Pope John Paul II: Doubts About a Beatification

Pope John Paul II: Doubts About a Beatification presents to us in three chapters some of the main reasons that pose obstacles to the beatification of John Paul II.

Preface of Bishop Fellay, SSPX Superior General

On April 2, 2005, at the end of one of the longest pontificates in history, Karol Wojtyla died; he had been elected pope on October 16, 1978, and had taken the name of John Paul II. Besides its exceptional duration -more than a quarter of a century- this pontificate proved also to be uncommonly substantial. John Paul gave thousands of speeches, published fourteen encyclicals and hundreds of other papal documents, visited 130 nations throughout the world, gave almost three thousand public or private audiences, during which he received around twenty million persons, met with ten thousand bishops from all over the world during his ad limina meetings, granted more than a thousand audiences with individual political or diplomatic figures, etc.

This list, which could easily be extended, shows the difficulty of pronouncing a serene, nuanced judgment on Karol Wojtyla, even one limited to the period of his pontificate. How can one evaluate its true value when many of his acts and decisions have not yet displayed their consequences in history? When many archives are still not accessible to researchers, even ecclesiastics? For example, would not his life as a priest and then a bishop have been illuminated by consulting the secret archives of post-war Poland? But these were not accessible until the spring of 2007, precisely when the diocesan process was being completed, the only competent forum in which to receive testimonies that would then serve as documentation for the Roman process.

This one example shows that a balance sheet drawn up today will necessarily leave in obscurity large swaths of that lifetime. Therefore it was not without good reason that the Church in her wisdom had required a certain delay (fifty years, according to Canon 2101 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law) between the death of a person and the beginning of the discussion about the heroicity of his virtues, which allowed for the necessary historical distance. However, one month after the death of John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the start of his predecessor's beatification process.

Less than two years were deemed sufficient to conclude the diocesan process, and two more years to raise Karol Wojtyla to the rank of "Venerable": on December 19, 2009, indeed, Benedict XVI signed the decree recognizing the heroicity of the-virtues of Karol Wojtyla, opening wide the way to a beatification, scheduled for May 1, 2011. The haste surrounding this beatification is regrettable, not only with regard to the judgment that history will be able to pass on this pontificate.

Most importantly it results in renouncing the serious inquiries incumbent on the Catholic conscience, precisely on the subject of the virtues that define Christian life, namely the supernatural, theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. With respect to the First Commandment of God, for example, how are we to evaluate the gestures of a pope who, by his remarks and by kissing the Koran, seems to raise it to the status of the Word of God? Or who begs John the Baptist to protect Islam? Who is pleased to have participated actively in animist worship in the sacred forests of Togo? A few decades ago, according to the norms of ecclesiastical law, such gestures would have been enough to cast the suspicion of heresy on the person who had made them. And today they have supposedly become, as if by magic, signs of the virtue of faith practiced to a heroic degree?

The pontificate of John Paul II and the countless innovations that have marked it -from the interreligious meeting in Assisi to the repeated requests for pardon, not to mention the first visit of a pope to a synagogue- cannot but raise serious questions for the Catholic conscience, questions that only become more acute when, through a beatification, such practices are held up as an example for the Christian people.

Following Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, whose judgments concerning Pope John Paul II are public, the Society of St. Pius X has decided that it cannot remain silent about such questions. Therefore at the proper time I asked Fr. Patrick de La Rocque to compose a document that would be submitted to the ecclesiastical authorities in charge of the diocesan process: indeed, it was up to that authority to gather all favorable and unfavorable testimonies concerning the reputation for holiness of John Paul II. That document, which makes up the bulk of the present book, was sent according to the legal norms to the various individuals responsible for the diocesan process, so as to be included among the items in the dossier and examined with the same care as the others. Although it arrived on time at the competent offices, our envelope was mysteriously set aside, only to be opened the day after the diocesan process closed: in other words, too late to be taken into consideration. Thus it will not figure at all among the tens of thousands of pages of testimonies solemnly submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Brought by another venue to the attention of the Roman tribunals, our questions unfortunately received no response, quite the contrary: on December 19, 2009, the Holy See declared the heroicity of the late pope 's virtues. Should we then remain silent?

In keeping with the recommendation of the Apostle, "Be instant in season and out of season" (II Tim. 4:2), we decided to submit the same manuscript to our Roman interlocutors within the framework of the doctrinal talks between the Society of St. Pius X and the Holy See, furthermore informing them of our intention to publish it. Whether by a scheduling coincidence or not, the world learned several days later about the provisional halting of the beatification process for lack of sufficient evidence attesting to the "miracle" that supposedly had been obtained through the intercession of John Paul II. However, this same "miracle" was finally recognized several months later, and the beatification ceremony was scheduled for May 1, 2011.

These pages therefore were once again of great current interest. And so I asked that they be published. In his study, the author might have selected from among many astonishing, troubling, or even scandalous facts that have adorned this pontificate. Was it fitting and right for a Catholic pope to receive the sacred ashes of Shiva? To go pray in the Jewish manner at the Wailing Wall? To have the Epistle read in his presence by a bare-breasted woman? So many facts could have been highlighted which, at the very least, cast a shadow on that pontificate and sow confusion in every truly Catholic soul.

These pages, however, will not remain on the merely factual level but will bring us to the heart of the problem by explaining what was the essential point of the pontificate and the axis around which it revolved: the "humanism" of John Paul II, his avowed presuppositions and their inevitable consequences, the "humanism" which was most characteristically illustrated by the interreligious meeting at Assisi in 1986. And although Fr. de La Rocque presents to us in three separate chapters some of the main reasons that pose obstacles to the beatification of John Paul II, his analysis shows the fundamental unity of Karol Wojtyla's thought and action; unfortunately, we must acknowledge that it is quite difficult to prove their compatibility with Catholic Tradition. At an hour when the Apostolic See prepares to repeat the scandalous gesture made by John Paul II in Assisi in 1986, the following lines, alas, become doubly relevant.

May these pages, nevertheless, which express such serious questions, enlighten souls of good will and cause the Catholic Faith to shine in the sight of many in all its splendor, power, and sweetness.

Menzingen, March 25, 2011
The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
20th anniversary of the entrance of His Excellency Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre into his eternal reward

+ Bernard Fellay,
Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X

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