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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

JPII and Billy Graham

Billy Graham identified himself as a good friend of Karol Wojtyla.  They corresponded regularly, and met in Rome several times.  Graham had a special respect for the Pope's emphasis on the suffering of the cross.  In an interview with Larry King, Graham the following of Wojtyla:

GRAHAM: I think it was his background in Poland. And I had finished preaching all over Poland, gotten to know many people, and I knew a little bit about where he came from.
"And he was a suffering pope, too. He suffered as much as anybody you could ever imagine. His mother died when he was young. And he had that terrible assassination attack. And through it all, he taught us how to suffer. And I think in recent days he's taught us how to die.
KING: There is no question in your mind that he is with God now?
GRAHAM: Oh, no. There may be a question about my own, but I don't think Cardinal Wojtyla, or the Pope -- I think he's with the Lord, because he believed. He believed in the Cross. That was his focus throughout his ministry, the Cross, no matter if you were talking to him from personal issue or an ethical problem, he felt that there was the answer to all of our problems, the cross and the resurrection. And he was a strong believer.

They also held in common a goal to wipe out Communism, and were both successful in their own lifetimes.  Here is a clip of Graham preaching against Marxism (min 7:40-8:15)):


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

St. Maximilian, JPII and 12/8

During the month of All Saints/souls, my second son was born: Maximilian Kolbe-Joseph Roeble (No Pressure).  My wife and I agreed on that name soon after we finished the Saint’s specific Marian Consecration, and I am so profoundly impressed with the Saint’s understanding of the Immaculate Conception that I use it in my daily rosary.  That is, St. Maximilian Kolbe understood there to be essentially two personally distinct Immaculate Conceptions: Mary and the Holy Spirit.  One human and one Divine, one created and one Uncreated. 

While awaiting execution at Auschwitz, St. Maximilian received the answer to a question he had long wondered, “Who are you, O Immaculate Conception?”.[1]  Here is the answer he received just before his martyrdom:

This eternal ‘Immaculate Conception’ (which is the Holy Spirit) produces in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the womb (or depths) of Mary’s soul, making her the Immaculate Conception, the human Immaculate Conception.[2]

After all, Mary did tell St. Bernadette at Lourdes, I am the Immaculate Conception.  That is, the identity of her person just as the Tetragrammaton was revealed to Moses on Sinai.  So too, St. Maximilian Kolbe understood the identity of the person of Holy Spirit to be the uncreated “Immaculate Conception”.

St. John Paul II references this same understanding, along with a story of the Saint’s acceptance of two “crowns” from the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Maximilian prepared for this definitive sacrifice by following Christ from the first years of his life in Poland. From these years comes the mysterious vision of two crowns-one white and one red. From these our saint does not choose. He accepts them both. From the years of his youth, in fact, Maximilian was filled with the great love of Christ and the desire for martyrdom.

This love and this desire accompanied him along the path of his Franciscan and priestly vocation, for which he prepared himself both in Poland and in Rome. This love and this desire followed him through all the places of his priestly and Franciscan service in Poland and in his missionary service in Japan.

The inspiration of his whole life was the Immaculata. To her he entrusted his love for Christ and his desire for martyrdom. In the mystery of the Immaculate Conception there revealed itself before the eyes of his soul that marvelous and supernatural world of God's grace offered to man.[3]

I find it particularly fitting on this Feast of the Immaculate Conception today 12/8/15, that I can celebrate with my family, the very community for which St. Maximilian offered his life.  That is, when he saw that Jewish father and husband had been selected by the Nazis for execution, Father Kolbe offered his life instead.  That is how highly he esteemed marriage and family.  And, the man he “saved” (Francis) went on to tell his story to everyone he met.  Not only that, but he and his family personally attended the Beatification of St. Maximilian in Rome.


[1] Rev. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory, esp. section on St. Maximilian Kolbe pp.49-64.  Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2013.
[2] H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, OP, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit. Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1977.
[3] John Paul II, HOMILY For THE CANONIZATION OF St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, October 10, 1982

Thursday, October 29, 2015

4 Marks of the Church

Knowledge and sight of the true Church allows men to know who they’re fighting for and defending against the world, flesh, and the devil.  These latter enemies seek to show the Church as divided, Corrupt, Limited, and Chauvinistic.  The True Marks are: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic-- as the Nicene Creed indicates.  My first realization of the reality of the Marks of the Church was at a Diocesan Men’s Conference in which the local Bishop celebrated Mass after men had opportunities for confession and adoration.  This event opened my eyes to the fact that the Body of Christ is united, set apart, multi-faceted, and composed of true Servants of servants.

