Fast-tracking Prince William and John Paul II


'Diana and John Paul' by Chris JohnstonAfter Pope John Paul II's death six years ago, the faithful in St Peter's Square chanted 'Santo subito!', in a spontaneous call for him to be made a saint immediately. This is actually a practice that dates back to the first centuries of the Church's history. 

During the persecution of the early Christians, all martyrs to the faith were proclaimed 'Santo Subito!'. It was not until the sixth century that the Church instituted formal procedures that were required to precede the beatification and subsequent canonisation of holy men and women.

Believers' acceptance of these procedures has fluctuated over the centuries but, essentially, popular sentiment has remained in a state of healthy tension with the rules.

The same might be said for the English monarchy, which has had to balance the Act of Settlement 1701, the Royal Marriages Act 1772, and common law, with popular wishes such as 'Long live the Queen!' or 'Kill the king!'.

In the lead up to the royal wedding, there has been much speculation over whether Prince William might displace his father as successor to Queen Elizabeth II, in line with the wishes of the people as indicated by opinion polls. That is unlikely, but it does suggest many would like to see him crowned king immediately, and that it is only royal process that is standing in the way of this popular acclaim.

There is no doubt that William is seen as a proxy for his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, who continues to be regarded as a cult hero. As a charismatic figure of compassion and style, her image represents what many long for in a monarch. To date William has not disappointed. 

For his part, John Paul II's perceived personal holiness, coupled with his actor's gift for communication, makes him super-human in the eyes of many Catholics — certainly saint material. Immediately following his death in 2005, he was referred to as 'John Paul the Great'. He was only the fourth pope to be given this title, the first since the first millennium.

For the monarchy to be accepted by the large number of royal subjects influenced by the 'cult of Diana', the royal family will need to make some concessions, sooner rather than later, and accept that William is de facto king.

At this stage it is hard to conceive that popular support for the monarchy will hold if William remains in his father's shadow until his father dies, by which stage William himself could be an old man. 

In the same way, the beatification of John Paul II was remarkable, in that it was cleared to proceed within such a short period of six years. This rapidity was no doubt influenced by popular acclaim. The previous beatification of a recent Pope — John XXIII in 2000 — took place 27 years after his death, and that itself was not slow. 

The fast-tracking of the destiny of both William and John Paul II raises important questions, and it could be argued that it is an offence against due process and the rationality that underscores it. Moreover such haste can cause authorities to get things wrong. 

In the case of John Paul II, hit critics argue that the holiness attributed to him by his admirers is tempered by the evil deeds that took place under his watch. For example, many thousands of priests and other personnel raped and psychologically destroyed children under their care in the Church over which John Paul presided. The Church protected many abusers from civil prosecution. 

The view is that John Paul feted the notorious Legionaries of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel, who himself would have been fast-tracked for sainthood had he not been exposed for his sexual abuse of minors and other sexual and financial misconduct.

It is a mystery why John Paul praised Maciel for his 'intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry' and as an 'efficacious guide to youth' when the late pope is alleged to have known of allegations of sex abuse against minors. 

Such mysteries are usually investigated during the long processes that precede most beatifications and canonisations. It is why 'Santo subito!' needs a question rather than an exclamation mark. Meanwhile the challenge for the monarchy is less about investigation than establishing distance from the cult of Diana.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: John Paul II, sainthood, prince william, kate middleton, windsor, royal wedding, Santo subito, clergy sex



submit a comment

Existing comments

No eulogy is due to him who simply does his duty and nothing more.
- Augustine, St.

Beware elevating Popes to Sainthood. The fastrack to Sainthood is fraught with ill judgment. That path to Sainthood should include the passage of time to guard against evanescent popularity.
Bob GROVES | 02 May 2011

I spoke to a man yesterday whose young son was saved from certain death through praying to JPII. I have heard of two stories of conversion to Catholicism where the people just heard JPII speak and literally were converted. I think it is sad that some do not understand the moral integrity of this extraordinary pope whose constant theme was the dignity of the human person.

I do not believe, given the integrity of this Pope he would ever turn a blind eye to abuse. By the time he learned of the abuse [for I think there were enablers of Maciel for instance who kept the information from him] he was chronically ill and did what any reasonable person would do - handed it over to his next in charge - Ratzinger who - all must agree - was disgusted with the extent of the abuse and dealt with it assiduously and very definitively.

