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Pope John Paul II Closer to Sainthood, Though Sex Abuse Critics Disagree

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Vatican experts have attributed a miraculous healing to the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II, a ruling that appears to push the beloved Polish pontiff a crucial step closer to sainthood even as criticisms of his lengthy reign have mounted since his death in 2005.

A leading Vatican-watcher, Andrea Tornielli of the Italian daily Il Giornale, reported this week that medical and theological experts with the Vatican congregation charged with overseeing the canonization process have affirmed that a French nun was cured of Parkinson's disease -- an affliction similar to the one that claimed John Paul's life -- and there was no medical explanation.

The experts at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints determined that the cure was a miracle and resulted from the nun's prayers for the intercession of John Paul. Cardinals and bishops on the committee are to meet in mid-January to vote on the report from the experts before sending it to Pope Benedict XVI for final approval, and no delay is expected. Church policy decrees that two verified miracles are required before someone's sainthood is formally confirmed.

pope john paul II(According to Catholic doctrine, all Christians in heaven are considered saints; canonization is the church's formal declaration that a person is indeed in paradise and that their memory is worthy of veneration, and that Catholics may pray to that saint to intercede with God on behalf of some cause here on earth.)

In 2009 Pope Benedict declared that John Paul was a person of "heroic virtue," the first step to sainthood, and the verification of a miracle due to his intercession would pave the way toward beatification, the last step before canonization, which would require a second miracle.

Yet even as crowds at John Paul's funeral in 2005 chanted "Santo Subito!," demanding the Vatican make him a saint right away, the intervening years have not been as kind to the memory of the late pontiff, whom some conservatives were already championing as "John Paul the Great." Reports of how badly John Paul managed the clergy sex abuse crisis, for example, have made some Catholics view the prospect of his imminent beatification with alarm.

"This is madness," writes Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for National Catholic Reporter, a leading Catholic periodical. "After years of being frustrated at the slow pace with which the Vatican embraces change, in this one instance where haste could spell disaster, they appear to be rushing."

Many other commenters echoed that unease.

The Vatican has a five-year waiting period after a person's death before a cause for sainthood can be launched, thus allowing passions and grief to cool into genuine veneration and sober analysis of the deceased's virtues. That can also mean centuries will elapse before someone is declared a saint, as happened with Joan of Arc, for example.

But popes are increasingly becoming prime candidates for sainthood -- a new and often problematic trend, as I have noted elsewhere -- and sometimes even the Vatican is overwhelmed by the emotions of the day and waives the five-year waiting period, which Benedict XVI did for John Paul within weeks of his death.

Since then, however, details have emerged about John Paul's management, or mismanagement, of many aspects of church affairs, clouding his once haloed legacy. And there could be more, as Winters warns.

"It would be a shock to the very idea of beatification if, shortly after Pope John Paul II was beatified, especially damning evidence of corruption close to the papal throne emerged," he writes.

Tornielli of Il Giornale suggested that John Paul could be beatified as early as April 2, the sixth anniversary of his death, or on May 18, his birthday. But NCR's John Allen, another top Vaticanista, believes Oct. 16, the anniversary of John Paul's historic election in 1978, is more likely "given the logistical challenges of organizing what is likely to be the most massive public gathering in Rome since the events following the death of John Paul II in 2005."

Apart from further revelations on the sex abuse front, questions could also emerge in the intervening time about the miracle attributed to John Paul's intercession.

The French nun who reported the cure is Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson's disease in 2001. The nun said she wrote the late pope's name on a piece of paper one night in June 2005 and awoke the next morning cured and able to resume work as a maternity nurse.

Media reports earlier this year suggested that Sister Marie may have had a relapse, and at least one physician questioned the original diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. But the Vatican experts have apparently put those doubts to rest, whether others will or not.

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The suggestion that you are cured by praying to a human (male or female) is part of the problem with basic religious thought. Whether your spirituality believes God is a spirit, or God is in each of us, god is nature or any other version - to say you were cured by praying to a person would be like saying you were cured by praying to a banana. Would we then "saint" the banana?

