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Thursday, April 20, 2006

John Paul II, An Unbound Church And The New Inquisition

Julie, author of the Happy Catholic, has written a book review of Peggy Noonan's John Paul The Great: Remembering A Spiritual Father. Her post, Why Did So Many Love John Paul II?, is an excellent post that addresses that very question.

The tone of Julie's review is interesting. She leaves unsaid, but clearly implied, the proprietary feeling many had for John Paul II, including Peggy Noonan herself. The late Pontiff spoke with many, personally and intimately. He never talked at us or down to us, but rather, encouraged frank and open exchanges. John Paul II may have led the Catholic Church, but in his conversations with his flock, he wanted to be regarded as an equal.

Julie's review is excellent. Ever the chef that tempts, her review will encourage many of her readers to go out and buy Noonan's book. We encourage you to read her review, Why Did So Many Love John Paul II?

We left a comment when we read her post:

John Paul II was loved because he was an 'everyman.'

He wasn't distant and he wasn't removed. His manifestation of faith was centered in this world- and not the next. We understood that faith through his eyes was the same as the potential of faith through our own eyes. If we tried, we could be like him, in matters of faith. We could share the very same values, morals and beliefs. Imagine that- we could be like him.

He was of course, the Pope, and as such, endowed with institutuonal obligations and duties, but we never saw that. He was a humble man. He was never the CEO- has was ever the parish pastor. He didn't want to be regarded any other way.

We believed he was closer to us than to God- and that was a good thing. He was, one of us.

As 'one of us,' he had a past- and we liked that. With words and with his actions, it was his very human past that made him what he was.

He survived Nazism and Communism, up close and personal. Real life was no Ivory Tower or detached reality.

He saw beyond the church like no one before him. Because of him, Catholic parochialism was buried. He was respected and revered by Jews, Protestants and everyone else, because of the kind of man he was and not because of the position he held.

He didn't reach out because of his role as Pope. He reached out because of the kind of man he was.

He changed the Church.

In fact, we need to clarify and correct some of our extemporaneous remarks.

John Paul II didn't really change the Catholic Church. In fact, his real achievement was in letting the Church be what it was supposed to be, without being encumbered by political or agendized ideologies. The Pope that survived Nazism and Communism set the Church free. The lessons of Christ were to be true expressions of love. Under his watch, they became unconditional. They would not serve an agenda and they would not be be tempered.

True love, is of course, unconditional. When someone says, 'If you realy love me, you'll do this,' or 'If you really love me, you won't do that, you can be sure the love is not real, but rather, the words are a hollow expression of a self centered existence. True love is based and predicated on the acceptance of the individual, for who they are. When we read, 'The meek shall inherit the earth,' the message is directed as much to the strong as it is to the weak. The words, 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you, are directed as much to those who have the answers as they are to those who don't. John Paul II made that clear. Under his leadership, the church was unbound. There were mysteries, of course. When John Paul II went to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, or when he visited Auschwitz in his native Poland, it was never made clear for whom wept more- The Church or the Jews. Of course, it doesn't matter. Jews and Christians were especially blessed that day. Christians were proud that day. The humble priest from Krakow showed us what an unbound Church means.

In Oh, To Deny The Tangled Webs We Weave, we noted how religion impacted believers and how religious poseurs were antithetical to real belief.

Religious teachers teach students to accept and deal with the complexities of life. Students are taught how to make the right decisions and are given the tools to do just that. Radical, political and power hungry zealots teach students that life is black or white and decisions will be made for them. The frenzied rage is cultivated, directed at will by the radicals. The student submits him or herself willingly- not to God, but to the agenda of the radical teacher.
John Paul II didn't tell anyone how to live. Instead, he gave Catholics- and the rest of us- the tools we need to determine for ourselves the path we should follow. Those who oppose religion and faith often deliberately mischaracterize real religion with those who abuse religion. That deliberate deceit, designed to tar and feather all believers, is the equivalent of equating all physicians as barbarians, because of one Dr Jozef Mengele.

John Paul II took on a monumental task- he was going to stop the assault on the church. We wrote in Faith, Fundamentalism And The Fascism Of Deceit, that

β€œThe impression (much of it reinforced by a groundswell of anti religious agendas) is that true faith was replaced by creed and worship has been replaced by discipline. Love has been succeeded by habit and routine, the intimate expressions lost to predictability. The crises we face today are ignored because they impinge on the neat and orderly splendors of the past. Living faith has in reality become an heirloom and not a vibrant, colorful and relevant expression of who we are.” We went on to note that β€œToo much of religion has come to speak in the name of an imperious authority and less in the voice of real compassion. In fact, religion that loses touch with the ebb and flow of real life, is as AJ Heschel says, a 'false religion.' He also notes in 'God in Search of Man,' that it is God who reaches out to man with religion. We do not become closer to God through religion. Rather, God becomes closer to us.

The bar we face is a high one. God reaches out to us and we must know that and understand what that means.”

John Paul II understood what God reaching out to us meant. He announced clearly and to all that Christianity was not no 'false religion.' In fact, through word and deed, he showed that Christianity was compassionate and inclusive- far more inclusive than most of her critics. He made clear the relevance of Christianity and he went to great lengths to be an example of what it meant to be a Christian, in no uncertain terms. Those who would accuse him and the Church were forced to deal with an unpleasant reality. John Paul II came to represent all those who defended faith in God with a thundering clarity. His message was clear and unimpeachable. We wrote:

The inquisitions of today are no longer religious in origin. Pope John XXIII said at Auschwitz, 'We have crucified Him Again.' John Paul II called that evil place the 'Golgotha of the modern world.' The recognition of the evil that transpired, clearly enunciated by these two Popes, will insure that at least in the Christian world, such terrible events will not happen again.

The real inquisitors of today are those who preach and seek to 'finish the job' and seek new holocausts, with new victims. The real inquisitors of today are those that would withhold freedom from those less fortunate, and leave them to be devoured by the beasts of tyranny. Those with the most blood on their hands are those who support the call for more death and destruction and do so with a religious zeal, pretending all the while to do so in the name of 'peace' or 'love.'

The real inquisitors are those who who support an agenda of hate as opposed to John Paul II's agenda of faith. The real Inquisitors are those who deliberately mischaracterize faith and those who choose faith as a way of life.

John Paul II made those choices easily recognizable. He made it clear that within each of us, lies an untapped potential for good that was accessible and meaningful. It is there for the taking.