Let's begin with a cutting quote from Scripture: "He who sends a
message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence"
(Prov. 26:6). Apply to current events as you wish.
once, in the past few days, I've read pieces that either state openly or
imply the following: John XXIII was a liberal and John Paul II was a
conservative. I'm going to quickly analyze that basic premise, so please try to
keep up. Here goes: That's not only stupid, it's meaningless. It's lazy and dull. The only thing it accomplishes is the politicization of Catholicism, which is only helpful for those whose true faith is in politics, not Jesus Christ.
CWR has posted several pieces about both of the new Saints, and I won't add much here. However, if you simply cannot get
enough about the thought of St. John Paul II, see my 2002 essay, "The Dignity of the Human Person: Pope John Paul II's Teaching on Divinization in the Trinitarian Encyclicals." Here's the opening:
witness to the horrors of Nazism and Communism, Pope John Paul II saw
first-hand the physical and spiritual destruction wrought by the
disordered desire to remove God and make man the center and meaning of
history. He has also observed destuctive impulses in the West,
falsehoods evidenced by the steady growth of abortion, contraception,
amorality, and hedonism during the past several decades. In addressing
all of these conditions, the Holy Father has consistently pointed out
that man, in his confused search for identity and meaning, unwittingly
proves he does indeed have a purpose and reason for living. The yearning
of man, so often realized in distorted and ugly ways, is to be God and
to be deified.
John Paul II denounces the many perverted forms
this yearning takes, but acknowledges its authentic core. Man has a
God-made hole in his being, a deep recess which can only be fulfilled in
one Way and by one Person, Jesus Christ. In the Incarnation, God united
himself to man, making possible the unthinkable: intimate communion
between the creature and the Creator. "This union of Christ with man is
in itself a mystery," the Holy Father states in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis,
"From the mystery is born ‘the new man,’ called to become a partaker of
God’s life, and newly created in Christ for the fullness of grace and
truth." (RH 18.2).
This "partaking" of God’s very life (see 2
Peter 1:4) is the reality of divinization, or deification. In the
Eastern Churches it is often called theosis; it is a central
focus of Eastern Christian theology and worship. It is also one of the
consistent and unifying themes of John Paul II’s thought, appearing
often in his important trilogy of Trinitarian encyclicals Redemptor Hominis, Dives in Misericordia and Dominum et Vivificantem respectively on the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
Continue reading on the Ignatius Insight site.
This theme of theosis/divization in the writings of John Paul II is
examined further in the book, Called To Be Children of God, to be
published early next year by Ignatius Press, which Fr. David Vincent
Meconi, SJ, and I edited together, and which features contributions from
fourteen different authors.
One of those contributors is the
wonderful Tracey Rowland, who is Dean of the John Paul II Institute for
Marriage and Family in Melbourne. She is also the author of a very good
essay, "Saint John Paul II: Doctor of Incarnate Love", for the "Religion and Ethics" section of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website. An excerpt:
contending with one kind of revolution in Poland, Wojtyla was also a
key player in another intellectual battlefield. Between the years 1962
and 1965, he attended the Second Vatican Council as a Council Father and
was one of those who made significant contributions to the renewal of
the Church's theological vision. His "input," one might argue, was the
kind of input John XXIII had envisaged when he remarked that he would
like to open the windows of the Church and let in some fresh air. In
particular, Karol Wojtyla made significant contributions to the document
Gaudium et spes, known as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in
the Modern World.
It is often said that this is the most
difficult to interpret of all the documents of the Council since it
oscillates between sociological observations and theological statements,
and between comments made for the world at large and comments addressed
directly to the faithful. Sometimes the document was very loosely
interpreted as a call to Catholics to embrace the spirit of the times.
Since the times were the 1960s - the era of The Beatles, flower-power,
mini-skirts and hot-pants - this sometimes led to some odd results.
Anyone who went to Catholic schools in the 1970s can tell some
interesting stories of being a guinea-pig in the pastoral experiments of
that era. With reference to some of these results, one Scottish blogger
recently remarked, "Is it any surprise, given the surrounding culture
[of the 1960s], that Vatican II produced some odd results? If the
Council of Trent, once completed, had been left to the interpretations
of some drug crazed hippies we'd be picking up the pieces of that
Cardinal Wojtyla was not one of these drug crazed
hippies and Poland's experience of the 1960s was very different from
that of western countries on the free side of the Berlin Wall. He did
not read Gaudium et spes as a call to accommodate the Church's teaching
or liturgical practices to whatever happened to be the spirit of the
times. In his country, that would have meant some form of Marxism. For
Wojtyla, Gaudium et spes was not a call to accommodate to anything, but
rather a call to re-centre the Church's teaching and pastoral life on
Christ. It was also an attempt to present some of the Church's perennial
teachings in a more personalist, less scholastic, idiom.
