by clear knowledge and intentional silence, is just as sickening.

Once again, JPII seems to have all the right enemies.

Begging your pardon for replying in an off-topic thread, Tony, but I meant it when I said I was keeping out of Lydia's threads. Which makes the fact that you gave me a good reply after the fact a bit awkward!

Either way, with a nod towards the greatness of JPII, on I go:

Two problems. First, the notion that there is a unitary, one thing to be called "academia" is problematic. Putting an enormous state-run university like Ohio State, with effectively no morals and grave limitations in the way of principled intellectual integrity, in the same category (for these purposes) as a small, private college (like a Bible college) with no tenure and no "publish or perish" mentality, and in the same category as the private for-profit college with strictly "practical" degrees and mostly adjunct teachers and no research grants, is not realistic. Tarring the whole kit and caboodle of everything that goes on past high school as partaking of the sins of "academia" won't work well.

Hey now. What makes you think I'm a big fan of high school? Home schooling seems the superior route to me too, for many.

That aside... you're right of course. A small, private college with no tenure, not out for glory, with a particular and strong Christian character differs greatly from Ohio State or this or that. They may not be in the majority, but they are out there I am sure. At least you report they are, and you seem like an honest man, so I take you at your word. Plus I recall some nice ones from the past - didn't the Domino's Pizza guy start up a nice one? I was tempted to go at the time.

There are still problems, but let's wait before I get into my view of those.

Secondly, the notion that people can "educate themselves" now with resources on the internet (and other free public venues) assumes a particular notion of "education" that may be germane to what many of the public universities are trying to do but isn't necessarily true education. My alma mater, as an example, claims from principle that a true, deeply founded liberal education requires not only brick and mortar classrooms, but a student body that lives as a community together (and, for their college studying years, apart from the distractions of other communities, by and large) side by side sharing meals and work and sports etc, because the ongoing 4-year discussion requires a build-up of personal trust in speaking your mind openly, and being heard with an open mind, that cannot happen elsewise. There are human limitations to building such a community solely by means of electrons. (Try as we might at "places" like W4).

Fair. To be honest, the entire idea sounds a little alien to me. Such things still exist nowadays, sir? Are you sure? Have you been back there recently? Once again, I take you at your word. I will say that my experience with academia was one where 'speaking your mind openly' was encouraged strongly, provided you had the right kind of mind. Otherwise it was a bad idea. Seems worse than ever nowadays to speak your mind openly, anywhere. Even in the privacy of your own home.

Maybe it would be more efficient in the long run to "tear down" the entirety of "academia" (whatever that would mean, since it doesn't mean actually tearing down the buildings themselves) and re-start from scratch, but the rebuilding from scratch would require immediately rebuilding places like Thomas Aquinas College anyway. Which sort of suggests that it's not the whole of academia that needs to be torn down, or that the "efficiency" expected would have local pockets of inefficiencies that you would have to be clear were outweighed by the efficiency of getting rid of all of the pockets of degeneracy. And that kind of judgment call can never be more certain than as a probable truth, which means that men of good judgement will _legitimately_ disagree, because future contingents are estimatable with different weights on factors.

First, of course people can legitimately disagree here - I was expecting that. I'm sure I'm ignorant of some things, I know not what at the time - and you've shown me one of them. These supposed colleges that, if not idyllic, are at the least vastly closer to an ideal place of learning.

Second, what I think people have overlooked in my reply is that when I talk about tearing down academia, I come with a few examples of what I mean in mind. Did you take a look at the example I had of a good first step towards doing this very thing? All it was was a guy talking about college isn't necessary - that you can learn on your own outside of it, work and live a good and productive life (all while improving your education) without paying a college a dime. Not everyone needs to go to college. Most people probably shouldn't spare the expense. A janitor doesn't need an english degree, and a janitor can be a fine job.

The takeaway point is that there's a lot of ways to tear down academia, but for me the one right at the front of the line is simply this: reduce the social value, encourage alternatives, judge people by different measures than their degrees and formal education. I don't need to tell you this. I bet you do this already! But, as ever, you and a lot of people on this place are in large part counter-cultural as it is.

This is a moral issue as well as a cultural one, by the by, and not just because universities are (as I believe you said) designed to turn out secular humanists. Think about the number of people out there in not the best financial situations, killing themselves to provide a college education to children who, frankly, do not need it. Think about the people out there for whom 'education' is just a synonym for 'going to classes'. Think about the corruption of a system that encourages people to think that the only way to learn something is to pay them to have someone give them a syllabus and grade their papers. And that's before we start looking at rot like the APA, and the general culture of making people ooh and ahh over Richard Dawkins because he is a professor and a scientist (whose ass hasn't been in a research lab to do real work in, last I checked, literal decades.)

