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Pope John Paul II

The late pope is set to be beatified on May 1st 2011. This will mark the quickest beatification of a person following their passing in history and the first time a pope has been beatified by his immediate successor.

I think its great. He was a great man and he did great things. I believe he was a force for good in the world, whatever people may say about him and the church as a whole. As a catholic I have two worldly leaders at any given time. My president and the pope, one for temporal matter and another for the spiritual. Pope John Paul II was pope for a very long time, most of my life. Unlike our president, who changes every 10 years at the very most typically no more than 8, the pope can be pope for a long time.

Upon his passing I got to witness a singular event. The election of a new leader for my church. A very complicated and serious matter indeed. As a person extremely interested in history, and one who went to school for it, the process for picking a new pope is endlessly fascinating to me and if I’m not much mistaken it represents one of the oldest continual governments in the world, something which cannot be understated.

One of the late popes greatest failures was of course his handling of the church sex abuse scandal. While its important to note that it really doesn’t represent a very extraordinary number of cases in its own right (a child is far more likely to be abused by a public school employee than a priest) it was a terrible, unspeakable tragedy. He was criticized heavily for his focus on the rights of the priests, I was very upset about that at the time, but we have to remember the mans life.

He lived and grew up in communist Poland. Behind the iron curtain a great deal of criminal accusations were trumped up and false. Stunning abuses of power at every turn. Persecution of clergy was commonplace and so in retrospect I can understand why he would be concerned about the rights of the accused first and foremost. I think we even got a little too carried away with the presumption of guilt and proverbial blood lust during the scandal.

Beatification is not, however, a ‘scorecard’ on his administration of the church. Its an evaluation of how saintly a life one led. He currently has one miracle attributed to him, a nun who has recovered from parkinsons. The church has found that there is not scientific explanation for her recovery and thus it is a miracle. Of course that is kind of the definition, we cannot even begin to explain it.

I truly believe in miracles, whether or not you do, that’s your business. I think we will always have that which cannot be explained, to assume everything will one day be explainable is, to me, very conceited. I believe that God exists and fired the shot heard ’round the universe, that is, the big bang (interestingly enough a theory that was first proposed by a catholic priest, but that’s another post). If God exists and he started the ball rolling, than certainly he has a degree of control, as to whether God is omniscient… well who knows.

Omniscience is a word made up by humans. To say that our definition would have to match with the reality of the matter should we ever find out is ridiculous. Humans have free will, that is I can do whatever I want. If we are as God made us than I have to assume the unpredictability might be something even God can’t foresee. After all a maker can almost always design a machine capable of surprising him if the maker tries hard enough, anyone who has ever taken their car to a mechanic knows that.

So aside from all of my side bars, John Paul II is on the fast track to sainthood. As I said I think he was and is a tremendous force for good in the world and I look forward to the day he becomes Saint John Paul.

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