St. John Paul II wrote about the Marks of the Church as they relate especially to the Eucharist[1]:

We can apply to the Eucharistic mystery the very words with which, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, we profess the Church to be ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’. The Eucharist too is one and catholic. It is also holy, indeed, the Most Holy Sacrament. But it is above all its apostolicity that we must now consider (#26).

He goes on to explain the importance of the Apostles and their successors in handing down Catholic Tradition:

the Church is apostolic in the sense that she ‘continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the Apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of Bishops assisted by priests, in union with the Successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor’.  Succession to the Apostles in the pastoral mission necessarily entails the sacrament of Holy Orders, that is, the uninterrupted sequence, from the very beginning, of valid episcopal ordinations.  This succession is essential for the Church to exist in a proper and full sense (#28).   

As I said, I truly saw this reality unfold at a Men’s Conference themed, ironically, on the Eucharist.  I did not connect the words of the Creed with what I saw at that time, but I vision returned to me often when I heard the words of the Creed.  I was teaching a Catechism Class in Detroit when it finally dawned on me that the Marks captured exactly what I saw at the Conference: “Uno, Sancta, Catolica, y Apostolica” as the Catechist book titled Una Sola Fe, Un Solo Señor.  The faith is literally understood in every language and by every people across the globe! 

[1] POPE JOHN PAUL II.  ENCYCLICAL LETTER ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA.  Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 17 April, Holy Thursday, in the year 2003

Thursday, October 22, 2015

“He Himself knew what was in man.…” (Jn. 2:25)

This man, who had witnessed at first hand the very worst of the twentieth century, who had intimate experience of how twisted and wicked human beings can be, spoke over and over again this exhortation: “Be not afraid.” There was, of course, absolutely no political or cultural warrant for that exhortation, no purely natural justification for it. It could come only from a man whose heart was filled with the supernatural sense that the Holy Spirit is the Lord of history.[1]

Bishop Robert Barron has an excellent write up on the feast of St. John Paul II (10/22).  There, he traces the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love with a heroic emphasis throughout the life of Karol Wojtyla.  It is a very fitting illustration of the true character of the Saint [and future Doctor of the Church].

Fr. Thomas Dubay has this to say about what constitutes "Heroic Virtue":

It is goodness to a superlative degree, a degree that far surpasses the mere natural resources of the human person.  Over the course of the centuries the Church developed a detailed theology of saintliness, a theology that included definite criteria for determining in canonization processes the eminent perfection to which God calls us.  Heroic virtue is a specific human quality that shows itself in actions that are (1) promptly, easily & joyfully done; (2) even in difficult circumstances; (3) habitually, not just occasionally; (4) present actually, not just potentially; (5) found mingled with all the virtues (Faith, Hope, Love & Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance).  [2]

Also worth sharing:

A Prayer to St. John Paul II for the Family

st jpii
St. John Paul II, you said: “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”  You said, “At the start of a millennium which began with the terrifying attacks of September 11, 2001 … one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace.”  Then you added: “A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole.”

You knew that the family was as important as peace, and attacks on it were as disastrous as terrorism.
You worried for our future because so much depends on the family.  You said: “Families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.”

You insisted on openness to life in marriage: “The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself.”

You insisted on indissolubility and fidelity: “To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.”

You gave each of our families our mission statement: “The Christian family is called to enlighten by its example and its witness those who seek the truth.”
Emilia_and_Karol_Wojtyla_wedding_portraitYou loved the family because of the witness of your own parents, whose wedding picture you kept on your desk throughout your life, and whose losses affected you so profoundly.

We have so much joy to thank you for.

We love the religious and priestly vocations you inspired, but we often forget about the marriage vocations that exist because of you.  Many of us met and fell in love in the Church you gave us: The Church of World Youth Days, of the New Evangelization and of the theology of the body.

Many of our children exist because you reached us with the teaching of the Church — so many of our John Pauls celebrate you on their name day each Oct. 22!

Many of us sacrificed to keep our families together through hard times because of your teaching — and we discovered the far greater love that follows sacrifice.

Thank you for filling our lives with happiness through your uncompromising teaching on the family.
You entrusted the family to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Now that you are by their side in the Father’s House, entrust the family, and the Church’s efforts for the family, to them once again.  Pray for families, St. John Paul the Great. Pray that we will always live up to the call you made so clear.

