To become a saint in the Catholic Church you've got to manifest at least two miracles. (Only after the person's death -- sainthood now is purely a posthumous possibility in Catholicism, though things were different in the Middle Ages.)
John Paul II is halfway there, as this dead-and-gone Pope has been credited with a cure of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre's Parkinson's disease, which gets him to the beatification level. Failing to investigate many cases of sexual abuse apparently isn't a black mark for a would-be beatified.
The global lay Catholic group We Are Church responded this weekend with dismay. In a press release, it calls John Paul a "spiritual authoritarian."
Their case is that he failed to confront the abuse scandal, that he squashed the Liberation Theology movement, that he shut off discussion on gender equality and that he did not recognize, as Pope Benedict XVI did recently, that use of condoms can be a moral choice for preventing the transmission of of HIV/AIDS.
Michael Kinsley, who has Parkinson's himself, wrote an excellent analysis of this ridiculous attempt to make a miracle out of a questionable case of medical remission. In "Don't let 'miracles' trump science," he said:
Congratulations to Simon-Pierre. It’s miraculous what a miracle can do. But I could use a miraculous cure for Parkinson’s, too, as could millions of others around the world who have the disease or will develop it.
And the main force preventing such a miracle is the Roman Catholic Church. The most likely source of miraculous cures for all sorts of diseases, with Parkinson’s foremost among them, is stem cell research. The Church opposes stem cell research on the grounds that it uses, and in the process, destroys human embryos.
These are surplus embryos from fertilization clinics that will be destroyed, or permanently frozen, anyway. They are not fetuses; they are clumps of a few dozen cells. But of course, none of this matters if you believe they are human beings.
The famous test of that belief goes something like this: Suppose there was a fire destroying your house and you had the choice of rescuing either a real one-year-old baby or two test tubes, each containing an embryo. Would you really go for the test tubes and let the baby die?
It seems more than a little unfair — not characteristic of John Paul II at all — that he would cure Simon-Pierre but leave the rest of us hanging out to dry. I hope that, in his next miracle, John Paul II will do something to rectify this situation. After all, it might be his last one.