Where is John Paul II?

The Question: I was asked where John Paul II—and, by implication--other dead Catholic saints or saints-in-process—spends his time between death and canonization.

The Response: As might be expected, it is difficult to impossible to pin down the definitive Catholic teaching on this subject. I did a bit of research and came away knowing no more than I did when I started. I do have a few ideas, however.

At one Catholic information site, I read these words:

It is extremely important to note here that it has always been a teaching of the Catholic Church that becoming a Saint through Martyrdom may also apply to an unbaptized person and thereby allow them to become justified and attain heaven (which is called Baptism of Blood). We know this because Our Lord guarantees us this in Scripture.-Author Unknown, Saints

Essentially, in the Catholic system, there are two classes of saints: Confessors and Martyrs. The above words strongly suggest to me that, in the Catholic understanding, martyrs go straight to Heaven after death as a consequence of their heroic faith. The same appears to be the case with Confessors, who are considered to have manifested heroic faith in their lives.

In a book of Catholic theology on my bookshelves I found an explanation that, as is the usual case with explanations of Romish theology, confuses more than enlightens. Under the heading Intercession for the Souls in Purgatoyr, I read these words:

The suffering souls in purgatory too will call for prayers from their brothers on earth, if it be God’s will that this particular soul shall be aided by these those prayers. For these souls are more helpless than we; they can do nothing whatever for their sins but suffer; and their whole activity is concerned with God’s love.

Many Catholics ask prayers of the suffering souls in purgatory and believe that they obtain favours from God through their prayers. But sometimes a doubt is raised whether this can be; and this for two reasons. One, do these souls know anything that passes on earth? For if not, then they do not even know that we want them to pray for us. And secondly, since they cannot pray for themselves, not do anything to purify themselves but suffer, is it likely that they can pray for us?

As to their knowledge. In this world the soul does not learn what is happening except by hearing, seeing, and the other senses. Consequently when the soul leaves the body it has no natural means of learning anything that happens on earth. This is true alike of souls in hell, in purgatory, in heaven. It is not difficult to believe that the saints in heaven, who like the angels “always see the face of my Father who is in heaven,” in seeing God see all the happenings on earth that he wishes them to see; which is also all that they wish to see, since they now wish only what God wishes. But we cannot say this of the suffering souls, for they do not see God. All these difficulties only amount to saying that we do not know of any means by which the dead can see or learn what passes on earth. But if God wills that they should learn it, the difficulties are not difficulty at all…--Canon George D. Smith, The Teaching of the Catholic Church, Vol. II, © 1927, 1928, 1930, 1931 and 1948, The MacMillan Company, pp. 1169-70, has Nihil Obstat & Imprimitur [Emphasis not in original]

The highlighted parts in the above quotation appear to agree with evangelical understanding and call to mind the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16. Canon Smith works around that difficulty by calling up a biblical truth in such a way as to negate the impact of what he had written earlier. This use of a popular Catholic doctrinal tactic calls to mind a cliché saying that was popular ‘way back in my youth: “Head for the round house, Harry. They can’t corner you there.”

Things become even more clouded when we look at the words of a Catholic educator:

The canonization of saints, that is, the final judgment that a member of the Church has been assumed into eternal bliss and may be the object of general veneration. The veneration shown to the saints is, as St. Thomas teaches, “to a certain extent a confession of the faith, in which we believe in the glory of the saints.” (Quodl. 9, 16) If the Church could err in her opinion, consequences would arise which would be incompatible with the sanctity of the Church.—Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, © 1960, Tan Books and Publishers, p. 299 Has Nihil Obstat & Imprimitur

From the above, one might understand that all the thousands of saints that have been canonized by Mama Church have attained to the summit of what is possible for a created being; they are in the presence of God--in Heaven one would assume. Can this be taken to suggest that all of the other Catholics who have passed from this life are still being toasted in the purifying flames of Purgatory?

The Roman Church always leaves herself a way out. In this case, read the words “may be the object of veneration.” Are we to take these words to mean that it is now okay for the Catholic faithful to venerate these spirits of the dead? Or are we to understand that one day it could be okay?

Here is another definition from Catholic theology:

Canonization. The solemn pronouncement by which the pope declares that a blessed actually enjoys the beatific vision and imposes worship of the saint on the whole Church. The Roman pontiff is infallible in this judgment, according to the more common doctrine. Whereas beatification is a preliminary judgment, not infallible but only permissive of worship, canonization is a definitive and infallible judgment which orders worship.—Emmanuel Doronzo, O.M.I., S.T.D., Ph. D., Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, © 1951 The Bruce Publishing Company, p. 37 Has Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat & Imprimitur

A note on this supposed power of popes to infallibly declare who is a saint. When Catholic me received the Sacrament of Confirmation, I took the name of St. Christopher. That was in 1947. The Bollandists, a group of Jesuits whose charge is to determine whether there is evidence of the Catholic kind to support the sainthood status of those enshrined in the pantheon of Catholic demigods, took a look at St. Chris. In 1969, the Bollandists informed their pope that there was no evidence to support claims that the Christopher, alleged to have carried the Christ child across a stream, ever existed. Consequently, Chris’s name was stricken from the list of Catholic saints. Chris was a popular imaginary person, as was Ireland’s patroness, Bridget, whose name was also stricken from the roster of demigods. Yet even a cursory check of one or another of the Catholic saints web sites will show that many of those laughingly called the Catholic faithful are unwilling to submit to their pope’s decision. So much for papal infallibility.

I wonder. Which of the multitude of Catholic demigods, or saints, is the patron of obfuscation? Whoever it is, he must be kept very busy by the boys in Rome.

Marty, that is about as far as I have time to look into this issue. Fridays are a very busy time in my household. Sadly, I do not imagine that any of the foregoing has effectively answered your question. Therefore, I am compelled to turn to a doctrinal source of minor importance in the Catholic Church; the Bible.

Our God tells us, through the inspired writing of John, that

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.-- John 5:24

I don’t know whether the spirit of a Christian saint immediately enters Heaven at the moment of death, or whether he must linger, between heaven and earth, until Christ comes to claim His bride. I like to think that, at death, the spirit of the departed unbeliever goes immediately to stand before the Great White Throne for judgment {Revelation 20:11-15), while the spirit of the passed believer goes to stand before Christ at the Bema Seat (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). I believe that this will happen at the instant of death, when the spirit of the departed will go to his eternal home, while his body will rest on earth (Ecclesiastes 12:7) until Christ returns to gather His saints, living and sleeping, to His bosom.

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.-- 2 Corinthians 5:5-9

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.--1 Thessalonians 4:13-15

As to where the spirit of John Paul II has been and will always be, regardless of whether he is canonized by his pagan high priest or not, is Hell. Scripture tells us that this is the eternal destination for the souls of men who choose to follow false deities rather than the real Jesus Christ, our promised Messiah. I believe this with deep conviction

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