John L. Allen, Jr., NCR's senior correspondent, discusses Blessed John Paul II's legacy.
ROME --tMassive events such as the beatification of Pope John Paul II on Sunday, which is now estimated to have drawn up to a million and a half people to Rome, are in one sense mosaics composed of countless individual experiences.
tHere are three “reporter’s notebook”-style vignettes from the sidelines of the beatification. They don’t add up to a grand storyline, but they do provide a few bits of flavor from what was a remarkable week in Rome.
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Like most other Americans, I was stunned last night of hearing of the killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. special forces in Pakistan. I think most Americans like myself had not given much thought to bin Laden and had accepted that he might never be captured or killed. I have some quick thoughts on this major development.
One is that if the death of bin Laden helps to lessen the threat of future terrorist attacks such as 9/11 that his death will serve a purpose in saving lives.
Second, I don’t believe at the same time that there should be euphoria over bin Laden’s death because he and Al Qaeda only represent the symptoms of what causes terrorism. The causes as is being exemplified in the political rebellions in the Middle East have to do with poverty, modernization, rising expectations, and, at the same time, the lack of political self-determination for many especially in the Third World.
Last night, when I awoke to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. Special Forces, I was stunned by the fact that celebrations had broken out. They made me feel extremely uneasy. The celebrations are certainly understandable in the light of 9/11, but it seems ungodly to celebrate someone’s death, someone’s killing - even if they have done horrible things in their lifetime.
I am reminded of my recent interview with Rabbi Capers Funnye when we were discussing the Exodus story. He said that the Israelites initially rejoiced when Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea. But God rebuked them, saying that they should not rejoice in the deaths of their enemies. And of course, I am reminded of Jesus who told us to “love our enemies.”
I see this killing as an act of war in the U.S. struggle against Al Qaida. But it raises the timeless question of retribution: an “eye for an eye.” This is an attitude that fuels conflicts that never seem to end, like the strife in Northern Ireland and the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
There has been considerable buzz in the Catholic blogosphere in the past couple days since Justice Anne Burke, former Chairperson of the U.S. Bishops' National Review Board on sex abuse wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune (and a similar piece in U.S. Catholic) in which she laments that "little has changed" since 2002 in the child abuse mess.
Does this otherwise thought-provoking Washington Post review of a photography exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art include ignorant anti-Catholic sneers? Absolutely.
The Church, says critic James Edward Kaufman, “Ignored the AIDS crisis that inspired the work.” That is simply false, as any AIDS victim who received care at the New York Archdiocese’s St. Vincent’s Hospital or from Catholic religious orders in the early to mid-1980s could attest. Kaufman’s tone, meanwhile, reveals someone whose rage at the Church runs deep.
The latter is fair enough. Many of us are angry with the Church’s attitude toward gays. That anger, however, doesn’t absolve those of us who write for publication from getting the facts right.
Swisse theologian Hans Kung speaks out on the beatification of now Blessed John Paul II.
In an interview last weekend with German daily the Frankfurter Rundschau , Küng says John Paul II does not merit being presented to the faithful as an example. He says: “John Paul II is universally praised as someone who fought for peace and human rights. But his preaching to the outside world was in total contrast with the way he ran the church from inside, with an authoritarian pontificate which suppressed the rights of both women and theologians.”
When I was about eight, my father said at the dinner table he'd had a drink with a friend after work to celebrate the death of Stalin. He said, "It's a terrible thing to celebrate a man's death."
I don't think there was any more table conversation about Stalin. But the comment stayed in my mind, and it surfaces on days like today when the media report crowds at the White House in the middle of the night, cheering and singing "God Bless America," jubilant at the death of Osama bin Laden.
"On This Day, O Beautiful Mother" was one of my favorite May hymns when I was a child. At Guardian Angel in the early '50s, we sang the first stanza only.
We sang the first two stanzas of "'Tis the Month of Our Mother." I loved the chorus: All hail! to dear Mary, the guardian of our way, To the fairest of Queens, Be the fairest of seasons, sweet May!