What Wallis and most people miss is that though John Paul II was skeptical of unbridled capitalism that does not make him a liberal in matters of the economic state. John Paul II’s response to the market (and that of his cohorts: Ratzinger, Schindler, etc.) is actually driven by a deep conservatism that makes a coherent whole with his traditional views on sexuality and stands in contrast to the ideology of choice and individualism on display in both the liberal right’s (e.g. Michael Novak) veneration of the free market and in the liberal left’s championing of the communitarian state (e.g. Wallis). Here are two articles we’ve published recently that deal with this issue and shed some much needed light on it, both by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Jeremy Beer, Resurrecting Caelum et Terra and Whig vs. Augustinian Thomists.
I find good essays and articles on the life and writings of John Paul II far more interesting than prognostications and intrigues about who might succeed him, God help us.
One such good article by Harold Fickett, John Paul II: Profit of Freedom, is published over at Godspy, that refreshing website run by young traditionalist Catholics.
As Archbishop of Krakow, John Paul II was an architect of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty. Drawing on the pope’s experience of terror and oppression under totalitarian regimes of the political right and left, and his leadership during Vatican II, Fickett meditates on the pope’s call for a “Day of Pardon” (March 12) during the year-long celebration of Jubilee in 2000.
With the aid of interviews and research, Fickett brings the passionate words of the young Archbishop of Krakow on religious liberty during Vatican II’s final session (in the fall of 1965) into conversation with the actions of the aging pope (on the first Sunday of Lent in 2000) in asking forgiveness for the Church’s sins of coercion, especially those of the past 1000 years (quoting just a snippet):
“‘Because of the bond which unites us to one another in the Mystical Body, all of us . . . bear the burden of the errors and faults of those who have gone before us,’” John Paul says, quoting from Incarnationis mysterium, the papal bull that called the Church to celebrate Jubilee 2000. “[W]e cannot fail to recognize,” he says, “the infidelities of the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth, and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken toward the followers of other religions. Let us confess, even more, our responsibilities as Christians for the evils of today…”
“Yes, man is the only creature on earth who can have a relationship of communion with his Creator, but he is also the only one who can separate himself from him.”
After John Paul’s homily, seven representatives of the Church, five cardinals and two bishops, join him in prayerful repentance for the historical sins of the Church’s sons and daughters. They step forward to offer prayers for sins committed in the service of the truth, such as during the Crusades and the Inquisition, the use of torture, the burning of heretics, and the forcible conversion of indigenous peoples; for sins against Christian unity; for sins against the Jews; for sins against love, peace and respect for cultures and religions; for sins against the dignity of women and the unity of the human race, and for sins related to the fundamental rights of the person, the rights of conscience being chief among them. After each cardinal and bishop offers a prayerful petition, John Paul replies with his own.
Cardinal Ratzinger, who heads the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith, the successor to the old Roman Inquisition, prays for sins committed in the service of truth. “Let us pray,” Cardinal Ratzinger says, “that each one of us, looking to the Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, will recognize that even men of the church, in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel in the solemn duty of defending the truth.”
To this, John Paul replies, “In certain periods of history, Christians have at times given in to intolerance and have not been faithful to the great commandment of love, sullying in this way the face of the Church . . . “
At the end of the prayers, John Paul approaches the 15th century wooden crucifix—a crucifix lovingly crafted in the time of Paul Vladimiri and the Council of Constance. He pauses to kiss the Crucifix and then looks up at its victim.
As the bright television lights catch John Paul’s upturned face, the aged pope looks transformed, absolutely vital. He looks up at Jesus and his eyes are filled with gratitude and satisfaction.
As I’ve explored the life of Karol Wojtyla and his actions as pope, I’ve come to see The Day of Pardon as a profound expression of John Paul’s inner drama—his spiritual formation. John Paul knows what it is to crouch in fear while mortal enemies knock at the door and pray for God’s deliverance. That was just a brief episode, yes, but it’s also an emblem for his deep and long-lasting experience of totalitarianism and its many uses of coercion. His life impressed upon him that the fundamental freedom that exists between God and humankind must never be compromised by any human agency.
