The Instigator
GMan
Pro (for)
Losing
12 Points
The Contender
symphonyofdissent
Con (against)
Winning
22 Points

Pope John Paul II was a great man. His philosophy and political thought was right on the money.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/15/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,592 times Debate No: 404
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (10)

 

GMan

Pro

I wish to start out my opening argument by saying that in history you rarely come across a person who is skilled at both spirituality and politics. People often assume that to be religious you have to be a "softy" or to be in politics you need to be "cold". JPII showed us that neither assumption is true. He was a man of immense kindness and mercy, having traveled to almost every nation and culture on earth during his reign as Supreme Pontiff, he was able to reach out to people in ways no other person could. He is also responsible for upholding church doctrine, refusing to give into pressure. In terms of politics he was a shrewd diplomat and was a powerful contributor to ending the Communist regime of The Soviet Union. He is still regarded in Poland as a hero, not just because he was the first Polish Pope, but because he was instrumental in ending the brutal oppression of Atheistic Communism in that country. He rightly deserves the title, "John Paul the Great" and he is a Saint of our time.
symphonyofdissent

Con

In taking the con position in this round, I have to first establish a clear burden for myself. I can not and will not argue that John Paul II did not contribute to one of the most mommentous events of the 20th century- the fall of the soviet union- or that by the standards of popes of the past century that he was a good one. However, I will argue that in dogmatic blindness he failed to bring relief to the lives of millions of impoverished individuals worldwide, and that therefore he culpable for their suffering. In this sense his philosophy was not great because it was held back in dogma rather than in a true desire to help people.

I would first be remiss if I did not mention the sex abuse scandals that ravaged the church. The point here is not neccesarily that John Paul II could have single handedly stopped sexual abuse on the part of priests, but that as the supreme leader of a hierchal institution, he could have done a lot more to emphatically come out against the abuse and take a strong position in punishing offenders. Indeed, John Paul II is accused by many of being an autocrat and concentrating church power, so why didn't he also take charge here? The permisiveness on the part of the church is appalling and reprehensible. I challange anyone to watch the film Deliver Us From Evil and not come to a similar conclusion.

Next I would like to talk about the Pope's moral hypocrisy in reguard to contraception and birth control. For a pope that spoke about the need to alleviate poverty, this is the completely wrong stance to take. His denial of contraception helped contribute to the epidemic spread of HIV/AIDS in the world. Through spiritual condemnation, he forced many to be torn between good health practices and their spiritual needs which is a torturous position indeed.

Similarly, his position on Euthanasia and abortion led countless to suffer remain impoverished. His moral hypocrisy became even more stark when doctors reported that he may have actually practices passive euthanasia when he refused a feeding tube early on in his sickness. When it came down to controling his own fate, the pope was a capable moral actor and made a decision, but his denial of the right to make the same decision to others stands as abuse of the worst kind.

Furthermore, his backwards stances on the role of Women in the church deserve much scorn. Rather than taking the lead on dismantling the church gender divide, the pope fell back to old Dogma and continued to stand ignorant. I am not christian or even a theist, so I will not argue about what is inherant in the christian testaments about a womens role, but only argue that a pope has the power to redefine dogma and lead it in a more constructive direction.

Therein really boils down my main criticism of John Paul II. If only he had taken even one step in a theologically liberalizing direction as he had done in a politically modernizing one in Poland, then he would be a true great, but his unwillingness to improve church doctrine and make it more compatable with even a basic sense of morality leaves him at best an incomplete man and at worst culpable for so much more.
Debate Round No. 1
GMan

Pro

First let me thank you for agreeing to debate me on this topic. I greatly appreciate it. You made a number of points, all of them old and already explained, but I shall attempt to tackle them as best I can in order.

Your first point was that JPII did not come out strongly enough against the church sex scandal. I would argue that overall the response from him was satisfactory and was appropriate. At the time of the first allegations it would have been inappropriate for a strong condemnation of the individually accused priests because their guilt had not yet been proved. After a number of convictions the pope did come out with numerous statements condemning abuse of any kind and encouraging the protection of the young. In addition, many Diocese, including my own have put in place many good programs and methods for preventing and reporting any and all abuse. The Pope was very instrumental in making sure a number of these programs were put in place.

