Rorate Caeli

Francis Has Systematically Dismantled John Paul II's Legacy


If there was ever a pope whose legacy within the Church seemed irreversible, it was Pope St. John Paul II. At his funeral Mass on April 8, 2005, which set records for crowd size and number of heads of state in attendance, the crowds shouted, "Santo Subito!" ("Make him a Saint Immediately!") After his death, a number of clergy and laymen proclaimed him "John Paul the Great." He was duly beatified only six years after his death. 

John Paul II ascended to the papacy at a time when great evil threatened to overtake both the world and the Church. His firm commitment to confronting Communism led directly to the downfall of the Soviet Union. His strong and unyielding reaffirmation of the Church's the traditional moral teachings stabilized it doctrinally and planted the seeds of renewal during a time of confusion and crisis. 

It turns out, however, that John Paul II secured the undoing of his own legacy within the Church on February 21, 2001. On that date, John Paul II elevated the controversial Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to Cardinal. And as Pope Francis, Bergoglio would work to destroy John Paul II's legacy as Pope. Indeed, Francis's pontificate is almost a demonic inversion of John Paul II's in key areas.

Start with Communism. There could be no more vivid contrast to John Paul II's unwavering moral witness against Communism than Francis's craven 2018 deal with the Chinese Communist Party, allowing the CCP to appoint bishops in consultation with the Vatican. John Paul II heroically rallied Poles against their Communist oppressors. But through his deal with the CCP, Francis allows the CCP to appoint bishops at will. The CCP no longer bothers consulting with the Vatican on appointments-- and Francis blesses whomever the CCP picks. At the same time, the underground Church in China has been cast adrift.

Francis has systematically destroyed institutions created by John Paul II to serve as bulwarks of Catholic moral teaching and evangelization in a secular world. In an exercise of "raw intellectual vandalism," Francis ransacked the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, removing its most distinguished faculty, cancelling its core courses in moral theology, and replacing orthodox faculty with heterodox dissenters. The moves have devastated the John Paul II Institute-- destroying it in all but name and ensuring that it no longer represents John Paul II’s founding intentions.

Francis also destroyed the Pontifical Academy for Life.  John Paul II similarly created the PAL to promote and defend distinctively Catholic moral theology. Francis has turned into little more than a joke, dismissing all of its members and replacing them with dissenters from the Church's moral theology. The PAL has now become notorious for its Twitter account, which posts trollish challenges to Church teachings.

One of John Paul II's most enduring achievements was World Youth Day, designed to evangelize young people to the Catholic faith. Under Francis's leadership, World Youth Day has become a vapid ecumenical event that seeks to promote "interreligious dialogue" and disclaims attempts at conversion. As its organizer, the newly-created Cardinal Aguiar, stated"We don't want to convert young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that." Instead, the event's "main message" was, "I think differently, I feel differently, I organize my life differently, but we are brothers and we are going to build the future together." 

John Paul II also promoted liturgical reconciliation. With his 1988 encyclical Ecclesia Dei, he re-introduced the Traditional Latin Mass into the life of the Church. And he established the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which oversaw several highly successful religious orders, the Fraternity of St. Peter and Institute of Christ the King among them. But in 2019, Francis suppressed the Ecclesia Dei Commission. At the time, the Vatican claimed that the change was no more than "a normalization of the ecclesiastical status of traditionalist communities in the Pius X ambit which many years ago were reconciled with the See of Peter, as well as those celebrating the extraordinary form." That turned out to be a lie; the suppression of the Ecclesia Dei Commission was a prelude to Francis's large-scale attack against the Traditional Latin Mass, launched with his spiteful and vindictive 2021 Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes and the ensuing persecution of priests and laypeople who love the TLM.

And just now, Pope Francis has put forward his greatest act of vengeance against John Paul II: the appointment of Tucho Fernandez as Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith prefect. Fernandez has criticized John Paul II's landmark encyclical Veritatis Splendor, which affirmed the existence of intrinsic evil and the Church's authoritative rejection of moral relativism. Fernandez, an author best-known for his grotesque collection of erotic poetry, "Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing," as well as grotesquely mishandling sex abuse cases as an Archbishop, stands poised to overturn the Church's established teachings-- most especially those of John Paul II.

John Paul II did not purge dissenters from ecclesial institutions, preferring instead to encourage dynamic new centers of orthodoxy within the Church. Those institutions and initiatives succeeded for nearly four decades in preserving the Church from succumbing completely to the ravages of modernity. But Francis and his allies, on the outs for decades, have returned to destroy them-- using not persuasion but the exercise of raw institutional power. For now at least, "the hermeneutic of continuity has proved to be incapable of countering ecclesiastic Jacobinism, which has no interpretative line of theological documents, but a project to gain power through men and facts." The backroom political maneuvers of the Peronist Pope have succeeded in devastating John Paul II's legacy within the Church. 

But in a larger sense, of course, this is all a cruel joke. Francis has not attracted anything approaching the veneration that John Paul II did. No one will be shouting "Santo Subito!" at his funeral. Francis's confused personal magisterium stands in tension with of every other Pope before him. He can lash out at the legacy of the sainted Polish Pope, but he has no hope of forging a legacy of his own that will bear good fruit.