Monday, April 04, 2005

Weekend trackback: Pope JP2 

Funny, I can't recall any of the usual pundit pimples (you know who I mean) scrambling in front of the tv cameras over the weekend to denounce the guy as an anti-American, anti "free market", freedom hating cheese eating old European Saddam appeaser surrender monkey, for his anti-war stances or disdain for greedy grab-n-grub economics. Hmmm. Where are they (you know who I mean) now?

Meanwhile, a few thoughtful perspectives:

Body and Soul
...I can't separate the good Church from the bad Church. It seems to me that all the Church's flaws -- all John Paul's flaws -- are rooted in virtues. That's what I wanted to write about, and that is where I'm stuck. It will take me awhile to work out exactly what I mean by that circle of sin and virtue.

In the meantime, I feel a bit trapped between the bizarre hagiography on CNN which is giving some of the most reactionary elements is the Church (as well as, bizarrely, some of the peculiar brand of Protestant that has been condemning Catholics to hell for generations) the opportunity to craft for public consumption a holy and uncriticizable version of Ronald Reagan, an infallible George Bush, and the understandable hostility coming from some on the left.

The Pope's Intellectual Challenge, by Max Sawicki
Why talk about the Encyclicals? Unlike some on the left, I've never bought the narrow, dismissive view of religion as some unbelievable fairy tale. Religious doctrine is philosophy, it's politics, it's literature, it's about the Meaning of Life. It's not about some bearded dude in the sky that can't exist because you've never seen him.


Most inane comment so far was Glenn Reynolds (shocking, I know) -- "Ordinary Poles 2, German intellectuals 0." Intellectuals. The swine. It happens that the Pope was an intellectual -- a professor of philosophy -- and Reynolds is a professor. One of these days I need to cook up a post to explain how in modern jingoist discourse, "intellectual" and "cultural elite" refer to the Jews. But that has nothing to do with Karol Wojtyla.

John Paul II spoke, if not always loudly, for economic justice and the needs of the poor. He was a courageous champion of freedom for those suffering under Soviet tyranny in Eastern Europe; less bold in condemning death squads and covert aggression in Central America. He opposed the death penalty and the War in Iraq. And he made a good faith effort (pun intended) to advance the church's painful reconcilation with its anti-Semitic past, despite considerable internal opposition.

On the other hand, John Paul II was a cipher, or worse, on most of what we here in the States would call the "social issues." His refusal to budge on Human Vitae -- the low point of the post-Vatican II reaction -- was particularly discouraging, as was his equally adamantine position on clerical celibacy. And of his attitude towards the gay and lesbian members of his human flock, there's little to say and less that's good.

Sisyphus Shrugged
Karol Jozef Wojtyla, RIP

I disagree with many of the political alliances the late Pope made, but I do believe he genuinely believed in respect for life.

I am terribly sorry that the leaders he made cause with did not follow him in that.

I hope his principles, if not his allegiances or his limitations, live beyond him.

He went where he believed he was to go in peace. So may we all.


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