Benedict XVI Remembers John Paul II
"He Engendered Many Sons and Daughters in the Faith"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI
delivered today at the Mass to mark the fourth anniversary of Pope John Paul
II's death, held in St. Peter's Basilica.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Four years ago, exactly today, my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John
Paul II, ended his pilgrimage on earth, after not a brief period of great
suffering. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist for the repose of his soul, while
thanking the Lord for giving him to the Church for so many years as zealous and
generous Pastor. His memory, which continues to be alive in people's heart,
brings us together this afternoon, as demonstrated also by the uninterrupted
pilgrimage of faithful to his tomb in the Vatican Grottoes. Therefore, I preside
over this Mass with emotion and joy, while greeting you and thanking you for
your presence, dear faithful coming from different parts of the world,
especially from Poland, for such a significant event.
I would like to greet the Poles, particularly Polish youth. On the fourth
anniversary of the death of John Paul II, accept his appeal "Do not be afraid to
entrust yourselves to Christ. He will guide you, he will give you the strength
to follow him every day and in every situation" (Tor Vergata, Vigil of Prayer,
Aug. 19, 2000). I hope this thought of the Servant of God will guide you on the
paths of your life, and lead you to the happiness of the morning of the
I greet the cardinal Vicar, the cardinal archbishop of Krakow, and the other
cardinals and prelates; I greet the priests and the men and women religious. I
greet you in a special way, dear young people of Rome, with this celebration you
prepare yourselves for the Word Youth Day that we will live together next
Sunday, Palm Sunday. Your presence brings to mind the enthusiasm that John Paul
II was able to infuse in the new generations. His memory is a stimulus for all
of us, gathered in this basilica where on many occasions he celebrated the
Eucharist, to let ourselves be illumined and challenged by the Word of God, just
The Gospel of this Thursday of the fifth week of Lent proposes for our
meditation the last part of Chapter 8 of John, which contains a long dispute
over the identity of Jesus. Shortly before he had presented himself as "the
light of the world" (12), using on three occasions (24, 28, 58) the expression
"I am," which in a strong sense alludes to the name of God revealed to Moses
(cf. Exodus 3:14). And he adds: "If any one keeps my word, he will never see
death" (51), thus declaring he was sent by God, who is his Father, to take to
men the radical deliverance from sin and death, indispensable to enter into
eternal life. However, his words wound the pride of his interlocutors, and also
the reference to the great Patriarch Abraham became a motive for conflict.
"Truly, truly , I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (8:58).
Without mincing words, he declares his pre-existence and, therefore, his
superiority in respect of Abraham, arousing -- understandably -- the scandalized
reaction of the Jews. But Jesus cannot be silent about his own identity; he
knows that, in the end, the Father himself will vindicate him, glorifying him
with death and resurrection so that, precisely when he is raised on the cross,
he is revealed as the only begotten of God (cf. John 8:28; Mark 15:39).
Dear friends, meditating on this passage of the Gospel of John, the
consideration arises spontaneously of how difficult it is to witness to Christ.
And our thought goes to the beloved Servant of God Karol Wojtyla -- John Paul II
-- who from his youth showed himself a bold and daring defender of Christ: He
did not hesitate to consume all his energies in order to spread the light
everywhere; he did not accept to give in to compromises when it was a question
of proclaiming and defending [Christ's] truth; he never tired of spreading
[Christ's] love. From the beginning of his pontificate until April 2, 2005, he
was not afraid to proclaim to all and always that Jesus alone is the Savior and
the true Liberator of man and of all men.
"I will make you exceedingly fruitful" (Genesis 17:6). If giving witness of
one's adherence to the Gospel has never been easy, we are certainly comforted by
the certainty that God makes our commitment fruitful, when it is sincere and
generous. The spiritual experience of the Servant of God John Paul II also seems
significant to us from this point of view. Looking at his life, we see realized
in it the promise of fruitfulness made by God to Abraham, which is echoed in the
first reading, taken from the Book of Genesis. It could be said that, especially
in the years of his pontificate, he engendered many sons and daughters in the
faith. You are visible signs of this, dear young people present this afternoon:
you, young people of Rome and you, young people from Sydney and Madrid, who
represent ideally the multitude of boys and girls who have participated in the
by now 23 World Youth Days in different parts of the world. How many vocations
to the priesthood and to consecrated life, how many young families determined to
live the evangelical ideal and to tend to holiness are united to the testimony
and the preaching of my venerated Predecessor! How many boys and girls have been
converted, or have persevered on their Christian path thanks to his prayer, his
encouragement, his support and his example!
It is true! John Paul II was able to communicate a great amount of hope, founded
on faith in Jesus Christ, who "is the same yesterday and today and for ever"
(Hebrews 13:8), as the motto of the Great Jubilee of 2000 stated. As
affectionate father and attentive educator, he indicated sure and firm points of
reference indispensable for all, in a special way for youth. And in the hour of
agony and death, this new generation wished to manifest to him that it had
understood his teachings, silently recollected in prayer in St. Peter's Square
and in so many other places of the world. Young people felt that his
disappearance constituted a loss: "Their" Pope was dying, whom they regarded as
"their father" in the faith. They realized at the same time that he was leaving
them as inheritance his courage and the consistency of his testimony. Had he not
underlined many times the need for a radical adherence to the Gospel, exhorting
adults and young people to take this common educational responsibility
seriously? I have also wanted to take up this longing of his, pausing on
different occasions to speak of the educational emergency that concerns
families, the Church, society and especially the new generations today. In the
age of growth, young people need adults capable of proposing their principles
and values: They see the need for persons that are able to teach with their
life, rather than with words, to spend themselves for lofty ideals.
But where can one get the light and wisdom to carry out this mission, which
involves every one in the Church and in society? It is certainly not enough to
take recourse to human resources; it is necessary to trust in the first place in
divine help. "The Lord is faithful forever": This is how we prayed a while ago
in the Responsorial Psalm, certain that God never abandons those who remain
faithful to him. This reminds us of the theme of the 24th World Youth Day, which
will be held at the diocesan level next Sunday. The theme is taken from St.
Paul's first Letter to Timothy: "We have our hope set on the living God" (4:10).
The Apostle speaks in the name of the Christian community, in the name of all
those who have believed in Christ and are different from "others who have no
hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13), precisely because they hope, nourish confidence in
the future, a confidence not based on ideas or human foresight, but on God, the
Dear young people, we cannot live without hope. Experience shows that every
thing, and our own life, runs the risk, can collapse for any reason internal or
external to us, at any moment. It is normal: Everything that is human, hence
hope, has no foundation in itself, but needs a "rock" on which to anchor itself.
This is why Paul wrote that Christians are called to base human hope on the
"living God." He alone is sure and trustworthy. What is more, only God, who has
revealed the fullness of his love in Jesus, can be our firm hope. In him, our
hope, we have in fact been saved (cf. Romans 8:24).
However, pay attention: In times such as these, given the cultural and social
context in which we live, the risk can be stronger of reducing Christian hope to
an ideology, to a group slogan, to an exterior coating. There is nothing more
contrary to Jesus' message! He does not want his disciples to "recite" a part of
his teaching, perhaps that of hope. He wants them to "be" hope, and they can be
so only if they remain united to him! He wants each one of you, dear young
friends, to be a small source of hope for your neighbor, and to be, all
together, an oasis of hope for the society in which you are inserted. Now, this
is possible with one condition: That you live of him and in him, through prayer
and the sacraments, as I have written you in this year's message. If Christ's
words remain in us, we will be able to carry high the flame of that love that he
has enkindled in the earth; we can carry high the flame of faith and hope, with
which we advance toward him, while we await his glorious return at the end of
time. It is the flame that Pope John Paul II has left us as inheritance. He has
given it to me, as his Successor; and this afternoon I hand it over once again,
in a special way, to you, young people of Rome, so that you continue to be
morning watchmen, vigilant and joyful in this dawn of the third millennium.
Respond generously to Christ's call! In particular, during the Priestly Year
that will begin next June 19, make yourselves readily available if Jesus calls
you to follow him on the path of priesthood and of consecrated life.
"This is the favorable moment, this is the day of salvation." Along with the
Gospel, the liturgy has exhorted us to renew now -- and every instant is a "favorable
moment" -- our determined will to follow Christ, certain that he is our
salvation. Finally, this is the message that John Paul II repeats to us this
afternoon. While we entrust his chosen soul to the maternal intercession of the
Virgin Mary, whom he always loved tenderly, we very much hope that from heaven
he will not cease to accompany us and intercede for us. That he will help each
one of us to live, as he did, repeating with full confidence day after day to
God, through Mary, Totus tuus. Amen!
Relating to the Opposite Sex
Interview With Author of "Men
and Women Are From Eden"
GAITHERSBURG, Maryland, FEB. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Mary
Healy says she has the key to helping men and women in their
relationships with each other.
Healy is the author of "Men and Women Are From Eden"
(Servant Publications), a study guide to Pope John Paul II's theology
of the body.
In this interview with ZENIT, she discusses getting to the
root of the problems between the sexes, and from there, finding the
most effective solutions.
Q: With so many books coming from the secular press on
relationships and the differences between men and women, where does
this book on the theology of the body fit in?
Healy: The topic of the differences of the sexes never
gets old, because in every generation men and women experience the
challenge of relating to one another. Yes, there is an avalanche of
secular books offering relationship advice, some of it helpful and some
less so -- and some that should be tossed in the trash!
But no advice really gets to the heart of the matter
unless it goes all the way back to the beginning -- to God's original
plan for man and woman, as it was unveiled in the garden of Eden,
before the Fall.
And of course the only complete access we have to that
original plan is through Scripture, authoritatively interpreted by the
Pope John Paul the Great left the Church a great gift by
presenting the biblical teaching on men, women, sex and marriage in a
new and compelling way, in his catecheses known as the theology of the
The purpose of my book is to try to make the theology of
the body accessible to ordinary people, and to give them a tool for
studying it in-depth.
When people are introduced to the theology of the body,
they usually find that it resonates with the deepest stirrings of their
hearts and begins to transform their whole approach to relationships,
from the inside out.
Q: The title seems to allude to the popular relationship
book from the United States entitled "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From
Venus." Is your book a Catholic version of that best seller? What
inspired the title?
Healy: Yes, you caught the hint. The title is inspired by
John Paul II's insight -- based on the words of Jesus himself in
Matthew 19:4 -- that the key to understanding who we are as men and
women is found in the book of Genesis, in the story of Adam and Eve in
As John Paul II noted, the creation accounts in Genesis
are "mythic," not in the sense of being fictional, but in that they
recount the events at the dawn of history using symbolic language so as
to convey profound truths about God and the human condition.
Only by understanding those truths will we be able to
fully appreciate our identity as men and women and fulfill our longings
for authentic love.
Q: While much of what popular theories say about the
differences between men and women is true, is there something lacking
about how these theories view maleness and femaleness, and then the
dynamics of relationships between the two?
Healy: The best that a secular approach can do is explain
the biological, psychological and social reasons why men and women have
trouble relating, and then offer practical advice for dealing with
those differences. But as John Paul II shows, those differences are not
merely accidental; they are part of God's marvelous design for
humanity. In fact, they even hold the clue to the meaning of our
Our sexual complementarity reveals what he called "the
spousal meaning of the body" -- that is, the body's capacity, in its
masculinity or femininity, to be a vehicle and expression of
self-giving love. Adam and Eve discovered that when they encountered
one another and, in the words of Genesis, became "one flesh."
So, God has stamped in our very bodies the call to a
communion of persons, an exchange of love in which each person becomes
a gift for the other.
But because of the Fall -- our first parents' decision to
disobey God -- the complementarity that God designed for life-giving
union became instead a source of conflict. Ever since then,
relationships between men and women have often been characterized by
lust, selfishness, manipulation and abuse.
So you can see why relationship advice remains on a very
superficial level unless it gets to the root of the problem, which is
sin, and the key to the solution, which is our restoration to God's
magnificent plan through the grace of Christ. Once that key is found,
then people begin to deal with the dynamics of relationships on a much
more profound level.
Q: John Paul II explains that the response to the human
being's quest for happiness is to be found in the Garden of Eden. Can
you explain this?
Healy: As Pope John Paul II explains, the story of our
origins presents a vision for why we were created and what is the
deepest purpose of our lives.
According to Genesis, when God wanted an image of himself
in the created world, he didn't fashion isolated individuals, but
rather a married couple. This means that both are needed to complete
Why? Because it is their communion of love with one
another that most reveals God! Only in the New Testament is the truth
fully revealed that God himself is a communion of persons, an eternal
exchange of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
And God has destined us to share in that exchange. This is
the meaning of our sexual complementarity and of the vocations in which
it is lived out, whether in marriage or in consecrated life.
