Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pope Blessed John Paul II and Universalism, Part One

In April, 2011, Scott published a post on whether or not the process for sainthood on Pope Blessed John Paul II was moving too fast.  To a vocal minority, some of John Paul’s actions and words may seem be to be too controversial for his cause for sainthood to go forward right now.  The perception of unorthodox behavior bothers some.  I do not intend to go over the whole post again.  I find that people jumping to the wrong conclusions seem to be winning the day.  Maybe the old practice of not even hearing a cause for sainthood until fifty years after the person is dead should have been one of the stipulations that remained in the process. 

Well, on to the defense of Pope John Paul II…Did he teach universalism?  

Let’s make this clear Universalism is a heresy.  It is not taught by the Catholic Church.  What is Universalism? 

1 often capitalized

a: a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved

b: the principles and practices of a liberal Christian denomination founded in the 18th century originally to uphold belief in universal salvation and now united with Unitarianism

Once called Apocatastasis:

A name given in the history of theology to the doctrine which teaches that a time will come when all free creatures will share in the grace of salvation; in a special way, the devils and lost souls.

This was never the teaching of Pope John Paul II; that will be shown in this four part series. 

Here are the quotations, as they appeared in the original post:   

4) It is asserted that Pope John Paul II taught universalism (a heresy) in at least the following documents:

John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis (# 13), March 4, 1979:
“We are dealing with each man, for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united Himself forever through this mystery.”

John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio (# 4), Dec. 7, 1990:
“The Redemption event brings salvation to all, ‘for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united himself forever through this mystery.’”

John Paul II, Centesimus Annus (# 53) May 1, 1991:
“We are not dealing here with man in the ‘abstract,’ but with the real, ‘concrete,’ ‘historical’ man. We are dealing with each individual, since each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and through this mystery Christ has united himself with each one forever.”

John Paul II, Homily, June 6, 1985:
"The Eucharist is the sacrament of the convenant of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the convenant which is eternal. This is the covenant which embraces all. This Blood reaches all and saves all."
Published in: L' Osservatore Romano, July 1, 1985, p. 3

Are these teachings in universalism? Would, or should, such teachings derail the canonization process?
Where did this list of out of context statements come from?  In fact, I found these quotes as exactly as they appear here in a paper written by a sede vacantist dissenter on his website.  (I will provide the name and website to anyone who writes me; however, because of the anti-Catholic-Church nature of the website, I do not wish to perpetuate this man’s works).  This alone makes the attempt to make these statements seem as if Pope John Paul II was Universalist, suspect.  Now let’s get on with analyzing the quotations themselves.   

Starting with the first three first, the author will deal with the fourth quote, the one from his June 6, 1985 homily, separately.  The irony of the first three quotes is this, Redemptor Hominis is the original quote; the other two quotes are John Paul II referencing the first quote in Redemptor Hominis.  In other words, they are actually all the same statement in three different contexts.

Now, let’s look at context, shall we?  Now in section 13 of Redemptor Hominis we need to back up a little.  First off, this is the first section of ‘Chapter III: Redeemed Man and His Situation in the Modern World.’  The name of this chapter indicates that Pope John Paul II was addressing “redeemed man” and his relationship with the rest of mankind. 

Earlier in section thirteen, Pope John Paul II quotes the Vatican II document Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) section 22.  JPII writes “Christ the Lord indicated this way [the one single way] especially, when, as the Council teaches, “by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.”” [i]  It may, on the surface seem like universalism, but this is reading it, at worst with a bit of bigotry, at best out of context. Now, if we look at GS 22, it says: 

He Who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15),(21) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled,(22) by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice(23) and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.(24)[ii]

The Council is referring to the Incarnation, and, because the Word became Flesh (John 1), He is united to every man in a different way than a Spirit can be united with him.  He worked, He thought, He acted, and He loved as a human.  That is how He is united to every man.  He understands us and knows us in a different way than He could have before.  The Council is not speaking of Universalism, but rather the nature of Jesus Christ’s humanity.  He was truly man, and that humanity “has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too.”[iii]
 

Now let’s look at the Redemptor Hominis statement once again:  “We are dealing with each man, for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united Himself forever through this mystery.”  Here is the previous paragraph (to the one which contains the quote in question) in its entirity:
 
When we penetrate by means of the continually and rapidly increasing experience of the human family into the mystery of Jesus Christ, we understand with greater clarity that there is at the basis of all these ways that the Church of our time must follow, in accordance with the wisdom of Pope Paul VI86, one single way: it is the way that has stood the test of centuries and it is also the way of the future. Christ the Lord indicated this way especially, when, as the Council teaches, "by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man"87. The Church therefore sees its fundamental task in enabling that union to be brought about and renewed continually. The Church wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth. Against a background of the ever increasing historical processes, which seem at the present time to have results especially within the spheres of various systems, ideological concepts of the world and regimes, Jesus Christ becomes, in a way, newly present, in spite of all his apparent absences, in spite of all the limitations of the presence and of the institutional activity of the Church. Jesus Christ becomes present with the power of the truth and the love that are expressed in him with unique unrepeatable fullness in spite of the shortness of his life on earth and the even greater shortness of his public activity.[iv]

