What is absolutely clear in these early years of the 21st century
is that Pope John Paul II is the most influential religious figure
of our time, and probably of modernity. Since his election in 1978,
he has conspicuously led the Roman Catholic Church in its efforts
to comprehend and interpret every significant issue of post-modern
life, ranging from the broadly political to the intensely personal.
His encyclicals, papal appointments, diplomacy, and personal charisma
have shaped the Church and Catholic believers.
He is also famous, and famously influential, beyond Catholicism,
continuously visiting the world--visible not just on the balcony
of St. Peter's, but in his pope-mobile, on countless jet ways, in
the Yankee Stadium outfield, and at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Add to this reach his best-selling books, television and radio broadcasts,
and the Holy See's Web site, and John Paul's effect becomes immeasurable,
and immeasurably complex.
The late Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal, for
example, saw Pope John Paul II as a latter-day Gandhi, a nonviolent
revolutionary. Journalists Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi, in their
book His Holiness: John Paul II and the History of Our Time
(1996), depict the pope as Ronald Reagan's coconspirator in a "holy
alliance" to bring down communism. Biographer George Weigel,
in Witness to Hope (1999), judges Pope John Paul II to be
one of Catholicism's great leaders, a mystic and a visionary who
has restored the evangelical tradition first laid out by Peter.
Yet other observers have characterized the pope as a reactionary
force within Catholicism, whose lengthy papacy has established a
legacy of centralized Vatican power that is contrary to the long-term
interests of a world Church and the outward-seeking spirit of the
Second Vatican Council.
John Paul's enduring legacy will become clear only in retrospect,
and only after many years, but the pope's impact on his time is
a living phenomenon. In an effort to elucidate the complex relationship
between John Paul II and his various global audiences, Boston
College Magazine asked a handful of observers--a rabbi, a Jesuit,
a feminist scholar, a political scientist, a Catholic journalist--to
examine his papacy from their respective vantage points. Their considerations
John Paul II is an ambiguous figure from the standpoint of women.
To many Americans, he is best known for his refusal to admit women
to the ordained ministry, his refusal to recognize so-called reproductive
rights ranging from contraception to abortion, and his idealization
of women as mothers. Yet he is also the author of the 1995 "Letter
to Women," which praised "the great process of women's
liberation" and mandated equality for women in family, work,
and political society.
A few years ago, I experienced the pope's undoubtedly sincere but
possibly mixed views of women firsthand. In 1997, I was invited
to a conference at the Vatican on "Women's Health Issues."
The fact that the health issues covered were all about reproduction
(breast cancer was not on the agenda, nor was heart disease or osteoporosis)
exemplifies the Catholic tendency still to see women largely in
terms of sexual identity. Not surprisingly, the anti-contraception,
pro-life agenda was more in evidence than advocacy for women's health
as a human right, and representatives of different points of view
often seemed to be talking past, rather than with, one another.
Still, John Paul's willingness to engage new viewpoints may have
been signaled, if rather enigmatically, at a private audience he
gave us in a chapel next to his apartments. After reading some prepared
words of thanks in English, he set aside his papers and stood up
from his chair. Looking straight at us, he pointed emphatically
at himself, and twice proclaimed, "Papa feminista!"
His audience smiled and nodded politely, covering for the moment
reactions that may have ranged from shock to incredulity.
If feminism implies a commitment to the equality of the sexes, John
Paul qualifies as a feminist, at least in principle. The pope has
provided much needed moral leadership by speaking against the degradation
of women and the violence toward them that are still common globally.
But if feminism also requires a critical approach to gender, a "hermeneutic
of suspicion" aimed at all social institutions that privilege
one sex over the other, then John Paul misses the mark. His commitment
to the dignity of women stands in great tension with his insistence
that women preserve their "femininity" by nurturing characteristics
that suit them best for their greatest fulfillment, the motherly
role. Moreover, the "feminist" pope has helped to put
in place an ecclesiastical bureaucracy that is not always open to
the gifts and insights of women, or, in fact, to any serious challenges
to existing Church practices and lines of control.
In the pope's vision, women are possessed of a "feminine genius"
that, in the words of his 1988 letter Mulieris dignitatem
("On the Dignity and Vocation of Women"), makes them by
nature especially sensitive to the needs of other human beings and
more suited than men to make a "gift of self" to others.
This hypothesis is anchored in a theory of male-female complementarity.