IN any case, if one wishes to complain about the beatification - perhaps the complaints be directed to God himself who is evidently allowing a plethora of miracles and answered prayers through the intercession of JPII. I myself can attest to some answered prayers. There is a 'something' about him that people cannot quite understand but my view is, he was great, in every sense of the word.
Skye | 02 May 2011

Dear Michael,
thank-you for your thoughtful article reflecting upon the similarities and subtle differences between the recent royal wedding and the beatification of Pope John Paul. Its interesting and a little bit unsettling to notice how many people who have a deep commitment to Roman Catholicism perceive that some of the old competitive and rivalistic implications of the wedding (and now, as you have highlighted, there's the timing of the beatification to consider)between Anglicanism's claim to be Catholic and reformed, and Roman Catholicism's practical concern with being Catholic in and of itself.

It causes heartache to Anglican priests like me because we see our solidarity in terms of sacramentalism. When comments in response to other Eureka street articles want to sieze upon the wedding to make it a pretext for promoting republican wishes, when Roman Catholics responding are baffled by the presence of Anglican nuns in the wedding procession or icons adorning the Abbey, or even, I read one comment on a Roman Catholic website, wondering why a representative from the Roman Catholic clergy was present, when this happens, I am very sad.

A sect is not defined as a small group withing the church, but by a group who claims that they alone are the only true church. I know that the bigger you are, the easier it is to fall into this, but please, Roman Catholics, don't shoot one of your only friends over historical resentment.
dave | 02 May 2011

I agree with Michael, the fast-tracking of sainthood for John Paul II suggests affinity with popular cult hysteria. In Britain it seems Diana's death has sparked a quiet revolution within the Royal Family and hopefully in Rome the Vatican will see the need to revolutionise its self- image too. But what a terrible mistake it will be if sainthhod is declared for John Paul II in order to improve the Vatican image with the people. Charles cannot be bypassed as king because of royal protocol. But Charles could abdicate in favour of his son who is better suited to the position. There is a huge culture in our society that values celebrity status at the cost of wisdom and right judgment. Let's hope that our Vatican authorities have not fallen into the trap of being swayed by popular culture.
Trish Martin | 02 May 2011

I would add that many Catholics have questioned John Paul II's attitude to Liberation Theology and the harm this has done to the Church in South America.
David Wall | 02 May 2011

It seems to me that the last thing the late Pope John Paul 2 would want in death is to be a divisive force within his beloved church, the community of Christians, after his death. In life he sought Christian unity.

I think Catholics (and others who believe in the communion of saints) should pray to him not for physical/medical miracles but for spiritual miracles - cures not from dis-ease but from dis-unity.

The wedding of The British Royal to An English Commoner was a beautiful occasion for the young couple involved. It displayed in living colour the most extravagant romantic dream of many a young girl brought up on fairy stories such as Cinderella which seem to be part of every culture. I pray William and Kate have a long and happy marriage - as I pray for all those who make such solemn vows as they did.

But why all this talk about him at The Future King? Why can't we give him time to be a good husband and a good father first?
Who knows by the time his grandmother dies, and by the time his father suceeds her and dies the British Monarchy will be dead.
Uncle Pat | 02 May 2011

Is it any wonder that so many have become exceedingly cynical of the processes of bestowing sainthood, particularly when relating to popes and cult leaders within the Vatican?

I name but a few…

Take Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli [1876-1958], elected pope in 1939. His concordats appear to have destroyed catholic political resistance to the Nazi’s in Schicklgruber’s pre-war Europe. His support for Franco and Mussolini seemed total. Great qualifications for sainthood! Fortunately, the supporters moved too slowly and the faeces hit the fan – so no Saint Eugenio.

Pacelli also supported Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer [1902-1975] and aproved, in 1950, Opus Dei.This independent semi-secret society, a tiny part of the church [85000 out of a billion+], had its leader fast-tracked into sainthood by JP11 in 2002.

Now Pope Benedict, formerly known as Ratzinger the puppet master, a long time Opus Dei evangelist is hot to trot JP11 into sainthood.

When his time comes who, I wonder, will fast-track Saint Ratzinger? When will this circle of ‘saint mates’ be broken?

Dermott Ryder | 02 May 2011

The modern obsession with heirs-apparent is tiresome in the extreme. No sooner has a leader taken position than all attention shifts from the leader to their heir, with interest centring on some kind of absurd contest, often when no such contest even exists.

This ridiculous way of generating news and interest was in part the undoing of Peter Costello, who today could be leading the “conservative side of politics” (as his nemesis always used to drone) to almost certain victory in an election, instead of becoming the Number One Ticket Holder for the Coodabeen Champions Football Club.