[1] http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/st-john-paul-ii-the-heroic-pope/4958/
[2] Dubay, Thomas. Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment.  Ignatius: San Francisco, 1997

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Ignoratio Scripturarum Ignoratio Christi"

St Jerome (340 – 420)

My confirmation Saint is Jerome, the doctor of the Church. His pugnacity and attention to Scripture are what I admire about him most, not to mention his legacy of monasteries and convents that bear his name throughout the Holy Land and Rome.
St. John Paul II mentioned the Saint on a few occasions, the primary one being his quotation of “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”:

Despite the great impetus that the Second Vatican Council gave to biblical studies and the biblical apostolate in Christian communities, there are still too many of the faithful who are deprived of a vital contact with Sacred Scripture and do not adequately nourish their faith with the riches of God’s word contained in the revealed texts. Further effort is therefore needed to give them wider access to the Bible. “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture means ignorance of Christ”, as St Jerome said, since the whole Bible speaks of him (cf. Lk 24:27).

Personally, I did not begin reading the Bible until I was 18. Nearly a quarter century of ignorance of Christ is a long time! I am grateful for St. Jerome’s intercession, especially his commentary on Psalm 42 which helped me to make sense of quite a bit when I did begin to read the Bible.

Elsewhere, JPII quotes Jerome on the prophet Isaiah:

In his commentary on Isaiah, St Jerome develops this concept with a reflection that takes in the entire passage: "Every iniquity, oppression and injustice is a decision for bloodshed: if one does not kill with the sword, one kills by intention "and shuts one's eyes, to blot out the evil': happy the conscience that does not listen to nor contemplate evil! Whoever is like this will dwell "on high", that is, in the Kingdom of Heaven, or in the highest cavern of the soundest Rock, in Christ Jesus" (In Isaiam prophetam, 10,33: PL 24, 437, p. 367).

Thus Jerome introduces us to a correct understanding of that "closing of the eyes" referred to by the Prophet: it is an invitation to reject absolutely any complicity with evil. As it is easy to perceive, the principal senses of the body are challenged: indeed, the hands, feet, eyes, ears and tongue are involved in human moral behaviour.

Friday, August 21, 2015

He Leadeth Me

I found this passage from his chapter called "Retreats" very insightful:

The kingdom of God had to be worked out on earth, for that was the meaning of the Incarnation. It had to be worked out by men, by other Christs; it had to be worked out this day, each day, by constant effort and attention to just those persons and circumstances God presented to them that day. (145)

His description of one's sphere of responsibility here is very accurate. An often repeated line in his book is "working out salvation in fear and trembling"--and the cold of Siberian labor camps certainly provides the trembling!

Wojtyla did manual labor (quarrying) to pay for his studies during the war. I grew up near a quarry and can only imagine how time-consuming and labor intensive things were in comparison with the work of some of today’s machinery. In the same way, I have been in shock at how physically strenuous the labor camps of Siberia were in Soviet Russia.

While Wojtyla was in Poland working, Walter Ciszek S.J. was in Siberia shoveling coal:

I was marched down to the hold of the ship, given a shovel, and told to spread coal as it came cascading down a conveyor belt. I worked until I was ready to drop—which was rather soon because of my condition—and then had to go on working for fear of my life. There was no way I could stop the conveyor belt, and if I stopped shoveling, I would have been buried by the roaring coal. So I had to keep moving, stumbling and slipping over the shifting coal as the hold filled up, working the shovel as best I could even after my arms and chest grew numb and I had no sensation at all in the mechanical motions I made. (96)

Countless other stories of Ciszek stretching himself to the physical and psychological limit abound in his testament of faith, He Leadeth Me. It is a first-hand account of all of the horrors of the War from the perspective of a priest. And rather than become embittered by the ever-increasing Marxism, he deepens his love and trust in God as a child would with his benevolent father.

The quarry I lived near was full to the brim with crystal clear water. I could see straight down 40 feet to the bottom of the jutting rocks on a clouded day. Ciszek compares his time in Russia as a child learning to float in such immensity of clear water:

What he wanted was for me to accept these situations as from his hands, to let go of the reins and place myself entirely at his disposal. He was asking of me an act of total trust, allowing for no interference or restless striving on my part, no reservations, no exceptions, no areas where I could set conditions or seem to hesitate. He was asking a complete gift of self, nothing held back. It was something like that awful eternity between anxiety and belief when a child first leans back and lets go of all support whatsoever—only to find that the water truly holds him up and he can float motionless and totally relaxed. (81)

How men can endure such difficulties and live to tell a hopeful tale speaks of tremendous surrender into the hands of the living God. As Scripture says, “it’s a fearful thing” and yet, totally fulfilling.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

JPII and the Advocate

Even today, the Polish word "adwokat" stands for a defense attorney. Many English speakers know THE Advocate to be the Person of the Holy Spirit, even though the term has been all but removed from the courtroom. Besides being the "Lord and Giver of life" who is adored and glorified with the Father and the Son, He also speaks through the prophets and indeed comes to the aid of the accused to provide a defense.

