Friday, March 25, 2011


Pope John XXIII and myself did not get on for a long time.   I'll tell you why.  As I was growing up in the eighties I heard and saw a lot concerning Vatican II, and as I observed what was happening in the Church, I did not think Vatican II had been a very good idea, and the so-called "Good Pope John" who ushered in what seemed to tearing the Church apart was not high on the list of those I admired (neither was Archbishop Lefebvre, by the way).  He was adored by the more liberal proponents of the "spirit of Vatican II" and seeing what they were up to did not enamour him to me either.  However, as I began to wiggle my way out of a bad catechetical process and the "coffee-table Mass brigade" I began to discover that Vatican II had been very different from what I, and many of my generation, had been told.  

That began to change my attitude towards Pope John.  His treatment of St Pio (and I love St Pio), did not mean we suddenly jumped into a fire of fraternal harmony, but it eased tensions between us.  When he was beatified in 2000 I accepted the will of God and decision of the Church though not jumping for joy, but I welcomed it and congratulated him.  And when I finally got to Rome as a pilgrim and later living there as a seminarian, when in St Peter's I would go to his tomb, kneel before his incorrupt body and pray.  Bit by bit things are improving - we are moving in the right direction, it may be slow due to my fallen humanity, but we are getting there.   I now see that what he envisioned was tremendous, orthodox and evangelical, his best interpreters are Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, not the "spirit of Vatican II" crowd.

My attitude towards Archbishop Oscar Romero was not much better - I always associated him with Liberation Theology - and Marxists who tried to reinterpret the Gospel according to their own materialist, revolutionary ideas.  Of course he was concerned for his people, but, as I began to discover, he was not a Marxist - like Blessed John XXIII he has been hijacked by an ideology, and used by the proponents of that ideology to further their own aims.  As Francis Phillips points out, Archbishop Romero was a holy man, a man in full communion with the Church, who based his struggle to defend his people on the Church's social teaching rather than The Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital.    Phillips in his article expresses his uneasiness with the visit of President Barack Obama to the late Archbishop's tomb: I can relate to that.

We, in the Church, have so much to reclaim - including the truth and authentic legacy of our heroes and saints, including Blessed Pope John and Archbishop Romero.  I would never class myself as a victim - but I do think that I, and many of my generation, have lost something of the Church's great tradition and people who should set our hearts on fire with love and enthusiasm, but raging ideologies within the Church have given us a distorted picture and we have to overcome that in ourselves.  That is why the pontificates of the Ven. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI are so important: they are helping us reclaim what is our inheritance in this Communion of faith and love, while still being open to the world and to new (orthodox) evangelical possibilities.  That is what Blessed Pope John XXIII was trying to do, and the Servant of God, Archbishop Oscar Romero in defence of his people.   Francis Phillip's article got me thinking about all that again, thought I might share it.   


  1. When I started seminary I too thought that Blessed John XXIII was not for me. The more I read his Journal and studied his teachings the more I realised he had been hijacked. His Synod for Rome was to be the Blueprint for VII. Any one who thinks he is liberal should read the decree of the Roman Synod.

  2. I also had a thing about Pope John XXIII. But then I read his opening address of Vatican II. I also had a thing about Bishop Romero. But then I read recently something he said:

    "A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good so that they become entrenched in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call. A preaching that does not discomfit sinners but lulls them in their sin leaves Zebulun and Naphtali in the shadow of death. A preaching that awakens, a preaching that enlightens -- as when a light turned on awakens and of course annoys a sleeper -- that is the preaching of Christ, calling, "wake up! Be converted!" this is the church's authentic preaching. Naturally, such preaching must meet conflict, must spoil what is miscalled prestige, must disturb, must be persecuted. It cannot get along with the powers of darkness and sin."

    These men, along with the Council, have indeed been hijacked. We need to shake off the demonic encrustations, if we are to 'be Church'. Lol - don't you just love that phrase?

    I must check the Synod of Rome, but a quick Google search just now produced nothing.

  3. I actually think Pius XII bears more blame for the mess we are in than Bl. John XXIII. The latter can and should be criticised for his naive optimism in human progress but the neo-modernism which is now in the ascendancy was well developed by the 50s.

    The Second Vatican Council certainly did not help matters; its documents are so watery and poorly formulated (influenced by German existentialism) that they can mean all things to all men.

    While both Bl John XXIII and Pius XII had flaws neither can be compared to the wretched car crash pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II, both of whom were, in retrospect, total disasters for the Church and best forgotten.

  4. Two different viewpoints:
    Fr. John said Ven. Pope John Paul II helped us reclaim what is our inheritance in this Communion of faith and love.

    Shane said JPII was a total disaster best forgotten, a car crash. I would be very interested to know what he did wrong. I don't know about JPII's decisions regarding the church, but alot of people dearly love the man. Pope Benedict XVI seems to be holy, articulate, and intelligent. His papal mass is my favorite TV show, quite inspiring. It would be almost if not impossible to find a better pope for the people.