Thursday, March 26, 2015

Totus Tuus

In the midst of the year for Consecrated Life 2015, it would be a shame to ignore the value of virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Karol Wojtyla has written extensively on the subject from his days as Cardinal to his days as Pope in Rome.

To a degree, “Totus tuus” speaks volumes in this area. In fact, I will not need to supply any references or quotations other than that simple phrase of self-gift and consecration. In being spoken to Mary, these words and intention are consecrated to Jesus through Mary. They suggest a docility to the Holy Spirit that is inseparable with any vocation, including marriage and celibacy.

However, it is hard to argue with the fact that celibacy signifies a total donation of self for the kingdom—indeed, I agree with the Church fathers that virginity is superior to marriage--though the two are both necessary and complimentary in the Church. Karol Wojtyla defended and upheld both, while modeling an excellent call to celibacy in his own right.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Annunciate de Die in Diem Salutare Ejus

The solemnity of the Annunciation has a great deal of significance to me because it is my son’s birthday. Since it celebrates the Incarnation/Conception of Jesus, it offers me tremendous inspiration in prayer and study. As always, St. John Paul is numbered among my prayer resources: along with St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and Blessed Mother Theresa (I just finished the 33 Days Consecration today!)

The consecration stresses, during the JPII section, the necessity of “entrustment” in the Christian life: Jesus’ entrustment to the Father, Mary’s entrustment, St. Joseph’s entrustment, etc. In the Pope’s own words for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, he again emphasizes entrustment:

At the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the ‘full submission of intellect and will,’ manifesting ‘the obedience of faith’ to him who spoke to her through his messenger. She responded, therefore, with all her human and feminine ‘I’
Was Mary’s fiat devoid of reason? Was her full submission of intellect and will an irrational decision? No, with faith and reason (Fides et Ratio) she entrusted herself to God.

Analogously, my wife entrusted herself to God when we learned of our son's life in the womb. We saw him in ultrasound, prepared for him with friends and family, and finally welcomed him into the world.

¡Cantate Domino, et benedicite nomini ejus. Annunciate de die in diem salutare ejus! Annunciate inter gentes gloriam ejus!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Freud and JPII revisited

Rarely does one find in the writings of St. John Paul II warnings about specific individuals identified by name. More often than not, Karol Wojtyla drew the good out of whatever intellectual argument he encountered and put it to the service of the Gospel without pause. In the case of Sigmund Freud, however, there are numerous warnings from Wojtyla written before, and during, his papacy. While he still is able to draw some ‘converging’[1] points between Freudian psychoanalysis and Christ's judgment, by and large he notes a substantial ‘divergence’ with Christ's Redemption—entirely contradictory to the Christian message. Indeed, he numbers Freud among three perennially influential thinkers of the 20th century (Nietzche, Marx, and Freud)—all of whom he notes have a substantial ‘divergence’ with Christ's Redemption.

Referring to a French philosopher’s work on the three aforementioned thinkers, Wojtyla identifies in his Theology of the Body the “Masters of Suspicion”[2] who essentially accuse the human person of three corresponding forms of lust without affirming the personal dignity due to human beings. A crucial point Wojtyla makes is that these men, including--and especially Freud, systematize the human person into categories for use rather than as an individual created for his/her own sake. Even in his Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla refers to ‘Freudian Libido’ as “Frank and straightforward utilitarianism”[3].

It could be argued that Freud’s ‘system of thought’ concerning the human person is far broader than just his understanding and insistence on libido. But in reality, his entire theory is based upon the ‘pleasure principle’[4] and the unconscious motivations of the Id as analyzed chiefly in dreams[5]. While not condemning Freud outright, Wojtyla warns of the contradictions between his system and the Redemption. In light of the damaging effects of Sigmund Freud’s influence on the modern world, to say that somehow his system of thinking is entirely acceptable or even remotely beneficial to personalism is inconceivable.