Think of it as a cultural issue, Tony. That is the perspective I look at this from, in part. And really, it's a perspective I think most people here would be more friendly to were someone more diplomatic than me saying it. Are you a fan of Intelligent Design? Do you think the world and culture is better off when people are encouraged to look at the evidence and say no, evolutionary theory as it stands may well explain a lot of things - but not this or that or the other thing, 'experts' be damned? Well then, you're already setting a few fires. You're robbing academics of their desired position in the culture, where they can pass judgment on a question and you'd best (if you want to be considered educated) parrot the reply they want.

I just think your fires should be a bit bigger, and your aims a bit broader.

1. Not fair. This thread is about JPII.

2. Because JPII attempted (not as strenuously as he might have) to reform Catholic higher education, in such things as the mandate in Ex Corde Ecclesia, and because he specifically approved some Catholic schools, like Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College, I will assert definitively to Crude that YES, even today, there are a few small schools who come quite respectably close to that ideal I outlined above (as close as fallen human nature will let us get, anyway). Small, wholly Catholic, teaching truth because they believe in truth, intellectually rigorous, where publishing is not a significant concern, small class size, etc. I have been to both of these schools many times in recent years and I know from direct knowledge they continue like this. Others, of which I do not have direct knowledge, would include Wyoming Catholic, Thomas More, Magdalen College, and a few others. Crude, you should actually visit one or more of these and comprehend how what they are doing is a radically more substantive kind of educating.

Other than that, no, I am not going to get into it here.


1. Not fair. This thread is about JPII.

Hey, your thread, your rules. I figured five days of dead silence and a recent response from you directly AFTER I said I was pulling out of that thread on account of my abstaining from All Things Lydia, would warrant a break. This'll be my last response on this subject here.

Crude, you should actually visit one or more of these and comprehend how what they are doing is a radically more substantive kind of educating.

Should my sincere and legitimate sympathy for that unbelievably small fraction of women who procure an abortion in the case where their lives are at risk buy much sympathy from me for NARAL?

No, you say? I agree.

Then how much sympathy do I owe to academia for the existence of a handful of tiny Christian colleges of the sort you speak? By the way, what do you think academia at large has to say about such colleges? Do you think they'll say 'Oh, what lovely colleges', or something closer to 'Oh look, that's where the Catholic Taliban go for training'?

Nice talking with you, Tony. I mean that. And now I skulk back to my usual haunts, and leave you all to your discussions.

And now, we will close this out with a short answer to Crude's questionL

By the way, what do you think academia at large has to say about such colleges? Do you think they'll say 'Oh, what lovely colleges', or something closer to 'Oh look, that's where the Catholic Taliban go for training'?

The Princeton Review:
Highest possible rating for academics and financial aid (99)
” where “professors … lead you to truth without forcing it on you;"

U.S. News & World Report:
Top third of the top tier of all liberal arts colleges
First in the country for the highest proportion of classes under 20 students

Association of College Trustees and Alumni
Top 2 percent of country’s major colleges and universities
One of only three colleges in the U.S. to receive a perfect score for ensuring that students study seven key areas.
Highest rating — “A” — for strength of curriculum

Cool Colleges
“The best college class I ever attended, undergraduate or graduate, was at Thomas Aquinas College.”

Intercollegiate Studies Institute
“One of the strongest curricula in the U.S.”
“Does not press its ideas onto students through lectures and textbooks, but genuinely tries to lead them through the Socratic method, placing the emphasis on their own reasoning powers as engaged with a text and other readers”

Top 10, Best Values in Private Colleges Under $20K (net)

"Does not press its ideas onto students through lectures and textbooks, but genuinely tries to lead them through the Socratic method, placing the emphasis on their own reasoning powers as engaged with a text and other readers"

Obviously, they don't do this in the music performance department. On the other hand, I could have applied there a few years ago and would have had a good chance of being on their music faculty. Maybe I will look into it. Also, the science curriculum looks pretty standard. Hard to see where they can use the Socratic method. It would take way too long.

The Socratic Method is geared more towards the liberal arts than the sciences or the fine/performing arts.

As this is not a post on either the Socratic Method or Aquinas College, I don't want to thread-jack. I am just saying that Aquinas College is good for small liberal arts colleges because of many factors, but they will still look remarkably like most other colleges in certain classrooms (because they have to), so the use of the Socratic Method has to be seen as bring adaptable for a subset of their courses, not all.

The Chicken

MC, the quotes refer to Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, which doesn't have a music performance department. Lots of music performances though!

