A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Apostolic nuncio to USCCB: be pastoral, not ideological.

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prepares to elect its next president, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, delivered a remarkably pointed address urging bishops to be "pastoral," not ideological.

Pope Francis, Vigano said, "wants bishops in tune with their people." The pope

is giving us by, his own witness, an example of how to live a life attuned to the values of the gospel. While each of us must take into consideration our adaptability to the many different circumstances and cultures in which we live and the people whom we serve, there has to be a noticeable life style characterized by simplicity and holiness of life. This is a sure way to bring our people to an awareness of the truth of our message.

Vigano quoted liberally from Pope Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi, which, he noted, Francis has called "the greatest pastoral document written to date." It was promulgated in 1975.

"The first means of evangelization," Paul VI wrote,

is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, 'Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. and if it does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.'"

That witness, Vigano suggested, is what's required in order to carry on the work of Vatican II.

Vigano also cited John Paul II and John XXIII to highlight the constant "call to attentiveness, watchfulness, and preparedness for whatever proclaiming the gospel may mean for us as successors of the Apostles, who were called to give radical witness to their faith in Jesus Christ."

Noting that American culture is marked by a diversity of views, Vigano observed that "this is also true of the church." But, he warned, "we must take care that, for us as a church, this diversity does not grow into division through misinterpretation or misunderstanding, and that division does not deteriorate into fragmentation."

In conclusion, Vigano mentioned an article describing the past half-centuray of U.S. politics. Its subtitle: "The era of polarization began as Americans lost confidence in their leaders."

"Well said," Vigano continued, "since the Catholic Church will preserve her unity and strength as long as its people have trust in their bishops."


About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Pope Francis, Vigano said, "wants bishops in tune with their people."

This is great!   Someone please point out to the bishops that the majority of US Catholics are for same-sex marriage, married priests, women's ordination, and the use of contraceptives  :)  And someone fire those bishops who covered up sex abuse, please.

In the United States, being "in tune with their people" raises the question: Which of their people? Are we to have red-state bishops and blue-state bishops and eggplant bishops, the last, also called "Christian," being the rarest?

The single act or gesture of any US bishop that has impressed me the most in recent years is when Cardinal O'Malley sold his mansion in Boston.  

Jim P - but he had little to no choice given the legacy of abuse settlements and debt left by Bernie Law.  This is unfortunate - he might have done this as a sign and outreach but the Boston sexual abuse and parish/school closings puts this gesture in a completely different context.

Mr. Gallicho - noted that after retired bishop Fiorenza called for a focus on poverty and linked it to the call and example of Francis, Sartrain proceeded to say:  yes, we are all aware of Francis"  and business went on as usual.

Sorry, actions speak louder than words and, in general, have seen little positive Francis effect on US bishops as a group.

I was struck by these paragraphs and wonder how they are to be related (reconciled) with the comments praised here:

At this point, I would like to call your attention to the words the then-Cardinal Wojtyla is reported to have given in an address during the Eucharistic Congress in 1976 for the Bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of independence. it seems to be so profoundly prophetic:

"We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously..."

These words that the then-Cardinal Wojtyla made his own appear to be inspired from the Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska, who greatly influenced his spirituality. As Pope John Paul ll, he proclaimed this Religious Sister a saint during the Jubilee Year of 2000. He died during Vespers of the feast of Divine Mercy, the feast which was inspired by Saint Faustina.

JAK(+) said, "I was struck by these paragraphs and wonder how they are to be related (reconciled) with the comments praised here ... "We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist...."

If we're in the final confrontation between the church and the anti-church, having some bishops living out a christian witness will be a useful thing.

"We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously..."


I suspect that the same kinds of sentiments may have been stated at the time of the Protestant Reformation, the collapse of the Papal States, the was in Spain, and any number of other times when this church felt her hegemony threatened.

Modern man only accepts witness because s/he is not intimidated by clergy who act as if they are direct oracles of God. Francis is simply speaking the gospel. After centuries of world leaders dictating church policy we have a pope who is more spiritual than political. Washing the feet is in. Parading as peacocks is out. Bishops will have to let their example define them rather than their "sacred hands" etc. 

