December 6, 2005

Don’t make John Paul saint: dissident theologians

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Dissident theologians opposed to
the beatification of Pope John Paul have issued an appeal
urging Catholics critical of the late pope to tell the Vatican
if they also think he should not be made a saint.

The 11 Catholic theologians said Church officials who are
reviewing John Paul's life and pontificate should also consider
the "negative evaluation" liberal critics have of the nearly
27-year-old papacy that ended when John Paul died in April.

The Rome diocese has opened a beatification cause for the
Pope. Church officials have asked all Catholics to come forward
with personal experiences or evidence of possible miracles that
could support a reputation for holiness.

In their appeal, which received wide play in major Italian
newspapers on Tuesday, the theologians from Italy, Spain,
Austria and Latin America said those judging the case should
also take into account "negative" aspects of John Paul's

One of the best-known signatories was Jose Maria Castillo,
a Jesuit professor who has taught theology at the University of
Granada. Another was Italian theologian Giovanni Franzoni.

"We invite such persons (critical of the late pope) to
overcome their shyness and timidity and formally express, with
gospel freedom, facts which according to their consciences and
convictions should be an obstacle to beatification," they


While the theologians acknowledged John Paul's papacy had
"positive aspects," their seven-point appeal included criticism
of his rigidly conservative stand on issues such as
contraception, limitations on the role of women, and of
scandals in the Church.

It included the sexual abuse scandal that swept the United
States in 2002, when it was discovered that priests who had
molested children were moved from parish to parish instead of
being defrocked or turned over to authorities.

The appeal criticized what it called a lack of control over
some of the Vatican's "murky financial maneuvers," specifically
naming the Holy See's relations with Italy's Banco Ambrosiano,
which went bankrupt in 1982.

Italian magistrates at the time said the Vatican Bank,
which had a small stake in the Ambrosiano, bore some
responsibility for the $1.3 billion in bad debts. The Vatican
denied wrongdoing but paid $250 million to creditors in what it
called a goodwill gesture.

The theologians said the Church's saint makers should also
consider the "repression and alienation" inflicted on some
theologians by John Paul, a reference to his moves to
discipline promoters of Latin America's "Liberation Theology,"
which he felt was too close to Marxist social analysis as a way
of helping the continent's poor.

Last May, Pope Benedict put his predecessor on the fast
track to possible sainthood by dispensing with Church rules
that impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate's
death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can even

One miracle is required after John Paul's death for the
cause to move on to beatification, the last step before
sainthood. The miracle must be the result of prayers asking the
dead pope to intercede with God.

Another miracle would be necessary between beatification
and eventual sainthood. Miracles are usually a physical healing
which doctors are at a loss to explain.