Speaking of Communismaren't you impressed with my blogging-by-association approach?the Population Resarch Institute reports on how the Chinese government constantly pushes its anti-life propoganda and anti-child agenda:
is hard for persons in democratic societies to grasp how China's
party-state can control the fertility of China's millions. The effort
starts with a barrage of anti-child propaganda in the schools and
workplaces, and then moves to open intimidation in banners and slogans
posted in public places.
Among those slogans:
"If it should be aborted and is not aborted, your house will be destroyed and your cow will be taken."
"Even if you bleed enough to make a river, you must not give birth to an extra child!"
"If you should get sterilized and you don’t, you will be detained and
prosecuted. If you should abort and do not abort, your house will be
torn down and your cattle will be led away."
Visit the PRI site to see photos of the banners and slogans.
Speaking of China, the Dignitatis Humane Institute reported:
of Chinese Christians have united in the city of Wenzhou to form a
24-hour human shield around the Sanjiang Christian Church, amidst
threats from the Communist authorities to demolish the building. The
three-story Church is one of ten places of worship to have been listed
for demolition in the Zhejiang province, considered China’s most
Christian region. This is the second time in two weeks the Christians
of Zhejiang have flocked to protect their Church from the machinations
of the local Communist party.
The Telegraph now reports that the Sanjiang Christian Church has been at least partially demolished:
Monday morning demolition teams began tearing down parts of the church
in Wenzhou, a city around 230 miles south of Shanghai that has one of
the country’s largest congregations.
saw three or four excavators out front, demolishing the church, and
three or four out back, demolishing the annex building. I also saw a
small excavator going inside the church doing demolition work inside,”
said one witness who claimed there were around 100 police around the
church, including armed officers. ...
the roads are blocked, you can't get close to the church,” said a local
Protestant leader, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from
the government. “The two sides of the main hall are being demolished.”
sent to The Telegraph and posted on social media sites showed at least
four excavators that appeared to be ripping down large sections of the
Other images showed black police vans, military trucks and security agents standing on the main road outside.
was not immediately possible to verify those pictures. Nor was it clear
whether authorities planned to destroy the entire church, which has a
large red cross on its spire, or just part of the structure.
Read more and see pictures of the demolition.
I, for one, am thankful that I live in a country whose government does
not encourage abortions and would never think of targeting Christians in
any way. Or something like that.
Is atheist Richard Dawkins
actually a brilliant Christian evangelist pretending to hate, er, deny
God? A British atheist (and academic) recently recounted how she was led to the Catholic Church by first reading Dawkins:
Dawkins challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone and honestly
confront the issues holding me back from a full commitment to faith. My
sense of The God Delusion is that it is written as a testimony
to Dawkins’ belief system (which I call fundamentalist atheism) and that
the author cherry picks convenient quotes to bolster his opinion that
esteemed scientists (such as Einstein) couldn’t possibly be ignorant
enough to actually believe in a supernatural God, no matter what they
may have said to the contrary. In fact, anyone with any intelligence at
all couldn’t possible believe in a supernatural God. Dawkins is
preaching to his atheist choir and evidently they loved the book based
on their many five-star recommendations of it. But in that sense,
Dawkins is no different than the many Christian authors who write in a
similar manner. There is a pre-judgment that whoever disagrees with the
premise of the book is, essentially, an idiot! Well, I don’t like to be
called an idiot.
realized I was no better than Dawkins. ... And that was the beginning
of the last leg of my journey to conversion to Catholicism. In reading
to refute Dawkins as well as educate myself and find answers to
questions, I discovered the God-man Jesus Christ. Not only did the
Catholic view resonate with me emotionally, but perhaps more importantly
for me, it was intellectually honest.
The Telegraph's Damian Thompson has a very similar anecdote about a friend who had been an atheist for many years.
From a Wall Street Journal article, "The Jewish Conductor and the Polish Pope":
a decade after the end of his pontificate, Catholics are divided over
John Paul's conservative stances on birth control, priestly celibacy and
homosexuality. As a Jew, Mr. [Gilbert] Levine has no stake in most of
these intramural Catholic arguments.