By becoming a gift to one another in a communion of
persons we learn to love and be loved as God loves, and so prepare to
share in his life forever. This is our dignity and our destiny, and the
quest for happiness depends on discovering it and living it out.
Q: Who is this book written for? Youth? Couples in crisis?
Engaged couples? Can a beginner with no background in theology or
philosophy understand it?
Healy: All of the above!
My book does not focus on practical advice, but rather on
the doctrinal foundations people need to guide their practical
decisions. It was written with the goal of helping ordinary people
understand the theology of the body and apply it to their real-life
John Paul II writes on a very theoretical level, but as a
priest he had counseled hundreds of couples, and he well understood the
issues people face. The theology of the body is not too abstract or
difficult for anyone. It is true that those who try to put it into
practice will find it very challenging on a personal level -- in fact,
eventually they will find that it is simply impossible without the
grace of the Holy Spirit.
Even solid Catholics may find that it causes a revolution
in their whole perspective on sex, marriage and relationships. But that
is part of the whole point, because the grace to change is there for
anyone who asks.
Regarding youth in particular, I have taught theology of
the body to teens and young adults, and I have found them in every case
to be extremely receptive to and hungry for these teachings. This
generation has reaped the bad fruits of the sexual revolution, and they
see the fallout in broken families and broken lives all around them.
Many of them are not impressed by the false promises of
the permissive culture they've grown up in. They are ready for
something new. The theology of the body gives them hope and enables
them to pursue their vocation, whether to marriage or celibacy, with a
deep sense of purpose and vision.
Q: What impact do you hope the book will have on the
Healy: I hope my book will help many people, both
Catholics and non-Catholics, discover the theology of the body and the
dramatic impact it can have on their lives. In Europe and America,
Christians do not have a very good track record for presenting a
lifestyle different from the surrounding secular culture -- as shown by
our statistics on divorce, abortion, contraception and premarital sex.
But that is beginning to change. I am convinced that as
the theology of the body is embraced by the current generation,
marriages will be strengthened, families will be healed, respect for
human life will be renewed, and young people will be rekindled in their
zeal to live for God.
At the Death of John Paul II
Excerpt From Book "A Life With Karol"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of
an excerpt from the book that recounts Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz's
memories of his longtime collaboration with Pope John Paul II.
"A Life With Karol" is the title of the volume, written by
journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, former deputy director of
The volume was recently released in Italy and will be published by
Doubleday for the English-speaking world. This excerpt is taken from
* * *
It was 9:37 p.m. We realized that the Holy Father had stopped
breathing; however, just in that moment we saw in the monitor that his
great heart, after having beaten for some instants, had stopped. Dr.
Buzzonetti bent over him and, raising his gaze slightly, mused: "He has
passed to the House of the Lord." Someone stopped the hands of the
clock at that hour.
We, as if deciding all together, began to sing the Te Deum, not
the Requiem, because it wasn't mourning, but the Te Deum, in
thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift he had given us, the gift of the
person of the Holy Father, of Karol Wojtyla.
We wept. How could one not weep! They were, at once, tears of
sorrow and joy. Then all the lights of the house were turned on.
Darkness came over me, within me. I knew that it had happened, but it
was as if, afterwards, I refused to accept it, or I refused to
understand it. I placed myself in the Lord's hands, but as soon as I
thought by heart was at peace, the darkness returned.
Until the moment of farewell arrived.
There were all those people, all the important people who had come
from afar. But, above all, there were his people, his young people.
There was a great light in St. Peter's Square, and then the light also
returned within me.
The homily over, Cardinal Ratzinger made that reference to the
window, and said that he was surely there, seeing us, blessing us. I
also turned around, I could not but turn around, but I didn't look up
there. At the end, when we reached the doors of the basilica, those who
carried the coffin turned it slowly, as though enabling him to have one
last look at the square, his final farewell to men, to the world.
Also his last farewell to me? No, not to me. At that moment, I
wasn't thinking of myself. I lived that moment along with many others,
and we were all shaken, distressed, but for me it was something I shall
never be able to forget. Meanwhile, the cortege was entering the
basilica; they were to take the coffin to the tomb.
Then, precisely at that moment, I began to think: I have
accompanied him for almost 40 years, first 12 in Krakow, then 27 in
Rome. I was always with him, by his side. Now, at the moment of death,
he walked alone. And this fact, my not being able to accompany him,
pained me much.
Yes, all this is true, but he has not left us. We feel his
presence, and also so many graces obtained through him.
John Paul II on War in the Name of God
Excerpts From "A Life with Karol"
ROME, JAN. 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of two
excerpts from the book that recounts Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz's
memories of his longtime collaboration with Pope John Paul II.
"A Life with Karol" is the title of the volume, written by
journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, former deputy director of
The volume was recently released in Italy, and will be published
by Doubleday for the English-speaking world.
The two passages, which recount John Paul II's reaction to the
9/11 attacks in 2001 and the beginning of the Iraqi war in 2003, are
taken from chapter 34: "To Kill in the Name of God?"
* * *
On Sept. 11, 2001, the Pope saw the collapse of the Twin Towers on
The Holy Father was in Castel Gandolfo. The telephone rang, and
from the other side he heard the frightened voice of Cardinal Sodano,
Vatican secretary of state. He requested that the television be turned
on, and was able to see those dramatic images, the collapse of the
towers and, within them, so many poor, imprisoned victims. He spent the
rest of the afternoon between the chapel and the television, burdened
with all his suffering.
The following day in the morning, the Pope celebrated Mass.
Afterward, he held a special general audience in St. Peter's Square. I
remember his words: "A dark day in the history of humanity." And I also
remember that, before the prayer, the faithful were asked not to
applaud, not to sing. It was a day of mourning.
He was worried, extremely worried, fearing that it would not end
there; that the attack might unleash an endless spiral of violence. In
part, because, from his point of view, the growth of the terrorist
plague stemmed, among other reasons, from the state of acute poverty,
the lack of possibilities of education and cultural development, which
many Arab peoples were experiencing. Therefore, to defeat terrorism, it
was necessary at the same time to eliminate the enormous social and
economic inequalities between the North and South.
* * *
In March 2003, the Pope tried to avoid the second Gulf War.
Saturday, March 15. Along with Cardinal Sodano and Archbishop
Tauran, the Holy Father received Cardinal Pio Laghi, on his return from
the mission in the United States. And Laghi, despite the fact he still
did not feel the battle was lost, recounted what he had told the U.S.
president. Bush understood perfectly the Pope's moral reasons, but he
could no longer turn back. He had given Saddam Hussein a 48-hour
Meanwhile, Cardinal Etchegaray had already given the answer, not
too negative, but certainly ambiguous, of the Iraqi leaders: They were
willing to collaborate with the United Nations inspectors, but were
reluctant about the so-called "weapons of mass destruction."
By then everything was known that had to be known. Thus, from that
meeting on March 15, came the text of the Angelus the following day,
with an urgent and determined appeal both to Saddam Hussein as well as
to the countries that made up the U.N. Security Council. And, on
reading it from his window, the Holy Father wanted to support that last
hope that spread across the paths of the world. On three occasions he
repeated: "There still is room!" "It is never too late!"
However, all this, evidently, did not seem enough to him. He had
intuited that the situation was about to precipitate, and that it was
moving toward war, with the risk, moreover, that it might be
transformed into a war of civilizations or, worse still, a "holy war."
Then he felt the need to say what was in his heart, to offer his
personal testimony. He wished to remind that he belonged to the
generation of those who had lived through the war and, therefore, also
for that reason, he felt the duty to affirm: "Never again war!" I could
see his profile, from where I was in the study, and his right hand
which seemed to want to give still greater force to his words.
Poland: Who Was Spying on Karol Wojtyla
Names, reports, and documents from the network of informants who kept
watch over the life of the great churchman, before and after his
election as pope. From “L’espresso” no. 3, January 19-25, 2007
by Gigi Riva
“Wojdyla,” that’s how it’s written. In 1949, the future pope was a
misspelled name in the reports sent to the secret police by a turncoat
priest in the Krakow curia. But they would get to know him very well –
and how to spell his name – over the next forty years, until the death
of the regime, while his life was bugged, filmed, followed, and
analyzed “24/7.” Day and night. Everywhere. In Poland, and in Rome. In
the airports, and on the trains. It was an extensive network that
involved, in an unbroken relay, dozens and dozens of agents, moles,
priests, journalists, intellectuals, blue and white-collar workers,
secretaries, administrators. They included acquaintances, neighbors,
and even some friends who came with him to Italy.
This was already known, because it couldn’t have been otherwise. But
now there is proof of the spider’s web spun around the seminarian, then
the priest, then the bishop, then the cardinal, and then the pope,
thanks to documents found among the 90 kilometers of papers in the
Polish Institute of National Memory. This is the same institute that
produced the dossier that forced the resignation, last January 7, of
the newly named archbishop of Warsaw, archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus.
Wielgus, 67, was forced out under charges of collaborating with the
communist authorities. The institute’s documents have also led the
Polish Church to dig into the past of all its prelates.
There is an inexplicable gap in the dossiers on Karol Wojtyla, and it
concerns the assassination attempt by Ali Agca in 1981. Here there are
only a few fragments of little interest. The historian Andrzej Friszke
maintains it is likely that “the Polish [secret] services kept clear of
it, because it would have been too risky for them.” And if in that
forest of documents there isn’t even a detailed account of the event,
he recommends that one “seek this out in Moscow.”
His colleague, the historian Andrzej Paczkowski, who has had a seat on
the board of the Institute of National Memory for six years, recalls
that many documents concerning the Church were deliberately destroyed.
But he adds a qualifier: “The archives were merged in 2000. It took us
three years just to get everything organized. Scholars have now been
working on them for another three. It will take a long time just to
There’s no lack of surprises. Many would like to discover the identity
of “Seneka,” an agent active in both Krakow and Rome, someone very
close to the pope. Was he a philosopher? It is clear that interest was
concentrated from the very beginning upon the curious name “Wojtyla.”
Now the whole world, and not just Poland, knows how to say the name
“Wojtyla.” But back then, just after the war, it was a cipher that
could lead to an error, that could be turned to “Wojdyla.” And that’s
where our story begins.
Krakow, November 17, 1949. The mole, using the code name “Zagielowski”
(but who also used the name “Torano” and in the future would give his
real signature), sent the police a “top secret” report on a meeting in
the curia during which this “Wojdyla” was pointed out as someone to
keep an eye on.
“Zagielowski” was recruited in 1948 and would be active until his death
in 1967. His age would remember him by his real name, Wladyslaw
Kulczycki. Father Kulczycki. He had been interned in a Nazi
concentration camp, and it was for this reason that he was viewed as
more approachable: he had seen of what evil man was capable. Besides,
he had a sin that compromised his priestly character – a sexual
weakness. In 1953 a note from Department IV of the interior ministry,
the one charged with watching over the Church, gave this assessment of
him: “His evaluation is good. He is the only one working in Krakow who
can be approached.” He was the pastor at Saint Nicholas, and was the
friend – and perhaps even the confessor - of the legendary cardinal
Stefan Wyszynski (in the photo, with Wojtyla). He showed bitter enmity
against young Karol from Wadowice. Kulczycki couldn’t explain how he
climbed the ecclesiastical ranks so easily. A document written in 1960
contains this outburst: “I don’t understand why Wojtyla is chosen for
all the important tasks. The man is well educated, he knows the
communists, he has ties among the workers, and he frequently organizes
pastoral visits to Nowa Huta.”
The infiltrators didn’t know each other. That’s how things worked,
whatever the location. And who knows how many times Fr. Kulczycki met
at the chancery with another key pawn for the regime: Tadeusz Nowak,
the treasurer for the curia, who was also the administrator of
“Tygodnik Powszechny,” the Catholic weekly dear to the future John Paul
Nowak was “active” from 1955 to 1982, with a nickname he had chosen
himself: “Ares,” the Greek god of war. Those who knew him can’t hide
their amazement. What? A spy was hiding behind that festive fellow with
the wagging tongue that was prone to joking? Yes, precisely. And not a
common spy in terms of his role and contacts. His confidences were
collected directly by the official Jozef Schiller, a man whose
professionalism would be admirable if it hadn’t been put at the service
of an ignoble cause. His recruiting methods were so refined, and the
network he built was so effective, that he made for himself a brilliant
career in the dark night of totalitarianism. After Krakow, he would
become director of the fourth department.
