by Thomas Reese, S.J. in NCR
As everyone in the Catholic church gets ready to celebrate the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, I feel like a party pooper because I think canonizing popes is a dumb idea.
Saints are supposed to be models of sanctity for Christians to imitate, but who can a pope be a model for except another pope? And that is exactly the problem.
I fear that the people pushing hardest for the canonization of a pope want him made a saint so he can be presented as the ideal pope that future popes should imitate. It is more about church politics than sanctity.
Making a pope a saint is a way of strengthening his legacy, making it more difficult for future popes to change policies that he put in place. “How can you dare to change what St. Whoever established?”
This is the same motivation behind adding “the Great” to a pope’s name. For example, some John Paul supporters argued at his death that his writings would guide the church for the rest of the 21st century. In fact, the shelf-life of most papal documents expires shortly after their papacies. This is as it should be because each new pope must be guided by the Spirit to respond to the needs of his time…