|Pope Paul VI|
Pope John XXIII, who began the Vatican II council will soon be declared a saint, too. Pope Paul VI, who inherited the council, will also soon be declared a saint. And Pope John Paul II, who governed the Vatican II Church for much of the 20th century, will also be a saint.
Meanwhile, the cause of Blessed Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) who helped hundreds of thousands of Jews during WWII is stalled. He did not personally lead the Swiss Guard into Berlin in 1939 and overthrow Hitler, so he might not be saint material. No one dares move forward for the same reason the apostles met behind locked doors in John 20.19.
Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914) was a worthy man and the last pope to be canonized. Even that took 40 years, as the process wasn't completed until 1954.
Now watch carefully.
Before St. Pius X, you have to go back over 400 years to Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572) to find a pope who was canonized as a saint.
That skips over some pretty remarkable popes. Just in the 19th century, there were Blessed Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) of the First Vatican Council (yes, there was a Vatican I, although the faithful would not have noticed a difference between before and after.) There was also the scholarly, compassionate and prophetic Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903).
Pope Leo is reported to have had a vision during Mass -- although this is disputed by some -- and authored the Prayer to St. Michael, which he ordered be said at the end of every low mass. Pope Leo's widely reported vision foresaw The Adversary's big offensive in the 20th century, and the prayers were to help counter it. They were discontinued after Vatican II. Perhaps they were no longer needed because Vatican II was "mission accomplished." We were, after all, in the Age of Saints.
From Pope John XXIII, who started Vatican II, to Pope John Paul II (already called "The Great" by many) who died in 2005, the Catholic Church has been governed by saints for nearly half a century. And to think this historic run of saints occurred in our lifetimes! Now, if you think 400 years from St. Pius V (d. 1572) and Pius X (d. 1914) is impressive, how long do you think we have to go back to find a similar run of saintly popes?
You have to go all the way back to the 5th century -- to the times of Pope St. Leo the Great -- to find an equivalent blessing. Leo the Great saved Italy from an invasion by Attila the Hun in 452 just by talking to him. That was the last era when the Church had canonized saints on St. Peter's throne for half a century.
We don't notice these things, because we don't remember our history.
Pope John XXIII was popular in his lifetime, and many humorous stories are attached to his name. He called Vatican II, which he envisioned as a short "pastoral" council, but it quickly spun out of his control due to an alliance between German and French prelates and their experts (among them a young Joseph Ratzinger). They tore up the modest working documents that had been carefully prepared and pushed hard for a radical agenda. Pope John did not live to see its completion, but did live to worry about its outcome.
Pope Paul VI was never popular, and his papacy was plagued by unsavory rumors. His signature accomplishment, Humanae Vitae, best known for its uncompromising stand on contraception, was thrown back in his teeth by American churchmen and theologians the moment it was promulgated. It stands as a bold and noble monument to the Church's failure to control the powers unleashed by Vatican II, powers Pope Paul VI famously described as "the smoke of Satan" that had entered the Church.
It is a perilous business comparing popes, but it is difficult to maintain that Pope Paul VI is more worthy to become a saint than every other pope for the last 400 years, save St. Pius X.
Pope John Paul II had an enormously long reign -- within the top three, including St. Peter himself! He is often credited with helping bring down the Soviet Union. He traveled widely -- nearly constantly, it seemed. It has been said he was seen in person by more people than anyone in history. He barely survived an assassination attempt.
Yet his papacy was marred by interfaith fiascos such as his veneration of a Qur'an by kissing it, the installation of a statue of Buddha above the tabernacle at the ill-conceived Assisi event, and direct participation in "animist" rituals, all in the name of dialogue. Worst of all, of course, it was on his watch that the Church circled the drain of the homosexual abuse scandal, with little, if any, intervention from the Vatican. (It was his successor, however, who was allowed to bear the brunt of the opprobrium.)
Even so Pope John Paul II was the Church's first true celebrity.
Why the hurry to canonize three very different popes, who reigned so closely together, especially in a century marked primarily by the Church's "autodemolition," as Pope Paul VI put it? I am not saying they should be saints or they should not, merely observing that the common thread is Vatican II. (Although some might say it is bad taste to celebrate any pope who reigned during the homosexual abuse crimes and coverups.)
Ironically, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is as closely associated with Vatican II as anyone, having been a peritus, or theological advisor, during the conference itself. Yet somehow the Bear doubts there will be many calls of santo subito! Benedict issued a call that Vatican II should be interpreted in the "hermeneutic of continuity," not the "hermeneutic of disruption," which is really only stating the obvious. He also made it theoretically easier to obtain a Latin Mass. Because of these trivial insults to the Spirit of Vatican II, Benedict may fail the saint litmus test. (Out of all them, however, he is the only one to have St. Corbinians's Bear on his coat of arms, so you know what the Bear thinks,)
Could it be that some have a desire to see history view Vatican II as a council presided over by saints? Would that not tend to enhance its credibility? Could the speed be that, give 40 years (as with the last papal canonization) the momentum will have been lost?
Sheer speculation on my part, of course, without a scintilla of evidence. The closest thing the Bear has to a Vatican contact lives in the Rome Zoo. Perhaps it is just one of those coincidences that looks fishy, but have a perfectly reasonable explanation, and we truly are living in the Age of Saints.