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The next hundred years of St. John Paul II’s legacy

By Jonah McKeown for CNA

Pope John Paul II walks down a gravel path in an undated photo by Vatican photographer Arturo Mari. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Denver Newsroom, May 15, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope St. John Paul II— who would have turned 100 years old May 18— was a man of great humility, whose nearly 27-year pontificate nevertheless left a lasting impression on the Catholic Church and the world, according to his biographer and others who knew the man.

“He’s the great Christian witness of our time. He’s the exemplar of the fact that a life wholly dedicated to Jesus Christ and the Gospel is the most exciting human life possible,” George Weigel, the pope’s biographer, told CNA.

After an upbringing marked by the sadness of losing his mother, father, and brother, he endured the Nazi’s occupation of Poland, working hard as a laborer and eventually clandestinely studied for the priesthood and became cardinal archbishop of Krakow.

He eventually became the most traveled pope in history, and a beloved saint. He died in 2005, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.

“This man lived a life of such extraordinary drama that no Hollywood scriptwriter would dare come up with such a storyline. It would just be regarded as absurd,” Weigel added.

Weigel— and a former member of the Swiss Guard who served John Paul II for four years— spoke to CNA about what they think the pope will be remembered for in the next 100— or even the next 1,000— years.

The making of a saint

Karol Wojtyla was born a century ago, on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland.

His father, also named Karol, was a Polish Army lieutenant, and his mother Emilia was a school teacher. The couple had three children: Edmund in 1906; Olga, who died shortly after her birth; and Karol, named for his faither, in 1920.

Karol was bright; a good student and an aspiring actor. Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled in Krakow’s Jagiellonian University and in a school for drama in 1938.

The Nazi occupation forces in Poland closed the university in 1939, and young Karol had to work in a quarry for four years, and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

To make matters worse, Karol would lose his entire immediate family while still a young man. His mother died in 1929; his older brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932; and his father died in 1941.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow once it had reopened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to the priesthood in Krakow on November 1, 1946.

On January 13, 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Krakow, and later a cardinal on June 26, 1967.

Elected in 1978, he was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

Man of prayer

John Paul II was a man of deep prayer who loved and trusted God, and also had a deep devotion to Mary. The rosary was one of his favorite prayers, and he even gave the Church a new way to contemplate truths about Jesus in the form of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary,

Mario Enzler, a former Swiss Guard member who served John Paul II, said he hopes that people will remember the pope’s simplicity— a quality he was privileged to observe firsthand.

Enzler, now a professor and author of the book “I Served a Saint,” recounts the first time he ever met John Paul II, in 1989. It was very soon after he started as a Swiss Guard, on the third floor of the apostolic palace. He got a call saying the Holy Father was leaving his apartment to go to the Secretary of State’s office.

The protocol for the guards in that instance was to make sure nobody was milling around in the corridor, and to stand at attention as the pope walked by. Sometimes the pope would stop to talk to the guards— but oftentimes not.

In this case, when John Paul walked by, he stopped, and Enzler remained at attention.

“He said to me: ‘You must be a new one,’” Enzler recalled. He introduced himself.

“He let me finish my sentence, shook my hand…then he grabbed his hand with both of his hands, and said: ‘Thank you Mario, for serving who serves.’ Then he left,” Enzler said.

“The concept of servant leadership got, can I say, tattooed on my soul,” he remembers.

“Because he didn’t even know who I was, he saw that I was a new one, and he was kind enough to stop, shake my hand, ask my name; but he said, thank you for serving who serves.’

“The first time that I met him, I was obviously extremely emotional. I was really emotional when he came. I could sense he was special— he had something different.”

Enzler says he encounters many young people today who do not really know the beloved pope.

“He was a genius, a man of prayer…but he could make anybody feel comfortable. Doesn’t matter if he was talking to a Nobel prize [winner] or a homeless person, from the president of a state to a kindergarten schoolteacher,” Enzler said.

“He was capable of making everybody feel comfortable…it was just with a gesture, a caress, with a word, or just with a hug or just simply looking. I would say that in 1,000 years, he will be remembered because of his simplicity.”

Engagement with the world

Weigel, author of the definitive biography of John Paul II, for decades chronicled the pope’s engagement with civic leaders, and the way he influenced the political landscape he inhabited.

