Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Doctor’s Ministry, Bridging Science and Spirit




Forty years ago, long before the recent afternoon when Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky knelt at the warped feet of his 4-year-old patient, he was a small-town teenager approaching his Catholic confirmation and needing to select a patron saint. He made an unlikely choice, a newly canonized figure, St. Martin de Porres, the illegitimate child of a former black slave in 16th-century Peru.

Back then, in the early 1970s, as the child of a factory worker and a homemaker, Joseph had no aspiration toward medicine. Nor did he know that Martin de Porres had been elevated to sainthood in part because of his healing miracles.

Decades later, something — call it coincidence, call it providence — has bent the vectors of faith and science together in the career of Dr. Dutkowsky. The confluence of these often-clashing ideals has taken him to the top of his profession as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the care of children disabled from cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down syndrome and other afflictions. It has also taken him to the healing shrine of Lourdes and to the Lima barrio where his patron saint tended to the poor and broken and cast out.
Dr. Dutkowsky’s appointment with Christian, his young patient at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital in New York, was as emblematic as any other on his calendar: cerebral palsy at birth, canted legs that could not be corrected by braces, muscle tissue softened by Botox injections, and each foot placed in a cast for several weeks to try to reshape it for stable walking.
“This is my ministry,” said Dr. Dutkowsky, 56. “Some people stand next to the ocean to feel the presence of God. I get to see the likeness of God every day. I see children with some amazing deformities. But God doesn’t make mistakes. So they are the image.”
Dr. Dutkowsky is well aware that he occupies contested territory, both intellectually and theologically. He can say, as he does, that he considers both belief and reason to be divine gifts. And he can say, as he does, that a healing miracle can consist of restoring a person’s soul to God, not necessarily curing a disease or reviving a paralyzed limb.
Words, though, have rarely settled the millenniums-old arguments between sacred and secular, particularly as they pertain to medicine. So Dr. Dutkowsky mostly lives his example. Once chastised by a hospital superior for saying “God bless you” to his patients, he wears a wooden cross carved by a disabled man in Lima, he fingers a rosary as he drives to the hospital each week from his home in upstate New York, and he recites a prayer to the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Mercier as he parks the car and prepares to see his patients. “Only show me,” it concludes, “what is your will.”
Dr. Dutkowsky has found his place working in a zone where medical challenge and religious mystery intersect. He treats people — even those who have grown into adulthood — who were visited with disability as children. When he operates on them, he recognizes that he is, at least in the short term, adding pain to a life saturated with pain.
A purely secular physician, someone who accepts the concept of a capricious and random universe, would not face the question that a believer like Dr. Dutkowsky did when he saw an adult patient named Mike late last month. Here was a man in his 30s who, despite a case of cerebral palsy that had consigned him to a wheelchair, earned a master’s degree and held a social work job. What kind of God would then allow this man to develop retinitis pigmentosa and gradually lose his sight?
As with the 4-year-old boy, Dr. Dutkowsky began his session with Mike on the floor, at the patient’s feet, looking less the expert than the supplicant. He swiveled his head and propped his chin on his palm to keep his face within Mike’s shrinking field of vision. He was, by choice, “Dr. Joe.”
Before turning to anything diagnostic, Dr. Dutkowsky spoke to Mike person to person, chatting about the Baseball Hall of Fame, joking about how he mows the lawn to reduce stress. “My psychiatrist,” he said, “is named John Deere.” Only then did he examine Mike’s legs and discuss a regimen of conditioning and strengthening exercises to return some mobility to them.
“We have a culture that’s addicted to perfection,” Dr. Dutkowsky said later. “We’re willing to spend thousands of dollars to achieve it. The people I care for are imperfect. And I can’t make them perfect. I only hope that they can sense that I actually care they’re more than skin and bones, that we have a bond.”
Dr. Dutkowsky has made efforts to bridge the chasm between science and spirit. As president of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, he had the Rev. David Farrell, a Catholic priest who has worked among Peru’s poor since 1964, address the group’s convention last year on the topic of “Poverty and Disability.” That same year, on his third pilgrimage to Lourdes, Dr. Dutkowsky took part in a conference on faith and medicine, delivering a speech he titled “Dignity and Disability.”
He took the occasion to wrestle with the ontological question embodied by the unmerited suffering of patients like Mike and Christian.
“For years, when asked why I chose this profession, I had no good answer,” he said, “until I came upon the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Did this man or his parents sin that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered that the blindness was not the result of the man or his parents’ sin. The man was born blind ‘so the glory of God might be revealed.’ Every day in my work I find myself in the revealed glory of God.”
E-mail: sgf1@columbia.edu.

In What Direction Could There Be Development to the Metaphysics of St. Thomas?




Ratzinger proposes the challenge:

 “Here is the problem: Ought we to accept modernity in full, or in part? Is there a real contribution Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with the Enlightenment, how can it be reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith?

 “Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity.
            
“And I think that the gift, the light of the fait, must be dominant, but the light of the faith has also the capacity to take up into itself the true human lights, and for this reason the struggles over exegesis and the liturgy for me must be inserted into this great, let call it epochal struggle over how Christianity, over how the Christian responds to modernity, to the challenge of modernity…
           
“and it seems to me… that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.
           
“Because it was the Council Fathers’ intention to heal and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it, the interpretations which interpret the Second Vatican Council in the sense of the de-sacralization or profanation are erroneous.
           
“Augustine, as you know, was a man who, on the one hand, had studied in great depth the great philosophies, the profane literature of the ancient world.
           
“On the other hand, he was also very critical of the pagan authors, even with regard to Plato, to Virgil, those great authors whom he loved so much.
            
“He criticized them, and with a penetrating sense, purified them.
            
