Sins of Omission

St. Louis is welcoming Pope John Paul II, but many devout Catholics don't feel so welcomed by him. They say he's blocking the light for women, intellectuals, non-Westerners, gays, lesbians and remarried Catholics -- and dimming the prospects for an inclus

"As a good theologian, he must have been aware of the varieties of grades or degrees of certainty and probability with which the church teaches," the priest continues. "They range from revelati to defide definita, a doctrine defined by the Church, to probabilis (probable), piis aruibus offensiva (offensive to pious ears), communis et certa (common and certain). But you didn't have to give a definitive assent to that kind of thing. John Paul has attempted to collapse those degrees into a rigid scheme that in almost every instance demands assent."

Why the return to heavy-handed, sceptered authority? Blame the millennium. When he became pope, John Paul II was told by his mentor, the primate of Poland, that he would lead the church into the third millennium. It has dominated his imagination ever since. "He wants to wipe the slate clean for the new millennium," notes Modras. "He was archbishop in Krakow in 1966, when Poland celebrated its first millennium, and it's one of the reasons he is the way he is. Vatican II had just ended, and everyone else was looking forward to something new, and Poland was looking back."

Now John Paul II is looking forward to a new, global millennium, and he's desperately trying to purify and recollect his flock so they can enter it faithfully. As a result, he speaks with great complexity and nuance about human nature; offers fearless, evenhanded critiques of both communism and consumerism -- then makes flat pronouncements about sexuality and freedom. "Contradiction is obliteration of the line of demarcation between good and evil," he writes in Prayers and Devotions from Pope John Paul II. "Morality and law are the fundamental conditions for social order.... The fundamental principles, the sacramental order above all, remain unchanged."

John Paul II has taken to heart the scriptural description of the papacy: "Upon this rock I will build my church."

And nothing -- not the waters of change, nor the tears of the excluded, nor the heady wine of intellectualism -- can soften that rock.

The vigil to pray for "full participation for women in the church" begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, on the steps of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell. "We're really glad it'll be cold," grins Oleskevich, "so women can come bundled up in hats and scarves if they need to conceal their identity." For details, call 533-8016.

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