Pardon my confusion, but
aren't "John Paul's conservative stances on birth control, priestly
celibacy and homosexuality" also known as "Catholic doctrine"? (Yes,
they are.) And since when did Judaism stop being concerned about sexual
morality? (Yes, yes, I know: there are many forms of Judaism. But my
basic point stands.)
On Holy Thursday, the San Francisco Gate site reports,
Nancy Pelosi helped "Bishop Marc Andrus wash the feet of two children
Thursday at Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in San
Francisco." The reason for her action, Pelosi said, was to "honor the
dignity and work of immigrants..." Most Scripture scholars will be
surprised to learn that the twelve apostles had been immigrants. But,
then, the Episcopalian community has long sought to score political
points about current issues, with little or no interest in orthodox
doctrineunless partisan talking points are considered doctrine. Which
means that Pelosi was right at home; the report states that she "also
used the occasion to talk about passing HR15 - bipartisan immigration
legislation that her office says would 'reduce the deficit by nearly $1
trillion, secure our borders, unite our families, protect our workers
and provide an earned pathway to citizenship.'"
In related news, the Associated Press reports that Hillary Clinton is now head of the Department of Scriptural Exegesis:
said she struggled as a young woman between her father's insistence on
self-reliance and her mother's concern for compassion. She reconciled
those in the Biblical story of Jesus instructing his disciples to feed
5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
disciples come to Jesus and suggest they send away the people to find
food to fend for themselves. But Jesus said, `No. You feed them,'"
Clinton said. "He was teaching a lesson about the responsibility we all
She also said that Jesus should have probably obtained the
proper city, county, state, and federal permits for the Feeding of the
Five Thousand Responsibility Lesson Event, but that he had probably been
forced to go ahead with it at the urging of "religious conservatives".
Just kidding! No, she didn't say that, but she did say this about the church she attended while growing up in Illinois:
love that church. I love how it made me feel about myself," Clinton
said. "I love the doors that it opened in my understanding of the world,
I loved the way it helped to deepen my faith and ground it."
And, no, it wasn't Rev. Wright's church, for those who are wondering.
The Irish Independent reports
that an Irish prelate, Abp. Diarmuid Martin, is "open to dialogue on the
ordination of married men after Pope Francis signalled the need for the
Catholic Church to discuss the issue." But, the newpapers adds, Abp.
Martin has indicated "that ordaining women into the church to make up for
the shortage of priests was 'not on the table at the moment'." That's
good to know, I suppose, considering that the Church teaches that only
certain men can be priests, period. If the quote is accurate (perhaps it
has been tweaked), it's a ridiculous thing to say, as Dr. Edward Peters explains.
Who said it? “Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry
with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the
pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality
and the right to life of the unborn." That was Pope Francis, in remarks made to African bishops
a few days ago. And guess what? Very few people seemed to notice; it was
essentially ignored outside of some Catholic media outlets. Go figure.
Canonization Derangement Disorder seemed to afflict a few folks in the
days leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday and the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II. Maureen Dowd led the way with a
screed titled, "A saint, John Paul II ain't":
Vatican had a hard time drumming up the requisite two miracles when
Pope Benedict XVI, known as John Paul’s Rasputin and enforcer of the
orthodoxy, waived the traditional five-year waiting period and rushed to
canonize his mentor. But the real miracle is that it will happen at
all. John Paul was a charmer, and a great man in many ways. But given
that he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of
a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain’t no
Sometimes leaders can be remarkable in certain ways and
then make a mistake so spectacular, it overshadows other historical
achievements. Lyndon Johnson deserves to be secularly canonized for his
work on civil rights but he never will because of the war in Vietnam.
course, as any half-catechized Catholic can tell you, personal holiness
does not insure, say, intellectual brilliance or governing brilliance (see Saint Francis, for example).
Even those of us who believe that John Paul II was a great man and a
true saint know that some of his choicesover the course of 26 years, by
the way, and not just 4 or 8were not, in hindsight, all that great.
