Skip to comments.We should all build upon pope's legacy
Posted on 05/08/2005 8:00:56 AM PDT by Teˇfilo
The extensive media coverage of the passing of Pope John Paul II might have left readership of this newspaper "poped-out," and not without reason.
Media attention was intensive and around the clock.
The Vatican broke all precedents and was very forthcoming about the pope's condition.
It used to be that a pope was in good health until he died.
But John Paul II changed all that, and in the process showed us how to live, how to grow old with dignity, how to persevere in weakness and feebleness, and then how to meet death with courage - for all the world to see.
I want to talk about three of his writings that have affected me deeply and influenced my thoughts. They are three "circular" letters: "Gospel of Life," "On Faith and Reason," and "Centesimus Annus," which dealt with contemporary issues of politics and economics.
In "Gospel of Life," the pope echoed the words of the Second Vatican Council (1960-65), in which he was an active participant. He was convinced that these words held particular relevance to our age.
The pope's theme of absolute respect for life and for the dignity of people found its roots at that council and was then echoed throughout his pontificate:
"Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed.
"They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator."
In "On Faith and Reason," the pope spoke of these two human operations as being "like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth - in a word, to know himself - so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."
Quoting the Greek philosopher Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, John Paul II reminded us that "both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God; hence, there can be no contradiction between them."
This advice should be brought to bear on controversies such as the teaching of evolution in the schools.
In "Centesimus Annus," the pope departed from older social teaching that was completely apathetic toward free markets, a trend that became acute in the 1960s, when some church thinkers "married" Marxism and Catholicism in the so-called "theology of liberation."
The pope gave a qualified nod to free markets by saying:
"It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.
"But this is true only for those needs which are 'solvent,' insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are 'marketable,' insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price.
"But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish."
The pope also terminated these theologians' flirtations with Marxism, because of the basic incompatibility between Christ's message of love and Marx's advocacy of class hatred to effect social change.
Of all of John Paul II's writings, these are the ones I found most relevant to us for today, because they mark the battle lines of what has become known as the culture wars.
There's no doubt where John Paul II stood: In favor of human life and the intrinsic value of every person at every stage of life; against unnecessary conflicts between faith and reason; between scientific and revealed knowledge; and against both government control of the economy and untrammeled capitalism.
Pope John Paul II has gone home to dwell with the Lord he served throughout his life.
Now, there is a new pope in Rome.
Without a doubt, Pope Benedict XVI will build on his predecessor's luminous legacy, and so should all of us.
Pedro O. Vega keeps an Internet "blog" at www.vivificat.org. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on the second Sunday of each month.