Daily Beast: Let's Look at the 'Seedy Side of Sainthood'

April 17th, 2014 3:06 PM

Promising a look at the "seedy side of sainthood," Daily Beast Vatican correspondent Barbie Latza Nadeau hyped the concerns of "critics [who] say the two popes were pushed through to sainthood without a thorough vetting."

Latza Nadeau's story comes 10 days before the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II and, perhaps more importantly, on Holy Thursday, arguably a stick in the eye for devout Catholics during Holy Week.

There's a "feeling that it is just a little bit too soon to elevate John Paul II to sainthood [that] has been echoed by many Catholics who prefer a longer post mortem waiting period to make sure the potential saint’s earthly record holds up," Latza Nadeau going on to attack the late Polish pontiff for "a quite appalling report card" when it came to "the Church's child sex abuse scandal":

John Paul II will be the fastest tracked saint in the history of Catholic saint-making, beating out Mother Theresa, who previously held the record by just 15 days. When he died in April 2005, cheers erupted calling for “santo subito” or “sainthood immediately,” but few actually thought it would be—or should be—this fast. 

Loved as he was for his charisma and his role in the fall of communism, John Paul II actually has a quite appalling report card on his handling of the Church’s child sex abuse scandal, which mushroomed during his 27-year pontificate. Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says it is hurtful for victims that he is being made a saint so soon. “Little can be done by Catholic officials to erase the pain of hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded men, women and children who have been sexually assaulted by clergy,” she says. “But the church hierarchy can avoid rubbing more salt into these wounds by slowing down their hasty drive to confer sainthood on the pontiff under whose reign most of the countless, widely-documented clergy sex crimes and cover-ups took place.”

In many ways, the decision to rush John Paul II’s sainthood is not exactly a Francis decision. “In a sense, Francis inherited the sainthood cause of John Paul II. For most Catholics, his canonization was a foregone conclusion and is not going to be seen as a Pope Francis initiative,” says John Thavis, Vatican specialist and author of The Vatican Diaries. “In fact, had Francis intervened to delay or stop the canonization because of criticism of John Paul’s record on sex abuse, it would have been seen by many as unforgivable meddling, and an undoing of John Paul’s legacy.”

Latza Nadeau closed her article by hinting that there was just too good a monetary incentive for the canonization of both pontiffs, after briefly hinting that John Paul II indirectly made it easier for his own canonization by abolishing the office of devil's advocate (emphasis mine):

In many ways, John Paul II laid the groundwork for his fast track to sainthood back in 1983 when he dismissed the office of the advocatus diabolus, or devil’s advocate. Until then, all causes for saints had to be scrutinized by a canon lawyer, called the Promoter Fidei, who studied each saint’s worthiness. John Paul, who annointed [sic] more saints than all of his predecessors combined with 1,338 beautification [sic] and 482 canonizations, would not likely have made the cut based on his record on the child abuse scandal. But just because Francis is following through with what his predecessors started, it doesn’t mean he isn’t putting his own mark on it. “The Vatican does, however, face a public relations challenge here. On one hand, the Vatican has underlined that canonizing a pope should not be seen as an endorsement of every decision made by that pope,” says Thavis. “In other words, canonization is supposed to be about personal holiness, not papal performance. But that is precisely how many people view it.”

Controversy aside, the buzz in Rome and in the virtual world is palpable leading up to the big day. There is a saint-making app, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed called @2popesaints dedicated to the event. There is even a musical based on John Paul II’s journey to sainthood that will open in Rome next week to help pilgrims bide the time between Easter and popapalooza.

Most of Rome’s midrange and cheap hotel rooms and convent B&B’s have been booked for months. The National Federation of Craftsmen estimates a 10 percent boost in business for small shops selling religious tokens during the 16-day period that begins with Holy Week and encompasses both Easter and the double Canonization. Rome’s two airports and taxi services also expect a bump in business, with more than a dozen charter flights dedicated to pilgrims from all over the world expected for the canonization alone. “Many businesses will make a year’s worth of profit during this period,” says Giovanna Marchese Bellaroto, head of the National Federation of Craftsmen.

The double canonization may not be good for some Catholics, but no one can argue that it is not good for business.