Criticizing John Paul II

Author: James Schall




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John Paul II has stirred up a great deal of hostility because he does not allow Christianity to be treated as anything less than a claim to truth.


It is the wisdom of this world to conceal the heart with strategems, to veil one's thoughts with words, to make what is false appear true and what is true appear false. On the other hand, it is the wisdom of the just never to pretend anything for show, always to use words to express one's thoughts, to love the truth as it is and to avoid what is false, to do what is right without reward and to be more willing to put up with evil than to perpetuate it, not to seek revenge for wrong, and to consider as gain any insult for truth's sake. --Gregory the Great. Pope. 1604 AD, from his "Moral Reflections on Job."

What John Paul II might make of the various efforts to interpret him, often to interpret him away, is kept pretty much private. That he has received so much criticism from within the Church especially may have surprised him, but he was too close to Paul VI not to have realized what was in store for a clear, firm, and intelligent pope, when it came time to make decisions, define points of controversy, or appoint fellow bishops or advisors. We thus begin even to hear hints from some sources that the Pope may be a brooding "Torquemada" (T. Sheehan, "New York Review of Books," February 7, 1980). In the popular Sunday Supplement, "Parade," Lloyd Shearer assessed the Holy Father in this way, an assessment that reveals perhaps more about the critics than about the Pope:

"It's been two years since Karol Wojtyla, a Polish priest, became Pope John Paul II--enough time for theologians to study his performance and pass judgment in print. To date much of the Pope's assessment has been made by Peter Hebblethwaite . . . a former Jesuit, now married, the author of "The New Inquisition. . . ." According to the author, this Pope is a rigid, charismatic conservative .

(Others say) that the Vatican incumbent is not particularly interested in modern ideas and problems--such as women priests, marriage for priests, and birth control--or in any force remotely threatening the authority of the Papacy. They say he is no intellectual innovator, no imaginative adapter-- but essentially an impatient energetic conservative determined to reinforce traditional dogma and hoping somehow to stay the tide of Soviet Marxism by infecting it with the virtues and values of the Catholic Church. ("San Jose Mercury," July 27, 1980)"

Of course, by almost any definition of the office, any "pope" who would do the things suggested in such an analysis simply would not be a pope. In any case, Karol Wojtyla would do well to recall Pope Gregory's wise words about "considering as gain any insult for truth's sake," while he reflects on how he is seen.


Yet, there seems to be a growing awareness that the problem of properly evaluating John Paul II may lie mostly with the evaluators. John Roche has noted that "a number of American right-wingers" see the Pope as "undermining the structure of authority which can only aid the communists" ("The Communist Cardinal," "San Francisco Examiner," July 21, 1980). Roche's own view is that the Pope stands for a kind of democratic center in politics and economics that should have been in place long ago. Likewise, "The Washington Post," which has never been particularly sympathetic towards the Holy Father, showed signs in its editorial on the Pope's Brazilian visit of realizing more clearly the uniqueness of the man.

"The more we see of this pope, however, the less certain we are that he can be made to march to any drum beat but his own. He has been making clear in Brazil his passion for social justice.... But he has also been making clear his aversion to the clergy's involving itself in secular movements, especially Marxist movements, which, he believes, in the name of social idealism violate human dignity and nourish a 'sterile and destructive' class war. One does not have to share John Paul's religion in order to respect his determination to keep it vital "as a faith," not simply as a social gospel.

One does not have to be a Catholic, of course, to fight poverty. But one does not have to be a Marxist or a revolutionary either. That is what we take to be the burden of the pope's creed: peaceful change is the urgent need. (July 8, 1980)"

John Paul's specific rejection of ideological solutions to contemporary problems, his insistence on an independent "Catholic" doctrine which is not merely a pale imitation of marxist or liberal categories, is thus beginning to be understood.

