Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

This year is the centenary of the death of Cardinal John Henry Newman. A papal letter praising him appeared the same week as the instruction.

In his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Newman, an Anglican turned Catholic, says the theologian would not be free "if he knew that an authority, which was supreme and final, was watching every word he said, and made signs of dissent or assent to each sentence as he uttered it."

That is precisely what the instruction envisages. Theologians are intimidated, denunciators are encouraged and aided by the latest electronic devices. Big Brother is constantly watching.

In such a situation, says Newman, "the theologian would indeed be fighting, as the Persian soldiers, under the lash, and the freedom of his intellect might truly be said to be beaten out of him"

The likely outcome is that the instruction will act as a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving theologians into reluctant opposition. The only alternative appears to be cowed silence. It is a strange way to defend the faith. □


47
Karol Jeckyll and Hyde-Wojtyla debate capitalism

( May 10, 1991) Pope John Paul's latest encyclical, Centesimus Annus, has at least two authors. Call them Dr. Karol Jeckyll and Professor Hyde-Wojtyla. Jeckyll believes -- no, knows -- that the church is always right about everything. He starts from the confident statement that "from the Christian vision of the human person there necessarily follows a correct vision of society." Necessarily? Have Christians always lived up to their lofty vision of society?

Jeckyll draws the logical consequence: Those who do not share in the Christian vision cannot have "a correct vision of society." Bad luck on secular society: doomed to be wrong.

As if this were not enough, the church apparently takes all the initiatives in the social sphere, and nothing is granted to the "labor movement." Msgr. George Higgins, please note. Once this principle

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