As far as O'Malley is concerned he deserves full credit for selling the Cardinal's residence. As far as I know he never lived there. Let's give credit where credit is due. 

With Jim McCrea and even as a sometimes admirer of +Wojtyla/John Paul, this Miltonesque narrative about a drama between Church and anti-Church is not something I can take very seriously.  Yes, the Reformation and the collapse of the Papal States.  But why not the persecution of the early Church?  Why not the Inquisition?  The high drama's set pieces and locales change, but the facts of our historically conditioned existence remain the same: we're sinners in an imperfect world.  (And, if we knew the moment when the climax of salvation's drama would draw near, we would be God.)  As a result, this narrative, really, is only the expression of a particular skepticism about secular modernity that I don't/can't share.  And one, I think, that time has proved was more the product of +Wojtyla's own historical experiences (and those others like him) than an objective reading of the signs of the times.

One suspects +Vigano quoted +Wojtyla to make the rallying cry to unity with Francis a bit more appealing, to say with too much veiled subtlety that perhaps some of the anti-Church forces can be found in the pride of the bishops, themselves.  Myself, I think a compelling case exists that the more overtly political American bishops betray a greater debt to modern political ideas than the tradition of the Church, so perhaps it's not too far to stretch when we credit +Vigano in that way.

Would we could all manage to take the pope's advice and be more pastoral and less political in our dealings with each other. 

but he had little to no choice given the legacy of abuse settlements and debt left by Bernie Law.  This is unfortunate - he might have done this as a sign and outreach but the Boston sexual abuse and parish/school closings puts this gesture in a completely different context

Bill deH - I don't remember all the circumstances, but I don't think he was literally forced to sell it, e.g. as a legal settlement.  I suspect that more than one prelate might have closed a few more parishes and schools and preserved the mansion.  


Being a Philadelphia Catholic, I attended parts of the Eucahrtitic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976.  If anyone wonders how relatively unknown in the U.S. cardinal from Poland would be a principal speaker, the answer is Cardinal Krol was archbishop of Philadelphia at the time.

correction: Eucharistic Congress

Given Pope Francis's homilies (St. Peter's and Santa Marta), Angelus and Wednesday audience talks, conversations/interviews, etc. over the past eight months, I don't find the Nuncio's talk particularly hard-hitting or chiding. Would something else now have been expected from the Pope's representarive in addressing the bishops' 2013 plenary? Interestingly, John Paul II seems to get the pride of place, followed by Paul VI. Pope Francis is more alluded to than quoted.

And aren't "Eminences" bishops? As well, why the distinction between "Archbishops" and "Bishops"? So, simply "My brother bishops." 

--- -- --

Many US bishops over the past four decades have sold off the traditional episcopal mansion in favor of fairly modest neighborhood homes or apartments in rectories or other diocesan-owned properties. In Washington, Cardinal Wuerl lives in an apartment in an urban building that was initially a child care insitution run by the great Daughters of Charity (now at another site), then a minor seminary, and now the diocesan Hispanic Center.

The single act or gesture of any US bishop that has impressed me the most in recent years is when Cardinal O'Malley sold his mansion in Boston.  

Cardinal Chaput is doing the same in Philadelphia.    Hard to believe it’s a coincidence that the bishops who are living the nuncio’s words are right of center.   What can we conclude other than the “particular ideology” the pope warns the bishops from following is liberalism?

should have been "the WAR in Spain"

This CNS story shows that the sale of the Cardinal's residence in Boston was directly related to the settlement costs of the sex abuse scandal:



In general, the title "Your Eminence" or "His Eminence" refers to a bishop who has been made a cardinal.  Bishops that are not cardinals are referred to as "Your Excellency" or "His Excellency."

Similarly, the archbishop is the bishop of a metropolitan diocese.  Examples are the Archbishop of Philadelphia, the Archbishop of New York, etc.  There are 35 active archbishops, five of whom have been made cardinals.  In addition to being the bishop for the area in their archdiocese, they have certain responsibilities in neighboring dioceses.

The Archbishop of Philadelphia just sold his mansion to my college, so this is becoming a fairly common practice.