But, Dowd, of course, whose world is so small and mind is so narrow that
she can almost be forgiven for thinking she is omniscient, won't have
is wonderful that John Paul told other societies, communist and
capitalist, to repent. But his tragedy is that he never corrected the
failings of his own society, over which he ruled absolutely.
defenders say that the pope was kept in the dark and that he believed
that the accusations [against Maciel] were phony ones, like the efforts
to slime the church in his homeland, Poland, during the Cold War.
the searing damage the scandal has done to so many lives and to the
church, that rationalization doesn’t have a prayer. He needed to
recognize the scope of the misconduct and do something, not play the
Personally, I'm waiting for Dowd to start
bearing down on the abuse epidemic going on in public schools, and
demanding that every POTUS of the past forty years be either jailed or
mocked for failing to address it.
Brett M. Decker takes a similar approach in an April 21st article for USA Today:
strict hierarchical structure of the Roman church means accountability
goes straight to the top. The buck stops at the pope's desk, for good or
Canonizing pontiffs from the era of abuse is not only
tone deaf but also exposes a continuing, stubborn refusal to acknowledge
the institutional coverup that occurred for decades and that those at
the highest levels including popes didn't do enough to prevent the
crimes, enabling the crisis to continue.
Thomas McDonald responds:
"Was the abuse scandal horrible? Of course. Were there things the
church could have done differently? In retrospect, that’s obvious. Does
it mean that these two holy men are not now with God? Only a fool would
argue so." Exactly. The odd thing is that neither Down or Decker mention
how much Benedict did in his relatively short pontificate to address
the "filth" (as he famously called it) in the Church. Actually, it's not
odd at all: Benedict was "enforcer of the orthodoxy" and so must be
either denounced or ignored at every turn.
Paul Elie prefers denouncing, even belittling, Benedict. In an April 16th Atlantic essay, "The Pope in the Attic: Benedict in the Time of Francis", Elie (who is Catholic) tries to conjure up a game of "Bad Pope, Good Pope":
odd enough that there are two living popes. It’s odder still that they
live in such proximity. But what’s most odd is that the two popes are
these two popes, and that the one who spent a third of a century
erecting a Catholic edifice of firm doctrine and strict prohibition now
must look on at close range as the other cheerfully dismantles it in the
service of a more open, flexible Church.
Elie manages to use the
phrase, "Who am I too judge?" seven times in the piece, which is at
turns wildly speculative, snide, small-minded, overreaching, and even
simply weird. For instance:
Church officials, and Vatican insiders told me that the differences
between the two men come down to personality, not principle, and that
Benedict is delighted with the goodwill the world is showing Francis. He
probably is. Yet when he was the arbiter of Church doctrine, he never
missed a chance to declare that the Church was founded on revealed truth
rather than personality, and that the world’s goodwill isn’t worth
having except on the Church’s terms. “Who am I to judge?”Francis’s
remark about gay peoplewas a sharp turn away from Benedict’s view that
the role of the Church is to render judgment in a world in thrall to “a
dictatorship of relativism.” Francis’s offhand statements and openness
to new approaches make clear that he is a very different popeand unless
Benedict has lost his mind, he cannot be altogether happy about it.
is an incredibly dunderheaded passage. But It reminds me, helpfully, of
a passage from the apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Lumen":
revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be
believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for
giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core,
what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest
in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. In this sense, the
Second Vatican Council explained, “in Catholic doctrine there exists an
order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to
the foundation of the Christian faith”. This holds true as much for the
dogmas of faith as for the whole corpus of the Church’s teaching,
including her moral teaching.
Of course, that's a long document,
and Elie may have passed on reading it. But way back in March 2013, not
long after his election, Pope Francis said the following:
there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our
time which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly
seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called
the ‘dictatorship of relativism,’ which makes everyone his own criterion
and endangers the coexistence of peoples.
And that brings me to a
second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to
build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be
true peace is everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always
claim exclusively his own rights without at the same time caring for the
good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites
every human being on this earth.”
Elie is a talented writer, but until this recent piece, I was unaware of his great gift for fiction. Next.
Exhibit #3 lacks nastiness, but makes up for it in cluelessness: The Guardian's Sophia Deboick asked, "Must the Catholic church dehumanise John Paul II to make him a saint?"
After reading her piece, I wonder, "Must journalists write nonsensical
articles about the Catholic Church to impress their editors?" I suppose
that John Paul II himself would find it quite funny that the Church's
celebration of his entrance into the divine life of Godwhich should be
the goal and desire of every humanwould be somehow viewed as
Yes, Jesus had a wife. And still does, as Fr. Stephen Grunow reminds folks.