No! No! Pio Nono

Is Pope Pius IX, who occupied the throne of Peter from 1846 to 1878, with God? We certainly hope so. But is this author of the notorious "Syllabus of Errors" (1864), diehard defender of the papacy’s temporal rule, unyielding foe of freedom of conscience, speech, thought, and religion, of Protestantism, ecumenism, and the separation of church and state, a figure to be singled out for public veneration by the Catholic church? Is this a man whose life and character should be celebrated and held up for imitation? And should he be yoked, in memory and honor, with Pope John XXIII who called the Second Vatican Council, in part, to heal the wounds that Pius spent much of his pontificate inflicting on the church and European society?

The beatification of Pius IX, scheduled for September 3, would be problematic in itself. To join it with that of John XXIII only engenders cynicism. The Vatican clearly wants to make a point, linking one pope to the other, tying the teachings of the first Vatican council in 1870 to the second one in 1962. But like too many of its actions, this one will backfire. It is destructive of the very idea of sainthood. It further erodes the credibility of the papacy. It is another shadow on the legacy of John Paul II.

Thus far, the most vocal opposition to Pius IX’s beatification and potential canonization comes from the Jewish community, especially in Italy. These objections focus on the...

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