In his letter on the Holy Spirit, Dominium et Vivificantem, St. John Paul II describes exactly who and what an advocate is: "he acts as Counselor, Intercessor, Advocate, especially when man, when humanity find themselves before the judgment of condemnation by that 'accuser' about whom the Book of Revelation says that 'he accuses them day and night before our God.' The Holy Spirit does not cease to be the guardian of hope in the human heart: the hope of all human creatures, and especially of those who 'have the first fruits of the Spirit' and 'wait for the redemption of their bodies' (#67)

Elijah was accused of killing the Baal prophets, and undermining king Ahab and queen Jezebel. Yet, the Holy Spirit vindicated the prophet before his accusers. The Holy Spirit "whispered" to Elijah at Mt. Carmel, speaking to him words of encouragement in the face of those who sought to kill him in return for his zeal. The Spirit came to the aid of his weakness...So too, when Karol Wojtyla was faced with accusations of global proportions, he trusted in the Holy Spirit to give him the words to speak. He trusted the Advocate to drive his entire pontifical message:

In a certain sense, my previous Encyclicals Redemptor Hominis and Dives in Misericordia took their origin and inspiration from this exhortation, celebrating as they do the event of our salvation accomplished in the Son, sent by the Father into the world "that the world might be saved through him" and "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." From this exhortation now comes the present Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; with the Father and the Son he is adored and glorified: a divine Person, he is at the center of the Christian faith and is the source and dynamic power of the Church's renewal.(#2)

The Holy Spirit does not disappoint, though many doubted (even to this day) the message of Wojtyla concerning VCII, Communism/Socialism, Marriage and Celibacy, etc. Thankfully, the catechsim refers to the "Living Memory of the Church" being the Holy Spirit-Advocate who has preserved the writings of St. John Paul II (even in his own native Polish) so that there can be no doubt about his being inspired by the 3rd Person of the Trinity.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dives in Misericordia

It is easy for mercy to be viewed strictly from an anthropocentric lens. What I mean by that is best illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, an excellent example of corporal works of mercy, but potentially divorced from the parable’s source: Christ. After all, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan and is himself the source of mercy to be imitated by others. Without the Incarnate God-man, a Pelagian view crops up in interpreting mercy. Worse yet, mercy could be dismissed altogether as mere human sympathy and compassion, when in reality its source is Divinity, thus Divine Mercy!

In the modern secular world, individuals and corporations try to monopolize mercy, especially in regard to the drug addicted, mentally ill, and impoverished. Numerous organizations attempt to capitalize on mercy under different names: rehabilitation, counseling and treatment, welfare, etc. While I do not want to discount some good works done in many of these instances, more often than not they merely present opportunities for exploitation and enabling rather than as an avenue to meet the Person of Jesus and be called to be merciful as he is merciful.

St. John Paul II’s Dives in Misericordia pinpoints the necessity of understanding mercy as rooted in the Incarnation, indeed as Divine Mercy. He says,

The more the Church's mission is centred upon man—the more it is, so to speak, anthropocentric—the more it must be confirmed and actualized theocentrically, that is to say, be directed in Jesus Christ to the Father. While the various currents of human thought both in the past and at the present have tended and still tend to separate theocentrism and anthropocentrism, and even to set them in opposition to each other, the Church, following Christ, seeks to link them up in human history, in a deep and organic way […] Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God's mercy a definitive meaning. Not only does He speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He Himself, in a certain sense, is mercy. To the person who sees it in Him—and finds it in Him—God becomes "visible" in a particular way as the Father who is rich in mercy."
Mercy is both “corporal and spiritual”, visible and invisible simultaneously. In a way, to say that the ‘invisible’ and ‘spiritual’ Father of Lights is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4) is to make reference to his visible Son, Jesus. Indeed, the Father surpasses all in the richness of HIs mercy so as to give his only Son to us who deserve him not. Even as Abraham ‘corporally’ offered up his son Isaac at Mt Moriah, God the Father proved himself infinitely more rich in mercy because he did not withhold Jesus. Compare God the Father with the same father Abraham who is appealed to in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, unable to reconcile the rich man’s lack of mercy on Lazarus because raising the dead could not even suffice! Yet, God the Father is merciful in spite of such incredulity! He is merciful even to the harrowing of hell.

His mercy also allows for total rejection. Hell is chosen not through lack of opportunities for repentance. Another illustrative parable along these lines is the prodigal son. What if the son never returned to his father? Much like Esau in the book of Genesis who traded his birthright for little more than soup, the Father’s mercy is met with sheer apathy. Who cares that he offers us forgiveness and reconciliation, divine life and grace, identity in his Son, membership in his household, and eternal life instead of death? Why care about such things when I can have a single bowl of soup?

