I’ve started reading Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) and I’m excited about it. We need his teaching now more than ever. He knew Marxism and its soul-denying (and soul-killing) effects first hand, studying for the priesthood in an underground seminary in Poland. If he’d been caught, he would have been killed. Providentially (literally) he wasn’t caught. He went on to become one of the greatest Popes the Church has ever had and his writings will be studied, I feel certain, for centuries to come.
Love and Responsibility—the Pope’s teachings on the human person—is just the antidote we need to fight off the plague of Marxist utilitarianism that is infecting societies all over the globe. The first chapter is entitled Analysis of the Verb “To Use”: The Person as the Subject and Object of Action. The Pope (even though he was not the Pope when he wrote the book, I prefer to refer to him using his later title; I don’t know which is more correct) distinguishes between objects which are things and objects which are persons. It’s a rather large distinction. I am an object in that I exist in time and space, I have an objective existence. I am in the world; you could, if you were here in the room with me, reach out and touch me with your hand. I am not a figment of your imagination, existing only if you think I do. (I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who insist on the truth that there is no truth, no objective reality. Their lack of logic never seems to bother them. They don’t even recognize it.)
Why am I nattering on about objects and things? Because a person may be an object but is not a thing. I may be an object but I am not a thing and I can’t be used the way a thing can be used. The proper response of a person to a person is love. You can use a thing but not a person. A person you love. To use a person is to deny him the dignity proper to him. I’m not talking about self-esteem and pop psychology or pop philosophy. I’m talking about real human dignity, the dignity of the human person. The dignity of the human person that calls to our human hearts and minds to respond to each person as persons and not things, persons to be loved and not to be used, no matter how much we may be tempted to use them. No matter how much we want something another person has, we are never justified in using them as mere things to get what we want, never justified in killing that other person to take what he has. Not justified in even merely taking what we want, claiming “no harm done, I didn’t hurt anybody”.
I’ll write more about L&R after reading more. I also started another book this evening: I picked up a copy of the Communist Manifesto a few months back as part of my ongoing attempt to understand where we started and where we’ve gotten and where we’re going. Marxism is the very thing that John Paul II saw as one of the greatest problems facing the world, and Benedict XVI has written about it too. (I’m thinking about pulling from CM and other works as I write about L&R.)
To be continued. Thanks for reading. Peace be with you.
- Love and Responsibility, a summary by William May posted on Catholic Culture.
- John Paul II on Love & Responsibility, a 32-page publication which includes a range of excerpts from the Pope’s philosophical, literary, official, and personal writings on love.
- Love and Responsibility Project of the Cardinal Newman Society.
- Also see the Theology of the Body teachings given by Pope John Paul II in a series of 129 General Audiences over a period of years. The TOB teachings are a later development of the teachings given many years earlier in Poland and published as Love and Responsibility.
- Theology of the Body in John Paul II: What it is and Why it Matters by Fr. Richard Hogan.
- Theology of the Body, MP3’s of the EWTN series with Fr. Richard Hogan and Katrina Zeno.