JP II wrote that text in 1976 when the Soviet Union was still in power.  The Soviets shut down thousands of Orthodox churches in Russia and persecuted Catholics and others who were anti=Communists in the many European satellite states including Poland.  The Stalinists were explicitly anti-religion and did their best to stamp it out without destroying it completely.  (They didn't dare try to eliminate it all at once.)  It was the explicit Marxist intention to rule the whole world.  The West wasn't being paranoid about the religious persecution -- Marx had declared the elimination of religion to be a goal of the world-wide Communist movement.

So I strongly suspect that when Woytila wrote about "the anti-Christ" he was thinking of the Stalinist Communists.  (Stalin died in 1978).  At that time the American bishops were just as anti-Communist as anyone else, and I suspect that their lingering paranoia about anything "socialist" or "anti-relition" today is a result of their formerly justified fear of Stalin and his cronies.

But that particular dragon is dead. Stalin died two years after JP II wrote that text, and the Soviet Union has also fallen, with even their current President Putin flirting with the Orthodox Church! Too bad our bishops don't seem to realize that Stalinist dragon has been eliminated.  Yes, there are some "new atheists" who explicitly say they want religion distroyed, but they aren't our government nor any other government.  All this apocalyptic talk is unjustified.  

Alan, from the Jerry Filteau piece you referenced:

One of [O'Malley's] earliest decisions after he arrived in Boston was to move into the cathedral rectory, forgoing the magnificent mansion in Brighton that had housed the four previous archbishops. As a priest in Washington he had lived in a small apartment in a rundown building in a crime-ridden neighborhood. As a bishop in St. Thomas and in Palm Beach he had also chosen simpler housing than the homes of his predecessors.

Jim P.

I take your point.  Whether he would have lived in the mansion or not, its sale was directly linked to the debt created by the sex abuse scandal by Filteau.  I don't think the issues are easily separable.

That should read "according to Filteau" not "y Filteau."


"...the majority of US Catholics are for same-sex marriage, married priests, women's ordination, and the use of contraceptives..."

Crystal:  The Catholic faith is not a democratically determined theology.  The Faith is not driven by polls and focus group analyses, nor should it be.  Christ Himself said: 

"I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Because of me, father will turn against son, wife against husband..."

And He said the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.  Any attempt to alter the Faith will inevitably end in failure.  Sorry, but that's the way it is.


As an historical matter, before Cdl. O'Malley went to Boston, he spent a few months warming up in the bullpen. The bullpen was the diocese of Palm Beach. One of the first things he did here was to sell the large, but not pretentious, house his predecessor had bought. He moved into a small house formerly occupied by some sisters on the grounds of the cathledral. I've never been inside but there does not appear to be enough room to swing a censer.

His predecessor's idea was that he would have space for entertaining and fund-raising at home. Since Cdl. O'Malley sold the big house, the diocese has its events and affairs where it used to -- in the posh grounds of private clubs among the people of wealth and quality on the island. The valets over there don't like my car. Win some, lose some.

Alan - I agree.

Ann:  Then why do you suppose did Vigano unearth that 1976 statement of Wojtyla and why did he think the bishops needed to hear it?  Should they, when considering whom to elect as their president, think first of an apocalyptic warrior?  Perhpas that's the pastoral (and non-ideological) leadership they will need for the great Battle?

Whenever I hear " end of days" threats, my first thought is, "Maybe I should move?"


 If there is this great coming battle,  what is the best way to avoid the worst of it?


If there is this great coming battle,  what is the best way to avoid the worst of it?

Good question, Irene. Here's some literature that could be useful:


I had been thinking of  Wyoming or the Magdalen islands, but being eaten first could be an option.


JAK --

I'm not sure of why you ask that.  It seems to me that Vigano is another alarmist who is reminding the bishops of a supposed threat to religious freedom that many of them already think is here.

Thanks to John Page, who has reminded me that Stalin died in 1953, not 78, as I wrote.  I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that -- must have been confusing him with one of the other Soviet dictators.  But I think my basic point still holds -- the followers of JP II are quite paranoid about the threat of religious persecution in this country and in the West generally.  And Vigano stands with them on the matter.

Ann:  I asked the question because that part of his speech seemed to fit uneasily with the parts to which Grant drew attention.  The rest of the speech is neither alarmist nor apocalyptical, and I wondered if you had any ideas as to why he suddenly took that turn in his speech.  I didn't think he had a reputation of a culture-warrior....

