April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul IIís legacy of paradox

VATICAN
Financial Times

By Robert Graham and Tony Barber
Published: April 2 2005 22:17 | Last updated: April 2 2005 22:17

Pope John Paul II, who died at the age of 84, will be remembered above all else for his efforts to reinvigorate the Catholic Church and for his role in the fall of the Soviet empire - an achievement that ushered in a new era of religious and political freedom. Yet the exceptionally long pontificate of this, the first Polish pope, will also go down in history as a period of paradox.

It began with the Vatican's contribution to the demise of the totalitarian regimes of Communist Europe but it ended with division in the Church as a revered but authoritarian pope refused to tackle what critics saw as crucial issues of reform. The deep conservatism of the man who had fought so hard for glasnost - openness - in the Soviet Union meant he was having none of it in his own Church.

Perhaps his triumphs and failings showed different aspects of one of John Paul's strongest characteristics: his courage. It was this physical and moral courage, which was never in doubt, that gave him such stature on the international stage. ...

Tensions over sexual morality were made worse in 2002, when more than 60 Catholic priests in the US became the subject of child sex abuse investigations. The US Church paid millions of dollars in damages to victims, and Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston, resigned in disgrace over the subsequent handling of the scandal - though he was later appointed to head a basilica in Rome.

John Paul II condemned the molesting of children as an "appalling sin in the eyes of God". He stated that there was no place in the Church for those who would harm children. Yet there were many who felt his words needed to be backed by tougher action.

Posted by kshaw at April 2, 2005 05:32 PM