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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.’