Fr. Komonchak,

I agree that the wider question as this article espouses cannot be reconciled with Cardinal Wojtyla's comments. Such comments, as well as his beliefs and underlying philosophy, had the effect of dividing the church further. Notice that his comments inadvertantly or perhaps unintentionally, pitted a Church against the World, Assenters against Dissenters, Faithful against Unfaithful, a Culture of Life against a Culture of Death.

An understanding of the root of his philosophy and theology provides some illuminaion.

Consider, tha the young Karol Wojtyla was highly influenced by the culture of 1930s-1950s Poland, where under Nazism and Communism there was no respect for human life and dignity; both abortion and contraception were legal and prevalent. The horrific acts of genocide in Poland during World War (WW) II and the extreme oppression of post-WW II communism, where public expression of religious belief was forbidden, profoundly shaped his worldview. This worldview, and as a consequence his philosophy and theology, was also highly influenced by the Romanticism of 19th century Poland with its emphasis on Polish moral superiority and nationalism, all focused on the struggle against oppressive foreign powers. This mindset was infused into the very fabric of Polish citizens by the authority of mostly male, patriotic poets and writers, fighters for independence and male religious leaders.

Wojtyla became convinced that America was a “continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, and he saw Americans as deeply unhappy despite their material wealth." Under the influence of his advisors (e.g., Dr. Poltawska) Karol Wojtyla believed that if contraception were allowed, this would lead spouses to using each other merely as objects for sexual pleasure, to forms of ‘sexual slavery’, to neurosis on the part of the woman, and to the tendency for couples to choose abortion if contraception failed.

The focus for the past 40-50 years has been on an extreme view of human sexuality and marriage, and the absolute authority of the pope against a runaway Western culture that was proported to infect Catholics and clergy with some kind of diabolic cancer that prevented them from recoginizing, understanding and living the truth, per the Magisterium.

For the past 40=50 years, there was no room for any opinion that disagreed with his worldview. Unfortunately, most Catholics find many teachings regarding marital ethics both unreasonable and irrational, and not reflective of human experience. They lack a convincing theology that rings true to the deepest levels of one's heart, mind and soul.

To paraphrase Pope Francis: there is too much focus on small-minded rules and norms, and not enough on the person, fundamentally and adequately considered. The poor and the disenfrancized, those who suffer, and those in moral dilemma, deserve mercy and understanding and should be welcomed as faithful Catholics. They are all not dissenters and sinners.





Who knew that an H.P. Lovecraft reader lurked on the Commonweal blog?  What next,  a blog analysis of The Colour Out Of Space?

I found the papal nuncio's unmistakable message to US bishops - many, if not most, of these hold-over hierarchs appointed by JP2 and/or B16 - to be rather blunt:  Get with the new regime inaugurated by the new Jesuit pope from Argentina, or you will be pushed aside!

What is perhaps even more remarkable is the messenger to US bishopsto get in line:  Carlo Maria Vigano who was himself sent into Vatican political exile - as nuncio to the US - after he lost his job as the administrator of Vatican City in internal political knife-fight over the Vatican bank scandals with other papal courtiers which only became public when a couple of his complaint letters to B16 about his sacking wound-up in the Italian press during the Vatileaks scandal. 

I wish I could have had a picture of the faces of US bishops when they got the word from Francesco's nuncio about how they need to make the trappings of their princely lives all disappear.  It is moments like this that make me believe that God really does have a sense of humor - and Hers can be really twisted!

Of course, the best revenge is living well.  However, the Italians have an expression that really captures what Vigano did to US hierarchs:  Revenge is a dish best eaten cold! 


Sounds like his namesake, St. Francis who is quoted as saying, "Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words." The first gospel is by example and by loving reactions and gestures. Only later will people ask, why did you do that?

I remember the widespread admiration of Bishop Francis Quinn of Sacramento who elected to choose the Janitor's room in the basement as his quarters with only a bed, chair and night stand. But his fellow clergy who were actively remodelling their rectories were not amused. Bishop Quinn then took to his sleeping bag among the homeless on the state capitol steps. A lot of Catholics were not amused and thence came the moves to ultimately replace him with a less pastoral more strict ordinary.