In John Paul we once again see a Christian and a Christianity of the catacombs, and like the early Church Fathers, especially Tertullian and St. Cyprian of Carthage, he knows that the church, like its Lord, may employ only the means of witness, never power. “[T]hose who use power rather than charity pursue their own ends and not Jesus Christ’s,” as Paul Vladimiri wrote so long ago.
Our friend John Armstrong, head of Reformation & Revival Ministries, tells us he will host a morning seminar, A Christian Perspective on Islam, with Dr. Mateen Elass, on Saturday, April 30, from 9 a.m. to noon at Christ Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Dr. Elass, a converted Muslim and the author of Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book (Zondervan, 2004), is pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois. From the program:
The issue of Islam remains elusive to many Westerners. Is Islam a violent religion? How should evangelical Christians respond to Islam? Interest has grown, especially since 9/11, and Christians are producing books and articles on Islam in large numbers. What are the roots of Islamic faith? What can we learn from the Koran?
Should we evangelize Muslim neighbors, and if so, how?
Events hosted by Dr. Armstrong are always, in our long experience, first-class opportunities for education and fellowship. Additional information is available at the website of Reformation & Revival Ministries or by calling 630-221-1817 or by sending an e-mail.
The Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology (CCET), directed by theologians Carl Braaten & Robert Jenson, will holds its annual summer conference on the theme What is Marriage? from June 12–14 at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.
As ever, the Braatan/Jenson conferences feature some of the best ecumencial orthodox voices from across the Church on the subject at hand and this year is no exception: Robert Louis Wilken, Amy Laura Hall, Russell Hittinger, John Chryssavgis & Don Browning are among the presenters.
From the conference brochure:
…traditional Christian teachings on human sexuality and marriage are under seige in contemporary culture. What seemed to be fixed features of morality are now up for grabs even in broad segments of the Christian church.
The answer to the question, “What is Marriage” is complicated by the fact that both the civil and the religious communities have a stake in it. What happens when marriage is defined differently by the eyes of faith and the eyes of the law? America and Europe now experience a polarizing collision of incompatible beliefs about the true meaning of sex, love, marriage, and the family.
Additional information on the conference and registration forms are available at the Center’s website or by calling 623-214-5977 or 609-430-9321.
A reader responds to part of yesterday’s Inbox blog:
Here’s a couple of comments for David Mills about French vineyards.
One of the biggest reasons for the decline in French wine sales has nothing to do with taste. The American vineyards are simply better at making labels. When you go to the store to buy a bottle of wine, you usually think you’ll buy a bottle of Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. The American vineyards have clearly labeled what the bottle is. Good luck doing the same with a bottle of French wine! The average person cannot read a French label and discern just what it is they’ll be buying. So they buy American (or Australian). Which is why supermarkets typically only sell American—the French stuff just doesn’t move off the shelf.
As a result, many of the French vineyards are upgrading their labels. This leads to a lot of resentment in French vineyards because they are being forced (if they want the sales) to change the way they’ve done things for so long.
I heard this on NPR a few months ago so I can’t back up these comments with any links—but I generally trust NPR’s fact finding on stories like this.
There are a number of special events taking place around the Midwest in April that our readers will want to know about:
Isreal, the Bible & the Future: Premillennialism and Christian Zionism in American Culture and the Church is the name of a two-day conference at North Park University on the northside of Chicago being held April 14-15. Speakers include Timothy Weber, Gary Burge & Yaakov Ariel. You can download the conference brochure or call 773-244-5785 or send an e-mail for additional information and registration.
The Quest for Community: Robert Nisbet & the Search for American Order is the title of the Annual Spring Leadership Conference for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an all day event hosted at The Columbia Club in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 16. Speakers include Allan Carlson, Peter Augustine Lawler, Brad Lowell Stone & Bruce Frohnen. More information is available toll-free at 800-526-7022 or by e-mail.
