Questioning the legacy of ‘People’s Pope’ John Paul II

On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II, a man hailed by many as “The People’s Pope,” passed away.

According to the BBC, a month after John Paul died, his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, started the process to have him entered into sainthood.

While it is taking longer than some people expected for Pope Benedict to approve a miracle that John Paul supposedly performed (which would allow John Paul to be beatified and placed one step away from sainthood), it seems to be an appropriate time to begin the necessary evaluation of the legacy that Pope John Paul II left behind.

During his tenure as the head of state of Vatican City, Pope John Paul II certainly did many admirable and praiseworthy deeds.

According to the BBC, he is often credited with contributing to the end of communist rule in Europe. His consistent disparagement of communism played a significant role in its widespread and overdue demise.

In March 2000, Pope John Paul II begged for forgiveness for some of the wrongdoings that the Catholic Church has been responsible for over its history, according to Christianity Today. Among other things, he apologized for the Crusades, the Inquisition, injustice toward women and the Vatican’s silence throughout the Holocaust.

The good things he did are certainly appreciated and applauded frequently, but some people seem to have forgotten some of the less desirable positions Pope John Paul II held and supported.

I don’t think it can be said he deserves the constant praise and admiration that is so generously awarded to him.

His unwavering position on contraceptives, even in the face of a seemingly abject crisis with a fast-spreading AIDS virus, has been responsible for the deaths, anguish and despair of millions of people in Africa. His position has had devastating and tragic effects on the lives of many people, and we mustn’t be allowed to forget that.

For someone who many people say worked tirelessly to bring people together, Pope John Paul II had some rather troubling and questionable things to say about the inclinations of homosexuals. In his 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons he wrote, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” He deliberately further separated a portion of the world’s population, not for something they did, but merely for their natural and congenital inclinations.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II made Saint Thomas More the “heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians.” According to Christianity.com, Thomas More burned people alive in England for having the courage to own a Bible in English. Awarding Thomas More this title is rather ironic. To give him any recognition is to distort history and make a mockery of what actually constitutes as virtuous or praiseworthy.

The things Pope John Paul II did while he was alive will be remembered for many years. While I certainly concede that he did many good things, I refuse to forget about the abominable and iniquitous positions he held and urged others to hold.

Before we hop on the bandwagon for “The People’s Pope,” we need to evaluate Pope John Paul II’s life and the things he did and determine whether he really deserved the legacy that his supporters are attempting to build for him. I don’t think he did.

Reach Austin at acyost@asu.edu


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