Does merely being a "good person" make one a saint? Can we separate the individual lives of popes from their pontificate when assessing their practice of heroic virtue?
Much has been written on the occasion of the alleged canonizations of the popes of the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII who initiated it, and John Paul II who implemented it. On this topic, here are some relevant extracts from an editorial of Fr. Christian Bouchacourt, District Superior of the South America District.
John XXIII was deeply liberal and abhorred any act of firmness, and this prompted him to put his trust in people who had been condemned for Modernism by his illustrious predecessor. It is interesting to read the judgment about him emitted by the friends of “good Pope John.” Fr. Yves Congar, in My Journal of the Council, presents the witness of Pastor Roger Schutz, founder of the Taize community.
Schutz related to me, truly with much discretion, the audience he had had with John XXIII on the eve of or the day after his coronation, thanks to Cardinal Gerlier. The pope had said to him things quite inverosimil [improbable], and even, as Schutz said to me, rather formally heretical. For example: the Catholic Church does not have the whole truth; we need to search together… I believe the the important leaders of the Curia have quickly found out that, with John XXIII and his project of the Council, one could undergo the strangest adventure, and that it was needed to establish guardrails, to quickly take over the control and limit the damage."
Congar himself had a revealing judgment of the pope:
The pope is no theologian; he has intuitions. He would rather see an enemy in a theologian… He has hardly any defense and nobody to defend him. He is receiving assaults from all corners, and yields something for the sake of peace. He can hardly say no."
The entire drama of John XXIII’s pontificate lies in these words. God knows whether Fr. Congar himself and the progressive wing profited by this situation!
As to John Paul II… recall the stunning exclamation he made in March 21, 2000 during his sermon in the Holy Land “Let John the Baptist protect Islam and the Jordanian people”, the kissing of the Koran on May 14, 1999. How could he tell young Moslems on August 9, 1985 that both Catholics and Moslems “believe in the same God”, in 1980 in Germany when he uttered these words: “I am coming to you in order to receive the spiritual heritage of Martin Luther, I am coming as a pilgrim”?
You might object that the personal lives of John XXIII and John Paul II were exemplary. This is quite probable… But, it is not Giovanni Roncalli or Karol Wojtyla who is honored here but clearly John XXIII and John Paul II, both popes of the Church.
What would you say of a father of family who would be most pious, give alms, and devoted to the care of the needy, and yet, would neglect the education of his children, disinterest himself of whom they mix with, would be always away from home, letting anyone come in with no care for the good of the family? Could this father be given as a model? No! He would have neglected his duties of fatherhood.
Likewise for John XXIII who allowed the modernist enemy penetrate the Church with the Council, and for John Paul II who imposed deleterious reforms and threatened the faith of many in words and deeds. When the Church canonizes a Sovereign Pontiff, she does not bring only the private person to the public veneration but the pope himself, the visible head of the Church, the guardian and defender of the Catholic Faith.