The chief damaging effect of Freudian thought is what Wojtyla calls a “hermeneutic of suspicion”. It corresponds with St. John’s 1st Letter, 2:15-16 on concupiscence or “lust of the flesh”, again in St. John Paul II’s own words “theology of lust”[6]. This is problematic for modern man because it puts him in a state of constant “accusation and suspicion” regarding lust, without escape. The Pope goes so far as to say that man is unjustly placed in such an indefinite state by Freud’s diagnosis, “ Man cannot stop at putting the heart in a state of continual and irreversible suspicion due to the manifestations of the lust of the flesh and libido, which among other things, a psychoanalyst perceives by analyzing the unconscious”. And the Pope’s footnote for this passage further explains, “Then that ‘core’ or ‘heart’ of man would be dominated by the union between the erotic and the destructive, and life would consist in satisfying them.”[7] This is no small warning! Here, very clearly, Wojtyla is sounding the alarm against a truly destructive ideology that is quite literally in the air we breathe today (mass media, public policy, legislation, etc.). Unlike Freud, of course, St. John Paul II offers the “ethos of Redemption” as the remedy for such destruction. He offers a way out of the “hermeneutic of suspicion”, that so plagues a society convinced of Freud’s theory of Libido.

Another unavoidable example (on account of its influence) is Freud’s emphasis on the “Oedipal Complex”[8] whereby a child’s instinct is against his father and for his mother. Freud even cites examples of ancient peoples who cannibalized the father figure so as to gain his power[9], etc. Wojtyla would have been all too familiar with the former of these ideas since he himself translated a version of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex [10] into polish as a student. He also identifies the root of original sin as being fundamentally in rebellion with the Father.

Something I have written about before, and use as another example, is the difference between St. Paul and St. John’s understanding of the human person versus Freud’s. I admit that much of this is my own interpretation, and I do not claim to have Karol Wojtyla’s endorsement. However, even in his footnote about Freud’s Abriss der Psychoanalyse I referenced from Theology of the Body, he hints at the difference between Freudian and Pauline/Johannine terminology: ‘heart’ vs. ‘core’ or ‘ego’; ‘lust’ vs. ‘libido’, ‘Flesh’ vs. ‘Id’, etc. Freud is a modernist in the sense of his success at literally wiping out the use of traditional forms of reference for the human person in favor of his own system: Id—Ego—Superego. He has been so influential on intellectuals, in fact, that any use of the former terms like heart, lust, etc. is viewed as naiveté and with condescension. In the secular world, Christians are forced to accept the pervasiveness of lust dismissed as unconscious libido and the ridicule of chastity as freedom from repression.

Lastly--By way of testimony, this topic is particularly close to my heart. I was once a staunch defender of Freudian psychology fascinated by Jim Morrison’s incorporation of Freud into his music. I read Interpretation of Dreams and I invested all of my intellectual energy in living out Freud’s system of the human person. Then I read the Theology of the Body… And I’m not talking about Christopher West’s watered down version. I am talking about St. John Paul II’s own words.

I experienced more interior freedom from his section on the “Masters of Suspicion” vs. the “Ethos of Redemption” than I ever have in my whole life! I was freed from the Freudian ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ that I had so willingly bought into; was possessed and dominated by. It originally manifested itself in me not just with a subjective guilt but also an accusation of others, indeed a ‘suspicion’ of the libido of others as motivation for all of their thoughts and actions—this is Freud’s influence on the layman. But then I read these words by Wojtyla: “man is called and called with efficacy to an ethos of redemption and not left merely in a state of accusation”. I cannot overstate the freedom and truth that accompany this gift of insight from Karol Wojtyla in opposition to Sigmund Freud! It affected every way in which I viewed the world from that point on. It affected the very core of my being in a convincing and lasting way, assuring me that creation was good and that man is indeed “very good”. Subject to original sin, yes, but with the grace of baptism—called and transformed! This is why I am so passionate about this topic, and will not meet any endorsement of Freud whatsoever with immediate approval or unquestioned acceptance.


[1] John Paul II, Pope. Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan with Foreword by John S. Grabowski. Pauline Books: Boston, 1997. p. 166

[2] Ibid. Reference is to Paul Ricoeur, Le conflit des interpretations (Paris: Seuil, 1969), pp. 149-150.

[3] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility: “The Libinistic Interpretation”; Ignatius: San Francisco p. 61

[4] Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Dover: New York, 1920

[5] Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Wordsworth Classics: New York, 2000.

[6] John Paul II, Pope. Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan with Foreword by John S. Grabowski. Pauline Books: Boston, 1997. p. 166.

