Remember how, when Pope John Paul II died, we were told that the signs waved by the faithful at his funeral–saying, “Santo subito!”–were a spontaneous cry from the heart of the church for the immediate canonization of the saintly pope? What wasn’t frequently reported in American newspapers as these “spontaneous” demonstrations captured the attention of the mainstream media was that the “spontaneous” outburst of piety was carefully orchestrated–and paid for–by a powerful Catholic lay group, Focolare. Focolare had, in fact, manufactured the “Santo subito!” signs and was already distributing them in advance of the funeral.
As Vatican watcher Luigi Accattoli noted in the period following John Paul’s funeral, the Focolare movement spearheaded the call for John Paul’s immediate canonization from the point of the pope’s death forward. Accatoli has reported that, right after the funeral, petitions began circulating among various cardinals calling for John Paul’s speedy canonization–petitions widely thought by many Vatican observers to originate with the Focolare movement. Gordon Urquhart, a former Focolare member who has written a book, The Pope’s Armada, about Focolare and other right-trending lay movements John Paul II encouraged, notes that the Focolare movement and other “new ecclesial” lay movements allied to it now have as much influence in the Vatican Curia as Opus Dei does.
And because of Focolare’s intimate connection to the process that has pushed the canonization of John Paul II forward so precipitously, I’m intrigued–but hardly surprised–to see John Allen now pointing to Focolare as a model for healing the divisions of the church. Allen’s thesis: “In a time of bitter divisions, Focolare is one of the few outfits with a track record of bringing people together.”
Except. Except for this: for many Catholics, the rush to canonize a pope who knew about the horrific history of abuse of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel, who protected Maciel, and who did nothing at all to address the abuse crisis in the church which came to light on his watch, is anything but healing. For many of us, the rush to canonize John Paul II is a deeply divisive act that tears at the fabric of the church. And of our souls. And of the souls of all those who have been abused by priests, and have not found healing or justice in the church’s response to their abuse.
And so why is John Allen praising Focolare and pointing to it as a model for healing the church’s divisions and bringing the church together? Why is he doing this now? As John Paul’s beatification nears?
Once again, it appears that Allen’s prescription for the church of the 21st century–a prescription he pretends to disguise in the dispassionate language of a centrist “guy known for being fairly middle of the road” (to borrow a phrase from his Focolare article)–is anything but dispassionate and uncommitted. In the guise of pleading for healing of divisions, for transcending ideological tensions between right- and left-leaning factions in the church from which he himself stands aloof, Allen is, once again, pushing an agenda that is anything but healing. Or above the fray.
He’s pushing an agenda that implicitly calls for everyone in the church who finds John Paul II’s non-response to the abuse crisis deeply troubling to shut up and start cheering as the pope’s beatification approaches. Allen is pushing an agenda that calls for the capitulation of Catholic progressives to their brothers and sisters of the right, who own the title Catholic, Allen consistently implies, in a unique and unilateral way that calls the catholicity of progressive Catholics into question.
Oh, and for any of you who happen to be Catholic and to imagine that the church of the 21st century might contribute to healing and overcoming of divisions if it stops targeting its gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, don’t look to Focolare for inspiration. As Gordon Urquhart notes, Focolare is heavily involved in political movements throughout Europe to undermine gay rights. Urquhart notes that Focolare promotes the bogus idea that homosexuality can be “cured,” and has published a book entitled Homosexual, Who Are You?, which maintains that gays are “guilty of involuntary murder by giving AIDS to young people.”
“In a time of bitter divisions, Focolare is one of the few outfits with a track record of bringing people together,” Mr. Allen says.
Perhaps. If we can accept that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
Cross-posted from Bilgrimage, 12 March 2011.