Second, you accuse him of making the big mistake of not allowing birth control; especially when you say it could have helped with the AIDS crisis in Africa. For the holy father to allow birth control he would be first going against a long line of church teaching, and would be effectively allowing what is viewed by the church as a mortal sin. The reasons why contraception is not permitted is a discussion in itself, but the general reason why this cannot be allowed is that it perverts and distorts the act of sex, which is a beautiful and holy act set down by God for procreation between a husband and wife. To allow birth control would have been to cheapen this holy act. It may well be that in mathematics two negatives = a positive, but it just doesn't work like that in real life. And, let me remind you, there is only one 100% way to prevent STD-Abstinence.

Thirdly, you criticize his (and the church's) stance on abortion and euthanasia. Besides the fact that these acts have always been viewed by the church as intrinsically evil, the act of killing a child in the womb, or killing an elderly person was an unthinkable thing in the whole church. To declare that such a thing was permissible would be to turn your back on fundamental church teachings.

Now we get to your last argument. This is my favorite since it is so easy to refute. You say that the pope did not end the "Gender Divide" in the church. This is one argument which I must confess I am sick and tired of hearing. Any person who says the catholic church does not respect women need only walk into a catholic church to find that they are wrong. In almost every church there is a statue to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is extremely honored by the church. She isn't called "Our Holy Mother" for no reason. In addition, whenever a pope is elected he chooses a coat of arms and a motto. On JPII's coat of arms there was a large "M". It stood for Mary. He is known as one of the most devoted Popes to Mary in the 20th century. His motto is: "Totus Tuus" which is latin for "Totally Yours." It is in reference to his total consecration and devotion to Mary. You might also want to read his writing on the philosophy and theology of women, titled: "Women: God's Masterpiece" Finally, how do you account for Saints such as Joan of Arc, Catherine of Sienna (Doctor of The Church) and Therese the little flower (also a Doctor of the Church), etc. All women and all very instrumental to the church?

Finally, You're statements that as Pope John Paul could have changed dogma is incorrect. Even the pope is not able to change dogma. It is his duty as pope to protect dogma. No pope has ever changed dogma.
symphonyofdissent

Con

It is perhaps because I come from a non-catholic background that I must disagree with you when you say that a Popes role is not to change dogma but to enforce it. In world history, the pope has always had an incredibly large role in defining Dogma and setting the agenda for a church. Because Catholics believe the pope receives divine inspiration directly from god, he by definition has the power to rule on and overrule existing laws and establish new ones.

Pope John Paul II himself took a strong stance in fact in apologizing for and clarifying the churches position on many of its most heinous acts such as its condemnation of science through the persecution of Galileo and the silence of some Catholics during the holocaust. It is precisely because he has this power, that I hold him culpable for his failures in truly eliminating some of the worst corruptions and flaws of the church.

As someone not part of the church tradition, I am not going to spend too much time arguing about church dogma. All I will say is that when you argue about the traditional role of lets say women in the church, always ask yourself why does it have to be that way? In a religious tradition that lives not just through a stagnant book, but through an oral tradition, transformation compatable with liberal ideals is possible. I would point you towards non-orthodox Judaism as an example of a faith that has pioneered itself in a liberal direction on many issues. The pope could and should be a leader in directing the church in a more socially positive and constructive direction.

As to the specific points, I still feel the evidence is in my favor.

In regard to sex abuses, I doubt anyone could with a straight face feel that enough has been done to stem such activity. Molesting priests such as Father O'grady (Deliver Us from Evil) were allowed to be moved by local diocies from parish to parish even after they had already received complaints. O'Grady himself now is free in Ireland with no responsibility and a church stipend, but far worse is the fact that the diocies that turned a blind eye were not criticized or punished. The sex abuse scandal is systemic and not just the result of a few bad priests, but the popes condemnations focused solely on individual culpability and therefore failed to alleviate the problem. His actions were similar to the arrest of a few petty soldiers in the Abu Ghraib torture fiasco rather than a true examination of leadership and permissibility that had made abuse likely ( for a full analysis see Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect).