This program of liberal arts includes 8 semesters of math and 8 semesters of science:

Geometry (Euclid, Appolonius), algebra & analytical geometry (Descartes)
calculus, number theory, astronomy,
biology, chemistry - atomic theory, mechanics (Newton), wave theory, relativity (Einstein)

All studied with the Socratic Method. It does indeed "take way too long", but they do it that way anyway.

There isn't any music department, because there isn't any department of any sort. It is one integrated program where everyone studies all the same class progression: all of the freshmen are taking just what the sophomores took last year, etc. Since the students all take the same set curriculum, designed to turn out a balanced student who has dealt with the hard questions in each discipline, and since all of the major disciplines and their principles bear on each other, all of the teachers have to (eventually) grasp the entire program, not just their own specialty - and eventually are expected to teach most of the different classes. Thus there is no room for separate departments. The same concepts discussed in philosophy often find their way into geometry, biology, and music.

Ah, I see I had the wrong college. Google should know what I mean to look up!

Strange that Aquinas College does not include a music department, which used to be part of the classical quadrivium. Modern music can't be taught in a Socratic manner because music has divorced itself from the simple harmonic progressions of the Medieval tuning systems (which could be studied by simple math from Boethius) and musical instruments have become much more advanced (imagine teaching computer music by the Socratic method). That being said, I also see no way to teach quantum mechanics, either, by the Socratic method at the undergraduate level, since the way it is taught to undergraduates involves starting with the five postulates of quantum mechanics and making the conversion from classical systems to quantum systems by correspondence. I can see teaching certain aspects of the sciences Socratically, but, in reality, I suspect that they are not really using the Socratic method, but an adaptation of problem solving methodology developed by George Polya in the 1940's and 1950's, which are derived from related Greek techniques.

As my expertise is in problem-solving, I would love to sit in on a classroom where they use these techniques. As I said, earlier, the Socratic method does not, generally, concern itself with problems that have definite answers. I will investigate, further.

The Chicken

MC, music is still part of the classical quadrivium and its study is required at Thomas Aquinas College (TAC). They study music, and their study actually includes singing. Not everything is suitable to the Socratic method of study, but the pursuit of truth is uniquely suited to it. TAC is not a skills-based curriculum. It's only a four-year college designed to prepare one for later specialization. For more information see: http://thomasaquinas.edu/a-liberating-education/liberal-arts-sciences .

I can see teaching certain aspects of the sciences Socratically, but, in reality, I suspect that they are not really using the Socratic method, but an adaptation of problem solving methodology developed by George Polya in the 1940's and 1950's,

Actually, Polya had nothing to do with it. The curriculum was borrowed and then adapted from that of St. John's College in Annapolis, MD, who acquired the it from the 1920's Chicago University "Great Books of the Western World" program, and Mortimer Adler (who predated Polya by a generation). The method, however, is borrowed and adapted from the older schools like Oxford, the "tutorial" being pre-eminent, in which the student is primarily responsible for reading the material and discussing it in class with leading questions by the "tutor", who (like Socrates) helps the students clarify and refine their thoughts by expecting them to express their understanding of what they read and and discerning whether it is true or not, and why, and using the dynamic of a dozen students feeding into the discussion with their own clarifications and objections.

That being said, I also see no way to teach quantum mechanics, either, by the Socratic method at the undergraduate level, since the way it is taught to undergraduates involves starting with the five postulates of quantum mechanics and making the conversion from classical systems to quantum systems by correspondence.

Thomas Aquinas College does not manage to get into quantum mechanics, it tops out at relativity theory. But there is no reason it cannot be done using the same tutorial method. The school does Descartes' algebra and Newton's calculus, and wave theory in the same method, and studies Einstein's book "Relativity" the same way. Quantum mechanics would actually make a great endeavor for this method, because one of the fantastic things about this method is the opportunity to discuss right from the outset the postulates, and to keep circling back on them to understand more thoroughly why they are used and what they imply.

I this it is more fitting to say JPII the Christlike and not the great. Not to be minimizing Pope JPII but I think he would be sad to hear himself being called great when he was just living his Call. We do honour people when they do follow Jesus with all their hearts minds and bodies but not elevate them to being great but to honour their being fully Christlike and to set them as an example/inspiration/model...
I find it sad as well that Pope Pius XII is disregard sometimes when we talk about how Pope Francis was able to do this because of the two wonderful popes before him. JPII then did it because of the wonderful example of Pope Pius XII and so on in the history of the Church because it is not punctual how the Lord work or is it?

I've never understood the JP the Great crowd.

What made him so great? Kissing the Koran, the Assisi events, appointing liberals to high office?

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