“This was his way of using the great pre-Christian culture: purify it, heal it, and in  this way, also, healing it, he gave true greatness to this culture. Because in this way,  it entered into the fact of the incarnation, no? And became part of the Word’s incarnation.”[1]


Wojtyla: “If we study the Conciliar magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors fo the church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?’ ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean  to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’”[2]

Wojtyla solution as suggested as the metaphysical under-girding of his papacy: Craft a metaphysics of subjectivity that is not the idealism (relativism) of Cartesian “consciousness” by using the moral experience of self-determination and self-gift as ontological foundation of an ontological self as irreducible “I.” Then take the insights of the Enlightenment as suggested by Ratzinger and account for them more fully and adequately by the experience of this ontological “I.” Hence, the purification of Modern thought and its incorporation into the reality of the Incarnation that can be deployed as foundation of a new social order built on the Person of Christ as the revelation of both God and man.






[1] R. Moynihan, “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI – Let God’s Light Shine Forth” Doubleday (2005) 34-36.
[2] K. Wojtyla, “Sources of Renewal” Harper and Row (1979) 17.

Porta Fidei #10 Offered @ MHP on January 28, 2013



Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas 

Porta Fidei #10:

“At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent.”

This means that the act of going out of oneself to receive Christ mimics the very act that Jesus Christ is with regard to the Father. And if Jesus Himself as Person is the entire intelligible content of the faith, and that content is the act of streaming toward and from the Father, then our mimicking that act situates that intelligibility in us. Hence, the believer will “know” Christ to the extent that he goes out of himself and becomes “another Christ.”[1] That is, by knowing himself experientially, he will know Christ – which is to say that if he prays to the Father as Christ prays to the Father, he will know, as Simon (Lk 9, 18), that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Like Simon, his name will change from Simon to Peter, because he is like “Rock” and “Cornerstone” ["Be yourselves as living stones, built thereon into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood  to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter, 2, 5] Hence, in knowing himself experientially as “another Christ,” he knows Christ. And in knowing Christ, he knows the Father and begins to enter eternal life.[2]

            All of this is to say that the act of faith is pre-eminently anthropology as Vatican II said in Dei Verbum #5: “By faith man freely commits his entire self to God.”

This living faith is the cure of the “modern malaise”[3] (Walker Percy) since it activates the very being of the believer and produces the joy that is hope. The modern malaise (sadness) is the contemporary translation of the mediaeval Latin, acedia. Joseph Pieper wrote: "acedia is a kind of sadness... more specifically a sadness in view of the divine good in man. This sadness because of the God-given ennobling of human nature causes inactivity, depression, discouragement (thus the element of actual 'sloth' is secondary).

   "The opposite of acedia is not industry and diligence but magnanimity and that joy which is a fruit of the supernatural love of God. Not only can acedia and ordinary diligence exist very well together; it is even true that the senselessly exaggerated workaholism of our age is directly traceable to acedia, which is a basic characteristic of the spiritual countenance of precisely this age in which we live... The indolence expressed by the term acedia is so little the opposite of 'work' in the ordinary meaning of the term that Saint Thomas says rather that acedia is a sin against the third of the Ten Commandments, by which man is enjoined to 'rest his spirit in God.' Genuine rest and leisure... are possible only under the precondition that man accepts his own true meaning."[4]

            Benedict XVI’s thesis: “`revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result [scripture] of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scripture (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scriptura is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition [my emphasis] is already given.[5]

Again: “You can have Scripture without having revelation. For revelation always and only becomes a reality where there is faith. The nonbeliever remains under the veil of which Paul speaks in the third chapter of his Second Letter to the Corinthians. He can read Scripture and know what is in it, can even understand at a purely intellectual level, what is meant and how what is said hangs together – and yet he has not shared in the revelation. Rather, revelation has only arrived where, in addition to the material assertions witnessing to it, its inner reality has itself become effective after the manner of faith. Consequently, the person who receives it also is a part of the revelation to a certain degree, for without him it does not exist. You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence.”[6]
            This is not pantheism. This is Christianity as received from the Apostles and elaborated by the Apostolic Father. It is the consequence of being created in the image and likeness of God and chosen “in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world… He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…” (Eph. 1, 4). Ireneus (2nd century): “The Word of God became man, the Son of God became the Son of Man, in order to unite man with himself and make him, by adoption, a son of God.”[7] 
The necessity of Scripture: Without Scripture we could not be led to the true experience of the Person of Christ. Scripture is not Revelation, but it is the Word of God written under  the inspiration and experience of the living Word leading us to enter in and receive it (Him) and so become Revelation.
As Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “What does the Church believe? This question includes the others: who believes and how should one believe? The Catechism has dealt with both  fundamental questions: the question of ‘what’ to believe and of ‘who’ believes, as one question with an interior unity. In other words, the catechism illustrates the act of the faith and the content of the faith in their inseparability…
            “What does all this mean? The faith is an orientation of our existence as a whole, in its completeness. It is a basic decision, one which has effects in every aspect of our existence and one which is realized only if it is supported by all the efforts of our existence. Faith is not solely an intellectual process,[8] or solely one of will or emotions; it is all of these together. It is an act of the entire self, of the whole person in the unity off all the elements of that person gathered into one. In this sense it was described by the Bible as an act of the ‘heart’ (Rom. 10, 9). It is a highly personal act. But precisely because it is this, it surpasses the self, the ‘I,’ the limits of the individual. Nothing belongs to us as little as our self,[9] St. Augustine affirms in one passage.”[10]
            What does all this mean? That the content of faith is not reducible to ideas or concepts. The content of the faith is not to be contained in a book. It is a Person. But the Person is an action of relating to the Father. As incarnate, it is called “prayer.” Therefore, the action of belief is to pray, and that prayer becomes the content or “what” is believed.
            Another way of saying this: “Only God knows God.” In Brazil, on May 13, 2007, Benedict XVI said: Yet here a further question immediately arises: who knows God? How can we know him? (…) For a Christian, the nucleus of the reply is simple: only God knows God, only his Son who is God from God, true God, knows him. And he ‘who is nearest to the Father’s heart has made him known’ (John 1:18).” This is a paraphrase of Mt. 11, 27: “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
            The point of “only God knows God” is the fundamental truth that I can only know reality by becoming one with it. If I am not the “other,” I must have a likeness of the other within me. In Wojtyla’s thesis on “Faith in St. John of the Cross,” there were no “likenesses” between God  and man, so John’s experience was “the dark night of the soul” in which the self-loving was the likeness (= the mystical life of experience and consciousness).
Benedict’s “Theological Epistemology


Thesis 3: Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer, it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him.