Schiller was the link between Nowak and Ares. And the treasurer of
“Tygodnik Powszechny,” composing on typewriter, diligently recounted
how much money the curia had, who complained about the taxes imposed by
the central government – and how indignantly. Then, in public, he
appeared at Wojtyla’s side with the absurd bauble he was authorized to
wear after receiving the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, given to him
by Paul VI – the highest honorary then bestowed in Poland by the Church
of Rome after the second world war.
The ceremony for the conferral of the medal (April 17, 1965) was
described in a meticulous note (that also related Nowak’s great
emotion) by the agent “Erski” or “Pantera.” This was none other than
the distributor of the Catholic newspaper, Waclaw Debski. He had been a
radical opponent of communism and had been given a life sentence for
this, but was freed after 1956 and the end of Stalinism. He was
recruited, and for twenty years he regularly received payment that
amounted, at the time, to a salary. This generosity was justified by
the quality of the services he rendered: he not only watched the
Catholics in the editorial offices, he also used his free access to bug
the offices and gave the office keys to his superiors in his second job
so that they could carry out secret nighttime searches.
Ares and Erski were the recipients of a “tajne” (secret) document
drafted in Krakow on October 9, 1969, probably with the help of a
psychologist. Karol Wojtyla had already become a cardinal, and a few
months earlier he had challenged the regime by laying the first stone
for a church to be built in Nowa Huta. It was very clear how dangerous
he was, so everything about him had to be known. The document is made
up of two questionnaires (see below) now kept at the Institute of
National Memory and classified with the code Kr 08/141, t, l, k.
588-591 e Kr 08/141, t, l, k. 592-594. The spies had to reply to nine
pages of questions about Wojtyla’s habits, even the most apparently
insignificant ones (Does he wear glasses? Sunglasses? What kind?), and
about his personality: Is he analytic, synthetic, objective,
subjective, creative? Is he an idealist? Does he love to take risks?
For now, the replies to the questionnaires have not been found, but
they would be valuable above all for understanding the obsessions of
the police. Because of the intimate nature of the information sought,
they certainly must have been delivered to close collaborators, even
friends. To priests, even.
Michael Jagosz, a canon at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome and
head of the historical commission for the cause of beatification for
John Paul II, has already tried to dismiss the suspicions circulating
around him: “They also tried to get me. I was contacted, but I never
gave any information.” This is disproved by the work of historian Marek
Lasota, author of the book “Donos na Wojtyle” (The Denunciation of
Wojtyla), a tireless researcher on the relationships between the secret
services and Catholic circles in Krakow. Lasota affirms, kindly but
firmly: “Jagosz was recruited in what I would call a dramatic situation
during the 1970’s. He began to collaborate, and then he broke off all
ties at the beginning of the ‘80’s, when he went to Rome.” Lasota
doesn’t want to explain what the “dramatic situation” was. In general
(though not necessarily in this case), the historian Paczkowski points
out, there were three “weaknesses” through which priests could be
blackmailed: “Sex, money, and alcohol.”
Who knows what convinced Mieczyslaw Malinski, who went to the seminary
with the pope and became his friend and first biographer, to become
agent “Delta” and to meet frequently with Captain Podolski. Fr. Konrad
Hejmo, who organizes trips from Poland to the Vatican, also defends his
innocence and admits only that there were attempts to recruit him. But
he’s nailed by 20 receipts released by the fourth department of the
interior ministry, in addition to a dossier that, according to
historian Jan Zaryn, numbers “about 700 pages.” Fr. Hejmo had at least
three nicknames: “Hejnal,” “Wolf,” and “Dominican” (he belongs to that
order). And he reported to at least as many others. In the middle of
the 1970’s, when he was working for the monthly “On the March,” he met
with police functionary Waclaw Glowacki. In Rome, he saw both a person
nicknamed “Peter,” a functionary at the Polish embassy, and “Lacar,” an
agent who worked for both Warsaw and the East Germans.
The scandal that exploded with archbishop Wielgus convinced another
priest to resign: Janusz Bielanski, pastor of the cathedral of Wawel
and a friend of Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was secretary to John Paul II
and is now the cardinal archbishop of Krakow. It was also natural that
Dziwisz’s entourage would have been infiltrated. It is estimated that
2,600 priests were collaborating with the communist government by the
end of the 1970’s – that’s around 15 percent of the clergy in Poland.
The curia of Krakow was truly a crossroads for spies, whether in
clerical garb or not.
The deputy for the business manager of “Tygodnik Powszechny,” Nowak,
was named Antoni Ocheduszko, codenamed “Orski.” He had been a secret
agent in the 1920’s, and was then persecuted during the Stalinist
period. He was perfectly cut out for blackmail. He was elderly,
suffered from heart problems, and was popular with the young. It seems
that he was rather careful never to divulge anything that could harm
anyone. He often pretended to be sick in order to avoid meeting with
the person sent to interrogate him. When he simply couldn’t avoid it,
he talked about what the priests or journalists ate.
“Rumun,” who was Stefan Papp, the technology editor for “Tygodnik
Powszechny,” had disgrace written into his name: his father was a
German of Hungarian origin who lived in Romania. The cosmopolitan
character of his family brought him into suspicion. Furthermore – who
knows how? – his “guardian angels” had learned that he wasn’t a
believer. So he had two “faults,” and the sense that these were sins to
be expiated. But how? By revealing the reactions to certain public news
items inside the newspaper offices.
And then there was “Blade,” Jozef Wilga, who had come from the
countryside with the desire to become part of the intelligentsia in
Krakow. He had failed a minor examination at university, and so he
wasn’t able to embark upon the career as a judge that he had dreamed
about so much. The shifty, smooth-talking Schiller dangled in front of
him the possibility of an intervention with the tribunal so that he
could obtain permission to continue his studies. And in exchange, Blade
wrote reports on the members of the clubs of Catholic intellectuals,
describing their meetings, detailing the personal conflicts, and
relating what each one thought about Wladyslaw Gomulka, the party head
at the time, and about the party itself.
One of Schiller’s masterpieces was the recruitment of Sabina
Kaczmarska, agent “Jesion,” also called “Samotna,” meaning “alone.” She
was unmarried and homely, and corrected drafts at the newspaper while
dreaming of becoming the editor. Schiller flattered her: Write a report
for us on the edition about to be published, a real review; we’re so
interested in your opinion, and you’re so very capable. The hapless
woman responded. “A report” became a collaboration lasting 12 years.
And “Jesion” was used, as one document reveals, in part to influence
the foreign reporters who came through Krakow. She is now almost 80,
and the dream of being an editor is gone.
Roman Gracyk, author of the book “Tropem SB”, or “On the Trail of the
SB” (an acronym for Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, the secret service), and one
of the supporters of the need for “lustracja,” or shedding light on the
dossiers, admits that he felt a certain “human pity” in studying
certain cases. Here human pity does not mean absolution. Not even now
that we know how the story ended, with Wojtyla at St. Peter’s and
communism defeated. Because even during those difficult times, it was
possible to rebel. This is shown by the many documents in the archives
about those who refused to collaborate.
Two questionnaires, 97 questions
Karol Wojtyla was a genuine obsession for the Polish secret services,
beginning in the late 1960’s. They wanted to know everything about him:
about his opinions, habits, hobbies, state of health, and family. And
two documents found in the archives of the Institute of National Memory
are particularly chilling.
The first, which is more generic, bears the date of October 9, 1969,
and is classified as “secret.” It is signed by “Boguslawski, deputy
head of Department IV at Krakow headquarters,” and contains a list of
questions that must be answered by the spies following Wojtyla. They
include questions about his intellectual capacity, courage, and
fidelity to the Church; about his attitude toward the Vatican and the
“socialist reality” of Poland. Typical bureaucratic stuff.
But a second document, bearing no date but also concerning Wojtyla, is
truly maniacal. It contains 97 questions for the spies shadowing the
man who was by then a cardinal.
The first question: “What time does he get up on weekdays and on
Sunday?” The second: “What does he do after he gets up, and in what
order?” The third: “How often does he shave, and with what implements?”
The fourth: “What are the toiletries that he uses?”
This continues in the section “Daily life” with police curiosities such
as: “What does he do before starting work?”, “What time does he eat
lunch?”, “Does he play bridge, cards, chess?” There’s no lack of
questions about alcohol: “What kind?”, “How much?”, “When?” The secret
services also wanted to know where Wojtyla kept the keys to his house
and office, and who did his laundry.
Another section asks about his “interests in audiovisual media.” They
wanted to know what kind of radio Wojtyla had, and whether he also
owned a television set. They asked if he went to concerts, if he liked
lyric opera. There are questions about the kind of music the future
pope liked, what newspapers he read and which sections interested him.
There was no lack of curiosity about his habit of listening to Western
radio stations, and whether and with whom he “[talked] about politics.”
The health of the future pope certainly did not escape the secret
services: they wanted to know, apart from general matters, who was his
dentist, whether he wore glasses, and what medicines he kept at home.
They also wanted to know if he collected stamps, if he enjoyed taking
photographs, and whether he knew how to type. It was important to know
how many suitcases Wojtyla had and what kind, and how he dressed for
winter and summer sports.
His family was also an object of inquiry: “conflicts, inheritances,
material help.” Finally, the police wanted to discover who his “most
intimate” friends were, and who were the advisers to Cardinal Wojtyla.
Such a tremendous waste of money, energy, and human resources. Because,
in the end, Wojtyla won, and communism lost.
Wojtyla's Walk Among the Philosophers
By George Weigel Posted: Monday, December 4,
SPEECHES & LECTURES
Publication Date: December 1, 2006
**On December 1, EPPC Senior Fellow George Weigel delivered the keynote
address at a Duquesne University conference exploring "The
Phenomenology of John Paul II." Weigel's address follows.**
Karol J?zef Wojtyla was a singular man: an intellectual with a deep
respect for popular piety; a mystic who was an active sportsmen for
decades; a celibate who wrote with great insight about human sexuality;
a priest and bishop who marveled for decades at the gift of his
priesthood and episcopate -- and whose closest and oldest friends
included lay men and women he had first met when they were university
students. An orphan before he reached his majority, he nevertheless
came to embody paternity for millions of people in a world bereft of
fatherhood. John Paul II was the most visible man in human history, and
some two billion people participated, in one way or another, in his
funeral; yet he had a deeply ingrained sense of privacy and his most
intense experiences were ones he couldn't describe, for they took place
in a dialogue with God that was, literally, beyond words.
His singularity extended to Karol Wojtyla's life among the
philosophers. He never took an undergraduate or graduate course in
philosophy. He never taught as a full-time faculty member in a
department of philosophy and never held a rank higher than docent, the
lowest on the Polish academic ladder. His philosophical masterwork
remained unfinished. Yet this autodidact philosopher, who liked (as he
put it) to do philosophy from the standpoint of Adam, seeing the world
afresh, drew the professional respect of Thomists and phenomenologists,
Catholics and agnostics, classicists, medievalists, moderns, and
perhaps even a few post-moderns. Wojtyla's philosophical convictions
also had a profound impact on the history of our times -- "solidarity,"
for Wojtyla, was a way of understanding authentic human
being-in-the-world before it was a banner erected in the Lenin Shipyard
in Gdansk. Marx famously remarked that, while philosophers analyzed the
world, he intended to change it; Karol Wojtyla did both, and the
changes he helped advance were the embodiment in history of the
understandings he had achieved -- as those understandings reflected the
Truth which had seized his life and his imagination.
As I am not a professional philosopher, I cannot bring a specialist's
perspective to the work of this conference. But perhaps I can bring
something else of use -- a biographer's perspective that locates Karol
Wojtyla's philosophical work within the broader context of his singular
life. Before he came to the world's attention, Wojtyla had hammered out
his philosophy on the anvil of his experience as a man, a priest, and a
Pole -- and did so at a time, and in a place, where the stakes were
high indeed. Revisiting that time and place may help us understand
something of Wojtyla's earlier experiences among the philosophers,
which will then help us understand his walk among the philosophers as
the Bishop of Rome.
Things As They Are
In an extended interview with the French journalist Andr? Frossard,
John Paul II confessed, perhaps a littler sheepishly, that his first
encounter with philosophy had been an unpleasant one. In 1942, Karol
Wojtyla had been accepted into the clandestine seminary being run by
Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha of Krak?w. As part of its comprehensive
assault on Polish intellectual and cultural life, the Nazi Occupation
had shut down the archdiocesan seminary, which Sapieha then
reconstituted on a clandestine basis. Seminarians like Wojtyla
continued their jobs while coming to the archbishop's residence to
serve Mass, receive spiritual direction, and get academic assignments:
books were assigned, with exams to follow on a future visit to
Sapieha's residence. Early in this process, Wojtyla was told to read
and learn Kazimierz Wais's text, Metaphysics, a 1926 tome written in
the arid formulas of one style of early twentieth century
neo-scholasticism. Wojtyla was flummoxed. He was a literary man, who
had read widely and deeply in poetry, fiction, drama, and history, but
he had never encountered anything like Wais. His later description of
the experience to Andr? Frossard is worth a quote:
"My literary training, centered around the humanities, had not prepared
me at all for the scholastic theses and formulas with which the manual
[Wais?s book] was filled. I had to cut a path through a thick
undergrowth of concepts, analyses, and axioms without even being able
to identity the ground over which I was moving. After two months of
hacking through this vegetation I came to a clearing, to the discovery
of the deep reasons for what until then I had only lived and felt. When
I passed the examination I told my examiner that...the new vision of
the world which I had acquired in my struggle with that metaphysics
manual was more valuable than the mark which I had obtained. I was not
exaggerating. What intuition and sensibility had until then taught me
about the world found solid confirmation."
