Jason Berry: The Paradoxical PopeRoundup: Talking About History
Jason Berry, in the Boston Globe (4-4-05):
WHEN JOHN Paul II in 1979 made his first trip back to Poland as pope, he was determined to change the course of modern history. The stirring sermons exhorting human freedom, spiritual freedom, had long resonance through the final decade of the Cold War. He orchestrated clandestine support to Solidarity leaders in Poland, keeping pressure on the Communist regime. In 1989, when we watched the Soviet Empire crumble on television, John Paul stood a victor on the world stage, his very person transcending Stalin's famously cynical remark: "How many divisions has the Pope?"
In like measure, the middle years of his papacy demonstrated a remarkable honesty about a runaway consumerist mentality in Western capitalism and the church's own sins, committed in the Crusades, toward Jews, Muslims, even Galileo.
These and other virtues secure his role as one of history's great popes. An actor in his youth, he had a charm and charisma that captivated millions on his many travels. With a refined sense of drama, he turned his final days into a farewell act that, as many have said, made his physical suffering a reminder of Christ's sacrifice.
And yet, as the great media machinery gears up for the funeral and conclave at the Vatican to choose his successor, the solemnity and pageantry are likely to obscure another reality: that of the fractured church that this pope leaves behind.
More men have left the priesthood than entered in recent decades, yet John Paul was intransigent on the law of mandatory celibacy. Instead, against mounting evidence of sexual conflicts in a troubled clerical world, he refused to engage in the fearless introspection of the church internal.
This papacy is riddled with paradoxes.
A champion of human rights to people under the boot heel of dicatorships, he chose as secretary of state Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former papal ambassador to Chile who befriended the sadistic dictator Pinochet and tried to intervene on Pinochet's behalf when he was facing indictment by a Spanish court.
Several weeks ago, when Sodano met with Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, he awkwardly asked her help in defusing a sex abuse lawsuit filed against the Vatican by a Kentucky lawyer, something over which she had no control. ...
comments powered by Disqus
- Artist Corrects Inaccuracies At The George W. Bush Library With Augmented Reality
- “Unprecedented” discovery of mysterious structures created by Neanderthals
- This Man Spent 25 Years Documenting Every Day of Hitler's Life
- Anti-Gay, Pro-Creationism Birther Won’t Be Deciding What Textbooks Your Kids Read
- What About Us, Nagasaki Asks, as Obama’s Hiroshima Trip Nears
- David Lowenthal, author of "The Past Is a Foreign Country,” says it’s folly to scratch the names of slaveholders off buildings
- Jean Edward Smith, biographer of FDR and Ike, has a new biography coming out … of George W. Bush
- Flora Fraser, biographer of George and Martha Washington, wins $50,000 George Washington Prize
- Michael Cohen explains why he calls his book on 1968 “American Malestrom"
- Fredrik Logevall on Obama's Legacy