January 19 2011 at 8:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This seems to be yet another thinly veiled effort to divert attention away from the huge and mounting recognition of the terminal rot in the Catholic Church! As scandals of sex abuse, rampant and pouring to the surface, continue, many of them taking place with the apparent dismissal by a knowing Pope John Paul II, to even consider him for this fictitious-based recognition is a slap in the face to the thousands of victims! This is yet another indication of the fact that this institution is not in the very least interested in the well-being or concerns of its members.. WHO PAY THE TAB!.. but in its centuries old practice of sequestration of ever increasing wealth property! When coupled with the fact that they get away with practicing blatant disrespect and discrimination against women, it is hard to believe that ANYONE with conscience could walk into a Roman Catholic Church!

January 11 2011 at 5:09 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Though he wasn't my cup of tea, Pope JPII was popular all around the world. Given the climate of scandal surrounding the Vatican and current Pope Benedict it seems to me a movement contrived to divert attention from the bad news and focus on some good news.

January 07 2011 at 1:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I believe it is wrong to rush Pope John Paul to sainthood. The normal protocol in canonizing one a saint is not being followed here and it leaves me with the feeling the system is still being corrupted. I think if the church could have they would have canonized him a a saint the day he died and this to me is troubling and makes the whole process seem meaningless. I personally have saints that I reach out to in times of need who I feel give me strength, but I think this definitely taints the process, especially in light of the priest scandal and cover-up, which more Catholics than we know, including myself, still struggle to make sense of.

January 06 2011 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Doesn't anybody else think this whole thing is just completely crackers?

January 06 2011 at 10:21 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Got news for old John source of information tells me If he didn't die a saint he's not in heaven and you can assume all you want.

January 05 2011 at 7:34 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

he is truly a Saint

January 05 2011 at 6:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

John Paul II deserves formal sainthood. This man transformed the modern papacy. I have seen many popes in my lifetime, I never saw one who moved so many people. Those who use the abuse cases as an excuse, should examine their stance. If I dumped 50 years of abuse by public school teachers all at once on the public, who would they want to blame....the President? (I guess they would blame President Bush). The same happened with priestly abuse cases.

January 05 2011 at 6:44 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to scripsit1's comment

If he is deserving of sainthood then why not follow the proper protocols in canonizing him a saint. Why are we rushing the process? Eventually the process involved in achieving sainthood will be no different than the process involved in winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I would like to believe the Catholic Church has a higher standard.

January 06 2011 at 3:06 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

The man was absolutely a Saint....Al-

January 05 2011 at 6:10 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Bobby Asbury

"According to Catholic doctrine, all Christians in heaven are considered saints". God makes all believers saints. He does not need a religious body's "formal declaration that a person is indeed in paradise". God also does not need a saint to intervene between Himself and us. We are allowed to pray directly to God.

January 05 2011 at 4:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bobby Asbury's comment

Someone has poorly explained the Catholic teaching to you. While it's true what you quoted, that all Christians in heaven are saints, it's pretty hard sometimes for us on earth to know just who those people are. Especially ones who live and die far from where we live. The canonization process is the Church pointing to an individual and saying, "We believe this person is one of those Christians in heaven! You can be confident following their example."

Also, Catholics do pray directly to God. We don't NEED the intercession of saints in order to talk to God, in the sense that you're implying. What we call praying to the saints is something done in addition to praying directly to God, it's just like asking another Christian who is alive to pray for you. If you asked your friend to pray for you, that would be considered intercessory prayer (that's even the term we used in the Evangelical Protestant denomination I grew up in). You'd still pray to God yourself, but your friend would also pray -- intercede -- for you. When Catholics pray to saints it's just like that. You pray to God yourself, but you also ask the saint to pray for you too. Catholics believe that just because a person has died doesn't remove them from the Body of Christ, and that the saints in heaven continue to pray and work for us on Earth.

Try to have an open mind about ideas different from your own. We're not the crazy bunch of Mary-Worshippers you think we are.

January 10 2011 at 3:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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