John Paul sets women's maternal characteristics off against contrasting
qualities of men, most notably the male ability to represent the
male Christ through priestly ministry and the sacrifice of the Mass.
But it may be a disservice to men to suggest that Christlike virtues
such as compassion and self-sacrifice are less available to them
than to the opposite sex, and a disservice to women to focus on
their physiological dissimilarity to Christ rather than on their
spiritual and moral imitation of him.
To the pope's credit, he has not drawn strong contrasts between
male and female roles in other areas. In fact, in his 1981 discourse
on the family, Familiaris consortio ("On the Family"),
he insisted that "it is important to underline the equal dignity
and responsibility of women with men," asserting that this
equality "fully justifies women's access to public functions."
In his "Letter to Women," written in anticipation of the
1995 United Nations Beijing Conference on the status of women, John
Paul thanked women for their work in the economic, social, political,
cultural, and artistic spheres. He even apologized for the complicity
of Church members in the oppression of women (without, however,
acknowledging that the institutional Church bears any responsibility
for sexism). He called for equal pay for equal work, fairness in
career advancement, and equal rights of spouses in the family.
What the pope has never explicitly acknowledged is that success
in all these areas requires women's development of qualities that
traditionally have been encouraged more for men, including leadership,
initiative, courage, reasoning ability, and self-assertiveness.
Women's success will also demand structural changes that allow women
and men to take more cooperative approaches not only to the workplace
but to their shared family and domestic responsibilities. As many
feminists have pointed out, true equality of the sexes requires
deep changes in the way we view not only politics, economics, and
work, but also sexuality, marriage, parenthood, and the social meanings
of "femininity" and "masculinity."
So how will Pope John Paul II, the self-proclaimed papa feminista,
be remembered? Fairness requires that we place him in context. The
pope was formed in an Eastern European culture prior to Vatican
II and the women's movement. Against this background, his teachings
about women are remarkably positive, even revolutionary. Only a
generation or two ago, Catholic popes and bishops were telling women
that they were less rational and competent than men, subordinate
to men even in the family, and that women had no right even to govern
their own financial affairs.
We must remember, too, that the pope's defense of women strikes
relatively privileged woman in the United States in a different
way than it does the millions worldwide who have little or no control
over their sexual and reproductive lives and take for granted their
economic and domestic subordination to men. While John Paul's vision
of women lags behind the trend toward gender equality in modern
cultures, he still has moved an essentially conservative institution
toward an unprecedented endorsement of "women's liberation."
He has written more in defense of women's dignity and equality than
any other pope. Pope John XXIII empowered the laity by convening
Vatican II, but John Paul II is the first pope to hear--and begin
to respond to--the feminist message.
Lisa Sowle Cahill is J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology at
When people can buy and sell commodities freely and vote for candidates
of their choice, it will not be long before they want some say in
shaping the moral rules designed to govern their conduct. In Europe
and North America, one of the most significant developments of our
time has been the emergence of the idea of moral freedom. Say what
you will about it--some celebrate the idea as the triumph of personal
liberation, while others condemn it as relativism gone amok--moral
freedom has considerable appeal in societies where personal dignity
and political equality are deeply valued.
In his 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor ("The Splendor
of Truth") and in many of his other teachings, John Paul II
has restated a way of thinking about morality and freedom that runs
significantly counter to the modern temperament. The answer to the
question "What is evil?" cannot, he insists, be found
by transforming the question into "What do I think is evil?"
Instead, the pope asserts, there are universal, binding truths that
permit no exception. Freedom therefore does not consist in efforts
to escape from the moral law; true freedom involves the recognition
that a life led in accordance with the moral law expands our humanity
by holding out the correct standards to which we ought to aspire.
As general and relatively abstract injunctions, appeals to moral
truth are indeed compatible with freedom. But when linked to specific
acts such as birth control or divorce, they will at times be interpreted
as restraints on the freedom of people to choose what, after considerable
reflection, they think is best for themselves. By insisting on the
binding character of the Church's teachings on matters involving
the body, the pope has placed those who consider themselves good
Catholics, but who also think of themselves as modern people, in
the difficult position of possibly disobeying an authority they
believe to be legitimate.
