Karol Wojtyla was born 102 years ago today. He grew up to become Pope John Paul II.
On Annunciation Day, 1995, Pope JP II wrote to the world about the right to life. That letter became one of the basic guidling lights of my little life.
We know now–at least we know to some extent–how deeply John Paul betrayed his own message in that letter, when it comes to survivors of sexual abuse by priests and bishops. Pope JP II presided over an enormously anti-life criminal cover-up, probably the worst criminal cover-up the world has ever seen.
In his letter, the pope explored the problem of blinded conscience. But meanwhile his own conscience was utterly blind to the suffering of people like my friends James Grein and Chris O’Leary. By his anti-life negligence, JP II managed to compromise the evangelical mission of the Church for the foreseeable future.
All that said, though, the letter Evangelium Vitae continues to resonate in my mind. If only JP II could have seen the significance of his own words, when it comes to clerical sex-abuse victims. If he had, we would find ourselves now in a completely different place, as a Church.
But that did not happen. What has, in fact, happened, is: the message of Evangelium Vitae has all but vanished from Catholic pastoral communication.
In the US, we find ourselves at the moment for which we pro-lifers have prayed for decades. But instead of mobilizing as a united force to seize the happy and hopeful day of a post-Roe v. Wade world, we seem paralyzed and directionless. Sheep without shepherds.
For the past couple weeks, I have been sweating in the backyard, laying the foundation for a little chapel. I cannot preach or pray in public; I can’t organize any community response to the end of Roe v. Wade. I remain unjustly suspended from ministry, with no end to that suspension in sight.
But one thing I can do is to read JP II’s The Gospel of Life aloud to you. It should occupy about twenty podcasts, each fifteen minutes long.
JP II’s writing can be difficult to understand. I will try to read aloud so as to make his words as intelligible as possible. For me these words still shimmer with the deepest and most-inspiring significance.
Here’s the first episode:
[For the podcast website, click HERE.]
As we will see as we proceed through the encyclical, being a pro-life Catholic means something much deeper than a political tribal loyalty. It is really a spirituality of how we treat other human beings on a day-to-day basis.