By John L. Allen Jr. | GLOBE STAFF APRIL 27, 2014
ROME — Oct. 11, 1962, brought a beautiful moonlit night to Rome. Pope John XXIII was in an ebullient mood because of that morning’s launch of the Second Vatican Council, a gathering conceived by the pontiff in which bishops from around the world would throw open the windows of the Catholic Church to the modern world.
The first pope of television’s Golden Age, “Good Pope John” had a roly-poly, grandfatherly persona and seemingly inexhaustible cheer that won fans everywhere, though the changes he set in motion also stirred up critics, then and now. That night, the pope looked out over St. Peter’s Square at the vast crowd praying for the council, and made some off-the-cuff remarks that passed into history as his “Sermon on the Moon.”
A son of sharecroppers, he marveled at how a “simple brother” like him had become the father of the Church, which is what “pope” means. He mused that even the moon wanted to be part of the scene that night, and he ended with a line that is burned into Italian national consciousness much as “four score and seven years” is for Americans. …
Advocates for victims of clerical sexual abuse also charge that John Paul II turned a blind eye to the church’s scandals, citing his support for Marcial Maciel Degollado, the now-deceased Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ and who was later acknowledged to have committed a wide range of abuse and misconduct, and the fact that John Paul welcomed Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law to Rome after he resigned in disgrace in 2002.
Canonizing John Paul “sends precisely the most harmful signal to Catholic employees across the globe — that no matter how much you endanger kids, you’ll be honored by the church,” asserted a statement from the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, the largest advocacy group in the United States.
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