Criticism of Pope John Paul II

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Pope John Paul II had many critics, both inside and outside the Church.


Political views

One charge sometimes levelled at the Pope was that his opposition of Communism led him to support anti-Marxist right-wing dictators. John Paul occasionally met with dictators such as Augusto Pinochet of Chile. John Paul II invited Pinochet to restore democracy, but, critics claim, not in as firm terms as the ones he used against communist countries. He allegedly endorsed Pío Cardinal Laghi, who critics say supported the "Dirty War" in Argentina and was on friendly terms with the Argentinian generals of the military dictatorship, allegedly playing regularly tennis matches with general Jorge Rafael Videla. When the Cold War ended some conservatives in turn argued that the Pope moved too far left on foreign policy, and had pacifist views that were too extreme. His opposition to the 2003 Iraq War was criticized for this reason. Some on the right would also denounce the Pope's belief that unregulated laissez-faire capitalism was just as harmful as socialism, arguing against any statements in which the Pontiff was seen to imply a moral equivalency between the two philosophies.

Association with Opus Dei

John Paul was also criticised for his support of the Opus Dei prelature and the canonization of its founder, Josemaría Escrivá, whose opponents call him an admirer of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Some argue that Opus Dei is essentially a cult operating within the Church; John Paul saw it as part of a larger return to the Church's founding principles and his thrust to remind people of the universal call to holiness.

Fascism & Liberation Theology

Besides Escrivá, several of his other canonisations and beatifications have been criticised because the people in question allegedly supported fascist political parties. The Pope's supporters respond that these allegations are false and some were deliberately misconstrued by their enemies. John Paul II made advocates of Liberation Theology unhappy by his opposition to it.

Gender issues

Other criticism centred on his beliefs. In particular, John Paul's beliefs about gender roles and sexuality came under attack. Some feminists criticised his positions on the role of women, and gay-rights activists disagreed with his enunciation of the Church position that homosexual desires are "objectively disordered", and particular opposition to same-sex marriage.

Contraception and AIDS

His beliefs about artificial contraception were particularly controversial to many people. John Paul followed traditional Catholic teaching and believed that one of the essential purposes of sex for a potentially fertile couple is procreation. Accordingly, he argued that using a contraceptive was an immoral act. Many people disagreed with this belief, but even some who agreed suggested that it was impractical to condemn use of condoms when sexually transmitted AIDS is spreading. A separate but related claim is that John Paul's administration spread an unproven belief that condoms do not block the spread of HIV; between these two claims, many critics have blamed him for contributing to AIDS epidemics in Africa and elsewhere [1]. His supporters say that John Paul's stress on abstinence and fidelity has been very effective in the battle against AIDS in countries like Uganda (a recent study challenges this[2]).

Administration of the Church

John Paul II was also sometimes criticised for the way he administered the Church; in particular, critics charged that he failed to respond quickly enough to the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. He was also criticised for recentralizing power back to the Vatican following the earlier decentralisation of Pope John XXIII. As such he was regarded by some as a strict authoritarian who would accept no dissent from within the church, the excommunication of Father Tissa Balasuriya being seen as a prime example of this by his critics.

Criticism from conservative Catholics

Besides all the criticism from those demanding modernisation, Traditional Catholics were at times equally vehement in denouncing him from the right, demanding a return to the Tridentine Mass and repudiation of the reforms instituted after the Second Vatican Council. Some took their opposition to the point of sedevacantism while others remained within John Paul's obedience while decrying his policies as not conservative enough.

Pope John Paul II Pope John Paul II

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