Sunday, April 03, 2005

Now that the Pope has finally passed, it seems the debate over his legacy has officially begun. The two camps: supporters who admire the leadership he provided for both the anti-Communist movement in Eastern Europe and, more recently, the anti-war movement in Iraq; and detractors who refuse to forgive not only his handling of the Church's child-abuse crisis, but also his firm positions against abortion, contraception, and homosexuality.

For those like myself who find each side compelling, I offer the following passage from the Boston Globe:
John Paul's papacy was historic from the start: with his election, on Oct. 16, 1978, Karol Jozef Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope in 455 years...

A survivor of both Nazism and communism in his native Poland, he was a forceful actor in many controversial issues both within and outside the church. He staunchly opposed abortion, capital punishment, and war, notably the US-led invasion of Iraq; he refused even to allow discussion of the ordination of women and criticized steps toward governmental recognition of same-sex relationships in parts of North America and Western Europe.

As the passage implies, John Paul was remarkably consistent when it came to affirming an absolute value for all human life. You can debate the particular ways in which he affirmed that value, or whether believing so absolutely in life might not do more harm than good. But all sides, I believe, need to bear in mind here that what is beyond debate is the integrity with which John Paul committed himself to his specific moral vision.

Update: Originally I'd planned a follow-up post today on how John Paul both created and lived out the pro-life moral ideal which Bush and DeLay so often cite (Shiavo, homosexual marriage) but so frequently fail to meet (Iraq, capital punishment). However, it seems Amy Sullivan already beat me to it, so I'd just recommend reading her article in Salon instead.


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