There are, nonetheless, occasions when appeals to eternal truths,
even when combined with references to specific everyday acts, can
inspire and instruct. The pope's opposition to communism offered
such occasion, and it is in this arena that John Paul II's legacy
will most be felt. In the 1980s, Polish workers, first in Gdansk
and then throughout the country, repeatedly went on strike to demand
government reform. Supporting their efforts, the pope in October
1988 addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg. No longer
should we speak of "Western" and "Eastern" Europe,
he proclaimed; all of Europe consisted of one culture because all
of Europe had been influenced by the Christian faith. The real split
in Europe, he said, was between two different conceptions of humanism.
In one version, individuals were conceived of as radically autonomous.
In the other, the "source of true freedom" lay in "obedience
to God." In countries such as Poland that were struggling for
their freedom, it would be wrong to attribute the power of revolutionary
movements to secularism. Poles, like so many Eastern Europeans,
were appealing to transcendental ideals of conscience that he saw
as rooted in Christianity.
Appeals to timeless conceptions of freedom have their greatest power
when directed toward people living with relatively little freedom,
just as appeals to moral truth inspired those forced to live with
the untruths of communism. So corrupt had the communist regimes
become that they most likely would have fallen even without John
Paul's intervention. But it is difficult to imagine that the revolutions
of 1989 would have been so inspirational had not the Polish pope
been there to define their meaning.
The revolutions of 1989 gave the people of Eastern Europe political
freedom, and long-suppressed demands for economic freedom quickly
followed. Envy of Western standards of consumption surely had as
much to do with shaping the new Poland and Czech Republic as did
the Christian history of Europe. John Wesley once complained that
if Methodism were successful, it would furnish creature comforts
that would inevitably soften its revivalist spirit. In a similar
way, the pope's insistence on timeless moral truths succeeded in
creating conditions in which people who once had little freedom
at all would come to expect moral freedom as their right.
It is not the business of the Church to soften its teachings in
order to court popularity. But doctrine changes from one historical
period to another, and even the firmest teachings require interpretation
and, before long, beget casuistry. John Paul II will be remembered
as one of Catholicism's great prophets, a man willing to insist
on the timeless character of Christian morality, whatever the consequences.
Whether that insistence results in dissatisfaction with papal rigidity,
as it has done in the West, or with great advances in freedom, as
it has done in the East, both can be attributed to a man unwilling
to tailor his message to fit the circumstances of the day.
Professor of Political Science Alan Wolfe is director of the
Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College.
In "Great Awakening," an interview published in BCM's
Fall 2000 issue, he discussed the academic aspirations of U.S. evangelical
At the Vatican's Jubilee Mass of Pardon on March 12, 2000, Pope
John Paul II publicly voiced an extraordinary prayer, one of a series
seeking God's forgiveness for Christian sins against various communities:
"God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants
to bring your name to the nations; We are deeply saddened by the
behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these
children of Yours to suffer, and, asking Your forgiveness, we wish
to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the
A hundred or even 50 years ago, no Christian leader would have voiced
such a prayer. In contrast, this pope's prayer was anticipated and
emulated by bishops and cardinals. It was recognized as consistent
with his teachings, an encapsulation of his many statements of remorse
for Christianity's long history of teachings and actions against
Two weeks later, on March 26, John Paul performed one of the most
dramatic symbolic gestures in the postwar history of Jewish-Christian
relations. He included in his pilgrimage to the Holy Land a visit
to Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall. There he placed the
text of this prayer in a crack between the wall's massive stones.
Why was this gesture so powerful? When Christians first gained political
control of Jerusalem in the early fourth century, they razed the
pagan Roman temple built on the site of the destroyed Jewish Temple.
But instead of building a church on that ancient site, the Christians
deliberately left it in ruins, even using it as a garbage dump.
They transferred the architectural and religious focus of the Holy
City to the sites of Jesus's crucifixion and entombment on the neighboring
hilltop, building there the massive Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The message was clear and triumphant: Christian holiness superseded
Jewish holiness, not just in heavenly realms but on earth as well.
Later, the Muslim conquerors of the city in the seventh century
added their own claims, building the Dome of the Rock on the site
of the Jewish Temple, thus shaping Jerusalem's skyline of rival
domes to this day.