“Let us begin here with a very general matter of epistemology. By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that lie is known by like. In matters of the mind and where persons are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand  (intellegere = ab intus legere).
           
“We can illustrate this with a couple of examples. Philosophy can only be acquired if we philosophize, if we carry through the process of philosophical thought; mathematics can only be appropriated if we think mathematically; medicine can only be learned in the practice of healing, never merely by means of books and reflection. Similarly, religion can only be understood through religion… The fundamental act of religion is prayer, which in the Christian religion acquires a very specific character: it is the act of self-surrender by which we enter the Body of Christ. Thus it is an act of love. As love, in and with the Body of Christ, it is always both love of God and love of neighbor, knowing and fulfilling itself as love for the members of this Body.
           
“In Thesis 1 we saw that prayer was the central act of the person of Jesus and, indeed, that this person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with one he calls 1Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’ saying that o one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6, 44). Where there is no Father, there is no Son. Where there is no relationship with God, there can be no understanding of him who, in his innermost self, is nothing but relationship with God, the Father… Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer, which… is an act of love, of self-giving and self-expropriation to men, is not some kind of pious supplement to reading the Gospels, adding nothing to knowledge of him or even being an obstacle to the rigorous purity of critical knowing. On the contrary, it is the basic precondition if real understanding, in the sense of modern hermeneutics – i.e., the entering-in to the same time and same meaning – is to take place… All real progress in theological understanding has its origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding.”[11]

Application: Simon entered into this prayer of Christ (“as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him,” Lk. 9, 18), became “like Him, and was able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16) The likeness to Christ becomes evident in the name-change from Simon to Peter (as “rock”) since Jesus is the “Cornerstone.”[12] One knows Christ only by becoming like Him, and in so doing reaches salvation.[13]

            The act of faith is an experience of the whole self making the gift of self to the revealing Person of Christ. This gift of self in faith is the act of acceptance of the “Word” within the self, as our Lady at the Annunciation. Revelation does not take place until the acceptance of the Word takes place. As a tree falling in a forest makes “noise” but not “sound” unless there is a subject receiving the “noise.” So also, God in Christ is present but not known without that receptivity. Ratzinger: : “`revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result [scripture] of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scripture (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scriptura is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition [my emphasis] is already given.[14]

Consciousness That Undergirds Societal Health (Maggie Gallagher):  “Every life is precious. It is better to care for your children than to kill them. Divorce hurts children; it also breaks apart life's most precious commitment -- a family. Men and women are different. A society that pretends otherwise is not going to raise boys to be loving, reliable family men. Marriage is not about settling for less but raising up an ideal much bigger and more important even than the most urgent whispered promises of romantic love. Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need their mother and their father. Men and women need each other. We all need a strong marriage culture, whether we choose to marry or not. If it is true that sex makes babies, then that is clearly the most important thing about sex, the thing around which a decent person or society will organize sexual values, behavior and norms. If they saw clearly. If they were only told the truth. For of all the ways adult society can abandon the young, one of the worst is to ignore the key adult task of creating and sustaining a larger meaning for sex and sexual desire for young people.”[15]
The Malaise and the Challenge (Maggie Gallagher): On every key measure, marriage is weaker. The consequences are more obviously unsustainable, yet culturally powerful voices are less willing to engage, and the power of porn and Hollywood to create our norms for family life is more triumphant than ever. Since 1993, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has jumped from 31 percent to 41 percent -- mostly since about 2003. For women with only a high school degree or less, non marital childbearing is the new normal. Divorce has declined for the privileged; for everyone else, stable marriage has gotten to be even further out of reach. Without a powerful ideal of masculinity that points men toward marriage and fatherhood, more and more young men are deciding the hard work of becoming marriageable is not worth it: Porn, beer, video games with the guys, freedom and fleeting sexual encounters are good enough. The most urgent overlooked need is the deep need of boys for masculine ideals. If civilization refuses to provide any, porn and video-game makers will step in to fill the gap. Why should young men work hard to become protectors and defenders of women and children when American culture -- and women -- tells them they are not needed in either role? So in this, my final column, I say my farewell to optimism and my hello to hope. What is the difference? Optimism is a prediction; hope is a virtue. My hope rests on this: The truths to which I've dedicated my life, both professionally and personally, are too important to ignore, too foundational to be abandoned, too much a part of reality to be lost forever.”
Do not abandon politics. It is one important means to create culture -- to name our shared reality. But we need, as well, a next generation of culture creators, of storytellers, with the credentials to name reality: empirical social scientists, novelists, poets, preachers and filmmakers. We need donors to invest in building the networks and communities through which such voices are born, flourish and give meaning to the lives of millions. The future belongs to those of us with enough hope to rebuild on the ashes of optimism, a new American civilization -- uniting sex, love, babies, mothers and fathers in this thing called marriage. [16]

Continued statement of #10: Saint Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.
The example of Lydia is particularly eloquent in this regard. Saint Luke recounts that, while he was at Philippi, Paul went on the Sabbath to proclaim the Gospel to some women; among them was Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). There is an important meaning contained within this expression. Saint Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.
Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment. A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. This “standing with him” points towards an understanding of the reasons for believing. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes. The Church on the day of Pentecost demonstrates with utter clarity this public dimension of believing and proclaiming one’s faith fearlessly to every person. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness, making it frank and courageous.






