Can saints make mistakes? Saints are human, after all, they are sinners like the rest of us. Ernesto Cardinal, a famous Nicaragua poet and priest was stripped of his priestly ability to administer the sacraments by none other than Saint Pope John Paul II. This happened many years ago.
It seems that Father Cardinal who had labored in Central America for many years was reluctant to give up his belief and practice of Liberation Theology at a time when the Vatican had condemned that theology. An image seen around the world during the Pope’s visit to Latin America in 1983 is that of Father Cardinal kneeling before the Pope while the Pope shook his finger at him. For any person who served in South America during the 1960’s or 1970’s that image can not be erased. At that time, it was difficult to separate religious and political turmoil. By the 1980’s the Church had separated itself from Liberation Theology. But, many, like Father Cardinal, saw so much continued oppression under the guise of capitalism that they were reluctant to give up a philosophy/theology that gave hope to the poor and oppressed. A few years later, Father Cardinal lost his priestly ability to administer the sacraments. But, Father never lost the ability to love the poor.
Father Cardinal has become one of the greatest living Nicaraguan poets. His poems have included many social commentaries. Lately, however, his poems reflect his new admiration for science which he says continually explains the powers of God. At 90 years of age and with a South American Pope on the Throne of Peter, Father Cardinal has been asked if he will appeal to have his sacramental powers back. The old priest/poet reconciled himself to the life that he has lived for more than forty years. He is content, as long as he has the opportunity to share his poems with live audiences.
Did Saint Pope John Paul II make a mistake many years ago in removing the sacramental powers of Father Cardinal? Or, were the Pope’s actions the inscrutable hand of God freeing Ernesto Carinal to become a modern day poet of the people?