And all missing what I consider the most poetic moment of his life.
Anyone out there remember Pope John Paul The First? No? Didn't think so. Here's some history so you get my point:
Pope John XXIII served from 1958-1963, and was known for his programs of social reform, ecumenicalism and opening up the Vatican heirarchy by doubling the size of the College of Cardinals. He was succeeded by Pope Paul VI, who took John XXIII's programs and ran with them, among other things, being the first pope for a century and a half to travel outside Italy, and the first Pope to visit the State of Israel. By his death in 1978 he had visited all 5 continents. The man who was chosen to take his place took the name John Paul, honoring the memories of both prior popes, and heralding a continuation of the progressive Vatican policies. John Paul I was probably the most worldly of the cardinals, fond of quoting Mark Twain, for example.
He died 33 days later.
The selection process for his replacement was a long one. There had not been a non-Italian pope in 400 years, so the media was all about the various Italian cardinals and their political jockeying for position.
The joke of the day was:
Q. How did they choose the pope?
A. They took a Pole.
Nobody knew much about this guy. He had spent a lot of time in prison, thanks to both Hitler and the Communists, so he didn't have much of a track record to speculate on.
The poetic moment came when he was asked what name he wanted to be called by. By making that quiet reply "Juan Pablo Secundo", he validated the work of the three previous popes, and told the world that he would fill the unfinished term of John Paul I.
JP2 did a lot of good. He was the most traveled pope in history. He was an amazing linguist, conversant in several languages and able to read his blessings in dozens more. He was out the with The People all the time, and put some life into the papacy.
But he did a lot of bad, too. JP1 had uncovered some links between certain cardinals and the Mafia, and was invesitgating some funny money doings by Vatican officials. JP2 didn't follow through on those issues, and ignored JP1's edicts which would have re-assigned some of the suspects to harmless positions.
And we're all familiar with JP2's stuborn refusal to accept birth control, a stand which has done more than almost anything else to promote poverty in the Third World. I've read the Bible a lot of times, if anyone can show me where Jesus said anything about recreational sex, either pro or con, I'd like to see it. Yes, I know the Old Testament passages about spilling seed in vain, but Jesus was all about love, right?
And how could I forget his total inaction on the subject of clergy molesting children in their parishes? It calls for the pope to relieve some bishops of their duties, and to call archbishops on the carpet for not doing so themselves. The system allows molesters to simply be moved to another congregation. Let he who is without stones cast the first sin...
Their daughter is dead, but Terri Schiavo's parents still won't let go. Some people can't take a hint.
I am so sad Terri's suffering was turned into a circus show by the two people who should have had the most consideration for her. The latest South Park nailed it - if I end up as a vegetable, for crying out loud don't show me that way on national TV. When my brain is dead, I sure hope the rest of me has the good sense to follow suit. And if it doesn't, I hope they don't hook me up to a machine just to show they have a green thumb. And I hope it doesn't happen any time soon.
One thing that surprised me is the question of organ donation never came up, at least not that I saw on the tube.
A year ago January, I was in Seattle visiting my parents because Mom was in a bad way with sciatica so bad she was confined to bed. Group Health gave her a hospital bed to use at home, and she put it in the livingroom so she could still see the TV and feel like she was still part of the world. It took two paramedics and a cocoon carrier to get her to her doctors' appointments. Dad discussed their living wills with me, and mentioned that his said "DNR" which means Do Not Resuscitate. Mom's used to say that, but she had changed it to allow the doctors to give it their best shot. Neither of them would want to be left on machines if they were brain dead. Both of them were born in 1923 - you do the math.