For many people John Paul II has recently become a somewhat “controversial” person, someone inconvenient. True. He is inconvenient – mostly because of his teaching on human moral norms which apply to every man and woman. These norms decide if he or she grows in their humanity or not.
We live in the age of dictatorship of relativism. Each person has his/her own “truth”. They can convert it into a stone of accusation and throw it at another man – only because he rejects their views. On our very eyes a world arises – the world which can become a horror is if we lose the truth which says that we are responsible for our deeds and that we are called to do the good and avoid evil.
From “Santo subito” to “decanonisation”?
The departure of John Paul II, his death and funeral showed that he was a great authority for people of a wide range of religions and viewpoints. It did not mean that all of them agreed with him or followed his teaching. Stil, they respected him, appreciated his teaching and his work. Many understood that thanks to such an authority as John Paul II they could better themselves. From the very beginning of his pontificate he pointed at Christ as the One who knew the human heart and reveals the full truth about the human condition. He kept repeating that is Christ who has all answers to our troubling questions. He taught about Christ, as he developed multiple themes of the Catholic doctrine in his teaching. Above all, he knelt before Him and to Him entrusted all humanity, not only Christians alone.
I have often pondered on John Paul II’s statement – at the beginning of his pontificate – that his first and foremost duty as a pope was prayer for the Church and the world. He was – I thought – a bishop of Rome, a head of the Church…, he was responsible for so many things which demanded his presence in the office, not the chapel. He was supposed to be continuously active. Prayer belongs to the monks and nuns, cloistered congregations. Eventually I understood that through this statement he was expressing the principle of primacy of God in his life and also that this was his realism, not mysticism speaking.
He knew well the complexity and extent of problems he had to solve. His realism resulted from his faith in God’s help. There was some humility in it but also awareness of his limitations, the possibility of making mistakes, such as bishops’ nominations. Should therefore his decision regarding McCarrick – based on wrong information provided to him and also lack of definitive proof – should it annihilate the legacy of all the good that John Paul II left us? Certainly not. It was he who taught us that the right consciousness is a compass of life and the wrong consciousness destroys our individual and social life.
From setting up statues to creative realization of John Paul II’s teaching
Present criticism of John Paul II caused by recent events (both in Poland and elsewhere) should result, in my opinion, in closure of the first stage of reception of his pontificate. I would call it the “Biographical Stage” which focused on memories, the celebration of anniversaries, commemorations of places and events. Maybe that is why John Paul II acquired monumental reputation of the man who conquered communism and achieved so much, a man whose achievements must be constantly reminded of, so that they are not forgotten.
It is time, I think, to move from Stage One which included narration emphasizing greatness and uniqueness of the Pope to Stage Two – very thorough study of his teaching and – above all, skillful use of his doctrine in dealing with difficulties which assail us in real life. This would have to be a critical acceptance, too. We need answers to the accusations against John Paul II. The thorough study of John Paul’s teaching has to be based on current knowledge sources and documents, all firmly placed in the context of Catholic Church’ a doctrine, history of the Church, within context of human thought and current history.
I have worked in the Research and Documentation Centre of John Paul II’ Pontificate in Rome since 2007. The Centre makes available various documents related to the pontificate. Over 14 years the number of scholars and students using our data base has been steadily diminishing. I believe that this situation is about to change and that the very attempts to destroy the authority of John Paul II and discredit his achievements will stimulate minds, keen to investigate and find truth. This will happen not due to the perversity of human nature but for a simple reason – the very person of John Paul II has great power of attraction and his teaching has the power to awaken deep interest. I believe that the meaning of this pontificate will be visible much clearer from greater historical perspective. Nevertheless the recent events paradoxically may result in a growing number of people who understand that the defense of the legacy of John Paul II is inseparable from the defense of their own Christian identity and also of authentic humanism.
Personally I am convinced that John Paul II was a holy man, devoted pastor, wise teacher and intellectual as well as governor who skillfully involved others in his work. I must admit that I was especially moved by the Pope’s cooperation with others in, for example, the preparation of various documents. I also think that the knowledge of the teachings of John Paul II and its conversion into concrete life lived is the best apology of this pope. That way John Paul II will be even “stronger” because he will influence generations of those who believe in Christ. From John Paul II I would like to learn especially how to discern well in each and every person, no matter how often this good is covered with layers of selfishness and sin… This is not easy – yet so badly needed in our times.
Fot. G. Gałązka