[I havn't read the book describing this, but I do find it interesting that the media has jumped on the claims that Pope John Paul II was a self-flagellator who often slept on the ground. In the Catholic Church, self-flagellation is done to imitate the sufferings of Christ and has been highly criticized by Orthodox for whom asceticism is a means to calm the passions rather than to create pain. The creation of pain to imitate the sufferings of Christ is very dangerous for the spiritual life and can be a form of delusion (rather than a reason for sainthood as the Catholic Church claims). Archbishop Lazar Puhalo accurately analyzes this, saying: "During the Middle Ages, and particularly following the Black Plague, self-flagellation became popular among monks and nuns in Western Europe. Indeed, flagellation was the source of many of the 'spiritual ecstasies' claimed by Western saints. This is reasonable since flagellation is a form of masturbation. It very quickly becomes a form of sexual addiction. There are many contemporary accounts of the ecstasies aroused by flagellation, especially among nuns. Often, monks would flagellate themselves into a trance and, wounded and bleeding, begin to proclaim revelations they thought they had received from God." - J.S.]
Pope John Paul II Whipped Himself For God
January 27, 2010
The London Times
The late Pope John Paul II, who has been put on the fast track to sainthood by the Vatican, regularly whipped himself as an act of penance to feel closer to God, it was reported on Wednesday.
A new book also says the pontiff signed a secret document saying that he would step down if he became incurably ill, The Times of London said.
"Why a Saint?" by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Vatican "postulator" in charge of the canonization process, says the Polish-born Pope performed self-flagellation as a bishop in Krakow and continued to do so in the Vatican after being elected Pope in 1978.
"In his wardrobe, among his vestments, there hung on a clothes hanger a special belt for trousers which he used as a whip," Monsignor Oder says.
He said self-flagellation was "an instrument of Christian perfection" emulating the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
He added that in Poland the former Bishop Karol Wojtyla often slept on the bare floor to practice self-denial and asceticism, often disturbing his bed in the morning to pretend he had slept in it and so avoid drawing attention to his act of penitence.
The new book also confirms that in 1989 John Paul, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, prepared a document stating that he would resign, "in the case of infirmity which is presumed incurable, long-lasting and which impedes me from sufficiently carrying out the functions of my apostolic ministry".
Popes are normally elected for life.
John Paul forgave Mehmet Ali Agca, his would-be assassin, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital moments after he was shot on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square, the book further reveals.
Pope Benedict put John Paul on the fast track for sainthood shortly after his death in April 2005 death by waiving the customary five-year waiting period before the beatification and canonization process can begin.