Again, I do not want to discount the works of charitable organizations, soup kitchens and the like. I have experience with many such places and have seen men and women surrender their lives, addictions, and sufferings to Christ in a powerfully transforming way. But that was precisely because it pleased the Father to reveal his Son to us, and through us. Furthermore, it was because those volunteering for the organization were not ashamed of sharing Jesus with others, they were not ashamed of the Gospel or limited themselves to only when the other person was sober, fed, sheltered, etc. Instead, it was alongside such corporal works of mercy that the Gospel was shared in its fullness and not in half-measure.

As the priest who married my wife and me said at our Nuptial Mass homily, “when I point the finger at all of you I have 3 fingers pointing back at me”. I write this post as much for my sake as for anyone in need of mercy. St. John Henry Newman’s brilliant sermon on the plight of Esau captures precisely my points, and I highly recommend his warnings about the danger of profanity and presumption. He compares the prodigal son’s approach to his merciful father with Esau’s arrogance:

Would you see how a penitent should come to God? turn to the parable of the Prodigal Son. He, too, had squandered away his birthright, as Esau did. He, too, came for the blessing, like Esau. Yes; but how differently he came! he came with deep confession and self-abasement. He said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants:’ but Esau said, ‘Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me.’ The one came for a son's privileges, the other for a servant's drudgery. The one killed and dressed his venison with his own hand, and enjoyed it not; for the other the fatted calf was prepared, and the ring for his hand, and shoes for his feet, and the best robe, and there was music and dancing.
In this light then, I take to heart mercy as theocentric and not merely anthropocentric. Nor is it just between me and God either, but when I receive absolution from the priest in persona Christi, I am really being reconciled to the entire body of Christ. This is Divine Mercy enough to merit sobriety, conquer pride, and begin living virtuously. God’s mercy is transformative, and not only imputes, but infuses grace into our body and soul. We have such mercy to seek in the upcoming year, mindful of shortcomings as openings for God to fill to the brim.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Totus Tuus

In the midst of the year for Consecrated Life 2015, it would be a shame to ignore the value of virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Karol Wojtyla has written extensively on the subject from his days as Cardinal to his days as Pope in Rome.

To a degree, “Totus tuus” speaks volumes in this area. In fact, I will not need to supply any references or quotations other than that simple phrase of self-gift and consecration. In being spoken to Mary, these words and intention are consecrated to Jesus through Mary. They suggest a docility to the Holy Spirit that is inseparable with any vocation, including marriage and celibacy.

However, it is hard to argue with the fact that celibacy signifies a total donation of self for the kingdom—indeed, I agree with the Church fathers that virginity is superior to marriage--though the two are both necessary and complimentary in the Church. Karol Wojtyla defended and upheld both, while modeling an excellent call to celibacy in his own right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Annunciate de Die in Diem Salutare Ejus

The solemnity of the Annunciation has a great deal of significance to me because it is my son’s birthday. Since it celebrates the Incarnation/Conception of Jesus, it offers me tremendous inspiration in prayer and study. As always, St. John Paul is numbered among my prayer resources: along with St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and Blessed Mother Theresa (I just finished the 33 Days Consecration today!)

The consecration stresses, during the JPII section, the necessity of “entrustment” in the Christian life: Jesus’ entrustment to the Father, Mary’s entrustment, St. Joseph’s entrustment, etc. In the Pope’s own words for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, he again emphasizes entrustment:

At the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the ‘full submission of intellect and will,’ manifesting ‘the obedience of faith’ to him who spoke to her through his messenger. She responded, therefore, with all her human and feminine ‘I’
Was Mary’s fiat devoid of reason? Was her full submission of intellect and will an irrational decision? No, with faith and reason (Fides et Ratio) she entrusted herself to God.

Analogously, my wife entrusted herself to God when we learned of our son's life in the womb. We saw him in ultrasound, prepared for him with friends and family, and finally welcomed him into the world.

¡Cantate Domino, et benedicite nomini ejus. Annunciate de die in diem salutare ejus! Annunciate inter gentes gloriam ejus!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Freud and JPII revisited

Rarely does one find in the writings of St. John Paul II warnings about specific individuals identified by name. More often than not, Karol Wojtyla drew the good out of whatever intellectual argument he encountered and put it to the service of the Gospel without pause. In the case of Sigmund Freud, however, there are numerous warnings from Wojtyla written before, and during, his papacy. While he still is able to draw some ‘converging’[1] points between Freudian psychoanalysis and Christ's judgment, by and large he notes a substantial ‘divergence’ with Christ's Redemption—entirely contradictory to the Christian message. Indeed, he numbers Freud among three perennially influential thinkers of the 20th century (Nietzche, Marx, and Freud)—all of whom he notes have a substantial ‘divergence’ with Christ's Redemption.

