The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 21, 2023 - 5:09:17

Two personalist popes canonized

Katie van Schaijik, Apr 25, 2014

I'm rushing out the door to France, but I can't go without saying something about the double canonization tomorrow—the canonization of two personalist popes.  An NRO interview with George Weigel is very good. I especially appreciate this part of his analysis [my bold]:

I think Pope Francis’s decision to waive the normal requirement for a second, post-beatification miracle for John XXIII and to celebrate his canonization together with that of John Paul II (after a post-beatification miracle due to his intercession had been confirmed) was inspired and bold. What Pope Francis may be saying is that here are the two bookends of the Second Vatican Council: the pope who had the courage and wisdom to summon the most important Catholic event in 500 years, and the pope who had the courage and wisdom to give that council an authoritative interpretation. I’d also suggest that John Paul II completed the work of John XXIII, by giving post-conciliar Catholicism a new vision of its evangelical, missionary potential — which happens to be the reason John XXIII called Vatican II...

It's easy for us to forget now that before John Paul II, the Church was divided between two bitterly antongistic camps: liberals who, citing "the spirit of Vatican II," were abandoning orthodoxy and trampling Tradition, and conservatives, who rejected or deprecated the Council as a modernist disaster and sought to retore the pre-Vatican II status quo.

John Paull II—in his exceptionally warm, open, faith-radiating personality, his dramatically new mode of pastoral approach, and his simultaneously orthodox and original body of teaching—showed us how to love and live the Council within the living Tradition of the Church. He showed how the depths of the riches of our divine patrimony as Catholics were exactly what allowed us to meet the challenges of the modern world with courage and grace, rejecting its errors and embracing its valid insights and achievements. He taught us that the real "Spirit of Vatican II" is the Holy Spirit—the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, Who instructs and consoles our hearts, Who leads us into all Truth, and Who has promised to protect the Church from error.

In the essential philosophical personalism of his teaching, he laid out for the world—with matchless intellectual creativity, depth and rigor—the dialectical relation between the objectivity of truth and the subjectivity of the human person. He showed how the typically modern aspiration toward freedom and autonomy, the rejection of coercion, and the yearning for authenticity are not only not menaced by objective Truth, but only fully answered by Truth. But truth not as law, but as person. Truth not imposed, but proposed, in love and for love. He showed that there is no conflict between moral absolutes and human freedom. On the contrary, our ability to make free decisions about ultimate things is the glory of the human person.

Wiegel also thoroughly the charge that JP II presided over the decline of the Church, and that he knew about the sex abuse scandals and covered them up.

And he provides this interesting bit of perspective: 

From the mid 17th century on, the Church used a rather complex (and frankly adversarial) legal process to test whether popular reputations for heroic virtue — the definition of “sanctity” the Church uses in assessing these things — were warranted. That process was reformed by John Paul II in 1983, so that the current process more closely resembles a doctoral seminar in history than a trial. 

I hadn't know that the "adversarial" approach to canonization was so relatively new in Church history. That rather takes the sting out of the traditionalist charge that the process has been "watered-down." It also seems to me much more like John Paul, who urged us all to eschew a "hermeneutic of suspicion" and rejoice in the profligate generosity of God in creating a great multitude of saints in every new generation.