For Jews, however, holiness has never left the site of the destroyed
Temple, God's chosen dwelling place on earth. The western retaining
wall--all that remained inside the city walls of the great platform
supporting the Temple--became the place to which Jewish prayer was
directed, whether from a distance, whispered at the wall itself,
or in notes placed between the ancient stones. For a pope to place
his written prayer among the petitions of devout Jews was an acknowledgement,
with the strongest of gestures, that the Catholic Church understands
Judaism's covenant with God to be eternally valid and that Jewish
routes to holiness are indeed sacred.
This was revolutionary. From the first-century composition of the
New Testament until the latter half of the 20th century, the Church's
view of Judaism was marked by polemical and derogatory language,
often leading to violence. Augustinian doctrine taught that Jews
continued to exist but in a degraded state only in order to bear
witness to the fate of those who reject Christ. Not until 1965 did
the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, driven by reflection
on the horrors of the Holocaust, officially reverse this teaching
of contempt. The Council's "Declaration on the Relation of
the Church to Non-Christian Religions" (Nostra aetate)
established pathways for the development of a new relationship between
Catholics and Jews.
Pope John Paul II's immediate predecessors began implementing this
new teaching, but it is his personal encouragement and interest
that has led directly to the great strides forward of the past 20
years. From childhood on, he had close Jewish friends; as a young
man he personally witnessed the Nazi destruction of Poland and its
Jewish communities. Jews, for him, have faces, names, and personalities.
He speaks of Jews as brothers and sisters, and he considers it essential
for Catholics to know today's Jews and Judaism, both to deepen these
familial ties and to come to a truer understanding of themselves.
Pope John Paul II's statements on Jews and Judaism have been collected
into a substantial book, Spiritual Pilgrimage: Texts on Jews
and Judaism 1979-95 (Crossroad, 1995). In an introduction, Eugene
Fisher, of the National Council of Catholic Bishops, identifies
key themes of the pope's teachings. In John Paul's view Judaism
has a permanently valid covenant with God and, as such, constitutes
a living heritage for the Church. He teaches that the Church must
express these ideas fully in catechesis and liturgy. In reflection
on issues of importance to contemporary Jews, the pope regularly
condemns anti-Semitism and stresses remembrance of the Shoah. And
he teaches the Church's recognition of the theological significance
of the land and modern state of Israel for Jews. These understandings
collectively have allowed the pope to issue a call for collaboration
with the Jewish community on joint witness and social action.
While these teachings have immense significance, their impact has
been vastly heightened by the pope's gestures--even before he prayed
at the Wall. Among these were his 1986 visit to the Great Synagogue
in Rome, the first time a pope had ever entered a synagogue in friendship
and respect, speaking by invitation of its rabbi. In 1994, John
Paul accepted the credentials of the first Israeli ambassador to
the Vatican, thus recognizing officially the deep ties between Jews
and their ancestral homeland. More recently, in 1998, he endorsed
the Vatican's document, "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,"
calling on Catholics to examine their consciences and to eradicate
the sinful structures of anti-Judaism that allowed the Holocaust
and earlier atrocities committed against Jews to occur.
As John Paul often notes, the process of healing almost two millennia
of hatred is not easy. We cannot simply erase the consequences of
centuries of demonization and disrespect. Entrenched and long-cherished
teachings continue to generate new misunderstandings. But the pope's
words and deeds are inspiring other Christians to follow in his
path: to enter synagogues in friendship, to pray at the Western
Wall, and so to demonstrate their deep commitment to the process
of repentance and repair.
Rabbi Ruth Langer is an associate professor of theology and a
founder of Boston College's Center for Christian-Jewish Learning.
During his 23 years as pope, John Paul II has compiled a strangely
mixed record on social justice internationally. To many, of course,
he is the ultimate hero of the collapse of communism in Eastern
Europe, particularly in his native Poland. Certainly the views he
set forth in the 1988 encyclical Solicitudo rei socialis
("On Social Concerns") were far ranging and even provocative.
Still, a review of the past two decades shows a pope who was instrumental
in fostering some national movements for social justice (in Poland
and the Philippines, for instance) while he resisted or actively
thwarted others, notably in Latin America. Pope John Paul II has
observed, if not a double standard on social justice, then a varying
The pope's actions on behalf of Poles were unequivocal: His first
visit home helped to rally opposition to the communist regime, and
he actively sought U.S. support for Solidarity, the country's militant
union movement. But elsewhere in the world he has walked a fine
line between mindfulness of the diplomatic proprieties of his office
and willingness to support the overthrow of oppression and intolerance.