Referring to a French philosopher’s work on the three aforementioned thinkers, Wojtyla identifies in his Theology of the Body the “Masters of Suspicion”[2] who essentially accuse the human person of three corresponding forms of lust without affirming the personal dignity due to human beings. A crucial point Wojtyla makes is that these men, including--and especially Freud, systematize the human person into categories for use rather than as an individual created for his/her own sake. Even in his Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla refers to ‘Freudian Libido’ as “Frank and straightforward utilitarianism”[3].

It could be argued that Freud’s ‘system of thought’ concerning the human person is far broader than just his understanding and insistence on libido. But in reality, his entire theory is based upon the ‘pleasure principle’[4] and the unconscious motivations of the Id as analyzed chiefly in dreams[5]. While not condemning Freud outright, Wojtyla warns of the contradictions between his system and the Redemption. In light of the damaging effects of Sigmund Freud’s influence on the modern world, to say that somehow his system of thinking is entirely acceptable or even remotely beneficial to personalism is inconceivable.

The chief damaging effect of Freudian thought is what Wojtyla calls a “hermeneutic of suspicion”. It corresponds with St. John’s 1st Letter, 2:15-16 on concupiscence or “lust of the flesh”, again in St. John Paul II’s own words “theology of lust”[6]. This is problematic for modern man because it puts him in a state of constant “accusation and suspicion” regarding lust, without escape. The Pope goes so far as to say that man is unjustly placed in such an indefinite state by Freud’s diagnosis, “ Man cannot stop at putting the heart in a state of continual and irreversible suspicion due to the manifestations of the lust of the flesh and libido, which among other things, a psychoanalyst perceives by analyzing the unconscious”. And the Pope’s footnote for this passage further explains, “Then that ‘core’ or ‘heart’ of man would be dominated by the union between the erotic and the destructive, and life would consist in satisfying them.”[7] This is no small warning! Here, very clearly, Wojtyla is sounding the alarm against a truly destructive ideology that is quite literally in the air we breathe today (mass media, public policy, legislation, etc.). Unlike Freud, of course, St. John Paul II offers the “ethos of Redemption” as the remedy for such destruction. He offers a way out of the “hermeneutic of suspicion”, that so plagues a society convinced of Freud’s theory of Libido.

Another unavoidable example (on account of its influence) is Freud’s emphasis on the “Oedipal Complex”[8] whereby a child’s instinct is against his father and for his mother. Freud even cites examples of ancient peoples who cannibalized the father figure so as to gain his power[9], etc. Wojtyla would have been all too familiar with the former of these ideas since he himself translated a version of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex [10] into polish as a student. He also identifies the root of original sin as being fundamentally in rebellion with the Father.

Something I have written about before, and use as another example, is the difference between St. Paul and St. John’s understanding of the human person versus Freud’s. I admit that much of this is my own interpretation, and I do not claim to have Karol Wojtyla’s endorsement. However, even in his footnote about Freud’s Abriss der Psychoanalyse I referenced from Theology of the Body, he hints at the difference between Freudian and Pauline/Johannine terminology: ‘heart’ vs. ‘core’ or ‘ego’; ‘lust’ vs. ‘libido’, ‘Flesh’ vs. ‘Id’, etc. Freud is a modernist in the sense of his success at literally wiping out the use of traditional forms of reference for the human person in favor of his own system: Id—Ego—Superego. He has been so influential on intellectuals, in fact, that any use of the former terms like heart, lust, etc. is viewed as naiveté and with condescension. In the secular world, Christians are forced to accept the pervasiveness of lust dismissed as unconscious libido and the ridicule of chastity as freedom from repression.

Lastly--By way of testimony, this topic is particularly close to my heart. I was once a staunch defender of Freudian psychology fascinated by Jim Morrison’s incorporation of Freud into his music. I read Interpretation of Dreams and I invested all of my intellectual energy in living out Freud’s system of the human person. Then I read the Theology of the Body… And I’m not talking about Christopher West’s watered down version. I am talking about St. John Paul II’s own words.

I experienced more interior freedom from his section on the “Masters of Suspicion” vs. the “Ethos of Redemption” than I ever have in my whole life! I was freed from the Freudian ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ that I had so willingly bought into; was possessed and dominated by. It originally manifested itself in me not just with a subjective guilt but also an accusation of others, indeed a ‘suspicion’ of the libido of others as motivation for all of their thoughts and actions—this is Freud’s influence on the layman. But then I read these words by Wojtyla: “man is called and called with efficacy to an ethos of redemption and not left merely in a state of accusation”. I cannot overstate the freedom and truth that accompany this gift of insight from Karol Wojtyla in opposition to Sigmund Freud! It affected every way in which I viewed the world from that point on. It affected the very core of my being in a convincing and lasting way, assuring me that creation was good and that man is indeed “very good”. Subject to original sin, yes, but with the grace of baptism—called and transformed! This is why I am so passionate about this topic, and will not meet any endorsement of Freud whatsoever with immediate approval or unquestioned acceptance.

