Litany of broken hopes —A tale of three popes

Expanded from the 8-4-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

                No more turning away

From the weak and the weary

— Pink Floyd

Pope John Paul II
has become another bright light that failed. He committed a glaring sin of omission in his latest jet-setting jaunt as he jumped over and glossed over the troubled U.S. church. Last month, he played to huge crowds in Canada and Latin America. At a time when his followers in this country were most in need of him, he turned his back.

God, what an opportunity this guy had. Like his predecessor, John Paul I, he speaks many languages and exhibits true feeling for the oppressed of the third world. Unlike JPI, who was very possibly murdered a month after ascending to the throne of St. Peter, JPII had many years to take positive action. Alas and alack, when the chips were down, he proved a man of little action. White smoke, no fire.

As a wise man once said, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Pope Pius XII showed his true colors by lifting not a finger when he could have saved thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews, Gypsies and others from extermination at the hands of fascism during World War II.

For many years, there has been talk of making Pius XII a saint. This typifies the church's "we can do no wrong" attitude. Awhile back, when agitation began to move Pope John XXIII toward sainthood, the internal politics of the Vatican became stalemated over a trade: the gentle reformist John would win the designation only if Pius IX did, too.

Pius IX, who ruled in the 19th Century (1846-1878), is the guy who lobbied through the blasphemous and presumptuous idea of papal infallibility when speaking on matters of faith and morals. He also thought kings and dictators were the only people fit to rule. His policy was to make the Catholic Church intolerant of all other religions. He railed against freedom of speech and of the press. This guy would have sent to hell anybody believing in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He also thought that the church should be able to use force to impose its will.

Had he lived longer, Pope John Paul I would have made the Catholic Church relevant to the daily lives of its adherents. As Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland, the future John Paul II supported the election of his friend, Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice, to succeed Pope Paul VI in 1978. Witnessing what happened to his predecessor, perhaps JPII learned that rocking too many boats can be detrimental to one's health.

Early in his reign, JPII survived an assassination attempt very possibly orchestrated by the Soviet KGB.

Karol Wojtyla came from a country where the church was the only available vehicle of political dissent. The Solidarity trade union was born in the shipyards of Gdansk. The crack opened by Lech Walesa and his fellow workers provided the fissure in the foundation which led to the fall of Leninism. (The process was handsomely augmented with money from the U.S. government.)

Election of a Polish pope waved a red flag in front of the old men in the Kremlin. Curiously, the bullets eventually did their job.

For the rest of his term, JPII proved a pussycat when he should have been a tiger. Where JPI would have reformed the church and peopled the hierarchy with progressives, JPII stocked the pond with yes men more interested in covering their asses and promoting their careers than tending their flocks. The yes-man mentality of JPII's bishops led to decades of official coverup of the fact that the Catholic priesthood had become a haven for perverts.

This shows the dangers of basing religious credibility on trivia in order to distinguish one faith's product over another. Some religions ban dancing as their claim to fame. The holiness of the priesthood is based on the idea that these guys don't screw. If you're into that twisted concept called Natural Law, celibacy is a perversion of God's manifest order.

More plays on morality

The Sport of Ethics — Looking in the wrong moral playbook

Bad character references

Pope John Paul II

Selling God


The finger of God

A future fatal fable

Bishop Marcinkus lives above the law in comfortable Sun City, AZ, retirement

The Founding Fathers and God

JPII needs to go back to Bible class. He needs to be reminded of the single phrase bifurcating Catholicism and Protestantism — the Catholic belief in the words of St. James the Less that faith without works is nothing.

The Holy Father and the silence of his lambs wrought great harm to an institution which does so much good. In this cruel state, Catholic Community Services is one of the few places where the exploited and debilitated can turn for real help.

Just as he ignored the crying needs of the U.S. Church, JPII did the same when he visited Chile as the nation suffered under the Nixon-Kissinger imposed dictatorship of the fascist Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The pope drew large crowds but said nothing about the oppression of the people.

JPII could have solved a lot of his marketing problems in Mexico by acting more boldly than canonizing as a saint someone who may not have really existed. (The church officially defrocked St. George of England and St. Filomena of Italy a few years ago because no proof existed that they were any more than legends.)

If JPII really wanted to show the church's disapproval of the caste system of Mexico, he could have canonized Jesuit Miguel Pro who was executed by the Mexican government in the early 20th Century.

Instead, he consecrated the myth of Juan Diego.

When JPII's days are over, the church will be forced to face its future. Will the old men who run things opt for another John XXIII or JPI? Or someone who will act like Paul VI, who went against the overwhelming consensus of his study committees and outlawed the birth control pill (while continuing to earn huge profits through the church's investment in Istituto Farmacologico Sereno, a manufacturer of birth control pills).

John Paul I, had he lived, would probably have overturned the ban.

John Paul I was hope. John Paul II is unyielding faith. Will the next wearer of the shoes of the fisherman bring the unconditional love for which this dangerous world is so starved?

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Copyright © 2002, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan who attended Catholic institutions through high school. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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