[1] The ascetical core of Opus Dei is the experience and consciousness of St. Josemaria Escriva as “Ipse Christus, alter Christus:” Antonio Aranda “The Christian, “alter Christus, ipse Christus, in the thought of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer,” Holiness and the World, Scepter, (1997) 127-189.
[2] Jn. 17, 3: “Now this is everlasting life that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.”
[3] Walker Percy, “Diagnosing the Modern Malaise,” Signposts in a Strange Land, Noonday Press,(1991) p. 21`0: “The consciousness of Western man, the layman in particular, has been transformed by a curious misapprehension of the scientific method. One is tempted to use the theological term ‘idolatry.’’ This misapprehension, which is not the fault of science, but rather the inevitable consequence of the victory of the scientific worldview accompanied as it is by all the dazzling credentials of scientific progress. It, the misapprehension, takes the form, I believe, of a radical and paradoxical loss of sovereignty by the layman and of a radical impoverishment of human relations – paradoxical, I say, because it occurs in the very fact  of his technological mastery of the world and his richness as a consumer of the world’s goods” (210).
[4] J. Pieper, “On Hope” Ignatius (1986) 56.
[5]  J. Ratzinger, “Milestones – Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997). 108-109.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “God’s Word” Ignatius (2008) 52.
[7] Against Heresies, Book 3, 19.
[8]Andre Frossard asked John Paul II: “Is it possible to give a definition of this faith which is described by some people as a gift of God, by others as a commitment, again as ‘that which gives substance to our hopes’?” Answer: “Personally I would not discount the old catechism definition which I learnt at primary school: faith is “to admit as truth what God has revealed and what the Church gives us to believe.” However,  I will not send you back to the catechism, for this definition, as it stands, can incur the criticism that it does not attach sufficient importance to the person, the subject that experiences faith, even though the very phrase ‘admit as truth’ clearly implies the existence of the  subject. It also indicates the cognitive character of faith in its reference to the truth that motivates it” (my bold).
[9] Now, what does this mean?: “The Son as Son, and in so far as he is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one with the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of hi9s own, confronts the Father with nothing belonging only to him, retains no room for his own individuality, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: if there is nothing in which he is just he, no kind of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is ‘one’ with him. It is precisely this totality of interplay that the word ‘Son’ aims at expressing. To John, ‘Son’ means being-from another and for others, as a being that is completely open on both sides, knows no reserved area of the mere ‘I.’ When it thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being ‘from’ and ‘towards,’ that nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity. This fundamental statement about Christ becomes, as we have seen, at the same time the explanation of Christian existence. To John, being a Christian means being like the Son, becoming a son; that is, not standing on one’s own and in oneself, but living completely open in the ‘from’ and ‘towards.’ In so far as the Christian is a ‘Christian,’ this is true of him. And certainly such utterances will make him aware to how small an extent he is a Christian.” (J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius [1990]  133) Now add to that the God-Man [Christ] is the prototype of the human person. Christology becomes the form and meaning of anthropology and man can find himself only by becoming relational: finding self by sincere gift of self [Gaudium et spes #24].

[10] J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe?” Catholic World Report , March 1993, 27.
[11] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 25-27.
[12] Acts, 4, 11: “This is The Stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone.”
[13] “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.’ (Jn. 17, 3).
[14]  J. Ratzinger, “Milestones – Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1997). 108-109.
[15] Maggie Gallagher: “The Future: Built by Hope on the Ashes of Optimism.”


[16] Ibid.

The Humanity of Christ - Living Compassion In and Through Us



 Someone sent me an article in the NYT (September 22, 2012 A21) "A Doctor's Ministry, Bridging Science and Spirit" -  which is extraordinary. Journalist Samuel G. Freedman quotes Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky of New York-Presbyterian/Columbia: "Some people stand next to the ocean to feel the presence of God. I get to see the likeness of God every day. I see children with some amazing deformities. But God doesn't make mistakes. So they are the image." He goes on: "For years, when asked why I chose this profession, I had no good answer until I came upon the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, 'Did this man or his parents sin that he was born blind?' Jesus answered that the blindness was not the result of the man or his parents' sin.  The man was born blind 'so the glory of God might be revealed.' Every day in my work I find myself in the revealed glory of God.'" 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

St. Thomas Aquinas - January 28, 2013




Carvajal: “The Magisterium of the Church has on many occasions recommended that the faithful treat Saint Thomas as a guide in philosophical and theological study. The Church has taken the teachings of Saint Thomas as her own inasmuch as they are the best synthesis available of revealed truth, the writings of the Fathers and the demands of human reason.[1] The Second Vatican Council urged the faithful to obtain a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Faith with Saint Thomas as teacher .[2]
The Magisterium of the Church does not teach philosophy or theology. It teaches the Divine Person of Jesus Christ, Perfect God, Perfect Man.  Therefore, our Father teaches:  “We cannot conclude from this that we ought to just limit ourselves to assimilating and repeating all of the teachings of St. Thomas and only his.
                “We are talking about something very different: certainly we ought to cultivate the doctrine of the Angelic Doctor, but in the same way as he would develop it now if he were alive. Therefore, sometimes we will have to finish what he was only able to commence; and we also make our own all the discoveries of other authors, when they are compatible with the truth.”
Catechism of the Work: Opus Dei does not have, and will never have, any particular corporate viewpoint or school of thought in any branch of science, nor in any theological or philosophical matters which the Church has left open to discussion. Our Father: “Corporatively we have no other doctrine than what the Magisterium of the Holy See teaches. We accept everything that this Magisterium accepts, and reject al that it rejects. We believe whatever it proposes as a truth of faith and we also make our own everything which is of Catholic doctrine. And within this ample doctrine, each one of us forms his own personal criteria. Why? Because “man is the only earthly being God has willed for itself” (GS #24) and therefore “no one can use a person as a means towards an end, no human being, not even God the Creator.”[3]  The human person is a self-determining freedom.
In what we should the mind of St. Thomas be developed?