George Will, I think, has sensed that opposition to this Pope raises issues in a way much deeper than those of the proper developmental forms. Feeling the Chestertonian point that what is behind the opposition to John Paul II is really his position that there is a truth, that modern humility of intellect is really a skepticism about truth, Will suggests that the Pope is mostly attacked because he directly challenges the presumed first truth of our era, the idea that there really is no norm, no truth, so the Pope ought to be able to conform the Church to "any" set of contemporary values or practices.

"The Roman Catholic Church's claim that its teaching in matters of faith and morals is providentially guaranteed against error is not really what rankles many people about today's Pope. The reason this Pope stirs uneasiness, and the reason his example is of political as well as theological interest, is that he makes vivid a timeless and awkward truth about communities, political or religious. That truth is that any community determined to endure must charge some authority with the task of nurturing, defending and transmitting those convictions. ("A Pope with Authority," "Newsweek," June 23, 1980, p. 92)."

Almost invariably, the deepest opposition to John Paul II is not merely against the principle of authority in any cohesive organization that wants to survive in time, but rather against the content of specifically Christian truth. The reason why the Vatican is "not particularly interested in modern ideas and problems"--to use Lloyd Shearer's biased phrase again-- is not because such ideas, taken as examples of modernity, are really "modern" but because they are wrong ideas. Truth and falsity are not questions of time. Something that is an "idea" does not, like a tree, grow from an acorn of falsity into a full bloom of truth. The critics of John Paul II do not arise because of the particular "era" in which he lives but because of his affirmation--found constantly in his already long and profound list of papal writings--about the "truth" of the traditional faith in its very essentials. His first Encyclical in particular, "Redemptor Hominis," means nothing if it does not mean this. The theoretical "untruth" of Christianity has been one of the foundations of the "modern" mind. Those still dogmatically committed to this theoretical untruth are right to see in John Paul II a real threat.

And so, there is a kind of "new inquisition" about in the world, but not the kind Peter Hebblethwaite might fancy to exist. Perhaps there is nothing John Paul II has more insisted upon than the true value of religious and intellectual freedom, that freedom is the only atmosphere of faith (Cf. R. Heckel, "Religious Freedom: Texts of John Paul II," Rome, Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, 1980). Inquisitors, I think, do not say what John Paul II said to the Intellectuals in Rio de Janeiro:

"True 'cultura animi' is a culture of freedom, which springs up from the depth of the spirit, from lucidity of thought and from the generous disinterestedness of love. Apart from freedom, there can be no culture.... Culture must not be subjected to any coercion of power, either political or economic, but must be helped by both.... Culture which is born free should also spread in a free system. Now man cannot be fully himself, he cannot fulfill his humanity completely, if he does not recognize and does not love the transcendence of his own being over the world, and his relationship with God. (July 1, 1980)"

And so this freedom means a relationship to truth, means that not everything is now equally valid. There is, then, an effort within Christianity, largely liberal or socialist in origin, that seeks to obscure or interpret away the Christian originality of this Pope by making his freshness and wisdom seem to be merely "conservative" and slightly alien. Joseph Sobran, who has been greatly influenced by this Pope, has summed up the situation rather accurately: "Liberal Catholics have ceased believing the Church has any real mission in the world, any right to demand the world's submission to her message, and instead regard themselves as the world's missionaries to the Church" ("Less Catholic than the Pope?" New York, 1979, p. 12). This means in practice that classical Christianity, judged largely impossible to live, is obscured in favor of a Christianity whose stressed doctrines and practices come from secular society as the criterion of truth rather than from any abiding deposit of faith to which an authoritative papacy is itself responsible.


