Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 04.05.05


The Pope: An Iron Legacy

Two million souls are slated to pass by the Pope's dead body as he lies in state awaiting burial at Saint Peter's Basilica. A billion Catholics are grieving and praying over the death of Pope John Paul II. One church leader called him "the greatest moral force on earth over the last twenty-five years."

For certain he was the most well-traveled Pope of all time.

During his tenure he visited over 100 countries, presumably to inspire Catholic populations and perhaps even claim some converts. You would have to think that conversions and producing more Catholics was pretty high on his agenda.

John Paul visited one Third World country after another, all writhing in the grip of grinding poverty and overpopulation. He stood before children who were brought into the world to face a life of hunger, disease, and early death.

This Pope looked into the gaunt faces of their parents and said that if they used birth control they were committing a sin against God.

He visited AIDS clinics in Africa where victims were virtually rotting away as their body's immune system was decimated and a smorgasbord of diseases ravaged them. He laid his hands on these people and proclaimed that the use of condoms was a sin against God.

Even when "one" of a married couple had the HIV virus he forbade the use of condoms, thereby condemning the uninfected partner to death and their unborn children as well. By this one pronouncement he condemned more people to death than a hundred 9/11's.

His "Council on the Family" even claimed that condoms would not prevent transmission of HIV.

Since the '60s all but the most fervent First World Catholics have ignored Papal demands forbidding birth control. Even the Catholic hierarchy has been clamoring for a relaxation of these strict tenets for the past twenty-five years.

This Pope would have none of it.

If he could not exert his authority on an educated population he would turn to those with no learning or hope and make sure they knew the hell they were suffering on earth was nothing compared to an afterlife of eternal damnation.

I wonder how many grieving Catholic women are trying to deal with their grief in addition to the prospect of a brighter future under different leadership. Women are less than men in this church. John Paul II has steadfastly ignored the tidal wave of opinion that says "maybe women should be treated as equals in our church."

The Anglican church, which is really "Catholic Lite," has ordained women. Catholic females are not allowed to answer the Call. He believed this because Christ chose only twelve men to be his apostles and no women. Despite hundreds of other biblical prescriptions that are not taken literally, this Pope not only said no to female ordination, he would not allow any discussion of the issue.

One of John Paul's most shining legacies would have to be the role he played in Poland in his support of "Solidarity," the union lead by Lech Walensa, that lead to the fall of communism in Poland. Too bad he absolutely and with no small amount of anger forbade "liberation theology" in places like San Salvador where priests were rallying the people in the name of the church to resist fascist regimes that ruled by death squad.

This Pope remonstrated the clergy, transferred them from rebellious cities to rural outbacks and pulled funding from their churches which resulted in their closure.

Finally, there was the matter of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston.

Law, as you may recall was found to have enabled pedophile priests by transferring them to other parishes after their perversions were discovered. He was also found to have lied to authorities about this. Instead of a censure from the Vatican he was called to Rome and given a prestigious position within the Church.

Pope John Paul's legacy must not be clouded by the grief of his passing. He fought modernity tooth and nail to preserve his narrow though certainly fervent faith in old school Christian dogma. Many Catholics hope that his successor will try and move the Church into this century.