The pope famously met with dozens of political figures, in the course of 38 official visits, 738 audiences and meetings held with Heads of State, including with President Ronald Reagan— just a few days before Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall.

“He thought of himself as the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, dealing with sovereign political actors who were as subject to the universal moral law as anybody else. I think he also had a very shrewd sense of political possibility,” Weigel said.

“He was willing to be a risk-taker, but he also appreciated that prudence is the greatest of political virtues. And I think he was quite respected by world political leaders because of his transparent integrity. His essential attitude toward these men and women was: how can I help you? What can I do to help?”

Despite his political shrewdness, John Paul II understood his role as primarily a spiritual, rather than political, leader.

This is especially evident, Weigel says, when one looks back on the saint’s speeches in his native Poland during his 1979 visit— one of the first visits outside Italy he made as pope.

“It’s not that he didn’t talk about politics primarily, he didn’t talk about politics at all,” Weigel said.

“Aside from acknowledging the presence of government officials on his arrival in Warsaw on June 2, and acknowledging their presence at his departure from Krakow on June 10th, he simply ignored them.”

The country was then under Communist rule. Catholicism was a centerpiece of Polish culture, as it had been for centuries, despite the Communists’ efforts to stamp it out.

“He spoke to his people about Polish culture, about what made Poland Poland. And at the center of that, of course, in addition to a distinctive history, and distinctive language, distinctive literature— the intensity of Poland’s Catholic faith.”

The pope’s primary impact on the world of affairs, Weigel says, was his central role in creating the revolution of conscience which made possible the nonviolent revolution of 1989 and the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe.

John Paul II had a remarkable capacity to encourage, Weigel said— in the sense of stirring up the courage that is within everybody.

“He embodied the cardinal virtue of courage, which we sometimes call fortitude. And that was faith-based,” he said.

“That was rooted in an absolute conviction that because God the Father had raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and constituted him as Lord and Savior, God was going to get eventually what God wanted in history. And our task is not to imagine that we’re going to determine the final outcome of history.”

After John Paul’s visit to his native Poland in 1979, it would be another decade before the Solidarity Party in Poland, with the pope’s encouragement, would finally gain a majority in Parliament, and, largely peacefully, the country would shrug off the shackles of Communism.

Weigel says he believed European Communism would have collapsed at some point of its own “implausibility”— the system was so contradictory to the essential nature of the human person, he said, that it was bound to collapse at some point.

“The reason why it collapsed when it did, in 1989…is because of that revolution of conscience. So, that made a huge difference. It accelerated the collapse of European Communism, and it brought about its demise without massive bloodshed.”

People tend to forget, he said, that the 20th century’s normal way of affecting massive social change was enormous bloodletting. There was very little of that during the revolution that toppled communism in much of Europe in 1989— only Romania saw widespread violence.

“In every other respect, this great tyranny was dismantled without bloodshed. That’s remarkable, and it might not have happened that way, and it almost certainly would not have happened at that moment in time absent John Paul II.”

Saintly friends

One of John Paul II’s most enduring legacies is the huge number of saints he recognized— he celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 blesseds, as well as celebrating 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is perhaps the most well-known contemporary of John Paul II who is now officially a saint.

Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom John Paul II beatified in 1990, is another well-known holy person that the pope has helped to bring to the world.

Enzler writes in his book that there are several other friends of John Paul who are likely to be saints soon, such as Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, a prelate from Benin who served as Dean of the College of Cardinals— and who confirmed Enzler when he was a child.

Even John Paul’s parents are on their way to sainthood, after Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Krakow announced in March 2020 that the archdiocese had opened their beatification processes.


John Paul II visited some 129 counties during his pontificate— more than any other pope had visited up to that point.

He also created World Youth Days in 1985, and presided over 19 of them as pope.

Weigel says John Paul II understood that the pope must be present to the people of the Church, wherever they are.

“He chose to do it by these extensive travels, which he insisted were not travels, they were pilgrimages,” Wegel said.

“This was the successor of Peter, on pilgrimage to various parts of the world, of the Church. And that’s why these pilgrimages were always built around liturgical events, prayer, adoration of the Holy Eucharist, ecumenical and interreligious gatherings— all of this was part of a pilgrimage experience.”

