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Monday, April 23, 2007

John Paul II's debt to Marx? (KES debate continued)

[link to original in title]
Published online at 21.02 on 24th March 2006
This text follows the article in The Tablet of 14th January 2006; see also the KUL institute's reaction here.
Jonathan Luxmoore and Jolanta Babiuch sent the following clarification to KAI (Catholic Information Agency) in response to its news article about the meeting of representatives of the John Paul II Institute with the Grand Chancellor of KUL:

In the KAI article Archbishop Życinski misrepresented our views as given in the article published in the British Catholic [sic – translator’s note] weekly The Tablet on 14th January.

The article concerned the unpublished two-volume work of Fr Wojtyła entitled Catholic Social Ethics. Since the majority of readers will not have read our artilce, and also since we were not given the possibility of replying directly to the Archbishop’s criticism, we would like to respond in this letter to the accusations made.

The article contains an analysis of lectures given by the Rev. Dr. Wojtyła at the Jagiellonian University at the beginning of the 1950s, which are collected in the work called Catholic Social Ethics. In our opinion, this work of around five hundred pages is of important historical significance for the understanding of the intellectual formation of the future pope. It contains a detailed analysis of marxism and proposes a Christian reply to Marxist claims.

Initially there was difficulty in confirming the authenticity of the work’s authorship. Currently several authorities, including the Insitute of John Paul II at KUL and the John Paul II Foundation in Rome have confirmed that the author of Katolickia Etyka Społeczna was indeed Fr Wojtyła. Independently of these affirmations, our analysis of the text supplied further evidence for this conclusion. The above reasons led us to conclude that it was important to write about this for the Anglo-Saxon reader.

In the article we presented two fundamental arguments. First, that the Rev. Dr. Wojtyła had a wide acquaintance with the subject of marxism (as indeed with other philosophical traditions). Secondly, that already as a young priest he had begun “reflections on the subject of ‘moral victory’ over the communist power” and developed a Christian reply to Marxism. Like many intellectuals of the post-war generation Fr Wojtyła showed a gret sensitivity to social problems and like many in those times he used “the language of the period”.

However the views we present are a long way from the statements attributed to us and criticised by Archbishop Życinski.

Nowhere in the text of our article did we state that Wojtyłą had “left-wing sympathies”, or that he represented “the position of the Left”. Moreover we consider it inappropriate to identify the views and teaching of Karol Wojtyłą with any particular political orientation. We said that Wojtyłą was interested in and studied “the ideas of marxism”. That scholars take an interest in and research ideas does not mean that they sympathise with or support them.
The article did not concern “the teaching of John Paul II” but the earlier work of Fr Wojtyła. We wrote that Fr Wojtyła taught phenomenology as a “kind of antidote” to marxism. The personalism he studied can be considered as “ a counterproposition to marxism”. In his analysis Fr Wojtyła showed how certain ethical categories had been exploited and deformed by marxism, including that of the understanding of the alienation of the person. Fr Wojtyła argued against, among others, the marxist understnading of social class, the class war and “political revolution”. The unique nature of Catholic Social Ethics, as we state in our article, lies in something quite contrary to that of which AbpŻycinski accuses us, namely in the remarkable ability shown by Fr Wojtyłą in deconstructing the concepts of marxist social philosophy and in recreating their Christian significance.

Regarding the reaction of George Weigel to our article we would like to say that he did not argue with our interpretation of Catholic Social Ethics but asserted that the contents of Fr Wojtyła’s lectures was taken from Fr Piwowarczyk. Assertions of this kind ought however to be backed up by an analysis of the text, and since Mr Weigel neither speaks nor reads Polish it is difficult to accept his assertion as authoritative.

What strikes us as particularly important in the tex published by KAI is the declaration that the John Paul II Institute will publish Fr Wojtyła’s work (in, we hope, its entirety).

At the same time we are concerned by the resolution to “counteract false interpretations of the views of the Pope in various stages of his life” Of course, different interpretations are possible and held. We hope that after the belated publication of the Rev. Dr. Wojtyłą’s lectures readers will have many different opinions, which they will be able to present and exchange freely.

