Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Challenge concering the Pope

There will be mixed coverage--in fact, it's already started. In the Tribune today, the editorial page both admired his leadership, courage, heroism, principled opposition to totalitarianism, and then complained about his absolute stands on moral issues. More of this will be coming: "Pope John Paul II was a great man, but. . . such a strict absolutist, such a backwards medieval on morality." This will be said as if it is a contradiction.

Let me propose some facts which I hope you will stipulate:

JPII was smart. Very smart. Smarter than any of you, and even me. (joke--little joke)

JPII was very well-educated, a philosopher, theologian, poet, and playwright, probably more educated than any of us.

JPII was more courageous than any of us, likely. He began his career as a seminarian under the Nazis, where being caught would have led to certain death. He continued his education under the Soviets, where the situation was little different. He persevered in his vocation, and became a bishop in Poland, an officially atheist communist state, and defied the communists with wisdom and fortitude. The communists founded a town called Nowa Huta, where there was to be no church ever built. Karol Wojtyla held open-air masses there, in defiance of the communists. Once he was made pope, he came to Poland, where one third of the population (in a Soviet controlled, atheist state) came to see him in person, and everyone else watched on television. He exhorted them to be free, and shortly afterwards, Walesa and his shipyard workers led Poland to freedom. He's more courageous than we are.

He prayed more than any of us do. He was a man of extreme prayer, who would almost have to be dragged from the chapel.

Now, given all of these indisputable facts, do you think it makes sense to say "Great man, but a silly reactionary on moral matters?" Maybe, just maybe, the same fundamental principles that led him to defy the Nazis and oppose the communists are the same principles that led him to oppose abortion and contraception? Perhaps inalienable human dignity requires that we treat everyone, always, everywhere with the dignity that they deserve as children of God.

The challenge is to re-evaluate your thinking. If you think he's great, he was great through and through. If you disagree with his moral teaching, then he wasn't great, but a fool.

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