Joseph Ratzinger: “Here is the problem: Ought we to accept modernity in full, or in part? Is there a real contribution Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with the Enlightenment, how can it be reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith?

“Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity.
            “And I think that the gift, the light of the fait, must be dominant, but the light of the faith has also the capacity to take up into itself the true human lights, and for this reason the struggles over exegesis and the liturgy for me must be inserted into this great, let call it epochal struggle over how Christianity, over how the Christian responds to modernity, to the challenge of modernity…
            “and it seems to me… that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.
            “Because it was the Council Fathers’ intention to heal and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it, the interpretations which interpret the Second Vatican Council in the sense of the de-sacralization or profanation are erroneous.
            “Augustine, as you know, was a man who, on the one hand, had studied in great depth the great philosophies, the profane literature of the ancient world.
            “On the other hand, he was also very critical of the pagan authors, even with regard to Plato, to Virgil, those great authors whom he loved so much.
            “He criticized them, and with a penetrating sense, purified them.
            “This was his way of using the great pre-Christian culture: purify it, heal it, and in  this way, also, healing it, he gave true greatness to this culture. Because in this way,  it entered into the fact of the incarnation, no? And became part of the Word’s incarnation.”[4]

            What was the key of the Council to heal the reduction of reality and being to consciousness? Wojtyla: “If we study the Conciliar magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors fo the church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?’ ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean  to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’”[5] Therefore: Take the metaphysics of St. Thomas and apply it to the believing person as subject.


[1] John XXIII, Address, 17 November 1979.
[2] Vatican II, Optatam totius, 16.
[3] K. Wojtyla, “Love and Responsibility,” Ignatius (1990) 27.
[4] R. Moynihan, “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI – Let God’s Light Shine Forth” Doubleday (2005) 34-36.
[5] K. Wojtyla, “Sources of Renewal” Harper and Row (1979) 17.

Msgr. William B. Smith - RIP - 4th Anniversary



It is not insignificant that Msgr. William B. Smith died on the vigil of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 24, 2009, and was buried on the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. His personally chosen homilist – Msgr. James T. O’Connor - did himself proud in a true-to-life presentation of Smith from the heart. Msgr. O’Connor was a classmate of Smith in seminary. They did simultaneous doctorates (O’Connor in Dogmatic Theology, Smith in Moral Theology), taught at Dunwoodie together for decades forming a terrible triumvirate of profound and precise orthodoxy with Msgr. Austin Vaughan as rector. They lived across the hall from each other on the south side of the second floor of Dunwoodie. They vacationed together with close friends in uncomfortably hot places in summer when seminary was out, never in the winter when business was business. The Smith I knew came alive profoundly in the homily: the basic scene was “the desk” surrounded by piles of papers (that grew exponentially over the years) where Smith – “priest and victim” – crafted Immaculate Heart of Mary homilies, classes and world class papers on moral theology with insight and loving care. I must say I wept again as O’Connor followed Smith’s explicit instruction that the Memorare to our Lady be recited at his funeral. The entire Church did it. And then the music! I was done for.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

St. Paul's "Conversion"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's Catechesis is dedicated to the experience that Paul had on his way to Damascus, and therefore on what is commonly known as his conversion. It was precisely on the road to Damascus, at the beginning of the 30s in the first century and after a period in which he had persecuted the Church that the decisive moment in Paul's life occurred. Much has been written about it and naturally from different points of view. It is certain that he reached a turning point there, indeed a reversal of perspective. And so he began, unexpectedly, to consider as "loss" and "refuse" all that had earlier constituted his greatest ideal, as it were the raison d'ĂȘtre of his life (cf. Phil 3: 7-8). What had happened?

In this regard we have two types of source. The first kind, the best known, consists of the accounts we owe to the pen of Luke, who tells of the event at least three times in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9: 1-19; 22: 3-21; 26: 4-23). The average reader may be tempted to linger too long on certain details, such as the light in the sky, falling to the ground, the voice that called him, his new condition of blindness, his healing like scales falling from his eyes and the fast that he made. But all these details refer to the heart of the event: the Risen Christ appears as a brilliant light and speaks to Saul, transforms his thinking and his entire life. The dazzling radiance of the Risen Christ blinds him; thus what was his inner reality is also outwardly apparent, his blindness to the truth, to the light that is Christ. And then his definitive "yes" to Christ in Baptism restores his sight and makes him really see.