[1] John Paul II, Pope. Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan with Foreword by John S. Grabowski. Pauline Books: Boston, 1997. p. 166

[2] Ibid. Reference is to Paul Ricoeur, Le conflit des interpretations (Paris: Seuil, 1969), pp. 149-150.

[3] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility: “The Libinistic Interpretation”; Ignatius: San Francisco p. 61

[4] Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Dover: New York, 1920

[5] Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Wordsworth Classics: New York, 2000.

[6] John Paul II, Pope. Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan with Foreword by John S. Grabowski. Pauline Books: Boston, 1997. p. 166.

[7] Footnote from Theology of the Body p.167 for S. Freud. Abriss der Psychoanalyse, Das Unbehagen der Kultur. Frankfurt-M. Hamburg: Fisher, 1955, pp. 74-75.

[8] Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Dover: New York, 1920.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Nota Bene: Freud erroneously assumes that Oedipus was unconsciously acting against his father and for his mother when the tragedy itself makes clear that he had no evidence of either. That is to say that Oedipus killed a man he did not know was his father at all, and married a woman he did not know was his mother. One could just as easily argue for a Orestes’ complex whereby a child acts against his mother and for his father—and probably have more evidence from the myth since Orestes’ willingly killed his mother, etc.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Human Capital

" Cardinal López Trujillo referred to Gary Becker, the Nobel prize-winning University of Chicago economist, who recognized the importance of the family and Catholic social doctrine in the formation of human capital, without which the modern economy cannot function. The Cardinal also revealed that early drafts of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, the first modern social encyclical, contained large sections on the family that were missing from the final version, further evidence that there was never meant to be a division between promotion of the family and social concern"

Today’s economy is running on fewer and fewer human interactions. In place of these interactions between people is the automation of technology which effectively replaces manual work (that is, work by hand in all its forms). For this reason, the economic theory of “human capital”, coined by nobel-prize winner Gary Becker, is crucial for insuring the value of human persons in the economy. Even before Gary Becker coined the phrase, Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” hinted at it, and a century after that, Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Centesimus Annus” stated it outright:

“Place the human being at the center of all economic activities”

What happens when the above is disregarded or even deliberately opposed? “In-human capital” results, or rather, an increasingly impersonal economy dependent upon the government. Nearly a decade and a half prior to the recession we just experienced in the early millennium, Pope John Paul II established the Foundation “Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice” to diagnose and remedy such economic abuses (since any other model besides “human capital” ends up abusing/using human persons).

A recent example of one who diagnoses/remedies economic woes is the award-winning French economist Pierre de Lauzun of CAPP. His general resume and obvious merit for the international “Economy and Society Award” is as follows:

He was selected in particular for his 2013 book dedicated to a Christian perspective of finance from medieval banking to contemporary financial models: "Finance. Un regard chrétien. De la banque médiéval à la mondalisation financière"[…]Luazun, who has worked for decades in the financial and banking sector, is described as a person who cannot be called a scholar who confines himself to the library, but rather a person who has enhanced his professional experience with deep political, cultural and religious expression[…]His award-winning book underlines that rules imposed on the market with the ultimate task of ensuring the common good need to depend on the morality of the human agents, and that in the long term, morality allows for greater freedom.

Benedict XVI called for such accountability in his “Caritas in Veritate” which follows a similar vein as “Centesimus Annus”. Even now, the Vatican bank is undergoing considerable audits and reform under Cardinal Pell and others. Honesty with finances must be a staple of Catholicism. More importantly, finances must not be viewed as a means of utilizing the human person, but that human persons utilize finances for their own good. Another way the USCCB has stated it is that the human person does not exist for the economy, but that the economy exists for the human person. This may sound simple and self-evident, but it does not necessarily line up with the worldview of many popular economists (Thomas Malthus, Karl Marx, etc.).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wojtyla and Newman

Few saints have famously taken on the intellectual elite of an entire nation and proved themselves the wiser in the end. John Henry Cardinal Newman and Karol Wojtyla have done so in England and Poland respectively. And they have inspired others to do the same:

1) Newman’s influence reaches all the way to JRR Tolkien’s lifelong fidelity to Catholicism
2) Wojtyla’s influence on Jerzy Popieluszko I have written about elsewhere

Since I have just finished Humphrey Carpenter’s biography on Tolkien, I think it’s worth noting that the Birmingham Oratory which Newman established as a Catholic refuge for priests in England housed the foster-father of Tolkien himself (Father Francis Morgan). Indeed, Father Morgan financed Tolkien’s education at Oxford—the very same institution Newman had attended during his years of conversion to Rome.

