John Paul II the Pontiff in Winter
October 16 marks the 28 years paedophiliac-papacy of John Paul II whose consequences thrive in the continous unraveling of priest pedophilia worldwide. Here is a must-read book for anyone who wishes to understand who Pope John Paul II really was. I am qouting three book reviews (one in full in case it disappears from the face of the web!)
The Pontiff in Winter: Triumph and Conflict in the Reign of John Paul II
Book written by John Cornwell
In The Pope In Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy
Cornwell Documents that JPII Left the Church Worse than He Found It
"Something is Rotten in the City of Rome"
JPII was one of the greatest deconstructors of the Roman Catholic Church in history. So, of course, Newchurch wants to make him a Saint. Not only a Saint, but a Sudden Saint. Not only a Sudden Saint, but a Great Saint. We've heard all this nonsense before, but now Newchurch wants to make him a Martyr Saint! The Great Martyr Saints of early Rome must be rising up from their graves, all eleven million of them, sword in hand, to cut down the interloper!Why so? Apparently, because Newchurch needs to "grease the track" for him, so that they get him in before the truth comes out. And it is easier to rush through a martyr-saint. Are you beginning to get the idea that "something is rotten in the city of Rome"?
Yes, the fix is in. Under the wisdom of Sixtus V in 1588, the already traditional meticulously careful process was canonized, with an aggressive opponent to ensure a scrupulous verdict, much as in an Anglo-American court. In 1984 JPII purported to turn "canonization" into a political game by abolishing the Advocatus Diaboli [Devil's Advocate] in the investigation of purported Saints. Was he laying the groundwork to squeak through his own dicey elevation? He wouldn't be the first Roman "emperor" to do so. In fact, in the early years of the Roman empire, when the Church was being established, the emperors looked to their deification by the Senate in order that they would not have to pay the price in Hades for their gross sins.
In this case, a watered-down church bureaucrat, now in typical Newchurch duplicitous fashion termed "Promoter of Justice," Giuseppe D'Alanzo, who is supposed to ensure that the negative side is heard, has revealed himself as biased toward JPII! It is as if a judge said before trial, "I'm already biased for the plaintiff, but let's go through the motions for form's sake"!
Yet some voices are daring to speak out against this phony process. Surprisingly, the sharpest is a liberalist, not a conservative. John Cornwell, who otherwise seems to have a defamatory fixation against Pius XII and an investigatory instinct in death of John Paul I, seems to have hit at least a few nails on the head vis à JPII vis in his recent The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II's Papacy (Viking UK, 2004). In the text Cornwell attempts to bolster his claim that JPII left the Catholic Church worse than he found it.
Cornwell catalogues JPII's production-line of dodgy saints and his total failure to deal with the Great Sex and Embezzlement Scandal that is bankrupting Newchurch, as well as covering it in shame and derision, from which it will not arise for decades when until the true Catholic Church is unquestionably restored. Cornwell documents that, time and again, JPII protected (and sometimes promoted) presbyters who should have been instantly defrocked, that his instinct has been not to seek Catholic justice, but to cover up.
Reviewed by Luke Timothy Johnson
John Cornwell is best known for his controversial Hitler’s Pope (1999). As I prepared to review his assessment of John Paul II’s long papacy, my eye was caught by the back cover, which reported some evaluations of that earlier book. Saul Friedlander stated in the Los Angeles Times, “As Cornwell brilliantly demonstrates, Pius XII brought forth the authoritarianism and the centralization of his predecessors to their most extreme stage.” And James Carroll wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, “Instead of a portrait of a man worthy of sainthood, Cornwell lays out the story of a narcissistic, power-hungry manipulator.”My eye lingered on these blurbs because they so perfectly summarized not the earlier book on Pius XII, but this one on John Paul II.
Cornwell wants to show that the remarkable papacy of John Paul II, despite its impressive accomplishments, has dangerously weakened the church even as it has strengthened Vatican power. Writing as the aged pope visibly suffers the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Cornwell argues that John Paul had from the start offered authoritarian answers for questions, and that “his debility in his latter days has exposed the long-term consequences of his autocratic papal rule. He has become a living sermon of patience and fortitude, appealing to the sympathies of the entire world; but the billion-strong church has been run increasingly by his Polish secretary and a handful of aging reactionary cardinals.”