Jonathan Luxmoore and Jolanta Babiuch, Oxford, 20th March 2006

A similar clarification was received by the Rev. Andrzej Szostek. Taking up the discussion he wrote:

Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, Catholic Social Ethics and Marxism
Notes on the margin of the article “Karol Wojtyłą’s forgotten text” The Tablet, 14th January 2006, by J. Luxmoore and J. Babiuch

The article “Karol Wojtyła’s forgotten text published by J. Luxmoore and J. Babiuch in The Tablet has already provoked a reaction from George Weigel, author of the well-known biographical monograph on John Paul II, Witness to Hope, to which the authros of the article replied (The Tablet, 14th and 28th January 2006), which in turn brought a response from Archbishop Józef Życinski (cf. KAI, 19th March 2006. It seems probably that this response will be answered in turn by the authors of the original article. Ithink that the article deserves a few words of comment, which ought to clear up at leasta few misunderstandings.

1. The consideration of K. Wojtyła’s script in the beatification process of John Paul II
The article begins and ends with a reference to the beatification process of the Servant of God John Paul II. In this connection the authors express the concern that the typescript Katolicka Etyka Społeczna (KES) written by Fr Karol Wojtyła will not be taken into consideration, and likewise express their worry that the authorities of the Catholic church in Poland are unwilling to publish the text, which – in the opinion of those authorities – is not worthy of publication, being insufficiently mature and independent.

It should be remembered in this connection that at the stage of the examination of writings of any candidate for the altar, only those writings can be considered which he himself decidedto publish. When the candidate is a pope, official papal declarations (encyclicals, exhortations, apostolic letters etc) are excluded from this stage, since their publications is regulated by separate ecclesiastical regulations. Also excluded are texts which the Serant of God did not himself decide to publish, even if they appeared in print after his elevation to the See of Peter. Though this may seem strange, this rule is for the benefit of the candidate for the altar. The censor has to give his opinion as to, among other things, whether the writings of the Servant of God contain anything contrary to Catholic faith and morals. Now if such content were found in unpublished writings, then the accusation of having expressed opinions contra fides et morum (as it is technicaly called) would not have as much weight as if it had been decided to publish the texts. After all it happens that someone expresses himself unguardedly, or opinions are ascribed to him which he did not hold. It would be unfair and damaging to burden him with the accusation of infidelity to the teaching of the Church. Writings which someone has personally authorised and submitted to public attention are a different matter.

This coin has of course two sides. Protecting the Servant of God from unfair accusations in this way means that things cannot be taken into consideration that might otherwise greatly strengthen convictions of his orthodoxy and sanctity. The above-mentioned rule means that at this stage not only the typescript of KES but also many other valuable texts of Karol Wojtyła published after 16th October 1978 cannot be taken into consideration. They include a large part of his poetic works, retreat conferences, homilies and academic texts, among which are not just the Lublin lectures but even the full text of his doctoral thesis (only the conluding summary of the doctorate was published before 16th October 1968, and it is an insufficient basis for showing the full richness of the analysis contained in the dissertaion and the conscientiousness of the author in an honest search for the truth).

Let us hope that the at the next stages of the beatification these texts will also be taken into consideration (I am not familiar with the whole procedure of the process), but any suppositions as to the intentions behind the non-consideration of KES must be considered completely unfounded.