In the latter half of the 20th century— a time of enormous social change and upheaval— John Paul II’s extensive travels, during which he proclaimed the gospel to huge crowds and made headlines wherever he went, were just what the world needed, Weigel said.

“At a moment in history when the Church really seemed to be on the defensive, when a lot of leaders in the Church seemed to have lost confidence in the ability to proclaim the Gospel, it was very important for this compelling human personality to display how vital and alive the Gospel is in the late 20th century and early 21st. So I think it was a good fit for the time,” he said.

“The saints were normal people”

Like his friend St. Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II occasionally suffered through periods of darkness and doubt. His private diaries, published in 2014, show him agonizing about whether he was doing enough to serve God.

In addition to spiritual suffering, the pope endured an assination attempt by a Turkish terrorist on May 13, 1981, who shot him in the chest— after which he forgave his attacker, and credited Mary’s intercession for his survival.

He also experienced other health problems in the form of severe Parkinson’s Disease in the last few years of his life.

It is the fact that he was able to overcome the dark periods through prayer that Enzler finds most remarkable.

“He was fearless. He was fearless. And that’s where I think the emulation for me comes,” Enzler said.

“He knew that suffering was mandatory, because suffering belongs to a higher gospel…that’s what he basically showed to me, is that sacrifice and suffering is redemptive.”

Of course, John Paul II is not without critics, and his pontificate not above criticism.

John Paul has often faced criticism for how he handled abusive clergy during his pontificate, with critics pointing especially to the crimes of Marcial Maciel, the now-notorious founder of the Legionaries of Christ religious order. Maciel was only dismissed from ministry after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that while this was a man of great spiritual gifts, great intellectual gifts, a luminous personality, a singular capacity for friendship and leadership— this is also a normal human being,” Weigel said.

“He had his dark nights, he had his questions, he had his struggles…and one should not turn him into a plastic car ornament saint. His sanctity is luminous enough coming through this remarkably engaging and attractive human being, that you don’t have to plasticize it.

“Enormous potential for the future”

John Paul II was a scholar who promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, and also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law during his pontificate.

In addition to many books, John Paul II also authored 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, and 45 apostolic letters.

Enzler recommended picking up the pope’s many writings, such as his 1990 encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Enzler found that document helpful as he started a classical school with his wife.

“In 27 years of pontificate, for sure he either wrote or talked about many of the topics that we are somehow trying to understand. Let’s just try and find what he said.”

For his part, Weigel says the Church has really only begun to unpack what he calls the “magisterium” of John Paul II, in the form of his writings and his intellectual influence.

In the United States and throughout the world, for example, John Paul’s Theology of the Body remains enormously influential.

“You’ve got an entire generation of Catholics, now in their 30s, 40s and 50s— laity, religious, and clergy, who continue to take their inspiration from John Paul II,” Weigel said.

“So if you subtract him from those biographies, it’s not clear what you get, but it’s clear what you probably wouldn’t get, which is this kind of an evangelical fervor. A lot of the Church would still be stuck in institutional maintenance mode.”

One place that John Paul II’s evangelical fervor has taken root has been in Africa. As mentioned before, John Paul II had a particular friendship with Beninese Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, and visited Africa many times.

“John Paul II was fascinated by Africa; he saw African Christianity as living, a kind of new testament experience of the freshness of the Gospel, and he was very eager to support that, and lift it up,” he said.

“It was very interesting that during the two synods on marriage and the family in 2014 and 2015, some of the strongest defenses of the Church’s classic understanding of marriage and family came from African bishops. Some of whom are first, second generation Christians, deeply formed in the image of John Paul II, whom they regard as a model bishop.”

“I think wherever you look around the world Church, the living parts of the Church are those that have accepted the Magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. And the dying parts of the Church, the moribund parts of the Church are those parts that have ignored that Magisterium.”

