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John Paul II: Who Opposed His Canonization, and Why?

Jeffrey Bruno

Philippe Oswald - published on 04/29/14

No saint is perfect, but did John Paul II deserve to be a saint?

The main objection to the canonization of John Paul II came from his support for the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel (D. 2008).

Marciel led a double life whose secret side hid a combination of sexual escapades (he had three children with two women and engaged in homosexual relations with seminarians), the abuse of power, and embezzlement (including the snaring of inheritances), as shown by the investigation ordered by the successor of the Polish pope, Benedict XVI. Almost immediately after he was elected, Pope Benedict XVI sidelined Marcial Maciel, placing him under penance until his death. By contrast, Pope John Paul II had received Marcial Maciel in audience and blessed him on November 30, 2004 at a time when the charges against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ had breached the wall of silence from within the Vatican.

Even if the Pope was then in the final stages of the disease that killed him a few months later, it is clear that John Paul II was favorably impressed by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, which was apparently dynamic and thriving. He admired the foundation of Maciel, who was unmatched at publicizing himself while feigning the most accomplished piety and highest spirituality (going so far as to plagiarize books written by authentic spiritual leaders, such as the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer). Warned against the manipulations and poisoning which were common in his country under the Communist regime, the Polish pope distrusted charges against a prelate whose "works" seemed to meet all the criteria of the new evangelization: giving priority to the priesthood, piety, in-depth formation of seminarians, attachment to the beauty of the liturgy, doctrinal security, and investment in the education of elites, especially in Latin America without forgetting the poor, to whom some schools of the Legion of Christ were open.

Having personally had the opportunity to visit some of the Legion’s schools in Mexico in the 1990s, I can testify that appearances really "put on a good show." The residents and young priests who lived out a schedule strictly divided between work, prayer, and relaxation time showed an enthusiasm and joie de vivre rare on this side of the Atlantic, even in Catholic institutions.

Responding to this objection of John Paul II’s support for Father Maciel, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, postulator for the cause of Karol Wojtyla’s canonization, confirmed during an April 22 press conference at the Vatican that further investigation had been conducted on his life and work had shown "no personal involvement of John Paul II" in the affairs of the Legion of Christ. In other words, if there was misconduct by omission, the Pope was not an accomplice to the founder of the Legionaries of Christ nor was he "bought" by him (as were prelates of the Vatican); and he would have totally shared in the indignation of his friend and successor Benedict XVI if he had been shown the truth of the accusations against Marcial Maciel, which the prefect of the Congregation of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, was already investigating. But the investigation would come to an end only in 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion of Christ by ordering a comprehensive reform of the congregation and appointing a papal delegate to supervise it.

This did not prevent Benedict XVI from starting his predecessor’s canonization process without waiting for the normal period of five years after his death, as the "vox populi" matched his own conviction of the holiness of John Paul II, whose main collaborator he was for nearly twenty-five years.

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