As an example of this, to return to Lloyd Shearer's three instances by which theologians judge John Paul II to be "uninterested in modern ideas and problems," it will be recalled that the first, about women priests, is, as C. S. Lewis pointed out in his essay "Priestesses in the Church?," older than Christianity itself, while married clergy is a question older than celibate clergy. And birth control is indeed a modern "problem" because, as "World Business Weekly" recently remarked, "declining birthrates and aging populations now foreseen will have far-reaching political, social, and economic consequences" (July 28, 1980, p. 7). Few of the recent rash of articles on "immigration" ever mention that, in reality, immigrants are people not birth controlled or aborted out of existence coming to replace those who were. No wonder Colin Clark recently told a graduating class in Southern California that the most important thing they could do would be to marry and have children. So much for "modern" examples. Still, Professor James Hitchcock seems quite right that it is very difficult for the ordinary Christian ever to hear from press or pulpit what this Pope actually teaches or what the Church doctrinally holds. "The blunt truth is that there is a well-organized and widespread process of liberal repression in this country. Orthodox Catholics are denied in effect the right to exist" ("National Catholic Register," May 25, 1980).

Thus, the often frenetic enterprise of reducing John Paul II to manageable size--that is, to terms compatible with current socialist or liberal theories--is of some importance to follow. Aside from the sheer energy of his foreign and Italian travels, John Paul II, in 1979, for instance, wrote a total of 2329 pages in their Italian version, pages of astonishing profundity. And with Turin, Turkey, Africa, Paris, and Brazil, this is a pace that shows no sign of letting up. John Paul II, in the name of the presumably "surpassed, unmodern" Christian faith, has thus challenged the very intellectual integrity and political orientations of the dominant media, the political and university organs of the modern world. We are only just beginning to grasp that this Pope of Rome is easily the match on his own terms and grounds of any philosopher or theologian in our time, or perhaps any time. The loaded accusation "inquisitor" used of him strikes one as a sort of desperate admission of his strength, rather than any valid analysis of his character and understanding of his office.


The Holy Father is, then, very prolific and very comprehensive. Even his most devoted followers have a difficult time in keeping up with him and assimilating all he says and writes. The journalist's temptation, too often shared by academics, is merely to give up, to neglect the effort to come to terms with what is being said. In this connection, furthermore, "The Economist" of London (April 5, 1980), emphasized, rather sharply, the general incapacity of such American journals as "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" to understand the power and nature of the religious revival that is presently going on in the United States (Cf. also J. Kaufman, "Old-Time Religion," "The Wall Street Journal," July 11, 1980). As a result, religion is mostly ignored or explained--wrongly--in terms comfortably suitable to socialist or liberal categories, but ones that fail to come to grips with the religious reality itself, a reality John Paul himself frequently stresses. This same bias in key places prevents a good part of the western world from understanding the meaning of religious motivations of any sort, whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish. The result, then, is either a political policy that seeks to transcend religion, seeing religion as a threat to politics, or a policy that analyzes all human motivations in economic terms, usually those of poverty, which assume that such motivations are the only ones that move the vast majority of existing humanity. This narrows or reduces actually existing human beings to but one level by making "facts" conform to the ideological projections of dominant western secular theories. It is remarkable how frequently Pope Wojtyla keeps returning to the dangers of these ideological restrictions on the openness of man to a higher value and presence. The Pope symbolically demonstrates this point when, as in Upper Volta to victims of poverty and drought, he speaks of the most profound spiritual truths, not just about social conditions (May 10, 1980). The Pope recognizes the most profound depths of spirit in the least and most disadvantaged to which he is primarily called.

Writing in "L'Avvenire" from Paris on the eve of the papal visit to France, Angelo Bertani interviewed several people about the conditions of French Catholicism. It seemed clear at the time that "Le Monde," the leading journal, and segments of the French government did not want the visit to be the success it turned out to be. Among those interviewed was an Uruguayan priest officially stationed in Paris for several years. He felt that there was much more popular faith in France than was often admitted. In a reflection pertinent to the theme here, Father Paolo Dabezias went on:

"If one reads Le Monde, for example, he has an image (of faith) that is rather false. The same is true of the visit of the Pope. There is a preconceived polemic, a lack of comprehension. But all French journals fail to understand the popularity of the Pope. They have a "superiority complex." And even certain French Catholic circles have a sort of fear of the multitudes. (May 30, 1980)"