In the Philippines, the peaceful removal from office of Ferdinand
Marcos in 1986 demonstrated that the nonviolent example of Solidarity
had resonance elsewhere, especially with the support of the Catholic
community and the pope's personal support of the archbishop of Manila,
Jaime Cardinal Sin.
John Paul--and the Vatican diplomatic hierarchy--reacted more critically
toward revolutionary movements in Central and Latin America. The
photograph of the pope wagging his finger at Nicaraguan Ernesto
Cardinale in 1983 was widely interpreted as a rebuke to the priest,
who served in the Marxist Sandinista government. That image could
also stand as a symbol of the pope's critical view--along with the
Vatican's--of liberation theology, whose fostering of often lay-led,
localized "base communities," steeped in scriptural understanding
and devoted to redressing the woes of the poor, was as rooted in
the experience of Central and Latin America as Solidarity was in
Solicitudo rei socialis was among the first editorial topics
I took up after becoming editor of Commonweal in January
1988, and I paid special attention to it and the reaction to it.
The document tackled and criticized the injustices--economic, social,
political--created by the division of the world into two blocs,
one communist, one capitalist, both imperialistic. Evenhanded scrutiny
of the superpowers by a reigning pope was a radical departure, and
so too was the analysis that took the North-South divide created
by economic and social inequities as seriously as the East-West
divide created by the Iron Curtain. The document also looked critically
at the conditions that perpetuated a chronic state of underdevelopment
in the third world not only in relation to the East and West, but
in light of economic and social divisions within third world countries
themselves. Solicitudo even forecast the degradation of some
countries by describing a "fourth world" utterly bereft
of resources for development or the means to secure them.
The encyclical had bite: Conservative columnist William Safire,
writing in the New York Times (February 22, 1988), found
the pope's treatment of the superpowers to be a species of moral
equivalence and an unworthy attempt to curry favor with the third
world. Hardly so, but still, John Paul was remarkably frank about
the effects of superpower competition and the arms race, and about
the dire consequences of development in many nations, including
urban homelessness, structural unemployment, and mounting international
Solicitudo went so far as to speak of the "structures
of sin"--the political and economic mechanisms that perpetuate
social injustice. And though the pope duly noted that such structures
were "rooted in personal sin," he forthrightly acknowledged
that they "grow stronger, spread, and become the source of
other sins." The document also acclaimed the growing movement
for human rights. John Paul pointed to the economic and social inequities
that underlay the violations of those rights in many parts of the
world. Those violations included, in the mind of the pope, the unmet
claims of men and women to "socially mortgaged" goods,
that is, goods that belong to all but are possessed in abundance
by some and wholly unavailable to others.
For a papal document, Solicitudo advanced a remarkably robust
understanding of social injustice, one that seemed to call for profound
change. Yet, finally, it did not take practical root in the Vatican
or even in the pope's own responses to efforts at creating more
just and equitable governments, economic structures, and social
measures around the world. It seems that where movements to redress
the social structures of sin were clearly in conformity with the
pope's analysis, as in Poland and the Philippines, they were supported.
Or when they were conducted in a wholly nonviolent manner, as, for
example, in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and later Slovenia, the
Vatican was quick to offer recognition. (In fact, however, the quick
diplomatic recognition by the Vatican and Germany of Croatia and
Slovenia in 1992 may have helped precipitate the war that followed
Where the struggle did not conform because it fell outside of Church
influence, as in Nicaragua, or involved armed insurrection, as in
Chiappas, Mexico, the pope seemed to actively oppose efforts at
removing the structures of sin. While the Church can hardly be expected
to endorse armed violence or revolutions based on Marxist analysis,
nowhere do we see in Central and Latin America the flexibility and
support that John Paul has shown in Eastern Europe and the Philippines.
John Paul II is only human; he can do only so much, not just about
social injustice but about the Vatican. The energy and intelligence
he brought to the questions of Poland and the Philippines overrode
the cautious and even inertial tendencies of Vatican diplomacy.
As recent studies of Vatican diplomacy in the 1920s and 1930s show,
it is a diplomacy primarily oriented to securing and protecting
the rights of the Church, not protesting social injustices. The
pope got away with Poland and the Philippines because he knew better
than the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomatic corps; but Poland and
the Philippines were not the rule, they were the exception. And
Solicitudo rei socialis, which I found so heartening back
in 1988, may prove to be a testament to Pope John Paul II's vision
and not a blueprint for Vatican policy.
