The trouble with saints
This morning on Radio 4 there was coverage of the attempt to fast-track the past pope (John Paul 2) to sainthood. There seems to be just one supernatural requirements which apparently is easily met: the need for "evidence" of a miracle. It has been dutifully supplied by a devout catholic who claims her Parkinson's disease was cured by thinking of JP2.
It's clear that part of the process of gaining sainthood is being able to show evidence of being a role model on which others should base their lives: that too seems to have been easily met. "JP2, we love you" was the chorus line for a mass chant in Manilla, orchestrated by chorus girls when two million people apparently heeded the call.
So here we have the appeal to supernatural powers, orchestrated with a mass media campaign to establish as some holy role model, someone who amongst other things argued against the use of condoms in the battle against AIDS (truly humanitarian!) including suggesting (utterly without evidence) that they provided no barrier to AIDS, and also had a truly neanderthal attitude to women. He had a record of supporting dictators in South America including Argentina's Videla, and criticised what he called the "Popular Church" in Nicaragua made up of ordinary working class people who tended to support the Sandinistas because the Sandinistas fought for them.
He supported and approved Opus Dei, the secret organisation that pulls the strings of states with its fifth column approach to public morality.
But of course, to the pious, these things don't matter. Religion is other-wordly. But the brute fact is that as the head of a socially massive organisation, he exerted huge political influence with truly dreadful consequences. He might be considered a suitable candidate for becoming a saint in the eyes of catholics, but in the real world he was a reactionary, archaic, authoritarian who believed in medieval notions.
By any real-world criteria of ethics and humanitarian principles, he stands a long long way down the list of progressive role models. The discussion of sanctification of JP2 shows up with stark contrast the difference between the medieval ethics based on imaginary beings and self-certifying miracles, and the actual consequences of the prejudices that spring from those beliefs.
Religious ethics might have more appeal if it credited the humanitarian and compassionate work of those who tried to treat and comfort the AIDS sufferers rather than the reactionary bigot who tried to encourage practices which condemned hundreds of thousands to certain death. It's hard to think of a more poignant display of moral bankruptcy than the haste to sanctify a representative of medieval prejudice and superstition. Hopefully many religious people will pause and think about the irrationality of this kind of superstitious social movement and its serious consequences.