This strikes rather close to the heart of the matter. What indeed is the cause of the opposition to this Pontiff, both within the Church and in western intellectual establishments? No doubt, one of the favorite tactics is to make of John Paul II a simple Polish cleric still blinking under the bright lights of western sophistication. Needless to say, there is not a little prejudice in this. A critical friend said, "How could this man from Poland go to Zaire and presume to speak to a different culture?" How indeed? It seems useless to argue that some of John Paul II's most brilliant discourses--in Warsaw, to UNESCO, in Rio--have been on precisely the nature of culture. But if there is nothing in Christianity or in reason that transcends all cultures, something graspable, explainable, even by a Pope, then Karol Wojtyla should certainly return to Krakow and bless babies. But we should all then drop our universalist pretentions. We should admit that our philosophy does not allow any cultural transcendence .

But no one who saw or heard John Paul II speak in clear, vigorous French at Notre Dame de Paris, in perhaps one of the most elegant and symbolic scenes of contemporary history, can ever quite buy the doctrine that here we have a culture-bound peasant from behind the Iron Curtain. This Pope speaks to a good part of the world in its own language, and he speaks to most of the disciplines in terms of their own competence. So is there no cause for complaint? Is the Pope not acting too fast, with too much assurance? Is he not giving too many definitive answers? What is he preparing us for? Some say, of course, he is preparing us for what it is like when we are all behind the Iron Curtain. But others will maintain that Pope Wojtyla is too used to dealing with tough marxist bureaucrats, so he cannot grasp the ways of freedom, of democracy. Others argue that he sees it his duty to confront a problem--in Holland, in Latin America, in Philadelphia--head on, to hear all sides patiently, to know the debate, but then to decide and to expect his faithful to follow him. And generally, especially among those who insist that his reemphasized position on birth control and abortion must be wrong, there is a fear that the Pope will indeed close off all debate on the subject. This would mean that the Church means what it says it means, so we can act on this basis. Still others protest, "Enough of this Catholicism that keeps saying one thing and doing another, with such theologians who keep telling us the very opposite of what the Pope teaches!"

John Paul II, for his part, however, seems to have a basic message for Catholicism. Thus, in doctrine and in administration and in discipline, the themes he keeps coming back to, without in the least denying our sinful heritage, the Pope urges the keeping of the faith held. He is not about to be tempted by the socialist-type mistake of looking for a kind of heaven here on Earth. Nor does he doubt that the Gospel has a positive effect among men, even in their social and public lives. But why the Pope raises so much dust wherever he fires is probably because he does not allow Christianity to be treated as anything less than a claim to truth. Without this particular faith, man cannot understand the "whole truth about himself." Such is the Holy Father's basic doctrine. He will no longer permit the comfort of a Christianity serving as a kind of established veneer to the dominant ideologies that run our societies. "Beloved Brothers," he told some Bishops from Columbia, "I wish to repeat here something . . . (I said) in Puebla. As Pastors of the Church, let us be aware of being teachers of truth: this is what the faithful look for in us . . ." (September 25, 1979). This is how John Paul II reacts to the substance of much of the criticism:

"There will be people who, with an attitude of facile criticism, think that this community of faith in Christ lives quite bewildered, in the midst of a society actuated by purely earthly motives and geared to profit and enjoyment, including what is just and honest, of material goods. They claim to reduce the Gospel to one doctrine among so many others of a humanitarian nature, which can serve very well as an alibi to escape from the pressing human and social problems of our time. The pastors themselves . . . are considered foolish people for preaching a hope which is not easily reconciled with worldly gain.

