Msgr. Bux: Wojtyla and the Attempts to Smear His Memory
25 Novembre 2020
Dear readers of Stilum Curiae, at this moment in which there is an effort to smear the memory of John Paul II – in particular in the United States, but not only there – it seems appropriate and interesting to reprint this article which Msgr. Nicola Bux has written for l’Occidentale. Enjoy your reading!
It is necessary that scandals happen, Jesus Christ said, but woe to the man who causes them to happen (Mt 18:8). Scandals are the work and fault of human beings, and yet there is a mysterious divine disposition at work in them as well. Did not Christ know that Judas would betray him? And yet he chose him. It is a mystery. Similarly, to those who told him that there were rumors about some of his collaborators, John Paul II responded, “Yes I know, but do you think that others would be better?” He knew man in his depth, and he knew that without conversion of heart, titles mean nothing.
During the 1970s, the fame of Karol Wojtyla as Archbishop of Krakow was widespread among the young people [in Italy] who were part of Communion and Liberation, who, in contrast to the Catholic youth who were pro-1968, scrutinized the ferment of the samizdat, the underground dissent beyond the “Iron Curtain” and in Russia. At the direction of Don Francesco Ricci, a great priest from Romagna [north-central Italy], and encouraged by Don Luigi Giussani, they went on pilgrimage to the Madonna of Czestochowa. I was among these young people. As a result, we were exultant on the evening of October 16, 1978, when John Paul II was elected pope. Likewise, we were filled with fear at the moment of the attempt on his life on May 13, 1981.
On March 26, 1982, at the end of the theological symposium in the Vatican on the Holy Spirit on the occasion of the 16th centenary of the Council of Constantinople in 381, I was received by him in an audience. I met him once again in a private audience on March 14, 1991, along with several people in Jerusalem, explaining to him the difficulties faced by the Christian presence in the Holy Land. After he appointed me, at the suggestion of Cardinal Ratzinger, as a consultor to the Congregation of Saints, then of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and finally as a peritus at the Synod on the Eucharist, I saw him one last time in an audience at the Counsel of the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, where I was deeply moved at seeing him in a wheelchair and debilitated. It was November 16, 2004, less than five months before he died. All this did not prevent me from being impartial, proposing further insights, when I was counted among the consultors for the cause of canonization.
In my subdued opinion, the Servant of God merited a better Positio super virtutibus [the formal document relating the results of the investigation into the heroic virtue of a potential saint]. However, those who maintain that it was done too quickly forget that in the history of causes of the saints, there have been not a few canonization processes that have proceeded very quickly.
The saints, like the great Fathers of the Church, are not less defective; they made errors in persons and things, but the error is not a sin, instead they were more courageous in following Christ: but the world does not understand this. The comments made by secular journalists are simply moralizing posturing, because they are accustomed to tolerating much worse sins, but when it comes to the Church they forget this and become inflexible. As I said above, even though Jesus knew who Judas was, he permitted him to enter the apostolic college: this is part of the mystery of the relationship between the grace of God and man’s free will. Do we not say that any man is always recoverable?
Cardinal Ruini was right to appeal to the vox populi that was truly enormous – from the millions of people who paid their homage at the time of his death, to the heads of state who came from all over the world to the funeral – something similar had not been seen since the death of Pius XII, who had an impressive funeral and endless lines of people to view him in Saint Peter’s that went on for days, and also a reputation for holiness that quickly spread, to the point by December 8, 1958 – just two months after his death on October 9 – a prayer was already widespread for his canonization; the cause was opened by Paul VI in 1965. Perhaps in John Paul II’s case, Benedict XVI should have taken more time, yes, but there were already countless signs of graces being received and apparent miracles.
John Paul II gave impetus to evangelization on a world scale, something which is necessary for every generation. Today it is said that this is proselytism: no, because encounter with other religions must in no way mean for the Church the abdication of her mission to make Jesus Christ known, without whom there is no salvation. John Paul was clear about this, also because he was of the generation that grew up under communism in Poland.
His ability to look at people deeply was real – his gaze pierced you through – and he was immersed in prayer like a fish in water, as the Curé d’Ars said, he was always kneeling, even when he no longer could: it is no exaggeration to say that he was a mystic. He never took a vindictive approach towards his critics and opponents, either by marginalizing cardinals and bishops or by punishing religious institutes, but he always reaffirmed the truth, as he did, for example, by defending the Declaration Dominus Iesus. In one of his Angelus addresses, he said that the pope must suffer to introduce the Church into the new Millennium.
His magisterium outlines a true humanism, a Christian humanism, beginning with the “manifesto” of Redemptor Hominis, in which anthropology taps into Christology proposed in phenomenological categories. He never ideologized the poor or peace, because he was not a relativist. Instead, he declared that Jesus Christ is the center of history and the cosmos.
It is said that he was not very interested in the Roman Curia: he knew that without justice and charity, mere ecclesiastical reforms would accomplish nothing. The Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregisconcerning the rules of the Conclave demonstrates how attentive he was: but was it enough to stop the action of the “Saint Gallen Mafia” lobby? Precisely this document attests that he was not superficial and centralizing; on the contrary: aware of his responsibility, he did not bypass collaborators but submitted to the various requests of the Roman Curia to draw up documents and prepare appointments. Many things have been said about the role of his private secretary, but he certainly did not take the place of the pope; rather, he helped him, especially during his frequent periods of illness and debilitation. Like all environments, then, the Curia resembles a court, where rumors and whispers tend to grow larger and become something other than what they originally were. John Paul was prudent and respectful: he knew very well that he should not believe accusations against a priest unless there was a deposition from several witnesses. And at the time of John Paul II, the accusations against McCarrick, from what it seems, were not yet full blown.
John Paul II had stood up to the Jaruzelski regime and encouraged Solidarnosc – should he then have been afraid of McCarrick? Saint Bernard, who knew something about bishops, and indeed of popes, since Eugene III was his disciple, said: si prudens regat (if a man is prudent, let him govern). Can this border on acrobatics? Certainly, if one is not guided by the truth. Power exists in truth: those who have truth have power.
John Paul II said to Don Giussani: we are without a homeland. The saint is a stranger in this world, and the world with its agents cannot understand him, much less the “fifth columns” that have infiltrated the Church.
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