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels is the editor of Commonweal.
On several occasions over a 15-year period, my Slavic mother, Anne
Savulak, announced that she just didn't understand her Polish pope--a
statement usually accompanied by a sad shake of her head. Such announcements
were all the more surprising after she had just finished translating
something of his from the Polish.
Her problem "understanding" him continued right through
her last nine months, as she fought to the mat a glioblastoma. At
first she greeted news of the brain tumor with relief. ("Oh,
good. I thought I was going crazy.") But the tumor didn't remain
her friend for long. Soon, with her doctors, she gave it no quarter,
giving no quarter either to anyone who suggested that the tumor
might express God's will for her. A well-meaning chaplain caught
not the first nor the last salvo of her sure assertion that being
robbed of her fifth-grade students was not a good idea, that it
was not worthy of God. The chaplain had given Anne, a teacher of
religion, portions of Salvifici doloris ("On the Christian
Meaning of Human Suffering"), John Paul's 1984 letter on the
salvific aspects of suffering, to help her understand, in faith,
the disease she fought with radium 226 implants. After stomping
through the text, she announced that dying was not salvific. Loving
fifth graders and her husband was. And, she added, with specific
folks in mind, so was loving one's enemies. Any salvation to be
had was present in the loving, not in the suffering, was present
despite the suffering.
Not wanting to get caught in that battle, my sister and I tried
outlining for Anne secular notions of the normative stages of dying,
including denial (which she was not much good at), bargaining and
anger (which she did well), and of course acceptance as a form of
Enlightenment (with a capital E). She shot back that the mere recommendation
of acceptance was outrageous, dumb, not worthy of her fifth graders,
and a bit cowardly. God had better have a smarter idea or he would
hear about it from her. She eventually went off--in communion with
her family and fifth graders and Slavic roots--with the sure and
insistent knowledge that God would get it right somehow, that the
God who touched her in loving would not allow that loving to die.
Common to both my Slavic mother and our Slavic pope is a faith that
our saving God can and must be encountered in this world of peoples
and histories, not simply within the human personal interior nor
simply within the Church's sacraments. God redeems by "taking
up" our social flesh--that social flesh in all its moral complexity.
But my mother and the pope differ on where in the world we find
the privileged place of God's redeeming, and herein lies the difficulty
that Westerners (and recently Easterners) have in understanding
and being understood by John Paul.
John Paul privileges the cursed locations of our world as the places
where individuals and civilizations are specially grasped by redeeming
grace. In Salvifici doloris he spells out a phenomenology
of salvation in the following terms: "People who suffer become
similar to one another through the analogy of their situation, the
trial of their destiny, or through their need for understanding
and care, and perhaps above all through the persistent question
of the meaning of suffering." Suffering is first the solvent
that strips us of that which is not of God, and then the metaphysical
glue that binds together all fragile human creatures. Ultimately
those who suffer become similar to, nearly identical with, Christ
crucified. In Christ's passion, those who suffer are transformed
into the good of social, cosmic, divine Solidarity. Redemption finds
us in our obedience to the Father's will that Christ suffer. It
is this obedience in suffering, John Paul argues, that brought down
communism--not any positive actions by the Poles, or the West, or
the Russian troops in Moscow who couldn't stomach killing their
For both Anne Savulak and John Paul, death is the final and ultimate
form of suffering, not a happy completion to a good life as in Enlightenment
dying. (Anne's given middle name, which she joyfully abandoned in
marriage, was Dolores.) Certainly for both, God is fully present
in living as well as dying. But Anne found God especially in the
hard work of reaching out in challenge of death and of all that
robs us of our fellow creatures. For her, salvation lay in an action,
an active loving that knew no capitulation.
For John Paul, however, salvation lies in a passion, an obedience
that might then demand that we act, but is at its core a surrender
to the nailed immobility of the cross. In the final reel, John Paul
is suspicious of Western insistence on human action that is not
constrained by ultimate passivity, by immobility. Anne Savulak and
the West in general are suspicious of any redemption that is not
at its core an act challenging the "natural" limits placed
on loving, including those imposed by the nails of the cross.
Leon Hooper, SJ, Ph.D.'83, is a senior research fellow at the
Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He last wrote
for BCM, in Winter 1995, about the theologian John Courtney