I have to say, I really don't get it.It's not okay for the University of Notre Dame to ask a pro-choice politician to give a commencement speech, and receive an honorary degree, because abortion is the new Holocaust. . . and we shouldn't honor in any form those who who acquiesce in its legality, claiming that this is the best we can do realistically and pragmatically.But it is okay for the Roman Catholic Church to advocate the cause of sainthood for Pope Pius XII, who was at best lukewarm in his opposition to Nazism and the original Holocaust, and Pope John Paul II, whose apparent negligence in failing to investigate the charges against Maciel and the Legionaries will not be investigated as part of his cause--thanks to changes in the canonization process made by the selfsame Pope John Paul II,who eliminated the Devil's Advocate.Saints don't have to be perfect.And in canonizing Pope Pius XII, the Church really doesn't mean to endorse his approach to Nazism. And in canonizing Pope John Paul II, the Church really doesn't mean to endorse his handling of the Maciel case. But their whole lives cannot be reduced to one position, one action, one set of judgments, as John Allen carefully explains to us.Mmm. I thought that was essentially the argument made by Notre Dame about the commencement invitation--rejected by many of those who are likely to support the canonization of Pius XII and JPII.Oh. . . but it's there's a difference. Obama was a commencement speaker --not a candidate for sainthood.Saints don't have to be perfect. But commencement speakers apparently do.Update: Let me make it entirely clear: I think the standards for being a saint ought to be higher than the standards for being a commencement speaker. And I think we need a Devil's Advocate. Otherwise, how can the faithful trust that making saints isn't a process of pure expediency?UPDATE: Needless to say, I am aware of the dispute about Pius XII's role with respect to the Holocaust. There are studies of questionable merit on both sides of the issue--more study is needed. What I found quite striking--and helpful--is this summary of the status questionis. Note that the question for the detractors of Pius XII are very much the same as those who now oppose abortion. Was the Holocaust such a monumental evil that he was bound to speak out against it?And hence my analogy.
Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.