Requiem for a Nightmare
Julian Baggini holds back the tears for John Paul II
Friends, Roman Catholics, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury the Pope, not chastise him. The good famed men do lives after them, the evil is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with John Paul II. John Paul created nearly 500 saints, more than any of his predecessors.
One of those was Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, who backed Franco in Spain's civil war, said Hitler would save Christianity from the menace of communism and founded Opus Dei, many of whose senior officials served Franco's regime. But Blair says he was "revered across people of all faiths and none", and Blair is an honourable man.
He also canonised Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, who was convicted of Nazi collaboration while Bishop of Zagreb in 1941. His guilt was not beyond reasonable doubt, but for John Paul it wasn't even at issue. Yet Bush says he was "a champion of human freedom", and Bush is an honourable man.
So too he canonised Padre Pio, who was suspected of sleeping with his parishioners and faking stigmata in his hands and feet. Again, his guilt was not beyond reasonable doubt, but his saintliness was at least as dubious. But Rowan Williams says John Paul was "a leader of manifest holiness", and the archbishop of Canterbury is an honourable man.
John Paul said abortion was an "abominable crime", and that even if it is the only way to save the life of a pregnant woman who contracts cancer, it should not be offered. He also said there should be "no hesitation" in pointing out "that cancer can be the result of people's behaviour including certain sexual behaviour." But Michael Howard says he was "a very great spiritual leader", and Howard is an honourable man.
His Pontifical Council for the Family was condemned by the World Health Organisation for claiming the HIV virus can pass through condoms, hampering the fight against Aids in subSaharan Africa. But Thatcher says the Pope was "a valiant fighter for the truth", and Thatcher is an honourable woman.
He told India's bishops to convert Hindus, since Christ is the way, the truth and the life. His plea offended millions of Indians who said he had interfered in their country's affairs. Yet Cormac MurphyO'Connor says that "he stood for something very profound," and the cardinal is an honourable man.
In his encyclical Evangelium vitae, he again argued his hard line against birth control, claiming that it did not help the poor, something countless development agencies do not accept. Yet Jacques Chirac says he was "an enlightened and inspired priest", and Chirac is an honourable man.
Child sex abuse scandals have blighted his church, leaving many of his priests and bishops disgraced. He congratulated Father Marcial Macierl, founder of the order the Legion of Christ, for his "intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry", while Maciel and others in his order stood accused of child abuse, charges the Vatican still refuses to confirm it is even investigating. Yet Kofi Annan says he was "a strong force for critical selfevaluation by the Church itself", and Annan is an honourable man.
His church talked of an "ideology of evil" when the European Parliament moved to recognise homosexual unions. Yet Billy Graham says he was "unquestionably the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years", and the reverend is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what tributes speak, but here I am to say what I do know. Many did oppose him once, not without cause: What cause leads them then, to mourn for him? O judgement! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason. Bear with me our minds are in the coffin there with John Paul, and we must pause till they come back to us.