With respect to the US bishops, I think that Cdl Vigano's and the pope's thoughts in this matter are, at best, wishful thinking until retirements are accepted and replacements in key sees (Chicago for a start) reflect the kind of men who mirror being pastoral, not ideological.

I'm not holding my breath until I see the new appointments happen, but I still have (diminishing) hope that Francis will actually prove with actions what his words imply or categorically state.

Snip from Bob Schwartz:

--- "...the majority of US Catholics are for same-sex marriage, married priests, women's ordination, and the use of contraceptives..."

Crystal: The Catholic faith is not a democratically determined theology. The Faith is not driven by polls and focus group analyses, nor should it be. ---


Discussing Vatican II, Benedictine Bishop B.C. Butler acknowledged that if a teaching “failed in the end to enjoy reception on the part of the church, this would prove it had not met the requirements” for enforcement. And in 1969, the theologian Joseph Ratzinger (currently Pope Benedict XVI) spoke about even infallibly proposed teachings: “Where there is neither consensus on the part of the universal church nor clear testimony in the sources, no binding decision is possible. If such a decision were formally made, it would lack the necessary conditions and the question of the decision’s legitimacy would have to be examined.” What Butler and Benedict are getting at is the very real possibility of legitimate non-reception.

While the pursuit of truth requires making presuppositions – there’s no way of pursuing truth from nowhere – these presuppositions may be an aid to the exploration or they may be an obstacle. Or they may be both. If we pursue the truth earnestly and responsibly, then no presupposition should achieve an untouchable status, a position where we hold it as unquestionable and beyond critique and contestation. To do so is to cease the pursuit of truth, and at most to pursue a particular way of thinking about it.

It should be obvious that, as time goes on, the lack of consensus on matters such as same-sex marriage, married priests, women's ordination, and the use of contraceptives is becoming more prominent, not less.

Well written Jim.

 Non-reception does not mean the teaching is wrong per se, rather that the teaching does not possess any power to change behavior rendering the teaching a subject of serious reflection as the absolute truth. There cannot be any contradiction between truth and teaching and non-reception is contradictory unless the church is not teaching the complete truth or most Catholics are diabolically misguided. In my opinion, the Holy Spirit moves us to the truth in agreement and disagreement. Hence, a need for reflection and responsible reform of certain teachings.



But Jim, moral truths are of a completely different species than, say scientific and mathematics truths, that may be proved by the appropriate logical methodology.  Moral precepts may be verified as to provenance, but not by logic.  If the moral truths asserted by the Church are shown to be the moral truths taught by Christ, then there is no "search for truth" that could upend them.

JAK --

I see what you mean now.  Maybe he was misquoted -- something he said was  left out?  All I've read about him is that he blew the whistle at some unsavory financial deals at the Vatican, and his enemies were powerful enough -- or unscrupulous enough -- to get him shipped out of the Vatican and off to Washington.  Here's what John Allen has to say about him:

"New nuncio is no stranger to politics"  

Maybe Vatican politics turned him abnormally suspicious.

If the moral truths asserted by the Church are shown to be the moral truths taught by Christ, then there is no "search for truth" that could upend them.

That's a big "if" ... I don't recall Jesus mentioning contraception, same-sex marriage, or the priesthood.

Bob --

Where did you get the idea that morality is "outside" of logic?  How do you think we reach ethical knowledge -- by hunches?

Ann - I suspect what Bob meant is that divine revelation, which does not depend on logic, is another source of moral truth for Christians.  For two issues that spring to mind immediately, same-sex marriage and divorce and remarriage, revelation (as interpreted by those with teaching authority) is the source of the church's prohibitions.  That this revealed morality seems illogical to many people today is almost certainly the proximate cause of the disagreements that come up over and over (and over) again.


So if we're to be less ideological, does that apply equally to progressive ideology as well as conservative ideology?  So far, the Pope has pointedly de-emphasized the Church's response to issues like homosexuality, abortion, etc., but he has said little in regard to the ideological activism of those who advocate women's ordination, reproductive rights, same sex "marriage".  Personally, I find Pope Francis' public talks to be vague and confusing.  Before the final syllable finishes echoing, an army of interpreters (including writers in this magazine/website, among many others, both official and unofficial) are out in force to "spin" for us what the Pope "really" meant.  While so many Catholics and non-Catholics find PF to be a welcome change, I am not quite so persuaded that his style is a positive.  When abortion clinics use the Pope's own words to defend their work, it's clear that his messaging may not be having the desired effect.