It was an important moment in Wojtyla's life among the philosophers.
For all the suffering he inflicted, Wais gave Wojtyla an intellectual
inoculation that lasted a lifetime: an inoculation against radical
skepticism about the human capacity to know the truth of anything. In
dungarees splattered by watery lime at the Solvay chemical factory
where he worked, Wojtyla discovered what he would later call a "new
world of existence" in the dusty propositions of Wais's Metaphysics: an
intellectual universe built around the central Aristotelian-Thomistic
conviction that the world is, in fact, intelligible. That conviction
stuck with him to the end, and it profoundly shaped his way of doing
philosophy. The agonies of the war and a life already filled with
suffering had given young Karol Wojtyla a sharp, even harsh, experience
of reality. Those nights slogging through Wais's Metaphysics gave the
nascent philosopher the first building blocks for what would become a
philosophical position that was proof against epistemological
skepticism and its cousins, moral relativism and metaphysical boredom.
After priestly ordination in 1946, two years of graduate study in Rome,
and a few months in a rural parish, Father Karol Wojtyla's first
extended assignment was at St. Florian's Church, near Krak?w?s Old
Town. The parish was a traditional magnet for the Cracovian Catholic
intelligentsia; Archbishop Sapieha sent Wojtyla there to launch a
second chaplaincy to university students. At St. Florian's, Wojtyla
organized study groups that read Thomas Aquinas in the original and
explored basic philosophical issues of apologetics -- an urgent matter
in a country choking intellectually on the cultural smog of late
Stalinism. Ski trips and other outings became an occasion for the young
priest to get his student-friends thinking philosophically. Almost a
half-century later, Jerzy Janik, who later became a distinguished
nuclear physicist but who had never studied metaphysics, remembered
being fascinated in the late 1940s by Father Wojtyla's "way of
thinking, in which one could speak coherently and in a connected way
about everything," from their ski poles to God. (Others, perhaps not so
speculatively inclined, remember young Father Wojtyla's sermons as
being rather philosophically dense, a trait from which he liberated
himself after some useful criticism from his lay friends.) In an
environment of communist mendacity in which truth was a function of
power, Wojtyla's fledgling efforts as a philosophical tutor, however
dense and challenging, were received by his young parishioners and
friends as an intellectual liberation.
That Wojtyla was not entirely satisfied with the neo-scholasticism in
which he had been trained was evident, however, from the criticism his
first doctoral dissertation had received from Fr. Reginald
Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., his dissertation director at Rome's
"Angelicum." Garrigou-Lagrange, the master of mid-century
neo-scholasticism, was unhappy that Wojtyla, writing about the concept
of faith in St. John of the Cross, did not refer to God as the "Divine
Object" ? and docked his grade accordingly. One assumes that this point
had been discussed between director and student; and, judging from the
result, the conversation didn't persuade Wojtyla. He remained a
Thomistic realist; but he seems to have been looking for a different
method to get at the truth of things.
Encountering Max Scheler
His opportunity to do just that, in a more concentrated way, came when
Cardinal Sapieha's successor, Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, ordered him
to leave the student chaplaincy at St. Florian's in order to write his
Habilitationsschrift, which would qualify him to teach at the
university level. Wojtyla decided to write on the German
phenomenologist Max Scheler, an associate of Edmund Husserl in the
original phenomenological school that included Roman Ingarden, Edith
Stein, and Dietrich von Hildebrand.
Why was Wojtyla attracted to Scheler, a mercurial character and
difficult thinker, whose work he had to translate from German into
Polish? Perhaps it was because of phenomenology's intention to see the
world whole and thus arrive at a realistic analysis of
things-as-they-are. Specifically, Wojtyla wanted to see if Scheler
could help Catholic philosophers provide a secure philosophical ground
for Christian ethics. This attraction to a modern philosophical method
like phenomenology was not, I should add, a matter of conducting a
frontal assault against the neo-scholasticism he had been taught;
Wojtyla had no interest in pursuing a war of attrition against the
entrenched, semi-official Catholic philosophical method of the time. If
certain forms of neo-scholasticism were a barrier to an encounter with
modern philosophy, Wojtyla simply went around them, having gratefully
absorbed what seemed to him enduring about the neo-scholastic approach:
its conviction that philosophy could get to the truth of
things-as-they-are. On the basis of that conviction, he was prepared to
encounter other philosophical systems on their own terms, and would
later recall that wrestling with the second categorical imperative of
Immanuel Kant had been "particularly important" for his later thinking.
(That this was, in fact, wrestling was neatly illustrated one night
after dinner, when John Paul II rolled his eyes and groaned, "Kant!
Mein Gott! Kant!").
His experience as a pastor, a confessor, a teacher, and a writer had
given Wojtyla what we might call a "natural phenomenologist?s"
intuition, which certainly helped him in his analysis of Scheler. He
appreciated Scheler's personalism, which seemed to him to rescue ethics
from Kantian abstraction and to restore the pathos, the tragedy, and
indeed the ethos to the human condition. Wojtyla also appreciated
Scheler's defense of moral intuition and his analysis of moral
sentiments like empathy and sympathy, which helped break philosophy out
of the prison of epistemological solipsism. Above all, Wojtyla
appreciated Scheler's effort to analyze the realities of moral
choosing, which struck him as a more satisfactory approach to the
foundations of ethics than a formal, abstract system like Kant's. But
could Scheler do for contemporary Christian philosophy and theology
what Aristotle had done for Aquinas?
Wojtyla's basic answer was "No." For Wojtyla, moral acts are real: the
acts of real persons, which have real consequences. Scheler, in his
view, had not grasped how moral choices actually shape a life. So
Wojtyla judged that, in Scheler's ethics, morality remained "outside"
the human world. Wojtyla was also critical of Scheler's tendency to
overstress the emotional aspects of experience and knowing, which he
thought led to a truncated view of the human person. Here, as in his
critique of Scheler's analysis of moral choices,
Wojtyla-the-philosopher was influenced by his pastoral experience -- he
knew that the young men and women he had helped guide through their own
moral difficulties were not simply composites of their various
Nonetheless, Wojtyla came away fom the Scheler dissertation convinced
that phenomenology was an important philosophical instrument for
probing the human condition. Phenomenological inquiry had to be
grounded, however, in a resolutely realistic general theory of
things-as-they-are. That was the path he intended to explore in his own
future philosophical work, and the result would be what Wojtyla would
later call a way of doing philosophy that "synthesized both
approaches:" the metaphysical realism of Aristole and Aquinas and the
human sensitivity of Schelerian phenomenology. And for Wojtyla, this
philosophical modus operandi was an intellectual conviction with
consequences. If men and women could not know good and evil, if moral
choices were only matters of personal preference, then all choices
were, ultimately, indifferent. That, he believed, would empty human
freedom of its drama and deprive men and women of their most
distinctively human quality: the capacity to know the good and to
choose it freely.
If Wojtyla's habilitation was his first sustained effort to marry the
realist objectivity he had learned from Thomism to the subjectivity of
modern philosophy, it would not be his last such effort. Thus the
Scheler dissertation previewed the philosopher and theologian who would
later write about love and responsibility, freedom and self-denial,
democracy and a vibrant public moral culture, the free economy and
solidarity. Wojtyla's instinct for synthesis was, to be sure, a sign of
contradiction in the late modern and post-modern intellectual and
philosophical worlds, and in North Atlantic high culture in general.
One might see in that instinct, however, both a Christian sensibility
and a reverence for the wisdom of the past. Jesus tells his disciples,
after the multiplication of loaves and fish, "Gather up the fragments,
that nothing may be lost" [John 6.12]. Karol Wojtyla's pastoral
experience had taught him that fragments of a life could be gathered
into a whole; his philosophical instinct was to reconnect fragmented
human understandings. That, he believed, was the best way to account
for the complexities of the human drama while remaining in conversation
with the great minds who had laid the intellectual foundations of
western civilization. He was most intensely engaged in that
conversation during his years of teaching at the Catholic University of
Lublin, a school almost unknown outside Poland, where large ideas were
The Lublin Philosophers and Their Project
The Catholic University of Lublin [KUL] was founded in 1918. Curiously,
one of its midwives was Lenin, who allowed Father Idzi Radziszewski to
take the library of Petrograd's Polish Academy of Theology back to
Poland when the priest was trying to get KUL launched. Chartered by the
interwar Second Polish Republic, the university was shut down by the
German Occupation, with numerous professors imprisoned, tortured, or
killed outright. Its state charter permitted KUL to survive the
imposition of Stalinism in Poland after the war, and KUL became the
only Catholic university behind the iron curtain, a distinction it
maintained throughout the Cold War. As one of its senior scholars put
it, the Catholic University of Lublin during the Cold War was "the only
place between Berlin and [South Korea] where philosophy was free."
Its faculty and students pursued the academic life in a situation of
constant confrontation with the communist regime. Between 1953 and
1956, the faculties of law, social science, and education were shut
down. Even after the political thaw of 1956, the student population was
kept artificially low, KUL graduates found it difficult to obtain
academic positions elsewhere, and KUL faculty had trouble publishing
their work. These pressures helped turn KUL into a university with a
vocation. At a time when many influential figures in European
intellectual life were flirting with Marxism (and sometimes
more-than-flirting), KUL defended the unique dignity of the human
person against an aggressive ideological opponent while demonstrating
that Catholic faith and human reason were allies in the mission of
reconstituting western humanism.
KUL's Faculty of Philosophy was established in 1946 in response to the
great hunger for philosophy evident throughout Polish intellectual
life. The war and the Nazi attempt to decapitate Polish culture had
created a distinctive intellectual situation in Poland. In the
immediate post-war period, philosophy lectures at Krak?w?s reopened
Jagiellonian University were delivered to overflow audiences. In
Lublin, lectures in metaphysics were standing-room-only, with students
sitting on the floors, in the aisles, and on the window sills of the
lecture hall. There, they heard different members of the KUL faculty
explore the philosophical issues posed by the hard experiences of the
immediate past and the present -- life under Nazi occupation and in
Everyone who had lived through the brutalities of the Occupation and
the imposition of communism had confronted the ancient philosophical
question, "What is a human being?" in urgent, unavoidable ways. Why had
some people acted like beasts while others had shown remarkable
heroism? Why were some people grotesquely self-serving, to the point of
betraying their friends, while others were nobly self-sacrificing,
laying down their lives for others they may have known only slightly?
The only way to get at these problems, the KUL philosophers agreed, was
through a deepening of philosophical anthropology. How is that curious
blend of matter and spirit, the human person, constituted ? How are we
to explain the difference in kind between human beings and other
sentient creatures? What, if anything, is the point or goal of life?
These hardy perennials in the garden of philosophical inquiry took on
an especially sharp edge at KUL in the late 1940s and the early 1950s.
Convinced that a crisis in modernity's understanding of the human
person lay at the root of the century's distress, the KUL philosophers
of that period began to sketch out an ambitious philosophical
initiative, in which metaphysics and anthropology would meet in ethics.
As a sub-discipline of philosophy, ethics may once have been a
handmaiden to other, grander specialties, but the KUL philosophers
believed that the problem of ethics posed itself in a particularly
urgent way because of the political situation. Communism was not only a
matter of bad metaphysics (with its reductionistic account of
things-as-they-are) and bad anthropology (with its caricature of
humanism); communism's totalitarian politics stripped men and women of
their power of choice, of responsibility, and thus of their humanity.
The counter to both communist materialism and communist politics, the
KUL philosophers thought, was a more complete humanism that gave a more
compelling account of human moral intuitions and human moral action. In
proposing to do this without falling into the quicksand of thinking
about thinking about thinking, the KUL philosophers set themselves no
small task. Indeed, it involved nothing less than challenging the
entire direction of philosophy since the Enlightenment. Moreover, it
was a project with a distinctive edge, for the KUL philosophers
proposed to fight the great political-philosophical battle on Marxism's
own ground -- the question of the true liberation of the human person.
