Has there ever been a cause for more unreflective editorializing than the recent papal canonizations? If you clicked on nearly any commentary about the new saints in the past few days, you’ve likely been subjected to these kinds of insights:
"The joint canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II was a blatantly political balancing act by Pope Francis as he tried to appease warring conservative and liberal factions in the Church. Each faction holds its own sainted pontiff in unanimous and wholehearted esteem, while harboring deep suspicions about whether that other pope ever did anything worthwhile."
The New York Times has said it; therefore, it must be so.
Versions of this analysis have gushed from the commentariat like some sort of bilious fountain. With certain honorable exceptions, these pieces all make some of the same assumptions:I loved this line:
- The Church is divided between conservatives and liberals, who roughly align with their American political equivalents.
- Popes like John XXIII and John Paul II can best be understood as factional leaders of these warring ideological camps within the Church.
This understanding leaves little room for inconvenient facts, such as John XXIII’s traditional Italian piety or his endorsement of Latin as the universal language of the Roman Catholic Church. Neither does it take into account John Paul II’s innovative contributions to the Second Vatican Council, or his enthusiasm for inculturation and diversity.
- Canonizing saints is essentially a political endorsement of one party over another—a corollary to the foundational assumption that every action by the Church is basically about power.
Now, mocking the secular media for authoring uninformed pieces about the Catholic Church is like plucking the low-hanging fruit—an easy pleasure that yields immediate rewards. What should give Catholics pause is that many of us have—consciously or unconsciously—adopted this politicized, polemical vision of the Church.Read the whole thing here.