In her recent column, "Make Him a Saint," Peggy Noonan illustrates her sense of morality by demanding that Pope John Paul II be made a saint, right away, primarily because, she believes he defeated communism by making a trip to Poland in 1979. I thought Reagan ended communism by running up the deficit with excessive military spending. Actually, I thought communism ended communism, but I thought the orthodoxy dictated that Noonan’s old boss get the credit.
But you cannot make a saint out of modern history’s primary facilitator of child rape without some pretty important counterpoints. So Noonan claims John Paul ended communism by making a trip to Poland, and that the trip more than makes up for all those kiddie rapes, which Noonan characterizes as the “mistakes and sins in his papacy.”
But why does Peggy use the term “in his papacy,” rather than directly saying they were John Paul’s mistakes and sins? Does she mean to exculpate him? Does she mean to say that it was not the rot at the top, but that the Pope was out of touch?
Whatever his involvement, Noonan says you cannot expect perfection, and besides, all saints were “flawed, full of contradictions, and marked by stark failures.” This may be true, but running an organization of child molesters seems like more than a flaw or contradiction. “I am personally opposed to child rape, although I’ll help those who like to partake,” doesn’t seem very saintly to me. And a “stark failure” would imply that John Paul tried to stop the child rapes, but forces beyond his control prevented his valiant efforts. Is there any evidence of this? No. John Paul enabled the rapists before they were caught, and he protected them afterward. And he did this with the help of his friend and successor, Benedict, who is no Arnold.
So what else does Noonan claim John Paul did to outweigh his complicity in the child rapes? She says he travelled a lot. Not even counting that trip in ‘79 that ended communism, he flew over a million miles. And don’t forget he got shot and later forgave the shooter. (While John Paul claimed to believe that the virgin Mary saved him by redirecting the bullet enough to tear up his guts, but not kill him, he came to rely on the “Popemobile” rather than Mary for subsequent crowd forays.) Finally, Noonan points out that he didn’t retire when he got sick. For years he hobbled and mumbled in public on the holidays. Noonan characterizes this as a sharing of his illness, but if I am not mistaken, popes do not retire. They leave the popehood only by death. So, on this, he had no choice.
Noonan insists that this is no time for doubts and questions. “Santo Subito.” Sainthood now. On this, she and Benedict agree. For one thing, John Paul’s only “verified” miracle is the cure of a nun who allegedly suffered from Parkinson’s disease. One problem with this verification is that thousands, if not millions, of sick Catholics have prayed to John Paul's corpse to ease their pain or delay their deaths. If one out of a million gets better, does that mean the corpse cured her? And if he only cures one out of a million...? Furthermore, some say the nun has become noticeably wobbly of late, and if we don’t get the ceremony over with soon, well, you can see the problem. And she insists on attending.
Besides, the longer we wait, the more victims, like cockroaches, keep coming out of woodwork.
In conclusion, while I disagree with her opinion of John Paul, I want to commend Peggy Noonan for debunking the claim that Ronald Reagan defeated communism.