The KUL project was defined by a quartet of relatively young men who,
in a nice piece of irony, had become professors at KUL because Poland's
Stalinist rulers had expelled the older teachers: Jerzy Kalinowski (a
specialist in logic and the philosophy of law); Stefan Swiezawski (a
historian of philosophy and follower of Jacques Maritain and Etienne
Gilson); Father Mieczyslaw Albert Krapiec, O.P. (a Dominican specialist
in metaphysics); and Father Karol Wojtyla. This quartet was
subsequently amplified by Fathers Marian Kurdzialek (who specialized in
ancient philosophy) and Stanislaw Kaminski (a specialist in
epistemology). The Lublin philosophers were different personalities
with divergent interests and academic specialities. They nonetheless
achieved what Professor Swiezawski later called a "rare and
exceptionally fruitful collaboration," built around four agreements
which were crucial to Karol Wojtyla's philosophical project.
They began with an ancient conviction -- they would be radically
realistic about the world and about the human capacity to know it. If
our thinking and choosing lacks a tether to reality, the KUL
philosophers believed, raw force takes over the world and truth becomes
a function of power, not an expression of things-as-they-are. A
communist-era joke in Poland expressed this realist imperative in a way
that everyone could grasp: "Party boss: ?How much is 2+2?? Polish
worker: ?How much would you like it to be??" (The "political" meaning
of the realist assumption of the KUL philosophers was later expressed
in the famous Solidarity election poster that read, "For Poland to be
Poland, 2+2 must always = 4.") Human beings can only be free in the
truth, and the measure of truth is reality.
The KUL philosophers also agreed on a modern starting-point for
philosophical inquiry: they would begin with a disciplined reflection
on the human person and on human experience rather than with cosmology.
The stakes were high here. If philosophy could get to the truth of
things-as-they-are through an analysis of human experience, then the
path to a reconciliation between Catholic philosophy and the scientific
method could be opened while, concurrently, modernity would be pulled
loose from the quicksand pits of
thinking-about-thinking-about-thinking. Adopting this starting-point
was also important in the confrontation with Marxism. There, the
serious questions did not involve who understood physics better, but
certain very basic issues: What is the human vocation? How do we build
history? Is history best understood in material and political terms, or
does history have a transcendent dimension?
The KUL philosophers also shared a profound commitment to reason.
Others may have had the cultural, economic, and political freedom to
speculate about the alleged absurdity of life. The KUL philosophers,
veterans of the cultural resistance against Nazism, had no such luxury.
They had lived through a brutal Nazi occupation and thus knew what
irrationalism could do if it got loose in history with sufficient
material force. But the KUL philosophers' commitment to the method of
reason was coupled with a determination to illuminate the good, and the
human capacity to know and choose the good, so that men and women
might, in fact, choose the good.
Finally, the KUL philosophers agreed to practice an ecumenism of time.
If they refused to be imprisoned inside their own consciousness, they
also declined to be slaves to the contemporary. They believed that the
history of philosophy had things to teach the present, that the past
had not been made completely disposable by modernity.
These were men whose vocational conviction that ideas were not
intellectuals' toys had been amply confirmed by hard experience. Ideas
had consequences, for good and for ill. Defective understandings of the
human person, human community, and human destiny were responsible for
mountains of corpses and oceans of blood in the first half of the
twentieth century. If philosophy could help the world get a firmer
purchase on the truth of the human condition, in a way that was both
distinctively modern and grounded in the great philosophical tradition
of the West, the future might be different.
The KUL philosophers were a community of personal and intellectual
friendship and that great rarity in academic life, a genuine team. Once
he had been granted a faculty position at KUL in 1954, Karol Wojtyla
commuted from Krak?w to Lublin every two weeks. And on virtually every
one of those trips over the next seven years, Wojtyla and his
colleagues met as a group to talk through the common project in which
they were engaged, in a gathering of equals who, as John Paul II later
recalled, found it a "great advantage" to learn from each other's
distinctive perspective and current work.
At the same time there were real arguments and intellectual differences
among the KUL philosophers, some of whom (like Father Krapiec) had
combative personalities. Karol Wojtyla's continuing interest in
phenomenology and his ongoing investigation of modern and contemporary
philosophy raised eyebrows among some of his more traditional
colleagues, as did his philosophical and professorial style. He had a
generally "unfootnoted" way of doing philosophy: -- he did philosophy
"like a peasant," his premier student later noted -- and he was far
more concerned with mapping the terrain of things-as-they-are than with
providing an extensive academic apparatus of citations and
cross-references for every proposal or assertion. Father Wojtyla was
also singularly free of that professorial gravitas usually associated
with senior academics in European universities.
To say that the KUL philosophy faculty had its disagreements and, in
some respects, its rivalries is simply to say that it was a faculty of
men, not angels. The important thing about the KUL philosophers was the
boldness of their intention. They conceived their project in part as a
response to the peculiar circumstances of their time and place, and in
part as a response to the general cultural conditions of the
mid-twentieth century. The range of its reach and its capacity to shed
light on the human condition in very different situations would only
come into focus when Professor Dr. Karol Wojtyla, by then working under
a different name, took the most adventurous part of the Lublin project
to an audience whose numbers vastly exceeded the readership of Polish
At the Foundations of Freedom
Karol Wojtyla succeeded Fr. Feliks Bednarski, O.P., in the Chair of
Ethics at Lublin in 1957 and remained an active faculty member of the
university until his election to the papacy in 1978; during his first
months as pope, he continued to serve as a reader of KUL doctoral
dissertations, and he retained the Chair of Ethics at KUL for some
years before ceding it to his prot?g? and friend, Fr. Tadeusz Styczen,
S.D.S. Wojtyla's most intense involvement at KUL took place between
1954 and 1961, after which his pastoral responsibilities in Krak?w made
it impossible for him to commute to Lublin any longer; for the next
seventeen years, his doctoral seminar came to Krak?w for two-day work
periods at the archbishop?s residence. From 1954 to 1961, and in
addition to teaching the basic undergraduate ethics course and
directing his doctoral students, Wojtyla gave a series of graduate
lectures. The 1954-55 lectures, on "Act and Experience," explored the
philosophical ethics of Scheler, Kant, and Aquinas. The 1955-56
lectures were on the subject "Goodness and Value," and involved an
extensive dialogue with Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, and
Scheler. Perhaps anticipating a set of problems that would emerge in a
post-communist world, Wojtyla dedicated his 1956-1957 lectures to Hume
and Bentham under the rubric "Norm and Happiness." His 1957-1958 and
1958-1959 lectures focused on sexual ethics, and eventually led to his
first book, Love and Responsibility. In 1960-1961, Wojtyla gave his
last graduate lectures at KUL on the "Theory and Methodology of
Ethics." One might hope that these "monographic lectures," as they're
known in Poland, might some day be available in English; it would be
fascinating to enter into Wojtyla's dialogue with philosophical
ethicists representing a wide range of methods and judgments.
From 1962, when he was elected Vicar Capitular of Krak?w on the death
of Archbishop Baziak, until his translation to Rome in 1978, Karol
Wojtyla's energies were increasingly absorbed by pastoral
responsibilities in Krak?w and by his expanding role in the world
Church. He did what he could to continue his walk among the
philosophers, directing his doctoral seminar from (and in) his
residence at Franciszka_ska 3 in Krakow?s Old Town, where he also
hosted evening philosophical seminars where a wide variety of
philosophical schools were represented. As circumstances (rarely)
permitted, he lectured abroad, including a well-received visit to the
Harvard Summer School in 1969; his intervention at the international
Thomistic Congress at Fossanuova in 1974 so impressed Josef Pieper that
the venerable German philosopher immediately got in touch with
Professor Joseph Ratzinger at Regensburg, urging him to read Wojtyla's
work. Moreover, it was during this period of intense pastoral activity
that Wojtyla attempted his philosophical masterwork, Osoba y Czyn
[Person and Act].
I say "attempted," because Person and Act is part of the unfinished
symphony of Karol Wojtyla's philosophical project. He never produced a
revised and completed version in Polish, although a third edition
edited by his principal students and collaborators is available. The
extant translations in other European languages are of varying quality.
The currently available English translation is not trustworthy, for it
bends the entire work in a direction that does not do justice to the
author's intent to maintain the tension between subjectivity ("person")
and objectivity ("act") that was a hallmark of his thinking. All of
that being said, however, Person and Act is the closest thing we have,
and now ever will have, to a full statement of Wojty_a?s mature
philosophical position. So a brief review of its origins and key themes
may be helpful in filling out this biographical portrait.
The origins of Person and Act are unclear. In an unpublished memoir of
his work as a philosopher which he gave me while I was preparing
Witness to Hope, John Paul II remembered that a Cracovian priest, Msgr.
Stanislaw Czartoryski, had told him, after the publication of Love and
Responsibility, "Now you must write a book on the person." Later in
that same memoir, the Pope points us in a slightly different direction,
writing that he wanted to work out in much greater detail the issues
involved in marrying an Aristotelian-Thomistic "philosophy of being" to
a Schelerian "philosophy of consciousness." Wojtyla's leading
philosophical disciple, Father Styczen, gave me a third explanation of
the origins of Person and Act: the book was intended, Styczen told me,
to move philosophy from the Cartesian Cogito ergo sum, which had
eventually led philosophy into the prison of solipsism, to Cognosco
ergo sum [I understand, therefore I am a human person] -- which move,
Stycze_ believed, would re-connect thinking-about-thinking, or
philosophy's turn to the subject, to the things that were to be thought
and understood. (Father Styczen, I should note, was a disciple with
edge; when Wojtyla showed him the manuscript of Person and Act and
asked for his comments, Styczen replied, "It's an interesting first
draft. Perhaps it could now be translated from Polish into Polish to
make it easier for the reader -- including me.") Person and Act is also
a product of the Second Vatican Council, and in two senses. The first
sense is personal: not even so assiduous a listener as Karol Wojtyla
could sit quietly in the Council aula listening to gusts of Latin
rhetoric day after day, month after month, over four years. Thirty
years after the Council, John Paul II would admit to me, a little
sheepishly, "You know, I wrote many parts of books and poems during the
sessions of the Council." Thus Person and Act gave Wojtyla a connected
piece of intellectual work to do amidst the fragmentation of conciliar
debate; it also gave him the opportunity to pull together the threads
of exploration in his monograpic lectures into a single philosophical
There is another, deeper way in which Person and Act is connected to
Vatican II, however. The Council had affirmed that the human person,
precisely as a person, has a right to religious freedom, and that the
right of religious freedom exists so that we may freely seek the truth,
including the ultimate Truth who is God in his self-revelation. Wojtyla
thought that this assertion had to be given a more secure philosophical
demonstration, by showing that man's search for meaning is directed
toward the good and that the man who seeks the good wants to seek what
is objectively good: the subjectivity of the person, which expresses
itself in our freedom, is ordered by its own internal dynamics to the
question of what is, in reality, good -- which is also what is, in
reality, true. Wojtyla also believed that the personalism of Gaudium et
Spes [Vatican II?s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern
World] had to be put on a more secure philosophical foundation. For
here, as he told Fr. Henri de Lubac, S.J., the great debate of late
modernity was being played out: "The evil of our times consists in the
first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the
fundamental uniqueness of each human person. This evil is even much
more of the metaphysical order than of the moral order. [Against] this
disintegration...we must [propose] a kind of 'recapitulation' of the
inviolable mystery of the person." That is what Person and Act was
intended to do.
The book begins with an introduction in which Wojtyla reflects on human
experience and how human beings know the world and the truth of things.
He then tries to show how our thinking about the world and ourselves
helps us to understand ourselves precisely as persons. Some things
simply "happen to me," but I have other experiences in which I know
that I am making a decision and acting out that decision. In those
experiences, I come to know myself as a person, a subject, or, in the
classical term, the "efficient cause" of my actions. Some things don't
simply "happen" to me. I am the subject, not merely the object, of
actions. I make things happen, because I think through a decision and
then freely act on it. Therefore, I am somebody, not simply something.
Wojtyla then shows how, in moral action, that somebody begins to
experience his or her own transcendence. Our personhood, he argues, is
constituted by the fact of our freedom, which we come to know through
truly "human acts." In choosing one act (to pay a debt I have freely
contracted) rather than another (to cheat on my debt), I am not simply
responding to external conditions (fear of jail) or internal pressures
(guilt). I am freely choosing what is good. In that free choosing, I am
also binding myself to what I know is good and true. We can discern the
transcendence of the human person in this free choice of the good and
the true, Wojtyla suggests. I go beyond myself, I grow as a person, by
realizing my freedom and conforming it to the good and the true.
