ROME -- Pope John Paul II reigned for almost 27 years, and during that time he was often a sign of contradiction -- a charismatic and beloved figure around the world who also stirred strong opposition in several different camps, including church reformers, social progressives, and Catholic traditionalists.
The May 1 beatification of the late pope seems to be generating a similar range of reactions. While critics object to both the speed of the beatification and what some see as the political agenda underlying it, Rome is preparing for a tidal wave of devotees, a host of books and TV programs are celebrating the life and legacy of John Paul II, and new polling suggests that the late pontiff, six years after his death, remains remarkably popular at the grassroots.
Many of those objecting to the beatification tend to put special emphasis on a perceived failure by the Vatican under John Paul II to respond adequately to the Catholic sexual abuse crisis. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd yesterday put the argument in typically blunt fashion: “How can you be a saint if you fail to protect innocent children?”