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  1. The next hundred years of his legacy are the death of the church after all the heterodox and homosexual clergy he appointed bishops and cardinals globally gradually assert their full hegemony and turn us into the Anglican church 2.0

  2. This article is a typical all-praise hagiography on JPII similar to the lifework of JPII biographer (more of a hagiographer actually) George Weigel who is widely quoted here. While JPII undoubtedly has done a lot of good things, it should be emphasized that his shadowside should also equally be brought out more frequently and numerously for the people of God to have a broad and balanced view of his legacy for the next century. So when we talk of his legacy for the next 100 years, his failure to address the clergy sex abuse scandal when it erupted during his papacy should be highlighted. The sex abuse scandal now infecting the worldwide church surged during his papacy. These cases of predominantly homosexual predation by priests and bishops were not forcefully confronted by JPII because these somehow went against the big ideas of his pet theological projects. These were the over-hyped and near cult-like idealization of sexuality (e.g., Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility, etc.) and of the ministerial priesthood (e.g., Pastores Dabo Vobis, Gift and Mystery, etc.). By turning a blind eye to these developments, the gay mafia in the ranks of the bishops and priests grew in numbers and power and enabled this scandal to explode and its consequent cover-up. JPII promoted the global icon of this scandal, Theodore McCarrick, not just once but five times: Auxiliary Bishop of New York, Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, Archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal. The Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado, another icon of this scandal who preyed upon his seminarians and priests and sired children, was favored by JPII with a preferential treatment and called him “a model of heroic priesthood.” George Weigel, in his hagiographical biographies of JPII (Witness to Hope, Lessons in Hope), tried defending this epic papal failure by rationalizing that JPII was disinclined to humiliate others which led him to misjudge others, even among bishops and priests. Weigel is either or both a big liar and/or just blinded by his hagiographical obsession. JPII humiliated, even crushed, a lot of bishops, priests, theologians he judged not toeing the line (picture JPII openly scolding Ernesto Cardenal at the tarmac of Managua airport). JPII should never have been hastily beatified and canonized.

    • Thaddeus Noel Laput ,
      Good Morning!
      You know, saints don’t always have the gift of reading hearts or the ability to recognize sociopaths & child molesters. Most of us don’t either.

      Sometimes seasoned professionals in mental health or the criminal justice system can pick up on signs from those type of offenders. But generally, decent folks can’t do that. We see the best in others. That’s how sociopaths get away with their crimes. They hide it quite well & put on a good front.

      The people who can more easily identify child molesters tend to suffer from that deviancy themselves.
      So St. JPII not being able to recognize that evil in others is reassuring to me.