This obsession with the heir-apparent is undermining our confidence in genuine leadership and the necessary job of doing now what should be done. It is symptomatic of a democratic society and many of us just turn the page, or click to the next screen. Which is why the obsession with William leaping ahead of Charles could only happen in a society like ours and in our time. It displays a perfect ignorance of monarchy, where the heir is the heir, with or without stutter. Charles is the heir and will be crowned king, unless there is some accident in the meantime. As well as being crowned he will also be anointed with oil, i.e. he is consecrated.

The media have trouble with consecration and tend to skip quickly in the commentary to “fashion moments”. Consecration is one of the reasons Elizabeth is not going to give up the job any time soon: it’s a lifetime commitment.
Desiderius Erasmus | 02 May 2011

I cannot but wonder if there any sane people in the Vatican these days. It defended its indecent haste in the beatification of JP II by stating that "the saint-making process isn’t a judgment of how he administered the Church but rather whether he lived a life of Christian virtue." Did Jesus lead a dichotomous life while on earth?! I say "indecent" too because the person who benefited most from Wotyla's papacy is Benedict XVI, and, to be absolutely objective, he should have let his future successors judge the "cause" of JPII. In my country, we use a Spanish word, "delicadeza," to describe a person who is sensitive to what is the proper action to be taken in a given situation,. Alas, Benedict, in this instance has miserably failed.
Mike D. Basilio | 02 May 2011

Has 'saint-making' descended into another tool for political power???
Diana Law | 02 May 2011

Is Desiderius Erasmus seriously suggesting that monarchs derive some kind of divine right through being anointed? Even when the largest single group within the Christian church (the Roman Catholics) are specifically excluded?
Peter Downie | 02 May 2011

God is the head of the Church. I don’t see any mention of divine right of kings in my comments. For various reasons of tradition, not least the monarch’s relationship with God, a main action of the coronation of a British monarch is anointing. Peter needs to be more explicit about how Roman Catholics are specifically being excluded.

The British monarch is by definition the temporal head of the Church of England. This is not exclusion; clearly a Roman Catholic cannot be the British monarch anymore than an Anglican can be the Bishop of Rome. But this is all a very old story and the most interesting character in this whole old story is the person named at the very start of this comment.
Desiderius Erasmus | 03 May 2011

I can never see the “Nazi Pope” urban myth rears its ugly head and just let it slide… Dermott, you say “[Pacelli’s] support for Franco and Mussolini seemed total”. This would be the same Pacelli who not long after being elected Pope appointed a bunch of high-profile Jewish scholars to posts at the Vatican, after they’d been dismissed from Italian universities under Mussolini's racial laws? Who in his first encyclical as Pope Pius XII utterly rejected anti-semitism, emphasising that in the Catholic Church there’s “neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision”? Who hid thousands of Jews in monasteries around Rome and hundreds in the Vatican itself? At his death in 1958, London’s Jewish Chronicle lauded Pope Pius XII’s “courage and devotion”, declaring: “Confronted by the monstrous cruelties of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, he repeatedly proclaimed the virtues of humanity and compassion”. Strange praise for a man who was apparently so totally enamoured of Fascism and Nazism, wouldn’t you think? Rabbi David Dalin's "The Myth of Hitler's Pope" is a good place to start, to find out the truth about this myth, where it came from and why it just won’t go away.
Meg | 03 May 2011

I see the hasty beatification of John Paul II less as a result of public acclaim and more as political game playing by the Vatican. Why else rush the canonisation of the ghastly Escrivar, whose Opus Dei is loathed by thinking Catholics, but beloved of the Vatican who desire to stamp out all questioning of orthodoxy? JPII was of like mind with Benedict in his hardline views, and the lack of a Devil's Advocate makes fast-tracking easy.

And I believe that John XXIII's second miracle will be slow in coming - after all, he was responsible for Vatican II, which the hierarchy wish had never happened.

It's all just pawky politics, which the Vatican play as well as any.
Carolyn White | 03 May 2011

Really Caroline, you think the hierarchy "wish Vatican II had never happened"? So what do you think JPII meant when he expressed his gratitude "for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church – and especially with the whole episcopate – I feel indebted." And there's more... "I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us." Treasures, gift... doesn't sound like a hierarchy that was wishing away Vatican II. Of course there's confusion about what the Vatican II documents actually said, and what people claim the whole exercise was about. If you mean the hierarchy wish all that misinterpretation hadn't happened, that may well be true.
Meg | 04 May 2011

How can anyone say William is better suited to the position of King? It is illogical as they are both equally suited to the position seeing as neither have ever held the position. And if anyone is better suited at this stage it would be Charles through age and experience.
Walter MacLong | 09 May 2011

Comparing JPII to whom? The spell has been cast and it clearly worked on this author:
Annie | 28 April 2013


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up