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Pope To Canonize Two “Saintly” Predecessors After Apologizing For Sex Abuse During Their Papacies

Pope Francis still plans to declare sainthood for two of his papal predecessors despite taking personal responsibility on Friday for the sex abuse that plagued the church during their papacies. John Paul II and John XXIII will be declared saints during a canonization ceremony on April 27. On Friday, Pope Francis begged forgiveness from the tens of thousands of child victims of sex abuse perpetrated by church clergy over the decades. Pope Francis pledged that the Catholic Church will better protect children in the future and that the look-the-other-way approach would no longer be tolerated.

Over a decade ago, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal was blasted open. The abuse and cover-ups led to thousands of Catholics abandoning their church, according to Seattle PI. While one could argue that John XXIII may have possibly been in the dark about the sex abuse plaguing the church’s children, John Paul II certainly knew about the sex abuse and responded for years with non-action and denial, according to The Nation. John Paul II eventually did say there was no place in the priesthood for child molesters or abusers, but as reported by The Nation, in 1989, when a process for defrocking pedophiles within the clergy was demanded, John Paul II refused. The University of Notre Dame theologian, Rev. Richard McBrien, wrote of Pope John Paul II, “Indeed, he had a terrible record, full of denial and foot-dragging, on the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation of the 16th century.”

To his credit, upon his death, Catholics immediately began demanding that John Paul II enter sainthood. He was praised for his efforts to against communism in Europe. Catholic conservatives adored him for his highly conservative opinions on sexuality and gender. John Paul II was against females entering the priesthood and using contraception. Pope Benedict XVI, due to Catholic demand, waived the five-year waiting period for investigation into whether John Paul II was eligible for sainthood.

National Catholic Reporter‘s Michael Sean Winters told PBS that Pope John Paul II’s lack of leadership regarding the sex abuse scandal has nothing to do with whether or not the man is worthy of sainthood. “This is basically a declaration that this person is in heaven, that they exhibited certain heroic virtues in their life and that they are a role model for being a good Christian — not necessarily for being a good pope.” Critics argue that it’s unlikely the child victims, whose abuse Pope John Paul II did almost nothing about, consider him much of a hero.

Still, the move to declare the two popes “saints” seems to be more papal politics than a decree of genuine, heroic, spiritual virtue. “Francis is speaking not just to the outside world but to rival camps within the Catholic fold who see John XXIII and John Paul II as their heroes — meaning liberals and conservatives, respectively,” John Allen, a Vatican affairs expert at the Boston Globe, said. The declarations of sainthood may be merely an effort to unify the Catholic Church. After all, John XXIII isn’t even technically qualified for sainthood yet because he wasn’t directly responsible for two miracles.

The Catholic Church uses a procedure known as “equipollent canonisation” which is usually followed before anyone can be declared a saint. Digital Journal explains that John XXIII’s canonization will merely be simplified through a papal exemption by which he can be declared a saint even though a second miracle hasn’t happened yet. Francis declared John XXIII so widely regarded that no second miracle was needed, Agence France-Presse reported. A Catholic loop-hole allowed for this skip to sainthood. Still papal infallibility, given that according to the Catholic Church he was chosen by God to represent God, would have taken care of the discrepancy regardless. Catholic liberals who remember him are pleased he was named for sainthood. John XXIII reached out to other faiths, in much the way the current Pope Francis has, and raised the status of church laypeople.

According to one Chicago Tribune opinion writer, Kenneth L. Woodward, the move to make the two past popes saints, has nothing to do with church politics. He wrote, “Rather by yoking the two popes in a single ceremony, Francis is reminding the rest of the church that the holiness each man manifest in his own way is more important than the papal office they had in common.” When you consider that possible perspective, the public declaration of remorse and responsibility for the sex abuse, and other noteworthy acts of compassion, Pope Francis may be on the road to future sainthood himself.

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