In the ancient Church Baptism was also called "illumination", because this Sacrament gives light; it truly makes one see. In Paul what is pointed out theologically was also brought about physically: healed of his inner blindness, he sees clearly. Thus St Paul was not transformed by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen One whom subsequently he would never be able to doubt, so powerful had been the evidence of the event, of this encounter. It radically changed Paul's life in a fundamental way; in this sense one can and must speak of a conversion. This encounter is the centre St Luke's account for which it is very probable that he used an account that may well have originated in the community of Damascus. This is suggested by the local colour, provided by Ananias' presence and by the names, of both the street and the owner of the house in which Paul stayed (Acts 9: 11).
The second type of source concerning the conversion consists in St Paul's actual Letters. He never spoke of this event in detail, I think because he presumed that everyone knew the essentials of his story: everyone knew that from being a persecutor he had been transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ. And this had not happened after his own reflection, but after a powerful event, an encounter with the Risen One. Even without speaking in detail, he speaks on various occasions of this most important event, that, in other words he too is a witness of the Resurrection of Jesus, the revelation of which he received directly from Jesus, together with his apostolic mission. The clearest text found is in his narrative of what constitutes the centre of salvation history: the death and Resurrection of Jesus and his appearances to witnesses (cf. 1 Cor 15). In the words of the ancient tradition, which he too received from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus died on the Cross, was buried and after the Resurrection appeared risen first to Cephas, that is Peter, then to the Twelve, then to 500 brethren, most of whom were still alive at Paul's time, then to James and then to all the Apostles. And to this account handed down by tradition he adds, "Last of all... he appeared also to me" (1 Cor 15: 8). Thus he makes it clear that this is the foundation of his apostolate and of his new life. There are also other texts in which the same thing appears: "Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship" (cf. Rm 1: 4-5); and further: "Have I not seen Jesus Our Lord?" (1 Cor 9: 1), words with which he alludes to something that everyone knows. And lastly, the most widely known text is read in Galatians: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus" (1: 15-17). In this "self-apology" he definitely stresses that he is a true witness of the Risen One, that he has received his own mission directly from the Risen One.
Thus we can see that the two sources, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St Paul, converge and agree on the fundamental point: the Risen One spoke to Paul, called him to the apostolate and made him a true Apostle, a witness of the Resurrection, with the specific task of proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles, to the Greco-Roman world. And at the same time, Paul learned that despite the immediacy of his relationship with the Risen One, he had to enter into communion with the Church, he himself had to be baptized, he had to live in harmony with the other Apostles. Only in such communion with everyone could he have been a true apostle, as he wrote explicitly in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (15: 11). There is only one proclamation of the Risen One, because Christ is only one.
As can be seen, in all these passages Paul never once interprets this moment as an event of conversion. Why? There are many hypotheses, but for me the reason is very clear. This turning point in his life, this transformation of his whole being was not the fruit of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral development. Rather it came from the outside: it was not the fruit of his thought but of his encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a development of his "ego", but rather a death and a resurrection for Paul himself. One existence died and another, new one was born with the Risen Christ. There is no other way in which to explain this renewal of Paul. None of the psychological analyses can clarify or solve the problem. This event alone, this powerful encounter with Christ, is the key to understanding what had happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of the One who had shown himself and had spoken to him. In this deeper sense we can and we must speak of conversion. This encounter is a real renewal that changed all his parameters. Now he could say that what had been essential and fundamental for him earlier had become "refuse" for him; it was no longer "gain" but loss, because henceforth the only thing that counted for him was life in Christ.

Nevertheless we must not think that Paul was thus closed in a blind event. The contrary is true because the Risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This expanded his heart and made it open to all. At this moment he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but he understood wisdom, truth, the depth of the law and of the prophets in a new way and in a new way made them his own. At the same time, his reasoning was open to pagan wisdom. Being open to Christ with all his heart, he had become capable of an ample dialogue with everyone, he had become capable of making himself everything to everyone. Thus he could truly be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Turning now to ourselves, let us ask what this means for us. It means that for us too Christianity is not a new philosophy or a new morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ. Of course, he does not show himself to us in this overwhelming, luminous way, as he did to Paul to make him the Apostle to all peoples. But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we truly become Christians. And in this way our reason opens, all Christ's wisdom opens as do all the riches of truth.

Therefore let us pray the Lord to illumine us, to grant us an encounter with his presence in our world, and thus to grant us a lively faith, an open heart and great love for all, which is capable of renewing the world.


John Paul II's Interpretation of the Second Vatican Council


John Paul II’s Interpretation of the Second Vatican Council
Jaroslaw Kupczak

“Wojtyla… managed to divert  the text of Dignitatis humanae from political deliberations about the proper relation between Church and the state… to a deep anthropological reflection about the state… to a deep anthropological reflection about the necessary conditions of actus fidei, and the relation of the human person to his own conscience and to the truth.”

                “The Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history” (Redemptor hominis Iesus Christus est centrum universi et historiae) – this is the first sentence of Redemptor hominis (1979), John Paul II’s first encyclical, is the profession fidei of the new pope, elected five months prior to the publication of this document. At the same time it is also a crucial text for interpreting John Paul II’s teaching and the many achievements of his pontificate.[1] In regard to the purpose of this paper, it is worth noting that this sentence is a quotation taken from the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in  the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, where we read as follows: “The Church… holds that in her most  benign Lord and Master can be found the key the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history clavis, centrum et finis totius humanae historiae)” (GS, 10).  Before we unveil the meaning of this Christocentric theology of human history, culture, and anthropology, it is important to start with some  preliminary remarks.

1.      Shaped by the council

      Before John Paul II elaborated his own interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, it was the council itself that had in many ways shaped and influenced the young bishop from Poland. It was a forty-two-year-old Wojtyla who arrived at the opening of the first session of the council in the fall of 1962; he had been a priest for sixteen years and a bishop for four. He was one of the youngest bishops present.
     
Wojtyla took the floor twenty-four times: he spoke eight times, including twice on behalf of the Polish Episcopate (allocutions); he also submitted sixteen written interventions (animadversions scriptae) at the Secretariat of the council. Among the written interventions, three were not presented in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Angelo Scola points out: “Cardinal Wojtyla belongs to those whose contribution to eh council was unique, rich in quantitative terms, and particularly rich and diverse on the doctrinal level… There are not many council Fathers who would speak out at the General Assembly as frequently as did the bishop of Krakow.”

It seems that the most important dimension of Bishop Wojtyla’s contribution to the council consisted in his emphasis on Christian anthropology. This was already clear in Wojtyla’s first contribution to the council, which took place long before it began. In December 1959, in answer to a request by the Ante-Preparatory  commission (Commissione Ante- Praeparatoria) of  the council, the capitular vicar of Krakow sent his response, in which he outlines the main topics that the council should address. 
     