  3. Dear Sirs
    Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979. The visit can, on any number of levels, be seen as a triumph. My late mother, Lily, was one of only a few hundred pilgrims who were fortunate to meet him in person at CLonmacnoise, one of Ireland’s most iconic Catholic holy places. My late father, Andy, remembers the visit of Pope John Paul for an entirely different reason – his pocket was picked while attending Mass at our Phoenix Park! Over one million people (about 25% of the entire population at the time) attended this historic event. I, along with my three siblings, attended the youth event in Galway, meaning that all six of our family attended at three different events. The preparatory mass for young people in my home town was at midnight and we made our way via a very slow bus ride along many sideroads, due to the volume of traffic. We assembled as daybreak broke over Ballybrit racecourse, one of the few sites large enough for the anticipated crowd. I can still hear the sound of the helicopter carrying the Pope as it swooped over the crowds, every young person cheering ecstatically. He told us that, as young people of Ireland, he loved us – and we believed him.
    But, regrettably, what remains indelibly imprinted on the minds of many Irish people, including my late parents, is the image of the two ‘celebrity’ clergy given the task of ‘warming up’ the attendance at the Galway event. Both were no strangers to TV and radio channels and had spent many years lecturing the population of the importance of living celibate lives and the dangers of … well, you probably all know the list by now. One of them had a significant youth ministry, conducting retreats at many schools. These included a full day retreat for senior students at a Catholic school where I began teaching in 1980.
    It transpired that both were already ‘fathers’ in the strict biological sense when they performed their usual double act in Galway in 1979. One, Bishop Eamonn Casey, fathered a son with a vulnerable American lady who approached him for spiritual solace. The other, Father Michael Cleary, also fathered a son with his housekeeper.
    Fast Forward – the incalculable harm that this caused the Catholic Church in Ireland can be seen seen by the response of the Irish public to the visit of Pope Francis in 2018. Once again the Phoenix Park was to be the scene for the landmark event of the visit, the Papal mass. Preparations were made for an attendance of 500,000, already a significant reduction from that of 1979. I volunteered to help with the anticipated crowds and attended at a number of training sessions. In the event about 110,00 attended, although this is disputed by Church authorities here, who claim a much bigger audience. Assisting on the day, I can vouch for the paucity of the attendance, with entire sections completely devoid of pilgrims. The visit was the proverbial damp squib.
    And the Catholic school where I began teaching in 1980? It officially opened in the late 1960s as a secondary school. Previous to this the location housed an industrial school for almost a hundred years. A distressing litany of complaints of physical, emotional and sexual abuse has emerged in connection with the industrial school institution in recent decades, with thousands of victims of abuse coming forward with harrowing testimony. The financial cost to the Irish taxpayer of the State Redress Board Scheme established to compensate victims continues to grow, amounting to about €1,250,000,000 ($1,350,000,000) at the present time. The financial responsibility of the religious congregations that ran this, and other, similar, institutions was capped at about 10% of this total. The emotional cost to those who were abused, unfortunately, cannot be quantified. The response of the broader Irish public has been withering with all religious and clergy being tarred with the same brush of responsibility, a gross distortion and unfair to many who led, and continue to lead, exemplary lives. nd as with many such scandals, it it the cover up which rankles the most.
    But the repeated failure, by a succession of Popes and Catholic Church authorities, to adequately deal with those who abused their religious vows in the most heinous of circumstances has revulsed Irish people, once considered among the most devout in the world. The results are there to be seen in the empty churches and cathedrals throughout the land. What a shame that the redemptive message of Christ is being rejected or is not being heard by swathes of Irish people. There are, no doubt, many different factors that have led to this situation. But, in part at least, the hypocritical, not to say illegal, behaviours of so many clergy and religious, both in the perpetrating of what are crimes in civil law and, most appallingly, by the repeated cover ups, cannot go unacknowledged.
    The legacies of many Popes, including Pope John Paul II, should, in part at least, be viewed through the lens of how they dealt with the allegations of abuse. Evil must always be confronted if good news is to prevail.
    Yours etc.
    Michael Minnock
    (former Principal, Synge Street CBS, Dublin)

    • Michael Minnock,
      I think part of the problem was that Ireland was the poorest nation in Europe & had no other appropriate infrastructure beyond the Catholic Church to handle its impoverished or teach its children.
      The same sort of abuses have occurred in Protestant & secular institutions. Children & the poor are very vulnerable & some people gravitate to institutions that serve them for the wrong reasons. We can put too much trust in other fallen human beings.

      • Hi there!
        Ireland’s history is, no doubt, a rather complicated affair. As the only European country to be colonised by one of the great powers, we were part of the British Empire. We were, as you say, the poorest nation in Europe at a point in time. But, as a matter of record, this is very definitely not the case now. In 2019 the per capita GDP of the USA was $62,795 while the equivalent for Ireland was $79,259, roughly a quarter higher. Perhaps much more significant is that, in 2018, Ireland ranked 3rd out of 189 countries and territories on the Human Development Index. This assesses long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

        Your assertion that Ireland ‘had no other appropriate infrastructure beyond the Catholic Church to handle its impoverished or teach its children’ will not stand up to scrutiny on many fronts. But by way of example, in 1832 Ireland had a national school system in place a full forty years before a similar scheme in the rest of the United Kingdom. Irish people have a long and noble educational tradition and, during Penal Times, when it was forbidden to have schools with a Catholic leaning, we had thousands of ‘hedge’ schools. As the name suggests, these were not exactly luxurious settings!
        The third of your non-sequiturs relates to the existence of abuse in Protestant and secular institutions. While undoubtedly the case, appealing to an equality of ‘appallingness’ does not serve to elucidate.
        Where I believe we agree is that children and the poor are vulnerable. The context of my posting is important. It was in response to a biography of Pope John Paul II and to other responses. As I said at the end of my post the “legacies of many Popes, including Pope John Paul II, should, in part at least, be viewed through the lens of how they dealt with the allegations of abuse”. That remains the heart of my argument, on which I am certain we could agree. If a child or young person attends either a Catholic school or is resident in a Catholic industrial school, the very least that could be expected is that they would not be abused in any way, be it physically, emotionally or psychologically. While I would expect a lot more, a demonstration of Gospel values perhaps, all too often even the bare minimum seemed to be too much to expect.
        So I hope you understand my position in this regard. During my decade long tenure as a lay Principal I was questioned on multiple occasions by police on foot of allegations made against members of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. I never knew who these Brothers were, as the enquiries involved events that, on occasion, had taken place before my birth, and I certainly had no personnel files to consult! To say the least these were dispiriting experiences. Unfortunately, the desire to protect the reputation of the congregation and the Church far exceeded the desire for any form of justice, restorative or otherwise, for those who suffered the most appalling abuse. The sad fact that the abuse was at the hands of those who had taken religious vows is also dispiriting. But the cover ups… the cover ups…