John Paul II writes of that conversion:

Newman’s search was shot through with pain. Once he had come to that unshakeable sense of the mission entrusted to him by God, he declared: ‘Therefore, I will trust Him... If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him... He does nothing in vain... He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me. Still, He knows what He is about’

Where his intellectually elite friends at Oxford were “taken away”, Newman formed his own society of those who were unafraid to embrace the cross. The Pope continues, “In the end, therefore, what shines forth in Newman is the mystery of the Lord’s Cross: this was the heart of his mission, the absolute truth which he contemplated, the ‘kindly light’ which led him on.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Warsaw Archbishop Interview 02/02/2015

Expressing his disappointment in a Polish interview, Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw said that the wisdom of Karol Wojtyla has been deemed “too difficult” to incorporate into marriage and family life. More pointedly, he stated that the teaching of St. John Paul II has been “betrayed” by the lack of pastoral application[1]. Perhaps this is exactly why, by God’s design, a Synod on the Family has been called; if so, then why hasn’t the Slavic Pope's Institute on Marriage and Family been referenced?[2] Thus far, no such attempts to discuss how to incorporate Wojtyla’s teaching have been brought to light.

As a result, the Archbishop is led to say the following (translated below): Powiem brutalne: Kościół zdradził Jana Pawła II. Nie Kościół jako oblubienica Chrystusa, Kościół naszego Credo, bo Jan Paweł II był wyrazem, głosem autentycznego Kościoła, ale praktyka duszpasterska zdradziła Jana Pawła II. To jest teza, pod którą się podpisuję, gdyż 40 lat mojego kapłaństwa poświęciłem małżeństwu i rodzinie i w tym czasie wypromowałem hasło „ewangelizacji intymności małżeńskiej”. W Polsce jest i było lepiej pod tym względem. W wielu innych krajach, po kontestacji nauczania Kościoła, wyrażonego przez bł. Pawła VI, zaprzestano praktyki duszpasterstwa rodzin.[3]

The attitude that the teaching is “too difficult” is precisely what Wojtyla warned was a defeatist response in the face of concupiscence (the tendency toward sin and selfishness). Instead, he very clearly called for an “ethos of redemption” whereby the faithful witness to the fact that Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection have an efficacious impact in their lives. Without such witness, accusation and suspicion reign. Likewise, without praxis, the “ethos of redemption” called for by Karol Wojtyla lacks any point of reference. This is why the final October 2015 sessions of the Synod on the family must address both the ethos of JPII and the praxis. There must be true witness to how his teaching is authentic and practical at the local level. I agree with Weigel that incorporating representatives of the Institute on Marriage and Family is essential to effectively communicating the “Gospel of the Family” in these trying times.


[1] Niedziela: February 2nd issue “Interview with Archbishop Hoser of Warsaw”. http://www.niedziela.pl/artykul/13870/Abp-Hoser-odejscie-od-nauczania-Jana

[2] Weigel, George. “Between Two Synods”. First Things: January 2015 issue. Weigel raises the question in the first place: “Why were no faculty members of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family invited as auditors or observers of the synod? The institute’s home base is the pope’s own Roman university, the Lateran; it has faculties around the world; Stanisław Grygiel, the Institute’s founding director, and his wife, Ludmilla, had given magnificent papers on the Christian idea of marriage at a European conference on family matters shortly before the synod. But the Grygiels were not invited to the synod, nor was the distinguished moral ­theologian who is now the Rome institute’s director, Msgr. Livio Melina. Given the ways of the Vatican, this could not have been an accidental omission. It seems far more likely that it was a deliberate decision by the synod’s general secretary, Cardinal ­Baldisseri, who was presumably uninterested in having the Kasper approach and the Kasper ­proposals challenged by the magisterium of John Paul II—even though that magisterium had shown itself over the past two decades to have been the Church’s most successful response to the sexual revolution and the severe collateral damage that upheaval had done to marriage and the family.”

[3] Niedziela: February 2nd issue “Interview with Archbishop Hoser of Warsaw”. http://www.niedziela.pl/artykul/13870/Abp-Hoser-odejscie-od-nauczania-Jana I will tell you brutally. The Church has betrayed John Paul II. Not the Church as the Bride of Christ, not the Church of our Creed, because John Paul II was an expression, an authentic voice of the Church; but it is the pastoral practice that has betrayed John Paul II. The pastoral practice also betrayed Pope John Paul II because they did not follow his voice, they did not acquaint themselves with his teachings. Everyone says that it is difficult, even pastors and lay people often say, the Church documents are too difficult, that ‘we do not understand them.’