AN HONEST-TO-GOODNESS PATRIARCH
Why They Hate John Paul II

June 1997By Raymond T. Gawronski

The Rev. Raymond T. Gawronski, S.J., is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Marquette, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, and author of Word and Silence: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Spiritual Encounter Between East and West.

At some point after World War II, fatherhood went underground in America. The victorious warriors returned home, but there was to be no great war for their sons, not one outside our borders at any rate. Instead, a far more subtle — and dangerous — war began in the homes and clubs of suburbia, and on the nation’s campuses. The Big War ended, and the peace brought corruption: It seems we won the war, and lost the peace.

By the time of Vietnam, two decades of ease had begun to show their effect. Sickness and rot began to set in, and without a vision many despaired and buried themselves in pleasure. The energies that went into taming a continent and the wild drive that had sent us to the moon were turned inwards, and a hedonistic corruption set in. The orgy was on.

As predicted by Humanae Vitae, women, weakened in the dignity of motherhood, were turned into objects of lust; the wounds of this injustice would fuel the fires of emerging feminism. The authority of the father became an empty thing; father was more and more powerless in guiding his family, yielding authority to a brave new world of “experts” in marital life, morals, education. Fatherhood disappeared along with motherhood. Mere biology seemed insulting to the people of the emerging world: Mere babies could be disposed of to create the perfect world, which seemed within our grasp. If only all the vestiges of the old world with its differences and “hang-ups” could be destroyed, if only our consciences could be bulldozed to make way for the perfect new world of unisex tenderness! A world in which the voice of conscience, the voice of God, would be stiffed — a world without that old patriarchal spoilsport.

And then into our confusion stepped a “man from a distant country.” A child of the West, yes the modern West, but one who had lived on the dark side of the 20th century. Aborted children cannot in this world speak of the crimes of our technology. But a Polish intellectual, a Catholic and heir to the best in the traditions of Europe, also knew the dark side of modern thought in a way few western Europeans, let alone white Americans, could know it. He had lived through some modern hells, first as one solemnly considered a racial subhuman in the German racial utopia and then as a reactionary element in the Soviet utopia. Oh yes, Cardinal Wojtyla knew the modern world very well, but from the angle of its victims, real victims.


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