Freedom, on one modern reading of it, is radical autonomy -- I am a
self because my will is the primary reference point for my choosing.
Wojtyla disagrees. Self-mastery, not self-assertion, is the index of a
truly human freedom, he argues. And I achieve self-mastery, not by
repressing or suppressing what is natural to me, but by thoughtfully
and freely channeling those natural instincts of mind and body into
actions that deepen my humanity because they conform to
things-as-they-are. Empiricists try to find the human "center" in the
body or its processes. Kantian idealists try to find it in structures
of consciousness. Wojtyla leapfrogs the argument between empiricists
and idealists by trying to demonstrate how moral action, not the psyche
or the body, is where we find the center of the human person, the core
of our humanity. For it is in moral action that the mind, the spirit,
and the body come into the unity of a person.
That person lives in a world with many other persons. So Person and Act
concludes with an analysis of moral action in conjunction with all
those "others" who constitute the moral field in which our humanity
realizes itself and transcends itself, or grows. Here, philosophical
anthropology touches the border of social ethics -- How should free
persons live together? As might be expected, Wojtyla takes a position
beyond individualism and collectivism. Radical individualism is an
inadequate anthropology because we only grow into our humanity through
interaction with others. Collectivism strips the person of freedom, and
thus of his or her personhood. Once again, Wojtyla suggests, the issue
is best posed in "both/and" terms, the individual and the common good.
In working out his theory of "participation," Wojtyla analyzes four
"attitudes" toward life in society. Two are incapable of nurturing a
truly human society. "Conformism" is inauthentic because it means
abandoning freedom. "Others" take me over so completely that my self is
lost in the process. "Noninvolvement" is inauthentic, because it is
solipsistic. Cutting myself off from others eventually results in the
implosion of my self. "Opposition" (or what might be called
"resistance") can be an authentic approach to life in society, if it
involves resistance to unjust customs or laws in order to liberate the
full humanity of others. Then there is "solidarity," the primary
authentic attitude toward society, in which individual freedom is
deployed to serve the common good, and the community sustains and
supports individuals as they grow into a truly human maturity. "It is
this attitude," Wojtyla writes, "that allows man to find the
fulfillment of himself in complementing others."
He could not have known, when he first wrote about it in Person and
Act, that "solidarity" would become the rallying cry which dramatically
changed the history of the twentieth century.
The Philosopher as Pope
As far as circumstances permitted, Karol Wojtyla continued to walk
among the philosophers after his election as pope. He hosted biennial
humanities seminars during the summers at Castel Gandolfo, at which
distinguished philosophers were always present; the cast of characters
and the themes were predominantly continental European, flavored on
several occasions by the Canadian Charles Taylor. He kept himself
informed of developments at Lublin, where his former philosophy
department colleague Father Krapiec, now the rector, found a way around
the communist regime?s academic regulations to name Wojtyla "Honorary
Professor," a title he held until his death. From a distance, he
encouraged the work of a second successor generation of Polish
philosophers including Fr. Andrzej Szostek, M.I.C., and Dr. Wojciech
Chudy, whose habilitation thesis, "Philosophy in the Trap of
Reflection" John Paul once called "the most important book in our
'school'" in thirty years. What leisure time he allowed himself as pope
was often filled by reading contemporary philosophy; he was
particularly interested in the philosophers of dialogue, and was likely
the only man in the world who read Emmanuel Levinas for fun.
As pope, Wojtyla signaled his ongoing concern about contemporary
culture's emphasis on instrumental reason in his first encyclical,
Redemptor Hominis; he continued to develop that theme in the 1991
encyclical, Centesimus Annus, in his reflections on the foundational
cultural requisites of the free and virtuous society. Seven years
later, in September 1998, John Paul II issued Fides et Ratio, the
highpoint of his magisterial reflection on the importance of philosophy
in itself, for the Church and theology, and for human culture.
The encyclical was the first major papal statement on the relationship
between faith and reason in almost one hundred twenty years. In 1870,
the First Vatican Council had taught that human beings could know God's
existence through reason; Leo XIII?s 1879 encyclical, Aeterni Patris,
had proposed the philosophy and theology of Thomas Aquinas as the model
for a synthesis of faith and reason. But a lot had happened in the
world since the penultimate decade of the nineteenth century -- not
least, philosophy's drastically diminished confidence in its capacity
to know the truth of anything with certainty.
In Fides et Ratio, John Paul called this philosophy's "false modesty,"
and suggested that it had prevented philosophy from probing the big
questions -- Why is there something rather than nothing? What is good
and what is evil? What is happiness and what is delusion? What awaits
me after this life? Philosophy's true vocation was to be a servant of
the truth; the contemporary discipline's "false modesty" demeaned that
vocation and helped open the door to a culture dominated by other forms
of hubris -- an instrumental view of other human beings, a false faith
in technology, the triumph of the will-to-power -- whose lethal effects
had made the twentieth century into an abattoir. It was past time, John
Paul argued, for philosophy to recover the sense of awe and wonder that
directs it to transcendent truth. The alternative would be yet another
century of tears.
Philosophy ordered to transcendent truth also remained crucial for
religious believers, John Paul wrote. Ancient Greek philosophy had
helped purge religion of superstition. The temptation to superstition
is perennial, though, and sometimes takes the form of the claim that
faith is not subject to rational analysis -- which, in contemporary
culture, means stressing faith as a matter of feeling and experience.
Citing Augustine, John Paul flatly rejected such fideism: "Believing is
nothing other than to think with assent....Believers are also thinkers:
in believing, they think and in thinking, they believe....If faith does
not think it is nothing." In a twenty-first century destined to be
heavily influenced by resurgent religious faith, this call to a
reasonable faith, which found an important echo in Pope Benedict XVI?s
September lecture at Regensburg and the recent response to it by
thirty-eight senior Islamic leaders, looms large.
To postmodern theorists willing to allow religion a place at the table
of intellectual life because religious truth is one possible truth
among others, Fides et Ratio says, in effect, "No, thank you." Unless
thinking is open to what John Paul terms the "horizon of the ultimate,"
it will inevitably turn in on itself and be locked in the prison of
solipsism. The synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology in
the patristic period taught a wiser lesson: human beings can know the
true, the good, and the beautiful, even if we can never know them
completely. Recovering that sense of confidence, John Paul asserted, is
essential to creating a genuine humanism in the third millennium. The
path to a wiser, nobler, more humane future thus runs through the
wisdom of the first centuries of encounter between Jerusalem and Athens.
The separations of reason and faith, science and religion, philosophy
and theology over the past several centuries have been caused by both
philosophers and theologians, John Paul suggested. When theologians
demean reason and philosophers deny the possibility of revelation, both
are diminished, humanity is impoverished, and the development of a
genuine humanism is frustrated. "Faith and reason," John Paul wrote,
"are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the
contemplation of truth," and we can be sure that we will need to fly
with both wings in the third millennium. The quest for truth is an
instinct built into us. And the grandeur of the human person, the Pope
concluded, is that we can choose "to enter the truth, to make a home
under the shade of Wisdom and dwell there."
That Fides et Ratio was issued amidst the celebrations of John Paul
II's twentieth anniversary as pope was entirely appropriate. In 1978,
Karol Wojtyla had begun his pontificate with the clarion call, "Be not
afraid!" Twenty years later, John Paul II continued to preach courage
in Fides et Ratio. "Be not afraid of reason," the encyclical proposed.
Be not afraid of the truth. For the truth, dispelling delusions, will
set humanity free in the deepest meaning of liberation. The pope of
freedom, the pope of a new humanism, had remained faithful to a vision
of human possibility and civilizational transformation which had been
deepened by his fifty-year-long walk among the philosophers.
Confounding the expectations of skeptics and enemies, he had made the
Catholic Church the world's premier institutional defender of human
reason. Voltaire must have been spinning in his grave.
A Crisis and a Proposal
Karol Wojtyla's philosophical project will be assessed by professional
philosophers for centuries. All those who admire intellectual courage
will remain impressed by his effort to bridge the gap that had been
opened in the seventeenth century between the world we want to grasp
and the intellectual processes through which we think about that world.
Yet it should be emphasized that philosophy, however seriously he took
it (and he took it very seriously indeed), was never an end-in-itself
for Wojtyla. Wojtyla's walk among the philosophers was an integral part
of his life as priest and bishop. Leaving the professional assessment
of his philosophical accomplishment to his philosophical peers, perhaps
I can close with a biographer's appreciation of the large ideas that
Wojtyla's philosophical work put into play in early twenty-first
His first achievement was to demonstrate that a "Law of the Gift" is,
as he wrote in 1974, "inscribed deep within the dynamic structure of
the person." Which is to say that the "threshold of hope" (as he styled
his international bestseller) was not so much ahead of us as above us,
in the dramatic struggle to surrender the persons we are to the persons
we are called to be. That struggle can only be resolved by self-giving;
it cannot be resolved by self-absorption or by radical personal
autonomy. Wojtyla's demonstration and explication of the Law of the
Gift can be engaged by anyone willing to work through a philosophical
argument. Those who take the time and trouble to do so will discover a
concept of goodness with traction, one that does not collapse into a
mere "social construct."
Wojtyla's second achievement was a function of his extraordinarily wide
range of interests. Wojtyla took his literary training and theatrical
experience and married them to rigorous philosophical analysis in order
to produce a picture of human life as inherently, "structurally"
dramatic. We are not adrift in a cosmos without meaning. We are not the
accidents of galactic biochemistry, nor is human history a by-product
of the exhaust fumes generated by the means of production. As moral
actors, we can become the protagonists, not the objects (or victims),
of the drama of life. Wojtyla's demonstration of these truths of the
human condition had immense appeal to those living under totalitarian
repression and led to new forms of political resistance. His
demonstration of those truths should also be attractive to those
oppressed by a sense of powerlessness rooted in nihilism.
Then there was utilitarianism. It is instructive that Wojtyla was
dissecting Bentham in 1956-57, when Bentham could hardly have been a
major figure in Polish intellectual circles. Somehow, Wojtyla had
intuited that the western humanistic project faced dangers beyond and
after communism. So, over the years, Wojtyla's walk among the
philosophers gave rise to his deep-reaching critique of a modern
culture in which others are too often measured by their financial,
social, political, or sexual utility; and he took that critique in a
positive direction by his exploration of the claim that our
relationship to truth, goodness, and beauty is the true stuff of our
humanity. In doing so, Wojtyla showed that accepting the moral truth
involved in the Law of the Gift is not a limit on our freedom or our
creativity. Rather, truth makes us free and enables us to live our
freedom toward its goal, which is happiness.
Rocco Buttiglione, an insightful commentator on Karol Wojtyla's walk
among the philosophers, once suggested that there is a "hidden
theological tendency" in Wojtyla's personalism. In Person and Act, his
method was strictly philosophical; but the inspiration was Christian.
It is in God the Holy Trinity, a "community" of self-giving "persons"
who lose nothing of their uniqueness in their radical self-giving, that
we see confirmed the Law of the Gift and the truth about freedom as
freedom-for-self-donation. Thus Wojtyla's philosophy, like every other
aspect of his life, was touched by his ongoing dialogue with God in
prayer -- and that, too, may have something to say to contemporary
Writing in Die Welt in 1982, the Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas
remembered that, even after the assassination attempt that came within
a few millimeters of ending his life, John Paul II seemed a man utterly
without fear. Why was that, Djilas asked? Father Tadeusz Styczen
suggested an answer to me, recalling John Paul's response to a question
from Andr? Frossard. The French journalist had asked the Pope what the
most important word in the Gospel was. "Truth," John Paul immediately
said, for Christ had been born to bear witness to the truth, which was
not a truth-for-Christians, but the truth of the world. Secure in that
truth, and having deepened his understanding of the dynamics of the
human apprehension of truth by his walk with the philosophers, Karol
Wojtyla could be a man without fear -- and could summon others to
fearlessness. Here was a philosophical walk with consequences.
New, More Faithful
Translation of “The Theology of the Body”
8/18/2006 - 10:07 PST
New York, NY, August 18, 2006—The Theology of the Body remains one of
John Paul II’s greatest gifts to the universal Church. However,
official translations could not deliver the work in the form the Pope
Thanks to the meticulous research of a noted biblical scholar, John
Paul II’s masterpiece has been newly translated and restored to its
original meaning. In a series of essays, the book shows the divine plan
for human spousal love and the spousal meaning of the body as
proclaimed by Christ.
The new translation is the work of Dr. Michael M. Waldstein , Director
of the International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and
the Family in Gaming, Austria. Dr. Waldstein was no stranger to The
Theology of the Body. The highly respected doctor of theology and
professor had studied and taught its concepts of the spiritual
communion of life, love, marriage, and sexuality for 10 years. “I had
worked very hard to understand the order of the argument,” he
remembers. “I thought I had made real progress, but I always wished I
could get my hands on a division of the work by John Paul II himself.”