Voluntarism has corrupted the Church from the inside.  The idea that the "yardstick" for measuring Truth (I decide for myself what the Truth is) is located in the individual denies the idea of objective Truth.  Whenever I hear anyone cite a poll as a justification for abandoning this or that teaching, I automatically switch them off.  Sadly, most lay Catholics, a whole lot of clergy and Religious, not a few theologians, and even some bishops adhere to this "reasoning".  That many laity have not accepted ("received") Church doctrine says more about them than about the teaching.  After all, polls indicate that most American Catholics don't "really" accepted the idea of the Real Presence of the Eucharist, so by the logic of voluntarists, that teaching should not be "imposed".  It's the curse of the lemmings. 

M P - there is such a thing as the sensus fidelium.  Everything we've seen from Pope Francis leads me to think that he would have a tremendous, even reverential respect for it.  How one would go about discerning it doesn't seem that straightforward to me.


Imho, it's better to follow your own instincts/conscience than to wait for the sensus fidelium to ermerge on a given issue.  That takes time, and our lives are short.  

What one pope or one generation regards as important (fighting Saracens, e.g., or avoiding praying for the souls of our Pagan ancestors) is forgotten as times goes by.  The rule is never rescinded, just ignored.   Religious fads fade, just as secular fads do.


All these notions of the sensus fidelium are really at the heart of what I have written many times on these blogs:  Let the People Decide!

The pastoral trick for Papa Francesco and his hierarchs will be to hopefully relocate and refocus the most of the decision-making, discernment [in clerical speak] processes of the Church within and among the People, rather than continuing the feudal oligarchy with all the discredited, anti-feminine, patriarchal ideologies of our corrupt hierarchs.

The changes and reforms that many are fostering here on this blog will only be possible once the People SEPARATE the MONEY from MINISTRY.   Once the People have control of the clerics' and hierarchs' living stipends, the mountains of money in their investment portfolios, retirement funds and health care savings, we can bet the farm that their hearts and minds will soon follow.

If we Catholics don't take the hierarchs' mad money away, there is no hope of reform and renewal for them.  They are just too corrupted, too seduced by political power.

The evangelist does quote Jesus:  "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and espise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24)  That bit of 1st century Jewish wisdom is as true today as it was for Jesus' time.

The alleged quote from Wojlyta is interesting. Putting it into the context of the Soviet threat  as some have done might explain it.

But I am curious about the source of the quote itself. Googling turns it up everywhere, but nobody provides a verifiable citation (perhaps from a journal or news article from 1976 or shortly following).  Wikiquotes has it on the JPII page, but of all the quotes provided there, it is the only one that is called "unsourced".

Does anyone have a primary source for this quote? Is it real or is it an urban legend?

I found a copy of the address given by Wojtyla at the Eucharistic Congress in 1976 in Philadelphia. The document can be found at the EWTN website and carries this information - " Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
26 October 1978, page 8

This address does not include the quote cited by the papal nuncio.  So where did this quote come from?  Is it a real quote at all? It has gone viral in Catholic cyberspace.


The four sources of morality are: Scripture, Revelation, Reason and Human Experience.

If you want to claim "authority" as your ultimate source, as the Magisterium and their interpretation of Scripture and Revelation, Reason and Human Experience, then this is the weakest of moral methods. The Church does not profess to adhere to a particular moral method to determine the morality of voluntary human action, but most would agree that they mostly follow the ethics of Thomas Aquinas, where there is no concensus of interpretations. Each school believes they are right. 

In the end, a person has to use their God-given reason and faith, continuing education, prayer, sacrament, and the advice of their spiritual advisor to arrive at "moral" decisions. This is expecially relevant today because the Catholic Church is divided across the entire sensus fidelium (clergy, theologians/religous, non-theologian laity), and we live in a crisis of truth. We are divided as to abortion (e.g, to save the life of the mother when the fetus is not viable), contraception (e.g., NFP is not the only licit means of fertility regulation pleasing to God), reconcilation and Eucharistic reception for the divorced and remarried, same-sex unions that reflect a committed, faithful and long-term loving relationship, and the use of reproductive technologies for couples that have serious fertilty problems and can conceive a child of their own genes by modern methods.

