The French have saying that whoever eats of the pope will choke on him. This saying comes to mind as I survey those questioning the canonization process of Pope John Paul II in light of recent revelations about Fr. Maciel’s “double life.” The secular press and certain anti-papist strains within protestant fundamentalism aren’t the only ones questioning the appropriateness of John Paul II’s potential canonization. Adding their voice to the chorus this week are CrunchyCon’s Rod Dreher and Renew America and Liberal Traditionalist blogmeister Eric Giunta.
For the record, I believe Pope John Paul II probably was not aware of the evidence against Fr. Maciel. Given what we know about JPII, I put the odds of him knowing and not doing anything about it (and in fact continuing to praise Fr. Maciel publicly as an excellent example for youth) at about the same percentage as several young women, independently and years apart from each other, breaking into the hospital room of an elderly priest-founder and stealing his semen to impregnate themselves.
Possible? Yes. Probable? I’d sooner bet on the state lottery.
Having said that, this incident may still slow down Pope John Paul II’s canonization process. Because of the nature of canonization, it’s important that we know everything we can about the late Supreme Pontiff. Especially when allegations are as high-profile as those concerning Fr. Maciel. Thus the devil’s advocate will have his job cut out for him.
Nevertheless, over at the other end of the Church spectrum, some LC/RC supporters are still using the pope to try and shut down discussion of their movement’s charism. A recent example of this comes from Mark Polo in the comments section of the AmericanPapist blog. Mr. Polo writes:
The charism is not the same as the founder. The charism is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which at this point, is guaranteed by the Church in its approval of the Constitutions. While this is not an infallible act of Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict would be fully free to make changes or even remove this approval of the Church entirely, the assumption at this point has to be in favor of the validity of the charism. Any other attitude is really moving away from the respect that is due the Holy Father. (If we can decide that John Paul II was obviously wrong about this matter, and abused his power as Pope to approve these Constitutions, the next step is to start questioning everything else the Holy Father says. This is not a road I want to see people going down.)
Others commentators have refuted his errors in logic, so I’ll set those aside for now. The road that ought to be avoided is that of eating of the pope by continuing to invoke an approval of one’s founder and movement that was gained through deception of the founder’s piety. This was the deception used to gain papal approval, to provide oneself with the cover of Catholic orthodoxy, and persecute the founder’s victims while silencing the movement’s legitimate critics.
That being said, I am sure that many orthodox Catholics like myself, who are part of the Pope John Paul II generation of Catholic activists, will continue to defend our pope during this time. This is not to say, however, that we will be silenced by the mere mention of Pope John Paul II’s name, or that in his name our anger toward the LC/RC will dissipate.
Unlike other attacks against Pope John Paul II, this recent volley was completely avoidable. HAD THE REST OF THE CHURCH KNOWN THE TRUTH ABOUT FR. MACIEL. The controversy also could be cut short by the LC/RC coming forward with the truth and apologizing to Fr. Maciel’s victims.
Nevertheless, Fr. Maciel and his movement chose to invoke the pope as shield against serious allegations concerning the founder’s proclivity towards violations of the Sixth Commandment. An example of this can be seen in Sandro Magister’s 2003 interview with Father Miguel Cavallé Puig, LC – a Spaniard who at the time was part of the LC’s general secretariat (click here). In responding to former LC seminarians who accused Fr. Maciel of sexual impropriety, Fr. Puig states: “the true target of the accusations is not so much Father Maciel, but the church, and the pope.”
In short, Fr. Puig, like his founder Maciel, ate of the pope in the name of the movement. And for all we know, the movement may have bitten off a chunk of the Holy Spirit in proposing Maciel’s mother – Mama Maurita – for potential canonization. Do we have any outside corroboration of holiness and heroic virtue? Is anyone outside the LC/RC putting forward her cause? (Unlike the case of Gabrielle Lefebvre, whose cause has always been independent of the SSPX, Mama Maurita’s cause appears completely driven by the LC/RC and its supporters)
And thus the LC/RC finds itself choking on the very lie which it ate. Yet the movement’s supporters continue biting off more chunks of the pope, warning others of choking hazards in an attempt to stop them from noticing that the movement is choking.
Please, dear LC/RC member, I beg you. For the sake of Maciel’s victims, for the sake of your own members, for the sake of the Church and Pope John Paul II supporters embarrassed by your founder’s lies, please come forward now with the truth. You’ve eaten of the pope. So please cough up the truth and stop the choking.