The many problems inherent in translating the inspirational lectures
the Pope delivered to his General Audience between 1979 and 1984 are
well known and frustrating to clergy, scholars, and lay readers alike.
Given the circumstances under which these translations occurred,
problems were inevitable.
Soon after each catechesis was delivered, it was sent to the English
editorial office of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, to be
translated by whomever was on duty at the time.
Because the several translators were dealing with individual
catecheses, the results were inadvertent omissions, intentional edits,
and many inconsistencies. For example, the key concept “spousal meaning
of the body” is translated in eight different ways. Subsequent
translators could not go back to change earlier text because it had
already been published.
Therefore, existing English translations were simply a compilation of
these slightly errant Osservatore transcripts. While theologically true
and pedagogically helpful, they lacked the coherence originally
conceived by John Paul II.
Realizing the compelling need for a new, systematic perspective that
considered The Theology of the Body as a whole, Dr. Waldstein was
confident that somewhere among John Paul II’s papers there had to be an
outline he himself used while writing such a large and complex work.
Based on that conviction, Dr. Waldstein decided to delve into the John
Paul II archives in Rome’s Casa Polacca. Not knowing Polish, he took
with him a Polish colleague, Fr. Wojtek Janusiewicz.
The director of the archives said he was not aware that any outline
existed. He gave the men folders of documents pertaining to The
Theology of the Body, which contained the Italian typescript of the
catecheses and some handwritten corrections by John Paul II. Initially,
their investigation led to nothing new.
Further probing led to additional folders containing a Polish version
of The Theology of the Body, but the archivist explained that the
Italian text was the original and the Polish simply a translation. He
insisted that they would not find anything that was not in the Italian.
When Dr. Waldstein and his colleague examined the documents, they were
astonished to find that the Polish text contained an elaborate system
of 219 section and sub-section headings—a crucial element of the
work—consisting of some 1,600 words.
After careful consideration, they realized that this evidence proved
that the Polish was not a translation from the Italian, but in fact the
exact opposite. In their hands, they held an original manuscript of The
Theology of the Body that was completely unknown to scholars.
Their conclusion was later confirmed when the scholars managed to track
down the religious sister who had typed the original manuscript for
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla while he was still in Krakow and before his
elevation to Pope. This revelation was further supported by a note in
John Paul II’s own handwriting, explicitly stating that the structure
of the work remained the same when he adapted it for his Wednesday
Preparing to bring this original text to the English-speaking public,
Dr. Waldstein realized the responsibility that lay before him. “As a
scripture scholar, my main focus is to study the word of God, and to
make it more accessible to people,” he explains. “When I began my
translation, I was flooded more and more with a great sense of urgency,
that this work desperately needed be made available to the Church.”
Dr. Waldstein’s faith and perseverance, and his dedication to the text
have led to the scheduled publication this September of The Theology of
the Body: A New Translation Based on the John Paul II Archives.
For this new edition, John Paul II’s original system of chapter
headings has been translated from Polish for the first time. Dr.
Waldstein believes that the headings will provide a substantial help
for readers. “That alone would have made it worthwhile to produce a new
edition,” he explains. “In studying the book, the impression of many
people is that you don't know where you are and where you're going. You
understand that it's all extremely interesting and profound, but you
feel a bit at sea. Restoring the Pope's own structure and headings
really breaks open the text. I think the orientation people will feel
when they read it is a qualitative leap from what was possible before.”
Six additional catecheses printed in the Polish edition are also
published for the first time in English. The Pope’s trademark use of
italics, much of which had been lacking in the first translation or
removed by subsequent editors, has been restored. Inconsistencies
caused by different translators have been corrected, and sentences have
been properly reconstructed.
“The biggest difference my translation provides is the rigor of the
Pope’s thinking and the clear order of thought throughout the work. The
task of the translator is to disappear as much as possible,” says Dr.
Waldstein. “I wanted to make John Paul II’s own words available.”
Dr. Waldstein’s introduction presents the growth of the Pope’s
theological and philosophical thinking to explain the root issues of
his writing. While clearly articulating its rigorous structure and
arguments, Dr. Waldstein also reveres the beauty and poetry of the
Pontiff’s language. “There are many passages about love that are
transparent and hauntingly beautiful,” he says.
Dr. Waldstein adds that reading The Theology of the Body is like
climbing a very high mountain. “It takes a good amount of effort, but
you climb up all the time, which means that you reach higher and higher
levels. And from the top, the view is breathtaking. The Pope’s words
can be read by everybody.”
In his Foreword, Christopher West, himself an authority on the work,
sums up the importance of The Theology of the Body: A New Translation
Based on the John Paul II Archives: “It is my sincere hope that this
brightly polished edition of John Paul II’s revolutionary catechesis
inspires a new generation of bishops, priests, theologians, religious
educators, and lay enthusiasts to study, live, and proclaim the
theology of the body to the world in the new evangelization.”
Biographical Notes: Dr. Michael M.
Dr. Michael M. Waldstein is Founding President (1996-2006) and now
Francis of Assisi Professor of New Testament at the International
Theological Institute, Austria. He and his wife, Susan, are members of
the Pontifical Council for the Family. After his academic training
(B.A. Thomas Aquinas College, California; Ph.D. in Philosophy,
University of Dallas; Licentiate in Scripture, Pontifical Biblical
Institute, Rome; Th.D. in New Testament, Harvard Divinity School) he
taught for eight years at the University of Notre Dame where he became
Associate Professor of New Testament. Dr. Waldstein and his wife are
the parents of eight children.
Issue Date: July 14, 2006
Unpublished work by John Paul II
By JONATHAN LUXMOORE and JOLANTA BABIUCH
A little-known and unpublished work by Fr. Karol Wojtyla has touched
off debate among experts across the globe about whether the future Pope
John Paul II, as a young academic, had developed an appreciation of
some aspects of Marxism as well as a strong critique of U.S.-style
The John Paul II Institute in Lublin, Poland, which is charged with
Wojtyla’s pre-papal writings, has plans to publish the work in the near
future. However, interpretations of the two-volume Katolicka Etyka
Spoleczna (Catholic Social Ethics) have been bitterly contested, a
debate touched off in Wojtyla’s homeland of Poland and beyond when the
authors of this article first wrote about the unpublished volume in a
cover story for the British Catholic weekly The Tablet last January.
The text contradicts views promoted by neoconservative thinkers who
depict the pontiff as a lifelong fan of U.S.-style liberal capitalism.
It also raises questions of why, when every detail of Wojtyla’s life
has been combed over by researchers and biographers, mention of this
511-page work has apparently been avoided.
Catholic Social Ethics originated as a series of lectures by Wojtyla in
1953-54, and was typed and bound for students and academics. It
provides no evidence that the future pope had any direct political
affiliation. However, it shows Wojtyla had acquired by his early 30s a
sophisticated knowledge of Marxism and an empathy with its critique of
capitalist injustices. It shows he had already rejected both “socialist
totalism” and “individualistic liberalism” as prerequisites for a
“The church is aware that the bourgeois mentality and capitalism as a
whole, with its materialist spirit, acutely contradict the Gospel,”
“From the church’s standpoint, it is a question of ensuring, by way of
various economic-structural forms, just participation by all members of
society, and especially people of work, in possessing sufficient
amounts of assets and participating at least to some extent in
Statements like this have proved hard to accept in some church quarters.
In his 1999 biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope, George Weigel
relegated the work to a footnote, claiming Wojtyla had used course
notes from an older colleague, Professor Jan Piwowarczyk, and could not
be regarded as the author. Catholic Social Ethics was, in any case, “a
rather conventional presentation of the church’s social doctrine in the
1950s,” Weigel assured his readers.
In a January letter to The Tablet, Weigel again dismissed what he
called an “alleged Wojtyla text,” claiming the pope “did not regard the
work as his own.” This is rejected by Polish experts on John Paul II,
who insist Catholic Social Ethics, though drawing on Piwowarczyk, is
indeed Wojtyla’s work, and could significantly affect interpretations
of his philosophical development.
“It shows, clearly and unequivocally, how deeply he believed Christians
had to resist injustice and oppression,” said Fr. Jan Glowczyk, an
expert with Rome’s John Paul II Foundation. “Though it can’t be treated
as an official text, it should be studied and interpreted accordingly.”
The recent attention to the work has provoked negative reactions in
Poland, too, particularly at Catholic University of Lublin, where the
future pope once taught.
In March, Lublin Archbishop Jozef Zycinski summoned a meeting of
professors and declared “support for the views of George Weigel,”
dismissing suggestions that Wojtyla had expressed “sympathy for
Marxism” and “criticism of capitalism.” Wojtyla might have shown
“social sensitivity,” the archbishop added. But this shouldn’t to be
“identified with the position of the left.”
Zycinski has worked with Weigel on “Free Society” summer schools in
Poland, alongside U.S. neoconservatives Michael Novak and Fr. Richard
Neuhaus. He announced he was setting up a special Web site to counter
“false interpretations of “John Paul II’s views at various stages of
Meanwhile, the Polish church’s official Catholic Information Agency
insisted Wojtyla had only criticized capitalism out of deference to
Pope Pius XI, and defended Zycinski’s demand for “rational
restrictions” to be imposed on discussion of the pope’s outlook.
Zycinski and his supporters will have trouble controlling public
comment once Catholic Social Ethics is published. The bulk of the work
is written as a response to Marxism. Wojtyla’s aim, he makes clear,
isn’t to apply Marxism to Christianity, but to give Marxist concepts a
Christian meaning, and win back the ideas of social justice that
Marxism had expropriated.
Wojtyla traces communism itself back to Christian tradition, even
subtitling one section “The Objective Superiority of the Communist
Ideal.” But he makes clear he is using the term generically to mean
common ownership. The church believes “the private ownership principle”
can be upheld while “enfranchising the proletariat.”
“In the contemporary communist movement, the church sees and
acknowledges an expression of largely ethical goals,” the future pope
“In line with patristic traditions and the centuries-old practice of
monastic life, the church itself acknowledges the ideal of communism.
But it believes, given the current state of human nature, that the
general implementation of this ideal -- while protecting the human
person’s complete freedom -- faces insurmountable difficulties.”
This does not, however, invalidate the use of struggle to change the
social and economic order, he writes. Since human beings are endowed
with free will, they are able to “choose spiritual goodness.” Yet
violent upheavals can be ethically justified as a means of resisting
unjust rulers, and as “the supreme penalty for concrete guilts and
crimes in the sphere of socioeconomic life.”
Catholicism cannot “agree with materialism” or the “primacy of
economics,” Wojtyla writes. But it recognizes that “various facts and
historical processes” are economically determined. “In a well organized
society, orientated to the common good, class conflicts are solved
peacefully through reforms. But states that base their order on
individualistic liberalism are not such societies. So when an exploited
class fails to receive in a peaceful way the share of the common good
to which it has a right, it has to follow a different path.”
“Class struggle should gain strength in proportion to the resistance it
faces from economically privileged classes, so the systemic social
situation will mature under this pressure to the appropriate forms and
transitions,” Wojtyla continues.
“Guided by a just evaluation of historical events, the church should
view the cause of revolution with an awareness of the ethical evil in
factors of the economic and social regime, and in the political system,
that generates the need for a radical reaction. It can be accepted that
the majority of people who took part in revolutions -- even bloody ones
-- were acting on the basis of internal convictions, and thus in
accordance with conscience.”
Wojtyla was not the only Polish priest writing about Marxism at the
time. Archbishop Stefan Wyszynski, who also wrote extensively on
Catholic ethics, claimed in his prison diaries to have “gone through
Das Kapital three times,” and makes clear he would have supported
communist “socioeconomic reform” if not for the party’s “narrow
In this context, Wojtyla’s controversial style could be said to reflect
the language of the epoch. Although the text’s ideas are couched in
Marxist language, the meaning behind them accords with Christian
teaching, and conveys in unconventional terms what popes from Leo XIII
onward had said about the abuses of liberalism and unchecked
That, however, isn’t how Catholic Social Ethics is being viewed in the
Tomasz Styczen, who heads Lublin’s John Paul II Institute, said the
work wasn’t submitted for publication in Poland originally for fear its
analysis of Marxism would offend the communist censors. Once Wojtyla
was pope, Styczen said, it was considered “unpropitious” to draw
attention to it.
Virtually every other piece of Wojtyla’s writing has been published,
from the youthful poetry he penned as a teenager to the weighty
conference papers he delivered as a cardinal. When a collection of his
handwritten lectures as a parish priest in 1949 was published toward
the end of his life, a leading Catholic ethicist insisted they had
“lost none of their relevance” for the present.