 George Weigel rightly draws attention to the unique nature of Bishop Wojtyla’s response to Cardinal Tardini’s request, “Many bishops submitted outlines of internal Church matters they wanted to discuss. Bishop Karol Wojtyla sent the commissioners an essay – the work of a thinker, not a canon lawyer. Rather than beginning with what the Church needed to do to reform its own beginning with what the Church needed to do to reform its own beginning with what the Church needed to reform its own house, he adopted a totally different starting  point. What, he asked, is the human condition today? What do the men and women of this age expect to hear from the Church?” The indicative and phenomenological nature of the rest of the text written by the bishop of Krakow already clearly proclaimed a method which – after many internal struggles and discussions – would be adopted by the council.
     
 In this essay sent to the Ante-Preparatory Commission, Bishop Wojtyla stresses that the key problem of our modern times, marked by materialism, is a proper understanding of the human person. Therefore, the specific function of the council should be to show the values of Christian personalism and to distinguish it from other contemporary anthropologies, marked by individualism or materialistic economism. The author of the document emphasizes several basic elements of such a presentation of Christian personalism in his text.
     
 First, the full truth about man is revealed only in the light of faith: ‘that which can only partially be known in the light of reason, and completely in the light of divine revelation, requires distinguishing man as a person from other visible beings of this world because the others are not personal beings.’ Hence, the Christian faith fully reveals the truth about man as person:

After all, the human personality is expressed particularly in the relationship of the human person to a personal God – this is the very height of all religion, especially of the religion based on supernatural Revelation. Participation by grace in the divine nature and in the inner life of the Holy Trinity, by which we expect perfect union in a blessed vision – all this can be found only among persons.

It is solely against this anthropological background hat Bishop 
Wojtyla brings in other topics thatthe council should address: the 
importance of a proper ecclesiology, the proper presentation of the 
role of the laity in the Church, the importance of the formation of 
the clergy, the renewal or religious life, etc. We can say that a 
‘personalistic sensibility,’ the factual basis of which was laid out in 
the first part of the essay sent to the Commission, permeates all 
other topics dealt with there. 

An anthropological emphasis and a certain personalistic sensibility is present in all conciliar interventions of bishop Wojtyla: those concerning the document De Ecclesia, De libertate religiosa, and Schema XIII, which later became the constitution Gaudium et spes. We will discuss Gaudium et spes in greater detail later on in this paper. Of particular importance in Wojtyla’s interventions was the anthropological emphasis in the discussions about De libertate religiosa. Wojtyla was one of the council fathers who managed to divert the text of Dignitate humanae from political deliberations about the proper relation between Church and the state which was the usual theological form of approaching the issue in the previous documents of the Church, to a deep anthropological reflection about the necessary conditions of actus fidei, and the relation of the human person to his own conscience and to the truth.

For Karol Wojtyla, participation in the council was an experience of growing and maturing. John Paul II recalls in his Crossing the Threshold of Hope:

At the beginning of my participation in the Council, I was a young bishop. I remember that at first my seat was righty next to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica. From the third session on – after I was appointed Archbishop of Krakow – I was moved closer to the altar… Naturally, the older and more expert bishops contributed the most to the development of the Council’s thought. At first, since I was young, I learned more than  I contributed. Gradually, however, I came to participate in the Council in a more mature and creative manner.
        
    Undoubtedly, as the pope himself says, his moving toward the altar meant not only respect for the dignity of the new metropolitan archbishop, but also his greater and more mature participation in the work of the council, which was also associated with the intellectual and spiritual maturation of Wojtyla himself. George Weigel writes about this in the following way: ‘By the end of the Council in 1965, the young bishop who arrived in Rome in 1962 as the unknown vicar capitular of Krakow was one of the better-known churchmen in the world, to his peers, if not to the world press. And he was known, not primarily by contrast to the overwhelming personality of his Primate, Cardinal Wyszynski, but as a man with ideas and a striking personal presence in his own right.’   
           The council shaped Bishop Wojtyla in many ways. Let us briefly point out some of the most fundamental influences. First, Wojtyla goes to the council as a philosopher without any prior important publications in theology. He leaves the council as a theologian, who for four years has been engaged in writing serious theological texts with some of the gest theologians in the Church an who will shortly publish some important theological books of his own.                  
            Second, Wojtyla goes to the council as a young bishop without much international experience and he comes back as a metropolitan archbishop fasacinated by and in deep love with the universality of the Church that he encountered there.

            Third, the council changes Wojtyla intellectually in many ways. For example, as a result of his work on the constitution Gaudium et spes he adopts Christocentric anthropology into his thinking in a profound and significant way – in lieu of his earlier theological anthropology. Also, the council helps Wojtyla to interpret theologically his previously held philosophy of the gift, in terms of the Trinitarian, ecclesiological, sacramental, and anthropological notion of communion.

            Fourth, the council has an immense influence on Wojtyla’s theological language. As Robert Skrzypczak rightly points out, Wojtyla’s interventions in Latin during the council are formulated in the very traditional rigid language of metaphysical Thomistic theology. One can almost sense a tension between the biblical quotes and the rest of the text. The profoundly biblical character of the final formulations of the council’s documents presented the final formulations of the council’s documents presented the young phenomenologist with some new perspectives that he would come to use fully about ten years afterward, in his written meditations on the theology of the body. In these texts, biblical exegesis is deeply harmonized with philosophical, phenomenological anthropology and Thomistic metaphysical theology. In addition, all the encyclicals of John Paul II, starting with Redemptor hominis, have a deeply biblical character.