Cornwell is a biographer in the classical tradition (think Plutarch’s Lives), less interested in the massive compilation of facts than in the making of a moral argument drawn from his subject’s character. And also like ancient biographers, he draws as freely from personal observation and court gossip as he does from the authorized sources. The book opens with a prologue (“John Paul the Great”) that recognizes how deserving of praise are this pope’s accomplishments, but adds an ominous, “and yet...”
The book closes with an epilogue that reverses the balance, so that the “and yet...” element in John Paul’s papacy becomes most important, if not as the final judgment of his complex character, certainly as a challenge to a deeply troubled church.Between these brackets, Cornwell divides his treatment into two parts: “Holy Theatre” follows John Paul from 1920 to 1999, tracing the astonishing progress of the man who at thirty-eight was the youngest bishop in Poland and at fifty-eight was the head of the Roman Catholic Church; “In Pursuit of the Millennium (2000-2004)” carries the story past 9/11 and into the Iraq war, focusing on “the winter” of this superman pontiff.
Cornwell writes with the energy and focus of a good journalist. Each of the thirty-five chapters is a sharply drawn vignette that moves quickly to the isolation of character traits and political implications. The result is a compulsively readable analysis of a person and a passionately argued plea for a less centralized church in the future.
Cornwell’s focus on the pope’s character begins in the first chapter, “Close Encounters,” which reports on his own and others’ impression of John Paul as experienced in person, an impression that combines a positive sense of warmth and modesty, combined with something more negative: a sense that the pope only sees and hears what he wants to see and hear.
The term “Holy Theatre” that Cornwell applies to the first part of his analysis is a way of framing this “dynamic paradox” or even “contradiction.” He argues that Karol Wojtyla had, from the beginning, a mystical sense of himself as an actor on history’s stage, but that, after long years at the pinnacle of power, this innate mysticism yielded to a more “vulgar and egocentric” understanding that supported “his own divinely ordained role as pope, and his extraordinary degree of certitude.”
Cornwell rapidly records John Paul’s accelerated progress from professor and pastor to bishop and cardinal and, finally, pontiff. He is most interested in tracing the manner in which the very qualities that lent the younger man such unusual charisma, could, after stunning success, turn into something close to a tragic flaw.
Cornwell considers the 1981 assassination attempt, together with John Paul’s subsequent application of the “Third Fatima Secret” to himself, as the point of turning from a sense of being guided by Providence to a conviction of being an indispensable instrument of Providence.After bringing the storyline to the point that all will agree presents the high point of John Paul’s success with regard to the larger world, namely the role he played in the liberation of Poland and the collapse of communism, Cornwell turns to less positive aspects of the pope’s exalted sense of historical mission inside the church: the political implications of his frenzied saint-making; the chilling effect on intellectual leadership of his efforts to control theologians; the alienating effect of his refusal to hear the voice of women within the church; the inadequacy of his teaching on sex.
Cornwell sees running through all of these efforts a lip service paid to an exalted ideal, accompanied by an ever-increasing resistance to pluralism and democracy, an ever-growing insistence on papal authority as the answer to every problem.The last part of the book makes for particularly painful reading. No one can rejoice at the spectacle of a man who is so palpably suffering from age and illness, so obviously unable to meet the demands of being a superman pontiff, yet still unwilling to cede anything of the extraordinary power he accumulated over the decades. Much of that power is the result of shaping the episcopacy according to his own image in terms of doctrine and morals. But it is also the result of the inability of bishops to exercise genuine authority where it is most needed. Years of conditioning, years of being treated, as Cardinal Joseph Bernadin was once reported as remarking, “like altar boys,” has hollowed out the episcopacy.
Cornwell’s final chapters pose the pointed question, “Who Runs the Church?”, as he spells out some of the more dismal manifestations of decline: the inattention to, and later inept handling of, the sexual-abuse scandals; the fostering of repressive right-wing movements within the church, even when the sinister aspects of their founders have been exposed; the confused state of what was once a crisp papal stance in matters of war and peace, oppression and freedom; the morally indefensible refusal to allow condoms as protection against AIDS; the stalled and frustrated conversation with Judaism; and the equally stalemated rapprochement with Orthodox Christianity.
