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Dowd: Church's miraculous finding of sainthood

  • Pope John Paul II, seen at the Vatican in 1978, will be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. (Associated Press)

There were some disturbing elements to the Easter Mass I attended at Nativity, my childhood church.

The choral director sang “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “Danny Boy.” The pews were half-empty on the church's most sacred day.

My sister reminisced about my christening, when the elderly Monsignor Coady turned away while he was dedicating me to the Blessed Virgin and I started rolling off the altar, propelling my gasping mother to rush up and catch me.

But it was most upsetting as a prelude to next Sunday. In an unprecedented double pontiff canonization, Pope John Paul II will be enshrined as a saint in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican had a hard time drumming up the requisite two miracles when Pope Benedict XVI, known as John Paul's Rasputin and enforcer of the orthodoxy, waived the traditional five-year waiting period and rushed to canonize his mentor. But the real miracle is that it will happen at all. John Paul was a charmer and a great man in many ways. But given that he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain't no saint.

Sometimes leaders can be remarkable in certain ways and then make a mistake so spectacular, it overshadows other historical achievements. Lyndon Johnson deserves to be secularly canonized for his work on civil rights but he never will be because of the war in Vietnam.

Just so, John Paul deserves majorcredit for his role in the downfall of communism. Even though neocon Catholics who idolize and whitewash John Paul don't like to dwell on it, he also directed consistent and withering moral criticism at the excesses of capitalism long before Pope Francis did. During his first tour of America as pope in 1979, the rock-star pontiff spoke in Yankee Stadium and warned about “the frenzy of consumerism.” (Although John Paul did encourage the royal lifestyle among his own cardinals.)

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