[7] Footnote from Theology of the Body p.167 for S. Freud. Abriss der Psychoanalyse, Das Unbehagen der Kultur. Frankfurt-M. Hamburg: Fisher, 1955, pp. 74-75.

[8] Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Dover: New York, 1920.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Nota Bene: Freud erroneously assumes that Oedipus was unconsciously acting against his father and for his mother when the tragedy itself makes clear that he had no evidence of either. That is to say that Oedipus killed a man he did not know was his father at all, and married a woman he did not know was his mother. One could just as easily argue for a Orestes’ complex whereby a child acts against his mother and for his father—and probably have more evidence from the myth since Orestes’ willingly killed his mother, etc.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Human Capital

Today’s economy is running on fewer and fewer human interactions. In place of these interactions between people is the automation of technology which effectively replaces manual work (that is, work by hand in all its forms). For this reason, the economic theory of “human capital”, coined by nobel-prize winner Gary Becker, is crucial for insuring the value of human persons in the economy. Even before Gary Becker coined the phrase, Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” hinted at it, and a century after that, Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Centesimus Annus” stated it outright:

“Place the human being at the center of all economic activities”

What happens when the above is disregarded or even deliberately opposed? “In-human capital” results, or rather, an increasingly impersonal economy dependent upon the government. Nearly a decade and a half prior to the recession we just experienced in the early millennium, Pope John Paul II established the Foundation “Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice” to diagnose and remedy such economic abuses (since any other model besides “human capital” ends up abusing/using human persons).

A recent example of one who diagnoses/remedies economic woes is the award-winning French economist Pierre de Lauzun of CAPP. His general resume and obvious merit for the international “Economy and Society Award” is as follows:

He was selected in particular for his 2013 book dedicated to a Christian perspective of finance from medieval banking to contemporary financial models: "Finance. Un regard chrétien. De la banque médiéval à la mondalisation financière"[…]Luazun, who has worked for decades in the financial and banking sector, is described as a person who cannot be called a scholar who confines himself to the library, but rather a person who has enhanced his professional experience with deep political, cultural and religious expression[…]His award-winning book underlines that rules imposed on the market with the ultimate task of ensuring the common good need to depend on the morality of the human agents, and that in the long term, morality allows for greater freedom.

Benedict XVI called for such accountability in his “Caritas in Veritate” which follows a similar vein as “Centesimus Annus”. Even now, the Vatican bank is undergoing considerable audits and reform under Cardinal Pell and others. Honesty with finances must be a staple of Catholicism. More importantly, finances must not be viewed as a means of utilizing the human person, but that human persons utilize finances for their own good. Another way the USCCB has stated it is that the human person does not exist for the economy, but that the economy exists for the human person. This may sound simple and self-evident, but it does not necessarily line up with the worldview of many popular economists (Thomas Malthus, Karl Marx, etc.).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wojtyla and Newman

Few saints have famously taken on the intellectual elite of an entire nation and proved themselves the wiser in the end. John Henry Cardinal Newman and Karol Wojtyla have done so in England and Poland respectively. And they have inspired others to do the same:

1) Newman’s influence reaches all the way to JRR Tolkien’s lifelong fidelity to Catholicism
2) Wojtyla’s influence on Jerzy Popieluszko I have written about elsewhere

Since I have just finished Humphrey Carpenter’s biography on Tolkien, I think it’s worth noting that the Birmingham Oratory which Newman established as a Catholic refuge for priests in England housed the foster-father of Tolkien himself (Father Francis Morgan). Indeed, Father Morgan financed Tolkien’s education at Oxford—the very same institution Newman had attended during his years of conversion to Rome.

John Paul II writes of that conversion:

Newman’s search was shot through with pain. Once he had come to that unshakeable sense of the mission entrusted to him by God, he declared: ‘Therefore, I will trust Him... If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him... He does nothing in vain... He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me. Still, He knows what He is about’

Where his intellectually elite friends at Oxford were “taken away”, Newman formed his own society of those who were unafraid to embrace the cross. The Pope continues, “In the end, therefore, what shines forth in Newman is the mystery of the Lord’s Cross: this was the heart of his mission, the absolute truth which he contemplated, the ‘kindly light’ which led him on.”