Can a work of such importance as Catholic Social Ethics simply have
slipped through the net?
That question is being asked in Poland. In a front-page spread, the
Zycie Warszawy daily accused the Lublin institute of attempting to
“censor the pope” by withholding the text from John Paul II’s Polish
beatification tribunal, which ended April 1 after just five months’
Meanwhile, the Polityka weekly criticized church leaders like Zycinski
for showing short memories. “Whoever knows a bit about postwar church
history in Poland knows there’s nothing surprising or morally dubious
in the polemics and discussions of church hierarchs and intellectuals
with Marxist doctrine,” wrote Polityka columnist Adam Szostkiewicz.
“They also know what a great challenge Marxism posed to Wojtyla’s
generation. It spoke in a language pleasant to the ears of Catholics
disappointed by the failures and faults of interwar Poland.”
Fr Andrzej Szostek, rector of the Catholic University of Lublin, has
insisted no attempt was made to suppress the text. The John Paul II
Institute had merely found “more important texts” to publish during
John Paul’s 26-year pontificate, Szostek said in April. Meanwhile, the
beatification tribunal had only considered Wojtyla’s officially
Speaking at a Lublin conference in May, Szostek admitted that Wojtyla
had used Catholic Social Ethics to “formulate fundamental intuitions
concerning capitalism and Marxism.” That should qualify the work for
fair and open study by historians. It should also raise doubts about
using the pope to bless any single ideology.
But Zycinski has rejected suggestions that there can be “valid
differences of view and interpretation” about John Paul II’s early life
and work. Meanwhile, Szostek has warned that an “authentic version” of
the text must be prepared, with “commentaries to help with its
“Editing this script isn’t a simple matter,” Szostek cautioned in an
April statement. “It requires scientific reliability.”
Jonathan Luxmoore and Jolanta Babiuch write from Oxford, England, and
Warsaw, Poland. Their latest book, Rethinking Christendom: Europe’s
Struggle for Christianity, is published by Gracewing.
Retranslating the Theology
of the Body
Interview With Michael Waldstein
GAMING, Austria, JUNE 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The discovery of Polish
texts predating Pope John Paul II's pontificate sheds new light on his
catechesis about love and sexuality, says a leading scholar.
Michael Waldstein, the founding president of the International
Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, and a
member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, changed his
perspective on John Paul II after the discovery of the texts.
Waldstein, who is expecting the publication of his new translation of
the theology-of-the-body series in September, shared his views on this
catechetical work with ZENIT in this interview.
Q: What is the necessity of publishing a new translation of John Paul
II's theology of the body?
Waldstein: There are many problems in the existing translation. For
example, the key concept "significato sponsale del corpo" -- spousal
meaning of the body -- which John Paul II uses 117 times, is translated
in eight different ways. The reason is easy to understand.
On any given Wednesday when John Paul II delivered one of the
catecheses at the general audience, the Italian text was sent over to
L'Osservatore Romano and whoever was on duty at the English desk
translated it. The translators did not have the work as a whole before
them, but they translated each catechesis individually. These various
inconsistencies indicate that there were several translators.
Later translators could not go back and change the translation, because
it had already been published. The edition by Pauline Books and Media
is simply a compilation of these translations.
And so there is a need for a systematic translation that considers the
work as a whole to make decisions about particular terms in light of
I began to retranslate passages that I needed for the book about the
theology of the body I have been working on for the past five years. At
a certain point the decision to translate the whole text became the
logical next step, so I contacted Pauline Books and Media.
It seemed a providential moment, because the Daughters of St. Paul had
become increasingly aware of the need for a new translation and were
praying that God would show them some way to produce it.
It has been both wonderful and fun to work with them. They are
professional and animated by a strong love for John Paul II.
There is a second reason why we need a new edition. It is even more
The current translation does not contain John Paul II's own headings.
Just imagine reading a complex work like Kant's "Critique of Pure
Reason" with all the headings gone. You would get lost like someone in
the fog. You wouldn't know where you are or where you are going. The
headings help to organize the work as a whole.
Q: Why did earlier editions not have these headings? Where did you find
Waldstein: I found them at the John Paul II archives in Rome. It was an
Like many people, when I began reading the "Theology of the Body" I
felt disoriented. A deep argument seemed to be going on, but its
overall structure was not clear to me.
Some people say the "Theology of the Body" is like this because John
Paul II was a phenomenologist rather than a Thomist, or a mystic rather
than a theologian, or a Slav rather than a Western European. In the
work for my book, I thought I had made some real progress in
understanding the overall structure.
Still, I wanted to know how John Paul II himself thought of it. I felt
sure he must have had an outline when he wrote the work.
So about half a year ago I went with a Polish friend to the Dom Polski,
the Polish Pilgrim House in Rome, on the Via Cassia, where the John
Paul II Archives are kept.
We looked through the Italian materials, but found nothing. We were
disappointed, but asked the director of the archives if he had anything
else. Yes, he said, we have the materials of the Polish translation,
but you will not find anything there that is not in the Italian,
because the Italian is the original text.
We decided to take a look nevertheless and found a Polish text that had
a five level division with headings I had never seen before. It turns
out that Cardinal Wojtyla wrote the theology of the body in Polish
before his election in 1978. It seems to have been ready for
We became fully sure about the priority of the Polish text only when we
managed to contact the sister who actually typed the manuscript in
Krakow before John Paul II's election.
In the archives we also found a handwritten note from John Paul II to
his secretary that explains that the structure of the theology of the
body would remain exactly the same when he adapted it for the series of
Having these headings is a revelation. It opens up the text in amazing
ways. You see how rigorous John Paul II's writing really is.
The reason why other editions don't have these headings seems to be the
relatively isolated life of the individual catecheses. John Paul II
delivered them one by one without, of course, saying, just to take one
example, We are now in Part Two -- The Sacrament; Chapter Two -- The
Dimension of Sign; Section Two -- The Song of Songs; Subsection Three
-- Eros or Agape?
That would have been unintelligible. When he was finished, the
catecheses were collected and assembled, but the knowledge of the
structure of the whole was lost. Only John Paul II's Polish
collaborators had this knowledge. I don't know why it did not cross the
language barrier into Italian.
Q: What reasons could you give for the growing attraction of people to
the theology of the body?
Waldstein: To all men and women, their own body is very precious, and
what happens with that body, especially in love, in erotic relations,
is very significant.
Nobody can be indifferent to sexuality. To make sense of sexuality,
deep sense, penetrating sense that shows the beauty of union between
man and woman, and also the beauty of celibate life, is worth a good
amount of effort.
This is the main reward of climbing the tall mountain of the theology
of the body. You see your own body differently. You see it as being
full of meaning. This is my experience and the experience of the many
students with whom I have studied the theology of the body here in
Q: What is particularly revolutionary about John Paul II's ideas of the
human person and sexuality?
Waldstein: In his preface to the new translation, Cardinal
Schönborn singles out three striking theses that are relatively
new in Catholic magisterial teaching.
One, the image of God is found in man and woman above all in the
communion of love between them, which reflects the communion of love
between the persons of the Trinity.
Two, in God's design, the spousal bodily union of man and woman is the
original effective sign through which holiness entered the world.
Three, this sign of marriage "in the beginning" is thus the foundation
of the whole sacramental order.
I am not sure though whether "revolutionary" is quite the right word,
because John Paul II's roots in the tradition are so deep and he stands
in such substantial continuity with it.
In the introduction that I wrote for the new translation I show that
John Paul II is deeply rooted in St. John of the Cross, in particular
in the Mystical Doctor's spousal understanding of Christian life. On
his deathbed, when his brothers prayed the traditional prayers for the
dead, St. John of the Cross waived them off and asked them to read the
Song of Songs.
Of course there are many tributaries to John Paul II's vision of
sexuality, but at the very heart of his vision, John Paul II unfolds
the implicit theology of marriage in St. John of the Cross. When Karol
Wojtyla was 21, before he entered the seminary, he learned Spanish to
read St. John of the Cross in the original, and seven years later he
wrote his dissertation under Garrigou-Lagrange about his favorite poet
In comparison with much theological writing about marriage in the
Catholic tradition, which approached marriage often from the point of
view of law -- to help confessors and those who had to judge marriage
cases -- John Paul II's approach is decidedly "personalistic" and
focused on the actual experience of love. He himself helped to form
this fresh vision of love during Vatican II and it is the predominant
form of his thinking in the theology of the body.
He explains that in some streams of the Catholic tradition sex itself
got blamed for the trouble it seems to cause so many people because of
the intensity of the pleasure.
The theology of the body rejects that mechanism of shifting the blame
from the heart to sex. John Paul II is radically anti-Manichaean. Human
sexuality is good, created by God as a "language of the body" to
express love, to express the gift of self between man and woman.
Q: What are some of the main themes emphasized in this new translation?
Waldstein: I try out to bring out in the introduction that the theology
of the body responds to a split between the person and the body as seen
in the history of philosophy.
It goes back to the reconstruction of knowledge for the sake of power
over nature in Francis Bacon and Descartes and the scientific
revolution they spearheaded. We owe the "scientific" rationalist way of
looking at nature to this ambition for power.
John Paul II is very conscious of this history and of the modern split
between person and body. He explicitly attempts to overcome it. There
are many passages in which he says, directly against Descartes, that
the human person "is a body," not just "has a body."
The human body with the sexual language created by God has a deep
kinship with the person. The sentient body is created for the person as
an _expression of personal love.
In fact, the body is immediately and directly personal, because the
person "is a body." A great Thomist, Charles De Koninck, came up with a
variation on Descartes' famous statement: "Sedeo ergo sum, I sit
therefore I am." This is much in the spirit of John Paul II.
It was important to get the passages about the relation between the
person and the body absolutely clear. They were a bit obscure in the
One theme is very decidedly de-emphasized in the new translation,
namely, lust. In the existing English translation, Jesus says, "Whoever
looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in
his heart" -- Matthew 5:28, following the Revised Standard Version.
John Paul II's translation is much closer to the Greek original. It has
"Whoever looks at a woman to desire her." The difference is important.
Desire can be good or bad; lust is a vice.
In the Italian text of the theology of the body, you can find the word
"lust" -- lussuria" -- four times. You can add six instances of lustful
-- "libidinoso" -- and 11 of "libido" for 21 defensible instances of
In the existing English translation, you have "lust" 343 times. That is
a massive multiplication of "lust." The reason is the RSV translation
of Matthew 5:28 -- "looks lustfully."
When John Paul II discusses Jesus' words in detail and repeatedly uses
the word "desire" -- "desiderare" or "desiderio" -- in agreement with
his own translation -- "looks to desire" -- the existing English
translation tries to preserve the connection with the term "lustfully"
and often translates "desire" as "lust."
It multiplies "lust" further by frequently using it to translate
"concupiscenza." But concupiscence is a wider concept than lust. Sexual
concupiscence is only one of its species. The multiplication of "lust"
introduces a note of pan-sexualism that is foreign to John Paul II.
Q: Has the target audience changed from the original translation? Would
the average lay person find this text easy to read, or is it more of a
Waldstein: The target audience is the universal Church. The theology of
the body is a catechesis designed for the universal Church, for
everybody, though in different ways.
It is a difficult work, though it has many passages that are
fantastically powerful, poetic and clear. John Paul II seems to have
written it as one would write a theological journal: with all the
philosophical and theological resources available to him.
Vatican II says about preaching and catechesis that they are the
primary means for a bishop to exercise his teaching office. In accord
with that principle, the ordinary magisterium of the Pope consists
mainly in his preaching and catecheses.
It is clear that John Paul II intended these catecheses for the
universal Church. In that way, the theology of the body is for
everybody. Since it is a difficult text, there needs to be much work of
explaining and popularizing.
At the other end of the spectrum, in the academic world, the theology
of the body has not been studied much. My Introduction is an attempt to
open up the text a bit for academic study.
In the theology of the body John Paul II was really wrestling with the
fundamental questions of our age, the question of progress, of the
nature of science, of technology and its good as well as dangers, etc.
It is a powerful contribution to the debate about those questions and
deserves a hearing.
Q: What kind of long-term impact do you foresee for this theology of
the body on the world?
Waldstein: The love of people for John Paul II has grown tremendously
in the years since he first delivered his catecheses. One could see the
outpouring of love after he died.
In his theology of the body, John Paul II left us the core of his great
vision, a vision focused on the mystery of love that reaches from the
Trinity through Christ's spousal relation with the Church to the
concrete bodies of men and women.
I am convinced it will increasingly speak to people and have a profound
impact. It is what our culture needs.