Catholic Church

Trusted aide defies papal will and publishes John Paul II's personal notes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 7:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 February, 2014, 4:36am

One of the cardinal rules in the Catholic Church: obedience to the pope. So it has come as a shock for many in the Catholic world that John Paul II's most trusted confidant has betrayed his last will and testament by publishing personal notes he wanted burned.

Stanislaw Dziwisz was torn between loyalty and conscience, the wishes of the pope and the obligations of history.

John Paul ordered the notes burned after his death and put Dziwisz, his secretary, in charge of the task. To everyone's surprise, Dziwisz, now a cardinal, has said 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 yesterday.

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 Saviour's Church in downtown Warsaw. "I'm not sure Cardinal Dziwisz knows what he is doing."

The Polish-language book contains religious meditations that Karol Wojtyla recorded in the time 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. And Dziwisz was also free to follow his conscience - since the obligation to obey the pope ends with his death.

Still, some are expressing shock that a trusted aide would defy the orders of the pope, especially on a matter as sacred as a will - with the internet flooded with angry comments.

The book itself may be a tough slog for ordinary readers. Its 640 pages basically consist 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 layman will find it opaque.

"These notes are so important, they say so much about the spiritual side, about the person, about the great pope, that it would have been a crime to destroy them," Dziwisz said. He noted the despair of historians after Pope Pius XII's letters were burnt.


Translated excerpts from Very Much in God's Hands. Personal Notes 1962-2003

Here my problem is solved: I have recently felt very much in Mary's hands and close to God through 2 known issues. Hasn't, however, the order been reversed? Am I not "making use" in order to achieve something that is "v[ery much] mine." I stand in these matters in full humility. Here is the solution: in Mary's hands ... the task of Redemption must be accomplished also in me, with right proportions preserved.

On October 13, 1978 my dear friend bp [bishop] Andrzej Deskur suffered an unexpected stroke that brought partial paralysis on him. Despite treatment at the Gemelli Polyclinic, and then in Switzerland, the paralysis has not receded.

On October 14 I visited Andrzej … going to conclave, which was to make the choice of a successor after the death of John Paul I. It is hard for me not to link the fact that on October 16 I was chosen that successor, with the event that preceded that choice by 3 days. The sacrifice of my Brother in bishopry, Andrzej, seems to me to be a preparation for this fact. Everything has been inscribed, through his suffering, into the mystery of the Cross and Redemption that was accomplished by Christ.

XVI Conference. Jesus Christ and history.
a) History as the presence of evil
b) History as the presence of good
c) History as a "coupling" of good and evil
To know how to reconcile? To know how to extract good from evil!

Associated Press