As for Polls, they are only important to determine reception and problems. These problems must be adequately addressed and only a convincing theology that rings true to the deepest levels of one's mind, heart and soul will increase reception and illuminate truth. For the vast majority of Catholics the fundamentals of our faith is not in dispute. What is in dispute is certain moral teachings, in particular marital sexual ethics.




Thanks, Anne, I have been trying to run that down and have not had any luck. Probably worth a post.

The statement attributed to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was not solely influenced by the mystic Ann Katherine Emmerich.

One of Karol Wojtyla's great spiritual role models as a young man was Jan Tryranowski, and accountant who finished high school but, for reasons of health, worked as a simple tailor at his father's shop. Tyranowski was a mystic who with the Church authorities devoted his spare time to working with young boys at the Krakow parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka. Tyranowski invited Karol into a religuous study group focused on building faith and character among young men. He introduced Wojtyla to mysticism and to a program of daily self-improvement and spiritual care. He taught Wojtyla self control and responsibility for his thoughts and actions. It was the spirituality of Tyranowski that Wojtyla as a young man made a choice between theather and the priesthood. By 2008, Jan Tyranowski was being considered for beatification and eventual sainthood in the Catholic Church.

There were many other people that influenced Cardinal Wojtyla/JP II. However, I cannot emphasize the importance of polish natiionalism, et al, during the 1930s-1950s, as I have explained earlier.

Later in life, as Cardinal and Pope, Karol Wojtyla was greatly influenced by Dr. Wanda Poltawska, a psychiatrist and survivor of the Ravensbrook Concentration Medical Experiments, and the source of much of his misinformation about human sexuality, Western Culure and women, as well as Dr. Ann-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish born aristocratic woman and philosopher.




It seems that the quote is supposed to come from “Notable and Quotable,” The Wall Street Journal, November 9, 1978, page 30 (editorial page), which I was unable to access. I read that that source indicates that the then-Cardinal Wojtylamade this statement in his last speech during his visit to the U.S., in September 1976.



Anne Chapman:

The quote is not from the Eucharistic Congress but from the time when Wojtyla came to Philadelphia as Pope Oct 3,4 1979. It may have been at the outdoor Mass on the Parkway.


Anne C. --

Thanks for the research.  I'm wondering now whether JP II ever said it at all.  It does sound like a stronger statement than I'd expect from him.  In my opinion some of the devotion to him is downright cultish, and members of cults are often not the best balanced people.  Perhaps one of the screwyer JP II cultists misconstrued what he actually said in '76 and then repeated it "from memory" somewhere as a quotation.  That sounds more likely to me than a direct quote. 

Anne Chapman:

I want to correct my assumption that the quote came from Pope John Paul II's visit to Philadelphia as pope in 1979. I was influenced by a website (Children of Mary, an Emerging Semi-Contemplative Community of Sisters) that I visited that came up when I searched for the quote. 

I got carried away, since I have a memory of that event, although I don't have a clue what he said in his homily. or any other address that he gave at that time. I was working in the archdiocesan office for religious education and was given two complimentary tickets to the Mass in one of the front seats. I gave then to my best friend and her mother who were thrilled to death. To be honest, it was not that big a deal for me. But...

I got myself a place in front of the statue of Kosciuszko near the Cathedral, since I figured he would pass there after the Mass and I could give him a wave. (Truth be told, he didn’t look my way.)


"I read that that source indicates that the then-Cardinal Wojtyla made this statement in his last speech during his visit to the U.S., in September 1976."

Not all the references to the quote (and there are more thatn I would ever have expected) are specific as to the date in 1976.  One source I read puts the quote on November 9, 1976.  Could it be that he adressed the bishops at the annual November meeting of the USCCB? Perhaps that is why Vigano quoted it even though he was not correct that it was said at the Eucharistic Congress, which was August 1-8, 1976.

