John Paul II: The Lion in Winter

You have to hand it to the old man. His mind, sadly encased in a disobedient body, is still hardy, and he still has something to say, no matter how the Secular Humanists of Europe and the American Left might not want to hear it, no matter how it might tick off people who are too busy reacting and kvelling to really hear what is being said, no matter how much it might offend the increasingly prickly and defensive media.

He has written a new book, Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums, and the snippets released to the press suggest it may be his most important – and most controversial – writing, yet.

The book is important because as Karol Wojtyla finds his faltering steps increasingly illuminated by the setting sun, he is turning from the horizon and, like an old and sickly lion, emitting one last, eloquent roar – fully as formed and ferocious as any in his youth.

It is the roar of a lion who has seen a great deal of human suffering and human folly, and who knows that both the suffering and folly stem from the same deadly root of human pride.

It is a roar that packs a fond and fatherly warning, even as it’s edges grow hoarse with weariness, and sadness and regret.

There will be controversy because Wojtyla is perhaps the last man of global importance who will say the things he is saying, in unambiguous language, embracing no euphemisms and not much caring if his words do not fulfill the modern requirement of making the listeners “feel good about themselves.”

The Lion is tired. He hasn’t the energy to waste on pretty diplomacy, and he knows all too well that the world is not populated solely by lambs.

He says, “We have to question the legal regulations that have been decided in the parliaments of present day democracies. The most direct association which comes to mind is the abortion laws,” and it upsets some Jews, who are protective of the Holocaust and the terrible genocide that nearly wiped them from the face of the earth.

Some are offended that Wotyla would dare equate the two. One such, a Paul Spiegel, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews responds: [such statements show that the Catholic Church] “has not understood or does not want to understand that there is a tremendous difference between factory-like genocide and what women do to their bodies.”

Spiegel should know better: Wotjyla, a slave-laborer under the Nazis, who carried a weary Jewish woman on his back for miles as the war came near to ending, understands perhaps better than any churchman (and more than a few younger Jews) precisely what the Holocaust was, and he neither minimizes its evil nor dishonors those who died when he makes his assertion. Rather he recognises a truth that Speigel does not, even as he speaks the words: there is no difference at all between the “factory-like genocide” of the holocaust and the factory-like murder of enwombed human females in China (“painless abortion, only $35.00”) or the pop-culture-promoted abortion “franchises” in America and Europe. Whether in an Auschwitz shower or a muzak-equipped “woman’s clinic,” human life is destroyed in staggering numbers, with brutal and mindless efficiency.

Evil is evil. If “who saves a human life saves the world, entire” then it follows that “who destroys a human life, destroys the world, entire.”

Imbued with a sense of history colored by his understanding of the Holocaust, Mr Spiegel would probably be horrified to comprehend what Michael J. Gaynor points out in his article here:

Mr. Spiegel’s euphemism for abortion–“what women do to their bodies”–calls to mind the Nazi’s similarly appealing phrase, “the Final Solution…” Calling abortion “what women do to their bodies” or “a medical procedure” masks its gruesome nature. Like “the Final Solution” masked genocide.

Wotjyla knows: “Parliaments which create and promulgate such laws [as the laws facilitating the holocaust and abortion) must be aware that they are transgressing their powers and remain in open conflict with the law of God and the law of nature, “ he insists.

There is more controversy in the Lion’s last roar: Homosexual marriages are part of “a new ideology of evil” that is insidiously threatening society. “It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”

Agree or disagree with him, he’s not going off quietly into that good night, and he knows full well that his stance here – in direct disagreement with modern sensibilities and even with some churches which have decided to live the age throughout the faith, will invite the scorn of the world. For saying this, for suggesting that same-sex marriages – unimaginable lo these many millenia – might require some additional thought, the pontiff will face enormous vilification

The Lion does not care; he must speak as he finds, while there is still time, for the sun is slowly setting and the horizon draws near. And he has One Greater than any to answer to, before he can rest.

Browse Our Archives