Consequently, it would be viewed with pleasure if Christian communities would undertake other ways of salvation and give priority to alignment in favor of sociopolitical commitment, in the name of an alleged authentic interpretation of the evangelical doctrines which in addition 'to passing over in silence and divinity of Christ, claims to show him as politically committed, as one who fought against Roman oppression and the authorities, and also as one involved in the class struggle.' (Ibid. Cf. also R. Heckel, General Aspects of the Social Catechesis of John Paul 11 and The Theme of Liberation, both Rome, Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, 1980)"

Thus, this Pope will "suppress" no one, but neither will he pretend that everything said or practiced is equally Christian.

Consequently, when we examine the orderly and methodological way that John Paul II has gone about the world in his travels, made episcopal appointments, zeroed in on key issues, answered basic doubts and confusions--he clearly conceives his task to "strengthen" his brother bishops--we cannot help but recognize that here is no Grand Inquisitor. When John Paul II was in Paris, a French journal accused him of "scolding" the French instead of listening to them. To this, the American journalist Louis Fleming responded:

"There have been common threads through his discourses to the bishops: appeals for their unity, for them to live exemplary lives. He has noted his support of justice and human rights, and his opposition to priests playing a direct role in politics. He has appealed for Christians to speak out on issues of morality, justice, and peace.

There is, for all of this, little about him that is a scold. There is much that seems dedicated to discouraging permissiveness and encouraging respect for doctrine and discipline, as written and interpreted over two millennia of the Church's experience. He would like to leave no doubt about where he and the Church stand. ("Herald Tribune, Zurich, June 10, 1980)"

The Pope, then, is not going to allow us the comfort of presenting Christianity to our contemporaries or to ourselves as if somehow its primary purpose were to achieve certain goals or ends set forth by the dominant ideologies.

John Paul II is himself a philosopher, a Thomist in his intellectual approach, a Thomist who knows the currents and tendencies of classic and contemporary philosophy. In fact, one of the most significant events in recent Thomism was John Paul II's Discourse on the subject at the Angelicum University in Rome, (November 17, 1979). There he redirected and deepened the philosophic connection of faith and reason by virtue of the realism of St. Thomas (Cf. A. McNicholl, "A Chant in Praise of What Is," "Angelicum," 2, 1980; V. Possenti, 'Giovanni Paolo II e Tomiso," "Rassegna di Teologia," Gennaio, 1980; A. Woznicki, "A Christian Humanism: Karol Wojtyla's Existential Personalism," New Britain, CT., Mariel, 1980). "Wojtyla's primary concern as a philosopher," Professor Guido Kung of the University of Freiburg wrote, "is clearly to infuse new life into Aristotelian Thomistic metaphysics by always confronting it afresh with a wealth of concrete experience" ("Universitas," Stuttgart, #2, 1979). This Pope, moreover, seems quite aware that the old opposition of science and religion has had its day. He seems to grasp what Stanislaus Jaki has been arguing that the issues posed by faith to science, by the authentic Christian dogmas, to be exact, enable science to be itself (Cf. S. Jaki, "The Road of Science and the Ways of God," Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1978; cf. John Paul II's Address at Einstein Commemoration, November 10, 1979). The worldview expressed in and envisioned by orthodox Christianity seems the best preparation to why we can have science in the first place (Cf. Professor Hodgson, "Third World Science," "The Tablet," London, January 6, 1979).


In this connection, it is of interest to compare Mortimer Adler's arguments in his new and brilliant book, "How to Think about God: A Guide for the 20th Century Pagan" (New York, Macmillan, 1980), wherein he seeks to establish a purely philosophical proof for the existence of God over against the classic Christian proofs, which, in Adler's view, presuppose faith. For Adler, the final proof, one not based on any faith, concerns the fact that the cosmos, this cosmos, could be otherwise, so that if it exists, as it obviously does, some reason outside itself with a capacity to cause it, must be posited. This is of significance in the light of John Paul II's remarks to an Italian scientific Study Group. The Pope's words are in line with those of Professor Adler, both of whom acknowledge their debt to St. Thomas. And the Pope addressed himself to the very "bridge," as Adler called it, between faith and reason:

"Cosmology, a science of the totality of what exists as experimentally observable being, is therefore endowed with a special epistomological status of its own, which sets it more than any other perhaps at the borders of philosophy and religion, since the science of totality leads spontaneously to the question about totality itself, a question which does not find its answers within this totality....