The bolded statement is the quote from Gaudium et spes; while the line marked in blue, shows Pope John Paul II's statement on how Christ’s Incarnation affects all of humanity, and how it is the specific mission of the Church that each and every person find Christ through this special mystery.  There is no indication here that John Paul II believes that all men will be saved.  He states that it is the wish and mission of the Church that all mankind be saved. 

In his supposed Universalist statement, John Paul II is actually referring back to the above and the next paragraph of section 13, which states that “Jesus Christ is the chief way for the Church.  He himself is our way “to the Father’s house”[v] and is the way to each man.”  He continues on to speak of the Church’s concern for every man’s welfare and dignity and how she is “a sign and a safeguard of the transcendence of the human person”[vi] without regard to political systems.  

Now the actual paragraph from with the “controversial” quote came from says as follows:

Accordingly, what is in question here is man in all his truth, in his full magnitude. We are not dealing with the "abstract" man, but the real, "concrete", "historical" man. We are dealing with "each" man, for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united himself for ever through this mystery. Every man comes into the world through being conceived in his mother's womb and being born of his mother, and precisely on account of the mystery of the Redemption is entrusted to the solicitude of the Church. Her solicitude is about the whole man and is focused [sic] on him in an altogether special manner. The object of her care is man in his unique unrepeatable human reality, which keeps intact the image and likeness of God himself92.  The Council points out this very fact when, speaking of that likeness, it recalls that "man is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself"93. Man as "willed" by God, as "chosen" by him from eternity and called, destined for grace and glory-this is "each" man, "the most concrete" man, "the most real"; this is man in all the fullness of the mystery in which he has become a sharer in Jesus Christ, the mystery in which each one of the four thousand million human beings living on our planet has become a sharer from the moment he is conceived beneath the heart of his mother.[vii]
John Paul II is clearly stating that he, like the Council, is not speaking in abstracts; he is speaking about real men.  Because of the Incarnation, not only has Christ elevated the dignity of man but He has entrusted every man to His Church.  Man is made in the image of God, and His Church is given the task of keeping that image and likeness “intact”.  The Church is to respect and preserve the dignity of man and bring “each man” to Christ.  So, when John Paul II speaks of Christ being united forever with each man, he is speaking of the dignified status His Incarnation has given each man.  In no way can what John Paul II said be construed as Universalism, except by taking that one statement out of context and twisting it into that meaning.  He does not state that this unity (through the mystery of the Incarnation) equates to the salvation of all.


[i] Vatican Council II: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22: AAS 58 ( 1966) 1042  http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html
[ii] Ibid.  Footnotes for GS 22:  21. Cf. 2 Cor. 4:4.  22. Cf. Second Council of Constantinople, canon 7: "The divine Word was not changed into a human nature, nor was a human nature absorbed by the Word." Denzinger 219 (428); Cf. also Third Council of Constantinople: "For just as His most holy and immaculate human nature, though deified, was not destroyed (theotheisa ouk anerethe), but rather remained in its proper state and mode of being": Denzinger 291 (556); Cf. Council of Chalcedon:" to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion change, division, or separation." Denzinger 148 (302).  23. Cf. Third Council of Constantinople: "and so His human will, though deified, is not destroyed": Denzinger 291 (556). 24. Cf. Heb. 4:15.  http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Redemptor Hominis, 13.  86. Cf. Pope Paul VI: Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam: AAS 56 (1964) 609-659.  87. V atican Council II: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22: AAS 58 ( 1966) 1042.
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_04031979_redemptor-hominis_en.html
[v] Cf. Jn 14:1ff.
[vi] GS 76
[vii] LG 13 footnotes: 92. Cf. Gen 1:26.  93. GS 24; AAS 5B (1966) 1045.

3 comments:

  1. Hi cathmom5, Great work thus far. I've just begun reading your response more in depth. Too be clear too, my initial article did post a synopsis from both sides of the debate and asked for thoughts and support for either side. Like I said, great work thus far.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't know why but I can't read your comment, Scott.  You do know that the other 3 parts are posted below this one.  I thought I'd break it up for easier reading, but I put them on the blog in order.  I'd love to see the rest of your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hmmm, here's that comment from earlier:
    Hi cathmom5, Great work thus far. I've just begun reading your response more in depth. Too be clear too, my initial article did post a synopsis from both sides of the debate and asked for thoughts and support for either side. Like I said, great work thus far.

    ReplyDelete

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