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John Paul II

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Karol Józef Wojtyła (1920–2005), alias John Paul II, was the Pope and head of the Roman Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005. JP II traveled widely and was popular with and respected by many Catholics, and even some non-Catholics, worldwide. While he is credited with playing an important role in the fall of communism, particularly by using the Church's strong influence in communist Poland, other aspects of his reign were problematic. Despite these problems, Pope Francis canonized Pope John Paul II as a saint in April 2014.[1]

Child abuse scandals in the Church[edit]

JP II's biggest failure was his inaction on the issue of priestly paedophilia. According to The Sunday Times, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) tried to investigate reports of sexual abuse when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office responsible for such matters. According to one Austrian cardinal, Ratzinger was "blocked by 'the Vatican', an apparent reference to John Paul."[2] and according to The Guardian, JP II prevented Ratzinger from investigating Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, who drew in big donations but also systematically abused children and young men as far back as the 1940s, kept two mistresses, fathered several children (two of whom he abused) and led a life without principles.[3]

However, other reports have also suggested Ratzinger had no intention of investigating, and that the protection of the Church was everyone's goal. Reports have since come to light showing that Ratzinger intentionally hid facts, moved priests to other dioceses, and blamed local officials and employees (not associated with the Church) instead of focusing on the priests.[4]

Religious, social, and political views[edit]

Pope John Paul's roles in the Church had a significant effect on how the Catholic Church was seen in the world. Not only was he influential in ending communism in Poland, he changed how the Catholic Church officially and practically interacted with the Jewish community, the Muslim community, Buddhists, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and even Baptists.

Women were still perceived as nothing but walking wombs, and the Pope, even in light of growing concerns about AIDS, denounced the use of condoms and birth control. Catholic women's groups approached him many times to discuss the ordination of women, to no avail.


In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences during October, 1996, Pope John Paul II officially endorsed the theory of evolution:[5]

In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points...

...Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines.

He also asserted that science and religion stand side by side, each with a different role:

In order to mark out the limits of their own proper fields, theologians and those working on the exegesis of the Scripture need to be well informed regarding the results of the latest scientific research.

John Paul also commented on the varying scientific and philosophical explanations of evolution:

And to tell the truth, rather than speaking about the theory of evolution, it is more accurate to speak of the theories of evolution. The use of the plural is required here — in part because of the diversity of explanations regarding the mechanism of evolution, and in part because of the diversity of philosophies involved. There are materialist and reductionist theories, as well as spiritualist theories. Here the final judgment is within the competence of philosophy and, beyond that, of theology.

The mistranslation[edit]

The Vatican's French press release misprinted the Pope's speech, quoting him as saying "la theorie de l'evolution, plus qu'une hypothese." At issue was a comma, which makes the line "plus qu'une hypothese" potentially ambiguous since it can mean either "more than a hypothesis" or "more than one hypothesis." The line was then translated by the English Vatican Paper, The Observer as "the theory of evolution, more than one hypothesis."

Some creationists continued to cite this version of the translation, even after the Vatican officially amended it and issues an official clarification.[6]

World Youth Day[edit]

Get 'em while they are young!

John Paul II established World Youth Day, when tons of adoring adolescent fans worshipful youth converge into one city in the world and pray, cry, sing and whatever else is necessary to Praise God and the Pope. Few outside observers can tell a difference between "World Youth Day" and Woodstock, except perhaps that the Catholic youth are better groomed. This move re-popularized and re-energized an ageing religion that was seen as ineffective in many parts of the world, including the US, the UK, Australia and Canada, all of which saw a rise in church participation after World Youth Days were initiated.[7]

More recently, the pedophile scandal explained above has caused a decline in church attendance and in the authority of the church in many places.


In 2011, six years after his death, John Paul II was beatified by his successor, Benedict XVI following a miracle attributed to John Paul II where a French nun named Sister Marie Simon-Pierre reportedly woke up free of symptoms in 2005 after members of her community prayed for the late pontiff's intercession,[8] and also due to insistent demands by the faithful who chanted "Santo Subito!" ("Saint now!" in Italian) during John Paul II's funeral, resulting in Benedict XVI waiving the five-year rule before a deceased person could be considered for beatification.[8] Two years later, John Paul II was canonised as John Paul the Great in what amounted to a speedrun towards sainthood.

The circumstances and expeditious manner in which John Paul II was beatified and canonised was seen with suspicion by some dissident theologians and critics of the Catholic Church.[9] Besides calling into question the supposed miracle experienced by Simon-Pierre[10] where a Polish newspaper speculated that the nun may have been afflicted with a different disease with similar symptoms, reporting that Simon-Pierre had a relapse of her symptoms in 2010,[11] much of the criticism centred around John Paul II's involvement in the child sexual abuse scandals especially his friendship with notorious priest and sex predator Marcial Maciel.Wikipedia[12]


  1. Pope Francis makes saints of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, The Telegraph
  2. John Paul 'ignored abuse of 2,000 boys', The Times
  3. An unseemly, unwise haste to canonise John Paul II, The Guardian
  4. Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry, The Guardian
  6. Creationists and the Pope's Statement, National Center for Science Education
  7. The impact of World Youth Day on belief and behaviour, Australian Catholic University
  8. 8.0 8.1 Weeke, Stephen (31 March 2006). "Perhaps 'Saint John Paul the Great?'". 2006–2009 [NBC News World News]. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  9. "THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: A Statement of Reservations Concerning the Impending Beatificaiton of Pope John Paul II". Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  10. "Conservative Catholics question beatification of John Paul II". Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  11. Czaczkowska, Ewa K. (3 March 2010). "JPII – kłopoty z cudem". Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  12. Jason Berry, Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church (NY: Random House, 2011), 156–196.