Is it not a question, fundamentally, of the great mystery: one that is at the root of all things, of the cosmos and its origins, as well as of man who is capable of studying it and understanding it? If the universe is, as it were, an immense word which, though with difficulty and slowly, can at last be deciphered and understood, who is it who says this word to man? (September 28, 1979)"

It is at this point that Mortimer Adler, the philosopher and the "Pagan," contrasts so much with Karol Wojtyla, the philosopher and the Pope. The latter, rightly, announces how faith looks at this evidence; the former, again rightly, acknowledges that pure reason cannot go so very far.


The Pope, in any case, is the last person to demand conformity or "blind obedience." His position on religious liberty, which is the first right for him, and intellectual honesty is of another spirit (Cf. R. Heckel, "Religious Freedom: Texts of John Paul II," Rome, Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, 1980). What he does demand is honesty about argument, evidence, the taking of ideas seriously, and, perhaps more importantly, the taking the real consequences of ideas seriously. He will not, furthermore, allow the faithful to be confused. If he ever shows signs of real anger, it is probably when he sees simple people confounded in their beliefs or practices by sophisticated academics. And I have the impression that it is quite all right to disagree with John Paul II. If one should do so, he should have his evidence clear, arguments marshalled. But no one should expect this very intelligent man to be impressed with disagreement just for disagreement's sake.

In this connection, Michael Novak seems largely correct when he argued that John Paul II does not fully understand the dynamics of democratic capitalism and the contributions it can make to the proper alleviation of the world's poor, a theme dear to the Pope ("The Politics of John Paul II," "Commentary," December, 1979). Mr. Novak senses the essential openness of John Paul II as well as the obligation to analyze the Holy Father's own ideas in a serious fashion. French socialist clerics have been quick to pick up on those marxist phrases that have sometimes appeared in the Pope's writings--"the poor are getting poorer, the rich richer," for example (Cf. V. Cosmao, "A distance de Puebla," "Lumen Vitae," Brussels, #3, 1979). Such passages come to be used to embrace a very different kind of social position from the one suggested by John Paul II. The Holy Father would be quite open to the evidence that, in fact, everyone is getting richer, but at different rates, that the "gap" between rich and poor is not as important as general growth itself. This does not mean that things are just fine, but it does emphasize the direction taken by Roger Heckel in his important essay, "Self-reliance" (Rome, Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace. 1978). Romano Rossi has remarked that John Paul II has already developed this idea of self-reliance into a broader and more valuable idea, that of a reciprocal need of exchange, both material and cultural, for self-reliance itself to grow ("L'Osservatore Romano," 12 Giugno 1980).

The Pope, then, does not mind disagreement, provided it does not become an instrument to confuse the faithful (Cf. Pope's Discourse to Gregorian University, December 15, 1979). He does care enormously about what we claim the faith to contain. If what is taught about it turns out to be not what is handed down, especially if this is taught in some semi-official manner, he will react vigorously. This is why he really complimented Hans Kung. He held that Professor Kung did "mean" what he said, and that what he said had "meaning." On this basis, he concluded, after long patient investigation, that on certain definite points Hans Kung did not mean what Catholic Christianity means. This is a service to the truth, to the faithful, and to Hans Kung. Inquisition it is not. In exercising his judgment, the Pope does not pretend to do anything more than to state the intelligence and sense of the faith to which he himself is obliged. He never gives the slightest impression that what he stands for is his, that he had a direct hand in "making" the norms he preaches and teaches. And significantly, the Pope does not forbid anyone from writing or speaking--a trait not always shared by the secular and Christian left, as Professor Hitchcock, alas, pointed out. He only forbids us from confusing the faith for the simple faithful. This way is not only the more preferred way, but the one that most effectively puts everyone on guard that it is the truth that obliges us, the truth to which we, along with the Pope himself, are obliged (UN Address, October 2, 1979).