Cornwell concludes that in order to respond to the great crises facing the church when he came to the papacy, John Paul II tried, like a superman, to do everything. But because he is, after all, “human, all too human,” even such a heroic effort has led to a troublesome legacy. He suggests that those electing the next pope need to resist the temptation to choose another “Karol the Great,” even if one is available. They need, instead, to choose “a bishop among brother bishops, a judge of final appeal presiding in charity over differences and divisions, and a human being who knows, despite his call to leadership, that he remains a pilgrim with all humanity.” Even those who may find Cornwell’s treatment of the ailing pope too harsh can usefully ponder his conclusions concerning the present state and perilous future of the church.
Commonweal Magazine http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1167
Reviewed by Vincent T. O'Keefe, S.J.
There is no taboo restraining Cornwell as he spells out this parallel Catholic version, as he sees it and embraces it. At the center is his portrayal of Pope John Paul II as absolutist and authoritarian, a man of “epic self-centeredness,” a one-man show, the one pastor of both the universal and the local church. “Under John Paul the Catholic Church has become the voice of one man in a white robe pronouncing from the Roman pinnacle, rather than a conversation...between the Church universal and the Church local.... Exploiting modern broadcast communications to their fullest extent, his omnipresence and monopoly of the limelight have reduced within his Church all other authority, all other holiness (unless dead), all other comparisons, voices, images, talents, and virtues. The legislator, the single dispenser of blessings, beneficence, and wisdom—there has been no hidden corner of the Church where he was not present, heard, read, and where he was not absolute.”
In jarring contrast to the adulatory “John Paul the Great” of other authors, Cornwell portrays him as “Superman,” because “he has run the papacy as if he were a Superman. But a Superman has no place in a Church of communities that require to be fully themselves in the smallest groups; that flourish and gather strength from their own local resources as well as from the Roman center. Another Superman on the throne of St. Peter can only continue the tragic process of abdication of responsibility, maturity, and local discretion that we have witnessed in the Catholic Church this past quarter of a century.”
As his basis for this assessment, Cornwell treats the life of John Paul from 1920 to 1999 in Part One of his book, and then from the millennium in 2000 to 2004 in the second part. Against this background the author develops “John Paul’s Grand Design,” before concluding with an epilogue: “The Legacy of John Paul II.” His method is historical, and although he treats both the triumph and the conflict in the reign of John Paul II, his epilogue shows clearly that conflict wins out over triumph: “But what will be his [John Paul’s] lasting legacy for the Catholic Church?... Throughout the worldwide Church one finds everywhere vibrant Catholic communities: people working, and dying, for the faith; selfless ministers, sisters, and laity working for the sick and the poor; members of the faithful making the world a better place. The spirit of Vatican II is at work and cannot be quenched.”
After this brief summary of the “triumph,” Cornwell turns to the “conflict” in John Paul II’s reign and shows that for him this is the more telling dimension. “But there are countless millions of Catholics who have fallen away because they have become demoralized and excluded under John Paul II. His major and abiding legacy, I believe, is to be seen and felt in various forms of oppression and exclusion, trust in papal absolutism, and antagonistic divisions. Never have Catholics been so divided; never has there been so much contempt and aggression between Catholics. Never has the local Church suffered so much at the hands of the Vatican and papal center....”
Cornwell’s assessment of John Paul II, Karol the Great, gives way to Karol the Autocrat. The author’s language becomes harsh, exaggerated and sometimes flamboyant. Thus he writes of “countless millions” of Catholics driven away; never have Catholics been so divided; never has there been so much contempt and so on.
But Cornwell’s serious approach can be seen in his chapter on “The Sexual Abuse Scandal,” which provides a good analysis of this dreadful problem, its seriousness, and raises the question of the pope’s responsibility for the scandal. “Inevitably,” Cornwell writes, “the history of this period will note that the crisis erupted during John Paul’s watch, a period in which he presided over an increase in Rome’s authority and a decrease in diocesan authority. He should not escape censure for his failure to see the early signs of the crisis and to act appropriately. This past quarter century, the period of his pontificate, will be remembered above all for the priestly sexual abuse scandal and its far-reaching consequences.”
Cornwell finishes his work with a pertinent quotation from Cardinal Newman. Unfortunately, and this is a real flaw throughout his book, he gives no indication of the source for the quote: “John Henry Newman, the nineteenth-century Anglican convert, theologian, and cardinal, gave warning of the dangers of an autocratic, long–lived papacy. ‘It is anomaly,’ he wrote, ‘and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.’"
Excerpt from America Magazine
October 19, 2006 Feast of St. John Brebeuf and Companions