The legacy of John Paul II

The first “television pope” helped to defeat Communism and to inspire a new generation of Catholics. But this pope also ignored an epidemic of pedophilia while giving prominent attention to the vilification of God’s gay and lesbian children. We can only hope the next pope will be more compassionate.



In the past two years of his rule, John Paul II became obsessed with the advances made by gays and lesbians seeking equality throughout the world. He was greatly troubled that European countries began legally recognizing same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships and granting adoption rights to these couples. Even as he remained largely silent on the epidemic of child abuse among his U.S. clergy, Pope John Paul II spoke out frequently in response to advances in gay equality in America.John Paul II attempted to exert tremendous influence over public policy regarding gays and lesbians, especially in U.S. society, where he seemed to see the most danger and threat to the role of the church in daily life. He issued various directives to American clergy and American Catholic politicians in an attempt to prevent the GLBT community from gaining any recognition within society, culminating in his statement on same-sex unions issued in July 2003, in which he not only condemned gay marriage but used some of the most hostile, corrosive, outrageous, and un-Christian terms to describe this group of God’s children.During the American presidential campaign of 2004, we saw George W. Bush travel to the Vatican and, with hat in hand, ask the pope to have his bishops help him win election. True to form, the “red hats” of the American church chimed in shortly thereafter with a continuing babble of antigay rhetoric and pastoral pronouncements in an attempt to retain the antigay president—a clear violation of American laws that grant churches billions of dollars in tax-free privileges on the condition that they stay out of electoral politics.Obviously the pope considered the GLBT movement and its continuing push for full equality in the world more evil even than the war on Iraq. The pope admonished Bush for the war, but his displeasure ended there, at the audience. To this day, homophobia-driven theology continues to inundate the American and world church.In his 2005 speech to set the agenda for the year, same-sex marriage was at the top of the “hit list” for this pope and the church. John Paul II felt that the greatest threat to families was the equal protection of families that did not fit his idea of the biblical profile of marriage. Somehow that strict biblical definition managed to ignore all the polygamists, concubines, incestuous unions, arranged weddings for children, and other variations of biblical marriage that appear in the Christian Bible, many with God’s own sanction.The pope did mention in his 2005 agenda that the wealthy nations should help more in feeding the poor. Not much of an agenda for the vicar of Christ.For 26 years, the unyielding dogma of John Paul II presented an inhospitable atmosphere within the church and drove many of the faithful out onto the streets to find another spiritual home, while the church completely forgot that the original sin of Sodom was inhospitality.The immense healing and bringing together in unity of the world’s churches and communities was a missed opportunity that could have made this pope one of the greatest men to have ever sat in the chair of Saint Peter.We can only hope and pray that the next pope will be more enlightened by the Holy Spirit and will choose to steer a course away from such divisive ultraconservatism. We also pray that in the afterlife John Paul II will be enlightened with the truth of how wrong he was about the gay community and God.

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