This is indeed an extra-ordinary Pope. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote of him:

"I have given him my heart, and the reader should know why. He is the first Pope with a wholly 20th Century intellectual formation, and perhaps the first person in this century to come to institutional eminence having grappled with, possibly mastered, the principle philosophical question of our time, which is the question of totalitarianism. ("The Pope and the Modern Mind," "The Washington Post," Supplement, October 7, 1979, p. 29)"

John Paul II's trouble is that he is ahead, not behind most of the intellectuals of his time. And in an odd way, John Paul 11 has been rather forced to be more of a teaching bishop in every diocese than he would want to be. There are not a few who hold that his trouble with the Church is rooted in the lethargic performance of the episcopates.


John Paul II is, above all, a teacher. "Man has a profound need to know if it is worth being born," he told the Italian Solidarity Center,

"if it is worthwhile living, struggling, suffering, and dying; if it is important to commit himself to some ideal, superior to material and contingent interests; if, in a word, there is a reason that justifies earthly existence.

This, then, remains the central question: to give meaning to man, to his choices, to his life in history....

Jesus points out that the real meaning of our earthly existence lies in eternity and that the whole of human history with its dramas and its joys must be seen in the perspective of eternity. (August 5, 1979)"

"The Washington Post" was correct, it is vitally important for mankind that Christianity be kept "as a faith," and not merely as a social gospel. Men may not all believe in Christianity, but it is essential that Christians believe in it, that its particular answers to the "whole truth about man" be not obscured or distorted, that religious freedom include the freedom to be also, in James Hitchcock's phrase, an "orthodox Catholic" in the manner of John Paul II.

But when John Paul II stresses the perspective of eternity in which Christians do live their lives, he immediately turns to the accusation he knows is waiting in the wings, that accusation

that Christians are not concerned about this world. John Paul II, as we have seen, thus does not wait until the United Nations or UNESCO or Notre Dame de Paris to say the most profound things. At an ordinary parish at Spinaceto one Sunday afternoon, he said:

"The accusation is often leveled at Christianity that, directing man to ultimate and eternal realities, it diverts his attention from temporal matters. This reproof is based on a mistaken understanding of Christ's admonition to 'watch.' It is spoken in an eschatological perspective, but at the same time, it is open to all the fullness of the problems and tasks of man living on this Earth. Temporal existence brings forth a series of duties which constitute precisely the content of that 'watch,' according to the Gospel. (November 18, 1979)"

Thus, there is insistence on this world and the next, because it is exactly the same person involved in both. Revelation does also instruct us about this world. And we are reasonable beings. John Paul II has his own ways of transforming the Church. In a real sense, he is the true "liberal," against whom something very much like an "inquisition" must be launched by anyone who thinks that Christianity has no private or public right to be what it is, no authentic intelligence to call its own.

Thus, the words of Pope Gregory the Great still apply: "It is the wisdom of this world to conceal the heart with strategems, to veil one ' s heart with words, to make what is false appear true and what is true appear false." In a way, it is too bad the splendid word, "inquisition," has had such a bad name. For in the light of its basic sense of an "inquiry" and a "search" into something quite real, a persistence of effort until the truth appear, we might indeed call John Paul II a Pontiff who "inquires," a Pope who is free enough to make what is true appear true, what is false appear false. "God entered man's history by becoming Man," he told a General Audience in Rome. "This is the central context of the Gospel, and the mission of the Church" (April 25, 1979). Who else but this inquisitive Pontiff tells us such things? And who really would object if he "could stay the tide of Soviet Marxism by infecting it with the virtues and values of the Catholic Church?" Perhaps, as Joseph Sobran said, only those who "regard themselves as the world's missionaries to the Church." Such are the implications of criticizing John Paul II.