It has been very effectively shown that abstinence only education failed magnificently especially in third world countries. Of course, I would argue that the pope has the power to redifine the churches stance on birth control and therefore could make a wise choice, but even if we do not hold this view and even if we give in to your position that birth control distorts the natural act of sex ( two positions which I agree deserve a debate in and of themselves), what we are faced with is a matter of priority. It is equally, and I would argue more, abhorrent to allow millions to die when their deaths could have been prevented, than to break a taboo on birth control. I would argue that the value of human life is much more clearly spelled out in the bible and in christian tradition than the value of contraceptive free sex. In this view, the pope had a choice between two sins, and the one he chose was far worse. Additionally, you can not argue that this was a choice between a negative and a positive moral violation and that therefore taking no stance was morally justified. Declaring the churches lack of support for contraceptives even in these countries was a positive declaration that interfered with the ability of international aid groups to function and be efficient in their missions.

I brought up Euthanasia mostly because of the example of hypocrisy that I found startling. The pope claimed the same right to exercise control over ones own death that he denied to others. It is clear that in his dying moments, John Paul II acted with the same desire for human dignity and self respect he had denied so many. This is to me a strong example of a man of weak moral strength: One that denies to others something that he takes for himself.

The church glorification of Mary is just part and parcel of true picture. The fact that the church recognizes that women can be chosen by god and receive his inspiration (In the case of John of Arc or Mary), but not that they are then qualified to pass on that knowledge to others in the role of a member of the church leadership is the definition of hypocrisy. When I see a female pope writing a treatise entitled "Men: God's Masterpiece" than I will cease with this line of argument, but until that time I can not but hold that the church gives token honor but deprives true power from the hands of females.

A final clarification about the intention of this debate, we should question what makes a man great. To my understanding at least, it is about rising above expectations and demands to accomplish something truly great. I would agree with you that John Paul II rose above what was expected in the political sphere and helped hasten the fall of the soviet union.I argue however that he utterly failed in the same regard to lead in the moral sphere. By perpetuating old and stigmatizing dogma he stigmatized many and failed to effectively guide the church in a new era of light.
Debate Round No. 2
GMan

Pro

GMan forfeited this round.
symphonyofdissent

Con

Because my opponent has failed to post an argument in the previous round, I will in part address some of the comments that have come up from others watching the round and also deliver closing remarks.

My debate centers around the notion that what defines a great man are not the things he is meant to do due to his position of power persay but the choices he makes that exceed expectations. In that sense, John Paul II trip to poland was truly a great action because it was a powerful and symbolic gesture that required courage. In doing so, he had real courage unlike his predecesors who took half hearted measures to fight nazism and didn't do their part to save millions of Jewish lives. ( I didn't even get into the fact that John Paul II was the main proponent of the canonization of this clearly not great or holy pope- another serious strike against his legacy).

Therefore, politically John Paul II was a great man. I have from the start conceeded half of the pro argument in this round, and hoped for some true clash on the more interesting second category of his moral philosophy.

Kels1123 in the comments section suggested that my argument hinged upon the Pope turning his back on his beliefs. The truth is, the Pope has the unique power in all of the world of secular or divine law to set his own standards and beliefs. Anything the pope says according to catholic dogma is the word of god and must be believed by his adherants. Therefore, a pope has a vast amount of power to direct and change dogma. This is something that popes have traditionally done. In the face of Luther and preceeding "heretics", the pope invented a new standard of what acts were breaks from the church and deserved killing to encompase these dissidents. In the converse direction, in recent years the church has somewhat shifted its stance on marriage and the sanctity of latin as the only worthwhile church language. Even the church's stance on abortion has not been fixed in stone, with its official language changing over the past century from the fetus being a life at the momment of implementation to the momment of conception. These few examples just prove a broader point. The pope has the power to change dogma to best adapt the church to its goal of ministering to the worlds faithful.