2. The publication of the text of Katolicka Etyka Społeczna
It is howeer true that the John Paul II Institute of KUL began the publication of a series entitled Man and Morality (Człowiek i moralność) in which appeared not only previously-published texts of Karol Wojtyła, but also inedita. For example, the Lublin Lectures (Wykłady Lubelskie), also previously unpublished, appeared in the series. The authors of the article emphasise that the publication of KES is eminently desireable, as it is not true that Wojtyła merely repeated therein the theses of Fr. Piwowarczyk, on whose book (also at the time unpublished in Poland) he based his lectures.
They are right: KES must absolutely be published, if only to dispel suspicions as to the hidden and suspect motives lurking behind the delay of its publication. The reasons for this delay are rather prosaic: the Insitute was not (and still is not) able to publish all texts worthy of publication simultaneously. It had to choose between them , basing its decision on the value of the texts and the “need of the moment”. The Institute decided to publish first (with commentary) Love and Responsibility, then a reange of other works important in the scientific legacy of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła. It also had to pay attention to the immensely numerous and important papal documents, edit the Ethos quarterly, and react to the moral challenges presented by modernity. The project of publishing KES, though raised at the annual meeting of the Institute’s Academic Committee in 1994, was continually put off, especially as the typewritten text demanded not a little work to be red precisely. The publication of KES is included in publishing plans for 2006, and let us hope that this time things will not stop at the level of plans. The authors of the article have not doubt a different estimation of the importance of the script than do the authorities of the Institute, postponing its publication from year to year. They emphasise the originality of Wojtyła’s thought, in opposition to the opinion (expressed also by George Weigel) that his KES lectures are a repetition of the views of Fr. Piwowarczyk.
The matter is a little complicated. It is true that the (as a rule consienciously prepared by him in scriptis) lectures of Wojtyła are undoubtedly his. It is however also true that he based his KES lectures on texts of Fr. J. Piwowarczyk, who lectured in Catholic Social Ethics in the theological faculty of the Jagiellionian University at the beginning of the 1950s. (His Katolicka Etyka Społeczna, unpublishied in the Polish People’s Republic, was published by Veritas in London in 1960, and its second volume, on economic ethics, was published by the same in 1963). Copied on a duplicator in 1958, Wojtyła’s text is not therefore merely a copy of the lectures of Fr Piwowarczyk, but it does clearly refer to it. This is understandable: Fr Wojtyła’s theological education was not immediately concerned with the social teaching of the Church, and so when lectures in this field were entrusted to him he turned to an author known to him and recognised in Catholic circles, developing in his own way a range of that author’s ideas. The authors of the article emphasise the originality of Wojtyła’s contribution, especially in regard to marxism. Indeed, in this areaWojtyła formulated many of his own thoughts. However this does not mean that he did not also in this area use thought of Fr Piwowarczyk’s. It is worth referring to this book (cf, esp. vol. I, pp 129-150, 217-229, 309-315, vol.II pp 69-88) to see for oneself how much attention Fr Piwowarczyk gives to marxism and to the position of the Church in regard to the ideas promoted by Marx, and how much he emphasises the inadequacy of the Church’s social teaching to that point in the face of the challenges brought by the “savage/wild capitalism” severely criticised by the Church. I think that the authors of the article will agree that the views of Karol Wojtyła presented in KES grew out of the lectures of Fr Piwowarczyk (though also from the personal experiences and meditation of the future Pope), but that they find a more mture form in Wojtyła’s later works, especially Person and Act. It is precisely this that led the John Paul II Institute to postpone the publication of KES.
3 Karol Wojtyła and Marxism
This brings us to the last matter,which can be presented here only summarily, though it undoubtedly deserves closer treatment. The authors of the article underline the “empathy” with which Karol Wojtyła approached marxism. If by “empathy” is to be understood aiming at understanding a point of view and grasping that in it which is of value (before undertaking to criticise it) then it must be agreed that he showed empathy for marxism as he did for phenomenology, Humean empiricism and many other ideas, which he then subjected to critical reflection. It was simply Wojtyła’s style of philosophising. He was not prone to condemming views with which he did not agree, rather he tried to find their good points, but nevertheless pointing out their onesidedness, especially where this led to harm for people.