  4. Michael Minnock ,
    Thank you for your comments. When I was speaking of a lack of infrastructure I was thinking of the situation Ireland was thrown into following independence, not under British rule/administration.
    I’m no expert on Irish history but have read that after independence the new govt. did the best they could & the Catholic Church was utilized because they had the resources needed.
    My own ancestors apparently didn’t benefit from the Irish educational system because they arrived in the States completely illiterate. I’m not casting any blame but the rural folks in the West of Ireland seemed to miss out on that benefit, perhaps as other poor rural folk have.

    • Hi again!
      Great to hear of your Irish ancestry! Emigration to the US from the West of Ireland has been a feature of our history since the famine of the mid-1840s. Not sure when your ancestors emigrated but, if they came from the West, they, most likely, have spoken Gaelic as their first language. This would almost certainly account for them being illiterate in English. You are 100% correct when you say that Catholic congregations were the most significant educational providers after Irish independence, particularly at second level. The impact on Ireland of World War I, during which we had a rising against British rule, was closely followed by the war of independence that, in turn, led to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. As with these things, this was closely followed by a civil war! The newly independent State had few resources with which to establish a separate system, although we did put in place a vocational school system from 1930 onwards.
      The central concern of my post remains the same – everyone has a responsibility for protecting the young against those who might prey on them. To further agree with you, Catholic Social Teaching, from Rerum Novarum onwards, expresses a preferential option for the poor. Unfortunately, when made aware of these heinous crimes against children, all too often the default option of Church authorities is to ignore, prevaricate, to bad mouth complainants and all the other tactics of deflection with which we are all too familiar. They must be held to account for allowing what Edmund Rice called ‘his little ones’ to suffer so grievously. The legacy of any Pope should, in part, be viewed via this lens.
      Best wishes,

  5. Michael Minnock ,
    Thank you so much for your response. Yes, I’ve considered that Irish being a first language may have played a part in illiteracy along with poverty. We have a similar history where I live now concerning French speaking people who were not assimilated into the public schools or if they entered, were shamed & punished for speaking French. Some just never returned to school after that experience. To this day we have older folks who are still unable to read or write, or who are at least functionally illiterate. But they did hold on to their French. I hope my ancestors held on to their Irish.

    I certainly expect much better things from the clergy & those having most authority, but at the end of the day, vows or no, they’re human beings suffering the same weakness & fallen nature we all do.
    Spouses take vows & fail on a regular basis. As do vow-taking judges & lawmakers.
    But I do share your disappointment. I’ve had a little bit of experience dealing with abuse issues at a former parish & it was a long, drawn out process. Actually, primarily drawn out by civil authorities in our instance. The diocese was much easier to work with. But I know that can vary by location.

    • Hi again.
      Agree with you on (almost!) everything this time. We can only be in awe of the courage demonstrated by the many millions who emigrated, including your ancestors. Like many other Irish people, both my wife and I have relatives to this day in the great ‘Irish’ cities like New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. Imagine how difficult it was to experience life in a largely English-speaking space while only speaking Irish or French? Hard to comprehend…
      A slight disagreement still – you are entirely correct that we are all human, faults and warts and all. But it takes courage to do the right thing and try to obey the tenets of both civil and canon law. To hide behind one (or both) to protect institutional interests is wrong in almost all imaginable circumstances. Regrettably courage is an attribute that has not been demonstrated by many in responsible positions.
      Take care,

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