Cardinal cautiously bridged two eras.
In 1967 when Pope Paul VI named Krol a cardinal, Krol called a news conference at which he summed up the meaning and purpose of his life. One of eight children of poor Polish immigrant parents, he expressed gratitude for the educational opportunities the United States had afforded him. He called his ordination "the greatest joy and privilege" of his life and said he saw the priesthood as an opportunity "to serve God, his church and his people."
He said he would accept the honor of being named cardinal as a means of intensifying his priestly service to the church. Finally, he pledged to the pope his "complete devotion, loyalty and unhesitating obedience."
Krol's unhesitating obedience served him and the people under him as a two-edged sword. Having submitted himself totally to the church, he cut away his own personality for the sake of what, to him, a good Catholic and a good priest should he. He once said, "Personally, I avoid interviews about John Krol. I think that's a dull topic, a useless topic, a waste of time. I wish to talk about the church's work."
In turn, he demanded that those under him cut away their personalities and conform to the same church image as his own. This separation of self from church marked Krol's life and accounted for the repeatedly voiced opinion that Krol seemed like two persons -- the rigid, imperial church leader on one hand and the affable, sometimes charming individual on the other.
The imperial. if not imperious, side of Krol w as well-suited to those, especially in tradition-bound Philadelphia, who agreed with his image of the church and church authority. But for those who valued the incorporation and expression of their personalities in their religion and the freedom to imagine new images of church renewal, Krol's leadership proved a constant source of friction and frustration.
An extensive NCR profile of Krol in 1985 noted that "he enjoys playing the piano and singing and has been known to eagerly join in Polish folk dancing. He has a dry, sarcastic wit, which delights those who agree with him and spears those who question his decisions."
Nowhere did the friction show itself more clearly than in the slow and troubled follow-up to Vatican II in the Philadelphia archdiocese. In that same 1985 profile. a priest who had accompanied Krol every day during the four-year Vatican council said Krol was aligned with ultra-conservative Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani -- a prime opponent of Pope John XXIII's intent for the council.
The priest, who had since left the active ministry, characterized Krol as generally disinterested in what others perceived as the main issues of the council.
The self-eradicating churchman had his greatest problem implementing the decrees of a council that had been called by a pope, John XXIII, who, if nothing else, was spontaneously and joyfully himself.
Krol, born in Cleveland in 1910, always loved to point out that as a youth he worked as a meat cutter and a manager of a chain store. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1937 and was then sent to the Gregorian University in Rome to study for a licentiate in canon law.
World War II caused him to leave Italy, and he received his doctorate in canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington. Placed into the legal administrative channel of the Cleveland church, he taught canon law, served as chancellor and in 1953 was named auxiliary bishop.
In 1961. Krol was named archbishop of Philadelphia, the post he held until 1988.
When Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. he named Krol a member of the preparatory commission on bishops and diocesan government. Later, Krol was named an undersecretary of the council and a member of the coordinating committee. At the council, Krol applied his considerable legal and administrative abilities with all the energy with which he was blessed.
Most of his communications from Vatican II had to do with the process of the council rather than the content, and all gave the clear impression of a church engaged in the smooth continuity of centuries of tradition and teaching authority. His loyalty was such that he vigorously forbade those who were with him in Rome to say that any disagreement was taking place within St. Peter's Basilica.
Krol's implementation of the council was marked with the same legal-administrative mindset as his participation. He would answer in Italian, "Dove e scritto?" -- "Where is it written?" -- whenever someone referred to the "spirit" of Vatican II to justify a new idea or action. His usual epithet for those who disagreed with his interpretation of the council was "self-appointed experts" or "the self-appointed minority."
He was also restrained from pushing ahead with Vatican II reforms because of his serious concern about scandalizing the faithful with changes that came too quickly or without sufficient explanation. Once. when a priest preached sermon on social involvement in Krol's presence, Krol stepped to the pulpit. He said the church had not changed and would not change and that if the people said their rosaries and were good Catholics, they had nothing to fear.
Following his return from the council, Krol received numerous appointments and honors, including membership on the committee for the revision of the Code of Canon Law, membership of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He was also a U.S. delegate to the Synod of Bishops.
In 1971, four years after he became a cardinal, Krol was named to a three-year term as president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Although he brought the impact of his views to the job, true to his image and to the expectations of the conference, he submerged his personality and gave strong and loyal voice to the conference's decisions and policies.
The conference record of Krol's years includes somewhat progressive stances on social issues and cautious and prudent liturgical, pastoral and ecclesiastical reforms. The conference spoke loudly and clearly on behalf of Catholic schools and gave strong antiabortion witness in the pulpit and on Capitol Hill.
In Philadelphia, Krol demonstrated his strong support for Catholic schools by carrying the ninth-largest system in the nation through turbulent times of decreasing numbers of religious teachers, budget strictures and a changing population that sometimes resulted in heartbreaking closings of inner-city parish schools. Krol expended considerable effort fighting for government aid to parochial schools -- raising some eyebrows in the process by what appeared to be political closeness to Presidents Richard Nixon Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
Despite those apparent political ties. he surprised many with powerful denunciations of the arms race in testimony before Congress and a stirring public appearance in Philadelphia during the Reagan administration. In 1982, Krol, at the request of other religious leaders in Philadelphia, agreed not only to speak at an annual disarmament rally but to put the machinery of the diocese at the service of the rally, assuring the largest attendance in the history of the gathering. More than 20,000 attended the interfaith rally during which Krol issued a general condemnation of the international arms race.
Krol's pastoral concerns were marked by his efforts in the ecumenical movement and his care for the poor and the handicapped. One of his proudest achievements in Philadelphia was building a facility to house retarded persons. Yet throughout his tenure, Krol was criticized for a spotty commitment to race relations and a weak stance on peace and justice issues outside of his NCCB-U.S. Catholic Conference work.
Throughout the 1970s and '80s, Krol blamed the decline in religious vocations on the weakness and dereliction of some priests who criticized the church and pursued renewal while failing to preserve the vitality of their spiritual life.
In 1984, Krol was named a member of a financial advisory group of cardinals formed to handle the consequences of the Vatican's involvement in the Banco Ambrosiano collapse. In 1985. he was named copresident of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops.
In 1985, on his 75th birthday, Krol submitted his letter of resignation in accord with church policy. It was not accepted. But in May 1987 he underwent surgery, and because of his failing health, on Feb. 11, 1988, he handed over authority to his successor, Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua.
But he did not become inactive. He spent his final years establishing and maintaining an endowment fund to relieve the financial debt of the Vatican.
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|Title Annotation:||Cardinal John Krol|
|Publication:||National Catholic Reporter|
|Date:||Mar 15, 1996|
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