Marxism belonged to those philosophical currents to which it was necessary to pay much attnetion, not only because of its theoretical (though deceptive) attractiveness, but also because it was with it above all that one had to deal in post-war Poland. The fundamental idea of Karol Wojtyła (formulated best in Person and Act and in the article “Osoba: podmiot i współnota”) can be put as follows: individualism (forming the theoretical premise of liberal capitalism) and “anti-individualism” (or “socialist totalism”, inspired by marxist thought) are connected in that they separate and oppose personal good from the common good. Either, therefore, one treats organised society (state) as a threat to the person (individualism) or one subordinates the person to the state, regarding its wellbeing as more important than the wellbeing and fulfillment of the individual (anti-individualism). The alternative to these false and destructive views is participation, whose foundation is relating to others as neighbours [in the Gospel sense], and which the person realises in seeing his own good in the common good. For this reason the medicine for alienation is not economic revolution (as Marx wanted) but countering the tendency to treat others as rivals, and the building of a “civilisation of love”. Wojtyła gave a great deal of importance to discussion with these two sides, which – despite superficial differences – have more connecting them than dividing. On his intitiave a book was prepared before 16th October 1978, in which he wanted to make available his thoughts and those of his pupils to those otherwise separated by the language barrier. This book was translated and prepared for printing in autumn of 1978; this was of great use to Kevelaer Verlag, which ws able to publish the book immediately upon the election of Cardinal Wojtyła to the See of Peter and which grasped well its (and especially Cardinal Wojtyła’s article’s) premise, giving the book the title Der Streit um den Menschen (The Debate about the Person). Cardinal Wojtyłą continued this debate as pope, steadfastly (though in an oringla way) continuing the social thought of the Church, which from the beginning (that is from the encyclical of Leo XIII Rerum Novarum of 1891) treated contemporary capitalism as a threat to the person, even if it considered marxist revolution as a medicine worse than the disease. I mention this, because reading the article “Karol Wojtyła’s forgotten text” might suggest to one that in KES Wojtyła fundentally sympathised with Marx’s criticism of capitalism, improving it only where it seemed to him insufficiently thoroough and consistent. In my opinion it is not so. One might say that he was “empathetic” towards amrxism, as he was to capitalism, trying to find in both systems that which was right, but at the same time subjecting both systems to criticism from the point of view of philosophical and theological personalism. Moreover, in the social encyclicals of John Paul II (being a development of ideas contained in KES, not a departure from them) one can find the thought that though the marxist utopia may have met with collapse, the capitalist system dserves critical reflection and correction exactly because in this way it will be better able to serve the development of the person and worldwide communio personarum than it has been so far (cf. Centesimus Annus, especially parts III and IV).
To fill out the points made only in the letter of Luxmoore and Babiuch to KAI it should be noted that:
1 Their original text published in The Tablet of 14th January 2006 bore the title “JohnPaul’s debt to Marxism”. It is difficult to take seriously the suggestion that John Paul II had any kind of intellectual debt to marxism. On the basis of the fact that – as the authors explain – John Paul II studied marxism, one cannot seriously speak of any kindof “debt”.
2 Karol Wojtyła undertook the KUL lectures in 1954, when the offical version of marxism was stalinism. If one were to be more precise in the title of the Tablet article, then it would read “John Paul’s debt to stalinism”, which is far closer to grotesque than to academic dispute.
3 Referring in the original article to the fact that Wojtyła signed up the criticism of capitalism contained in the teaching of Pius XI has no great argumentative wieght, since it is difficult to imagine responsible Catholic intellectual circles who would at that time have dismissed papal social teaching expressed in encyclicals.
4 In the original Table article the authros point out that the opinion of John Paul was not a “total criticism”of marxism,but an analysis of its ethical categories. It is difficult to imagine academic lectures which would be a “total criticism” of anything. This kind of practice may interest ideologues or – more rarely – publicists, but for someone who had grown up in the circle of influence of the Polish logical school Wojtyła’s approach was necessary and natural.
5 A particular departure from the principles of reasoned discussion can be seen in the conspiracy theory of publication expressed in the words “this is why the Polish Church has been so reluctant to acknowledge the existence of Catholic Social Ethics, fearing it could be misunderstood”. The Polish Church has made no statement regarding the publication of thewords of Karol Wojtyła. The decision of the Publishing Committee respected Karol Wojtyła when it did not identify the social ethics lectures as a work which ought to be printed. It’s a psychologically understandable evaluation of the fact that lectures given for the first time do not as a rule form material that one publishes. It’s a shame that the authors disregard the wishes of the author himself in order to spin a publishing conspiracy theory.
6 From the fact that George Weigel does not speak Polish does not follow that one can refuse him the right to opine on the Polish publications of Karol Wojtyła. In many of his texts he has demonstrated intellectual honesty, bringing closer to the Anglo-Saxon reader texts published only in Polish.
7 Jonathan Luxmoore and Jolanta Babiuch write “we are concerned by the resolution [scil.of the authorities of KUL] to ‘counter false interpretations of the views of the Pope in various stages of his life’”. From the context of earlier discussions it appears that this counteraction is conducted by means of the weighing of arguments on an internet portal and by the publication of source texts. These latter do not credibly give any ground for speaking of, e.g., the debt of John Paul II to marxism. Does the reasonable limitation of a groundless debate really provide cause for concern?