Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Passion of Sister Loonan

This must be the result when you try to write, rather than speak, in tongues:


The result is a valentine sent to a man she knew mainly from watching television, written in the idiom of spiritual gush. Typical are these lines about her efforts to get inside St. Patrick's Cathedral during his 1995 trip to the United States: "This time I really wanted to see him, wanted to rest my eyes on him; I wanted to feel the constriction in my chest when he went by."


Loonan opens her wrists, bares the wounds of dolphin-safe stigmata:

Noonan was not a practicing Catholic during the years of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and she ignores this pivotal background period in her account of Wojtyla's election to the papacy. Instead, she offers a spooky narrative of divine intervention that would make even medieval hagiographers blush. Granted, Wojtyla saw the hand of God in his election, and the protection of the Virgin Mary in his near assassination. But Noonan intensifies this sense of divine predestination by resurrecting the hoary visions of St. Malachi, a 12th-century Irish priest who reputedly prophesied every future pope. Based on Malachi's vague utterances, plus other prophecies and portents, Noonan suggests that God himself willed the early death of John Paul I, after only 33 days in office, to make way for a more suitable successor from Poland. Indeed, the word "miracle" appears frequently throughout her text. "I touch . . . upon the supernatural," Noonan acknowledges. "It is hard not to when writing about this pope."


Supernatural wingnuttery, is more like it:

Noonan devotes a meandering chapter to some of John Paul's "beliefs," and another to his social teachings. But nowhere do we read from this Republican pundit that John Paul opposed both the gulf war of the first Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq initiated by the second. A more glaring omission, especially for a woman, is the absence of any discussion of birth control.

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