John Paul II

I won’t pretend to be able to write anything meaningful here. I don’t think I’m surprising anyone by pointing out that I had more than my share of differences with the Pope — as well as, at times, the larger organization he headed up.

I thought his views on contraception and (to a lesser extent) euthanasia were positively anachronistic, holdovers from a time when overpopulation, mass extinction from sexually transmitted disease, and life-extending medical care were negligible or nonexistent, when security (or, perhaps more aptly, victory) meant continually expanding your side’s numbers. (Of course, that’s by no means unique to the Catholic church, but a fairly universal position.)

I disagreed with his stance on abortion, if not so much his reasoning; his position — even removing the religiously derived portion — was certainly rationally defensible.

And I certainly didn’t share any of his theological positions.

But his stances on reining in the gross excesses of capitalism (while still remaining a staunch anticommunist) were exactly in line with my own. His decision to undo centuries of anti-Semitic dogma was positively admirable. His opposition to the warrantless and arbitrary invasion of Iraq was principled and commendable.

I don’t believe that he was naïve when it comes to the often cynical exercise of power (I’ll avoid “Machiavellian,” as it seems too obvious an exaggeration), but one couldn’t help coming away with the impression that while he certainly wielded power — and worked to maintain (or expand) it — he did have a nobler purpose than power for its own sake. Probably without exception, more than any political leader on the planet, he honestly did care about the well-being of the world. And while technically the ruler of one of the tiniest nations on Earth, in a sense, his sphere of interest was the entire world.

And as for his theological beliefs, he was certainly welcome to them, and I have no more claim to absolute certainly than he did. (Though, to be fair, I don’t claim to be infallible. Well, not often, anyway.)

John Paul II was often my opponent, perhaps even — on certain issues — an adversary. But he was never my enemy.

Farewell. May you be remembered for your positive contribution to the world, and may our differences provide the opportunity for us to continually examine our own convictions.


At 4:31 PM, Kori said...

For someone who wasn't going to even pretend to be meaningful, this seems pretty meaningful to me.

It is the actually caring about the world that makes the difference in the end, isn't it? The "not wanting to grab power just for power's sake" (a departure from many past popes, might I add).

Even in opposition, and admirable man is an admirable man. Maybe especially in opposition, come to think of it.


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