Title: Obituary: Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) Credit: Craig Young Features Wednesday 6th April 2005 - 12:00pm1112745600 Article: 685 Rights
Pope John Paul II ruled the Roman Catholic Church for a quarter-century. He was a strident foe of LGBT rights, feminism, contraception, abortion rights and voluntary euthanasia, as well as Latin American liberation theology. On the positive side though, he did stand up for indigenous people's rights and opposed US Middle East military policies. However, his pontificate is also likely to be remembered for its neglect of the scandal of widespread clergy paedophilia within his denomination, and opposition to accountability toward lay victims of that abuse. Over the last two centuries, the Papacy and Western world have had an ambivalent relationship. As a reaction to Napoleonic imperialism, the Papacy retreated into backward, anti-democratic illiberalism for most of the nineteenth century. In Mirai Vos (1832), Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) stated as much within that encyclical, an official statement of church doctrine. Pius IX (1846-78) was no different, and sacrificed any possible opportunity for papal influence in Italy after its final consolidation in 1871. In 1864, he issued Quanta Curia, which condemned rationalism, liberal Catholicism, general liberalism, materialism, socialism and agnosticism. In 1870, Pius IX declared himself 'infallible' and imposed Thomas Aquinas' twelfth-century prescientific 'natural law' dogma as official church philosophy. Gradually, the Papacy was reconciled with the Italian state, although this didn't imply wholesale acceptance of the modern world. There were some progressive developments. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) endorsed central government responsibility for health, education and social welfare services in Rerum Novarum, and enhanced Catholic working-class adherence to the church within Britain and the United States. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was severely compromised during the era of Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italian fascism and the Second World War. During the twenties and thirties, Pius XI (1922-1939) and Pius XII (1939-1958) signed concordats with Italy (1929) and Germany (1933), although Pius XI strongly criticised Nazi 'disability cleansing' policies in Mit Brennender Sorge (1937). Against this, Quadragesimo Anno (1931) encouraged Italian lay Catholic participation in Mussolini's fascist Italian society. Shamefully, Pius XII remained silent during the Nazi Holocaust and genocide of six million Jews, one million Sinti/Romani (gypsies) and others. Fortunately, Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) convened Vatican II, which finally accepted limited liberal reform and partial democratisation. Sadly, Pope Paul VI (1963-1977) reimposed church dogma related to anti-contraceptive/abortion orthodoxy in Humanae Vitae (1967). Under Pope John Paul II, the Polish Pope and Catholic hierarchy attacked feminism, lesbian/gay and reproductive rights, and Latin American liberation theology. During his pontificate, John Paul II released Veritatis Splendor (1993) and Evangelium Vitae (1995), which reiterated conservative doctrinal positions on the above. In New Zealand, Catholics became divided along ideological lines. On the one hand, Christchurch Catholic Workers commune stood up for peace and against hardcore free-market economic policies during the nineties. On the dark side, Bernard Moran repeatedly attacked Filipino and Latin American Catholic solidarity groups, and became a mainstay of Auckland anti-abortion and antigay politics during the last two decades. At the moment, though, Catholic adherence is less important than class background. The Catholic hierarchy might have opposed civil unions, but Clem Simich (National, Tamaki) and Bill English (National,Clutha-Southland) demonstrate the breadth of internal church opinion over LGBT issues. John Paul II has left a divided church. It is to be hoped that its better clergy and laity may be able to reassert obstructed social justice initiatives that occurred during his flawed pontificate. Given that official church dogma discourages safe sex and partner responsibility, we have no reason to mourn his passing. Recommended Reading: Pauline Manning: Take Back the Church: Resisting Papal and Religious Conservatism: New York: Free Books: 2003. Karl von Aretin: The Papacy in the Modern World: London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson: 1970. Craig Young - 6th April 2005    
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