Hero or traitor? Pope’s aide in Polish controversy
02/08/2014 8:00 AM
02/08/2014 8:00 AM
WARSAW, Poland – Poles are divided between praise and condemnation of John Paul II’s secretary for publishing the late pope’s personal notes – against his last will and testament.
John Paul ordered the notes burned after his death and put his trusted confidant, the Rev. Stanislaw Dziwisz, in charge of the task. To everyone’s surprise, Dziwisz, now a cardinal, said recently that he “did not have the courage” to destroy the notes and is having them published as a precious insight into the inner life of the beloved pontiff, who will be declared a saint in April.
The book – “Very Much in God’s Hands. Personal Notes 1962-2003” – came out in Poland on Wednesday.
Criticism so far has outpaced praise.
“I don’t think it is right for a church member to go against the will and authority of the pope, whatever the reason,” Ewelina Gniewnik said as she was leaving Savior’s Church in downtown Warsaw. “I’m not sure that Cardinal Dziwisz knows what he is doing.”
The Polish-language book contains religious meditations that Karol Wojtyla recorded between July 1962 and March 2003 – spanning a period in which he went from being a bishop in Poland to a globe-trotting superstar pope. There are plans to publish the book in English and other languages but no details have been fixed.
The decision to publish does not go against papal infallibility, which contrary to popular belief applies only to matters of church doctrine.
Still some are expressing shock that a trusted aide would disobey the orders of the pope, especially on a matter as sacred as a will – with the Internet flooded with angry comments against Dziwisz.
The book itself may be a tough slog for ordinary readers. It runs 640 pages and basically consists of deeply religious, compact, sometimes arcane ideas or trains of thought that spring from citations from the Bible. Priests, theologians and philosophers will be inspired – the layperson will find it opaque.
However, one cryptic remark about sinful priests, registered in March 1981, perhaps gains new significance under the flood of pedophilia cases against Roman Catholic clergy.
“The social aspect of sin,” wrote John Paul, “it hurts the Church as a community. Especially a sin by a priest.”
There have been other cases in history in which executors defied instructions of famous people to destroy their work.
Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov’s son, Dmitri, published his father’s unfinished work “The Original of Laura” – which Nabokov had left instructions to burn – and justified the act by saying he didn’t want to go down in history as a “literary arsonist.”
Dziwisz was prepared for accusations of betrayal.
He was John Paul’s personal secretary and closest aide for almost 40 years in Poland and at the Vatican, where – Vatican experts say – he made key decisions in the pope’s waning years. After John Paul’s death in 2005 at age 84, he was made Archbishop of Krakow, in southern Poland, where he is building a museum memorial to the Polish pope. The book’s proceeds are to go to the memorial.