My other main arguement here is that the pope did not have to choose between valuing dogma over heretical views, but instead between two competing church values. When having to choose between actions that would save the most lives from poverty but somewhat change church positions, or a dogmatic stance that would condemn millions to poverty, death and disease, the pope chose the later. Of course, one could say drug companies do the same thing every day when they choose to raise prices rather than provide cheap drugs to starving or dying africans, but no one is calling the head of pfizer a "great man"

Finally, I leave it to the reader to conclude if the church is truly gender equal in any just sense that we living in Western Society deem it. The responses saying that "women can become nuns or saints" reminds me far too much of the 19th century notion of women as teachers or maybe nurses but nothing more. A restructured church along the lines of gender egalitarianism would have been a true step foward in accordance to what the rest of the world deems is just. I don't think its unresonable to hold the church and its pope up to a standard of morality and justness which the rest of the world has found to be unfaliable ( to excuse the pun), and I will rest this argument when I see men and women both allowed into every major position in the church hiearchy.

Similarily, the pope's reaction to the church abuse scandals may have been "adequate" but hardly the stuff of great men. Taking a line from U.S President Truman and truly believing the Buck Stops at the top rather than deregulating blame would have been courageous. Initiating a debate about celibacy or the structure of the clergy and how these things encourage an atmosphere of repression leading to rape and molestation would have been truly brave. Just like his march into Poland, these actions would have mattered and been great because they defined expectations. If only John Paul II had the theological courage to back his political one, the world would truly be a much better place.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by clsmooth 9 years ago
clsmooth
Pope John Paul II = socialist.
Posted by kels1123 9 years ago
kels1123
Sorry forgot to mention that mans name, Cotton Mather.
Posted by kels1123 9 years ago
kels1123
Also remember even great men arent perfect . For example , the man who started Yale also created the small pox inoculation saving many lives , however he was also a bad man as he was involved in the Salem witch trials ... killing many innocent people accused of being witches. He also led unwed mothers to commit infanticide. So he saved many lives past and present from small pox ... and he funded Yale ..which has turned about many successful well educated students ..so that makes him Great , however he also did terrible things ..so which is he great or not great?????
Now I don't believe Pope John Paul did anything , but great things but I just wanted to point out that just because you think someone has flaws or is not perfect does not mean they were not Great .Just something to ponder.
Posted by kels1123 9 years ago
kels1123
Con , youre whole argument is pretty much based on the pope should turn his backs on His beliefs which if He did would make Him a man who was not great at all. As the leader of the Catholic church , His role is to protect those beliefs . Catholics do not believe in abortion , so why should he allow it and how would allowing killing an unborn baby make him a great man. Also as Pro pointed out , the only way to protect yourself 100% from an STD is abstinence , if people choose to not follow that message , it is not the fault of the Pope. Also the Gender divide , are you kidding ..... Women in no way are treated poorly by the Catholic Church , women are honored and the Blessed Mother is loved and cherished by Catholics and by the Pope. How are women not treated fairly , because they can't become priests??? They can become nuns, if they choose not to then thats their choice.All your arguments are that the Pope should ignore everything He believed. he did help many in poverty , I don't think He is not a great man based on the fact that He couldn't help them all. As for the scandal , he handled it how He could .... and remember when this all came about the Pope was in failing health and dying. Also I am in no way condoning the scandal... however remember 2 things .. Priests are just men , some are bad , just like some teachers and some rabbis etc... When the sex abuse happened times were very different. You didnt talk about things like that EVER ... Yes the Church kept quiet , so did the parents. Things are extremely different now .. if a priest touched my child , NOTHING would keep me quiet.
Posted by kels1123 9 years ago
kels1123
I can't debate you on this , because I agree that he was a great man.
Posted by Brave_Yankee_87 9 years ago
Brave_Yankee_87
Dude!! You are awesome, rock on! Have you read any of the Theology of the Body stuff?
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