Our senior editor, Robert George will address the MacLaurin Institute during a lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis on The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion & Morality in Crisis on April 19. More information is available by calling 612-378-1935 or by e-mail or at the institute’s website.
Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois hosts its William W. Brady Lecture Series featuring Philip Jenkins, best-selling author of The Next Christendom, all day on April 21. Dr. Jenkins will address the subject of his book during two lectures. More information is available at 630-705-8250.
Another reader responds to Robert Hart’s “Not to please the gods…”:
I dissent from Fr. Hart’s analysis, which could have been entitled “I’d rather be a pagan suckled in a creed outworn,” on but one point, and this largely a criticism stemming from looking at things a different way.
We have actually gone back beyond the ancient Greeks and Hippocrates. When Hippocrates conceived his oath it was in a world in which doctors dealt both life and death, when what your local medicine man gave you may have cured you (at least that is what both parties would have thought), or it could have been to kill you, in that someone who had a stake in your demise may have paid the good doctor more to hasten your death than you did for him to preserve your life. In essence, doctors could not be trusted to act in the best interests of their patients, and thus the oath began “first, do no harm.”
We have now come to the place and time where doctors cannot be trusted, politicians pervert the meaning of life, and the media, who live only by the properly quaffed hair and the perfect smile happily abet it all. I concur with Fr. Hart completely that we have now entered upon a society which hates all law, all beauty, all transcendence, and all life that is not autonomous or contingent.
Thus it is both an abomination and an obscenity that Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi are off to Rome for Friday’s funeral of John Paul II. It would not surprise me that John Paul II would rise from his coffin to condemn them in the middle of the Mass.
A reader responds to “Not to please the gods…”:
“…If the widows were not burned alive, the order of the universe would be interrupted…”
“…today’s culture of death kills because it hates fertility and life. Not to please the gods, not as a sacrifice, but simply for convenience are the lives of the helpless and weak thrown away…”
“…We are God, and worship nothing…”
To string together these thoughts—would it be too much of a stretch to say that today’s culture of death kills because we’ve become gods in our own imagination? Do we make sacrifices to ourselves so that our universe is not interrupted?
I don’t agree with you when you say that our culture hates fertility and life. I think that our culture loves fertility and life but only when it appeases and satisfies our own imagination. Our culture dictates that we are gods so it seems logical to interpret that the sacrifices have not stopped. The beneficiary has just changed, that’s all.
A reflection from our contributing editor, Robert Hart:
It is easy to compare today’s culture of death with the human sacrifices of pagans. Too easy, and not well considered. Pagans were moved by fear to part with their own offspring, burning infants to Molech in ancient Canaan, killing the inhabitants of whole villages in ancient Ireland, or slaughtering two year olds to Saturn in Carthage. The Hindus would burn widows in the Suhtee because it was Karma. All of these were, to use the compassionate terms of the New Testament, in bondage to Satan and to ignorance. They believed that these sacrifices advanced fertility. The gods demanded a few deaths in order to spare the whole community, and to continue to grant it life. If the infant was not burned the crops would fail, and everyone would starve. If the widows were not burned alive, the order of the universe would be interrupted. But, at its heart, this was the fear and awe of pagans who believed that sacrifices were necessary so that life could continue. Being ignorant, they could not understand the true concept of the High and Holy Divine Reality. But, they knew that a being or beings inhabited a superior realm, and that they or he were above human power.
But, today’s culture of death kills because it hates fertility and life. Not to please the gods, not as a sacrifice, but simply for convenience are the lives of the helpless and weak thrown away. Today’s infants are not sacrificed, they are killed. The handicapped are not offered to a deity, they are burned alive by dehydration ordered by a mindless and mechanical legal tyranny that bows to nothing higher than the judges. No power is higher than human power. We kill and make alive. We are God, and worship nothing. Our convenience requires that all things serve our pleasure. No Saint Paul can use our own ideas and poets to preach about the Unknown God, for we know ourselves as well as we like to.
I like the ignorant pagans better.
The media-shy billionaire behind the new state-of-the-art film production of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Phililp Anschutz, is profiled briefly in this article for The Atlantic Monthly.