            The council was undoubtedly a formative experience for Karol Wojtyla. On the other hand, we must not forget the unique testimony given by a close friend and collaborator of Wojtyla, Wanda Poltawska, when she wrote in her diary on 21 February 1968:

I am reading the council’s documents and I can see that all of it was in Karol Wojtyla’s book, everything now presented by the council, and I now realize why the council was not a ‘revelation’ for me: I knew it all from this book [Love and Responsibility]; all of it was the prophetic concept of Karol Wojtyla. What was a revelation for me was his concept of love and I immediately accept4d as my own, therefore the conciliar writings have nothing new to reveal to me about love, because it was already there in this book. His thinking was ahead of the council! The council only confirmed his thinking

  
  2. The pope and the council: gratitude and implementation

John Paul II is clearly aware that the Second Vatican Council had been the most important event for the Catholic Church in the twentieth century. He always speaks of it in the most elevated theological terms, e.g., as the new Pentecost, the event of the Holy Spirit, etc. His relation to Vatican II can be expressed in two terms: gratitude and implementation. The earliest speeches and homilies of the newly elected pope reveal that from the beginning he had a clear awareness that the primary goal of his pointificate would consist in the implementation of Vatican II.

            In his first Urbi et Orbi message, the day after the election to the papacy, John Paul II emphasized that the priority of his pontificate would be to put the council’s teaching into practice in the daily life of the Church: ‘we wish to point out the unceasing importance of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, and we accept the definite duty of assiduously bringing it into effect. Indeed, is not that universal Council a kind of milestone as it we4re, an event of the utmost importance in the almost two thousand year history of the Church, and consequently in the religious and cultural history of the world?”

However, as the council is not limited to the documents alone, neither is it completed by the ways of applying it which were devised in these post-conciliar years. Therefore we rightly consider that we are bound by the primary duty of most diligently furthering the implementation of the decrees and directive norms of the same Universal Synod. This indeed we shall do in a way that is at once prudent and stimulating. We shall strive, in particular, that first of all an appropriate mentality may flourish. Namely, it is necessary that, above all, outlooks must be at one with the council so that in practice whose things may be done that were ordered by it, and that those things which lie hidden in it or – as is usually said – are ‘[implicit’ may become explicit in the light of the experiments made since then and the demands of changing circumstances. Briefly, it is necessary that the fertile sees which the Fathers of the Ecumenical Synod, nourished by the word of God, sowed in good ground (cf. Mt. 13, 8, 23) – that  is, the important teachings and pastoral deliberations should be brought to maturity in that way which is characteristic of movement and life.

Today, dozens of thousands of pages of Pope John Paul II’s teaching can serve as an authoritative commentary on the conciliar documents and as a reference point for their adequate reading. Let us indicate how the main documents of John Paul II’s pontificate relate to the documents of Vatican II.

Of the four constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) were certainly the focus of John Paul II’s interest. First, he participated most actively in writing these two documents.


Lumen Gentium becomes the main subject of Karol Wojtyla’s first theological book, Sources of Renewal: The Implementation of the Second Vatican Council (Krakow, 1972). The focus on the Church ad intra leads John Paul II to call a synod on the twentieth anniversary of the end of the council. One of the fruits of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops from 1985 lies in his choosing the notion of communion as the primary ecclesiological notion expressing the character of the Church. Also, the last encyclical of John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, could certainly be interpreted as a last attempt to form an ecclesiological definition in  terms of communion, or ‘Eucharistic ecclesiology’ as Joseph Ratzinger would call it.
            In speaking about the constitution Lumen Gentium one must mention the Mariology of John Paul II, so important for his private devotion as well as his theology. During the well-known conciliar discussion about the place of Mariology, the Archbishop of Krakow held that it should remain a part of the constitution on the Church.

As for Gaudium et spes, we know that Karol Wojtyla was intensely engaged in the preparation of this document. In one of his remarks from the time shortly before travelling to Rome in October of 1978,Cardinal Wojtyla confesses that he is constantly rereading Gaudium et spes. Certainly, John Paul II’s social teaching, as presented in his social encyclicals – Laborem exercens, Solicitudo rei socialis, and Centesimus annus – is closely related to the style of reflection present in Gaudium et spes.

            The council’s teaching on the sacraments from the constitution Sacrosantum concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) became the subject of John Paul II’s reflection  in the apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia (1982) and his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003).

            The second Vatican Council published nine decrees. Most of them became the subjectof John Paul II’s reflections in his encyclicals and apostolic exhortations. Three documents regarding the priesthood – optatam totius (Decree on the Training of Priests),  Presbyerorum ordinis (Decree on the Life  and ministry of Priests), and Christus Cominus (Decree on the Pstoral Office off Bishops in the Church) – became the subject of John Paul II’s reflection  in the apostolic exhortation Pastoreos dabo vobis (1992)….

3.      Distinctive elements of John Paul II’s interpretation of Vatican II

I would like to call the first characteristic element of John Paul II’s interpretation of Vatican II a ‘complexio oppositorum,’ a term used by the Poliish theologian Robert  Skrzypczak to describe a unity and sysnthesis of opposing attitudes and horizons. Skrzypczak wrote thus about this specific trait of the pope’s teaching and behavior:

            He presented contrasting concepts together: dialogue and identity, innovation and tradition…. After all, ‘Catholic’ stands for ‘univerality,’ or ‘completeness.’ That’s what the latest council was looking for – a theologically mature view of the nature and mission of the Church involving a synthetic rather than an analytical approach. Henceforward the pope would no longer stand alone without a college of bishops nor the bishops without the pope; there would be no Scriptures without Tradition nor Tradition without the Scriptures; no longer the sacraments alone without evangelization or evangelization   without the sacraments and the liturgy….

            Father Skrzypczak rightly points out that the difficulty the Western mass media have in placing John Paul II expresses well this coincidentia oppositorum, as well as the broad vision of the pope. Because of his concern for the poor he was seen as a leftist, but because of his trong criticism of communism he was seen as a rightist; because of his interfaith (inter religious) initiatives he was seen as a liberal, but because of his strong stance on ethical issues, especially his defense of Humanae vitae, he was seen as a conservative, etc. …. (to be continued and hopefully finished).
           











[1] The documents of the Second Vatican Council as well as  the texts written by John Paul II are quoted from the official Vatican website: www.vatican.va