Pope John Paul II
Xymphora's less-than-laudatory evaluation of his reign

The first thing that Karol Woytila did as Pope was to suppress any investigation into the murder of his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, from which murder he himself was the greatest beneficiary. During the rest of his long tenure as Pope he did nothing good for the world. Pope John Paul II was a showman who knew how to work the TV cameras, and with that and his 100+ foreign jaunts he became a celebrity. In the week following II's long-awaited death on 2005-04-02 the mainstream media was full of pious adulation. Here is a dissenting view, by Xymphora, of II's accomplishments (from Xymphora's blog, April 3 &6, 2005).

Extreme right-wing Vatican insiders murdered reform-minded Pope John Paul I to make the man who just croaked their super-reactionary pope (David Yallop's book, "In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I", is excellent). Pope John Paul II immediately moved to protect as much as possible those behind the financial scandal that was about to engulf the Vatican. He then delivered exactly what was expected of him, a show-boat papacy that hid:

The deep evil he brought with him has now been permanently installed at the heart of Roman Catholicism. I think he took such a long time to die because he knew that the place he was going was far worse than the place he was at. He was truly a piece of shit. The only good thing I can think to say about him is that the thug who replaces him will almost certainly be worse.

Barry Healy on the Dead Pope's opposition to Liberation Theology:

By assiduously aligning himself with the most reactionary elements of late 21st century power politics, John Paul II left a profound crisis in Catholicism in his wake. Latin America was once overwhelmingly Catholic but the US rulers have used their Protestant fundamentalist sects as weapons against liberationist Catholics there. Now 10% of Brazilians are believed to be talking in tongues!

In the developed capitalist countries, Catholicism continues to bleed membership as believers tire of the ridiculous strictures on their sexuality and democratic rights within the church. As AIDS threatens millions in the crucified impoverished world and wars and indebtedness worsen, the Catholic Church's lame responses are simply making it irrelevant.

The effect of II's horror at Liberation Theology — and for that matter for any kind of freedom outside of Poland — has been to drive the people of Latin America out of the Catholic Church and into the arms of American evangelical fruitcake religions, which are spreading like a plague over Latin America. Historians will look back on II as one of the most destructive Popes in history in the damage he inflicted on his own church in his crazed love of totalitarianism, both political and ecclesiastic. Much has been made of a few quotes from him on the problems with capitalism and the need for world peace. Of course, it was all bullshit. His sole purpose in life was to turn back the progressives who had started to take over Catholicism in the 1970's, and he took not one practical step during his whole papacy to ameliorate the excesses of capitalism or reduce the war in the world. In fact, in his excessive toadying to the world's most reactionary leaders, he encouraged both the wars and the destructive capitalism which they promote. When the Church canonizes him — and watch them do it so fast it will make your head spin* — they should make him the patron saint of globalists, arms dealers, torturers, evangelicals, and back-room abortionists. You can tell how popular he is with the totalitarians of the world in the extraordinary wall-to-wall coverage of his death, with perhaps the largest disconnect in world history between the views of the average person in the world, who either doesn't care or didn't like him, and the fawning coverage from the media, with not one dissenting word questioning his saintliness.

*PM: Sure enough, within a month of his election as pope, Benedict XVI (waiving the usual five-year waiting period for beatification procedures) had put II on the fast track to sainthood.

Michael A. Hoffman II on John Paul II: The Judas Iscariot of Our Time

Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist: 14 Thoughts For The New Pope: Condoms. Female priests. Stop gay bashing. And dammit, do something about Christian rock

This, then, was to be your biggest challenge. To make yourself relevant again, make yourself known. To make open-hearted and sex-positive and choice-happy and pantheistic changes to your dusty dying church that make the world sit up and take notice and applaud.

Is it still possible? Is there still a glimmer of hope that you might choose to buck dour church tradition and kick down the doors and throw open the stained-glass windows and remake yourself as modern, as inclusive, as the Pope That Changed Everything? Because right now, the world has this sad, sinking feeling again. All signs point to more of the same as the last bitter and bilious 2,000 years, if not even worse. All signs point to more repression, homophobia, intolerance, denial, insularity, guilt like a weapon.

Benedict XVI appears to be a man of intelligence and in some ways a decent human being. It's a pity that he insists on imposing the benighted and medieval views of the Church (which are also his own) on the billion people who look to him for spiritual and moral guidance. Here are some opinions of the new pope from the perspective of the tradition of the European Enlightenment:

And for an intelligent discussion of what is fundamentally wrong with all the patriarchal religions (adherence to which, by billions of people, now threatens the survival of the human species) see:

John Lash: The Tyranny of Belief

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