Friday, May 30, 2014

Statement of the Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII about the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II

This statement from this association of progressive Spanish theologians was originally published on Redes Cristianas.

The Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII offers in this statement some reflections on the canonization of popes John XXIII and John Paul II, having as criteria following Jesus, liberating praxis, and church reform.

1. The canonization of a pope is not just of an individual but one must take into account his work, his results and impact as pope, the model of church and ministry he has embodied, as well as his commitment to the liberation of the excluded. You cannot disassociate the person from the role he has performed.

2. We believe that canonizing recent popes is imprudent since compromising documents in secret archives today may come out in the future, it usually generates a personality cult which has marked the popes, and it  leads easily to self-legitimation of the papacy and sanctifying it to remove it from criticism both by believers and believing communities as well as the secular sectors.

3. In the case of the recent canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II, two contradictory models of of pope, papacy, and church have been recognized as exemplary: the reformer and the counter-reformer, that of dialogue and that of condemnation, respect for diversity and critical thinking and imposition of singlemindedness and condemnation of dissidence. The one that affirms the bishops as "vicars and ambassadors of Christ, [who] govern the particular churches entrusted to them" (LG 27) and places the bishop of Rome at the head of the apostolic college, and the one that changes the pope into a universal bishop again and the rest of the bishops into merely his vicars. The path of both models does not allow them to be equated, much less taken as equally valid.

4. The double canonization doesn't lead to recognizing diversity but to neutralizing both options, thus favoring the ecclesial status quo. We think you have to choose one model of church and who represents it if you don't want to favor, at least indirectly, the relativism that Benedict XVI tried so much to combat.

5. Even though these canonizations might have been launched during the previous papacy and Francis found them ready, it seems to us that carrying them out puts into question the current pope's intentions to reform the Church, their viability and authenticity, since doubts remain as to which model he identifies with. This contrasts with some of his gestures and acts which certainly support the reformist model.

6. We think it's necessary to eliminate the procedure based on miracles that recalls the plea for signs and prodigious acts in the gospels which Jesus rejected. We have to go back to holiness of life, option for the poor, and gospel consistency between theory and practice as determining criteria. The current procedure is costly, demands powerful institutions to carry it out, and is based on the papal monopoly that was only imposed in the second millennium. Moreover, it reflects a model of church -- that of papal monarchy -- that must be transformed.

7. Traditional ecclesiology stated that, in canonizations, the Church only commits its authority to guaranteeing that the person being raised to the altars is in Heaven. Such a statement sounds evasive and spiritualist. What matters for Christian life, and to a certain extent for citizens in general, is not that the popes are in Heaven but what they meant for earth.

Madrid, May 28, 2014

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