"If the moral truths asserted by the Church are shown to be the moral truths taught by Christ, then there is no "search for truth" that could upend them."


The big "if" is wherein lies a rather large rub.

Completely off topic, but anyone living in NYC, I just got an interesting e-mail about a Talking Transiton event this Saturday:

"Hi friends, maybe you've heard of this interesting project in Manhattan in which people are gathering to discuss what they want the future of the city to look like under a new mayor. Different constiuencies (housing advocates, senior citizens, pedestrians) are getting together to envision a different future. It's all happening in an open to the public, come by and speak your mind space downtown. There's a Catholic one on Saturday at 4. 

Title:    A Faithful Discourse – NYC Catholics Discern the Next Administration 

Sponsor:   The Jesuit Collaborative

One sentence description:  Opening with a prayerful reflection, the session will consist of small group discussions on Catholic Social Justice teachings. Tables will focus on policy issues including: homelessness, housing, education, health, and workforce development using the recent messages from our current Pope on those in the margins of society.

When:   The date for the session is November 16th  beginning at 4:30 

Where:   The Transition Tent (a structure created just for these events) is located at the corner of 6th  Ave and Canal Street.


In their own words: "TALKING TRANSITION will pioneer the first “open” transition in New York City. It will transform the usual closed-door process between Election Day and Inauguration into an opportunity for broad public engagement. Thousands of New Yorkers will join public conversations about policy issues, ideas, and questions that affect their communities.”

Ann O, I find the quote to be slightly off - the kind of thing that flies around the web, but turns out to be a misquote of some kind.  That's why I am looking for an original source. 

Here is a link to all of John Paul II's talks/speeches/homilies in the 1979 visit to the US.

The quote is not found in the address to the bishops in 1976, either.

I have tried to find the reference to the Wall Street Journal quote and can't find it in the Nov 9, 1979 nor in the Nov 9, 1978 issue -both dates are referenced by third party sources.

I will keep looking when I have time. Finding the source of this quote seems too elusive - if it is an accurate quote. 

John Paul II needs a website, like the one for Mother Teresa, to combat false quotes.

What a hoot if the nuncio is quoting something JPII never said! 

I've been puzzling about how and why the apocalyptic note was sounded here. I suspect the reason is political, because it's certainly not logical. There are people who take an extreme view of the dangers we face as a church. The party of extreme anxiety about President Obama for instance takes an apocalyptic view of this presidency. Hasn't Cardinal George predicted that he will die in jail for his faith? We are mounting "fortnights for freedom" because some bishops are deeply anxious, and feel desperately threatened. Anyway, the point is that the prophets of doom are alive and well and right there among the bishops. So, after praising Pope Paul VI, whose role in implementing Vatican II has made him a villian among traditionalists and their natural allies, Vigano probably felt he had to throw them a bone. 

I find the JPII quote, if authentic, appalling. We'll all die of the sea rising before we'll see the sort of thing he purportedly warned us about. Fear mongering legitimates a more inflexible use of authority, and suppresses dialogue. It also leaves us with "the boy who cried wolf" when the wolf actually shows up at our door.

Nothing could be more different from fear-mongering than Paul VI's brilliant post-synodal exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi. It breathes an entirely different spirit. 

With a little help from my friends, I've tracked down the quote. It appeared in the "Notable & Quotable" section of the Wall Street Journal on November 9, 1978. But the Journal itself cites another source, an "interim strike newspaper" called the New York City News. The speech is identified as "his last speech in the United States in September 1976."

Grant, you beat me to it. I was just going to provide that information. So far I have looked in vain for both the "interim strike newspaper" (New York City News) and for Wojtyla's "final speech" in September 1976.  Was he really still in the USA in September, given that he gave the speech at the Eucharistic Congress which was held during the first week of August, 1976. According to the document on the EWTN site, he gave the speech on August 3 and the Congress ended on the 8th. Perhaps he continued to travel in the US for another month, but I can't find information about it.   

Curiouser and curiouser. 

FYI: Anne and Grant:


July 23-Sept.5 Visit to the United States and Canada.

I bet the archives of the Catholic Standard and Times under editor John Foley has a lot of information.



"Before becoming pope in 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla visited the United States twice. In 1969 he traveled to 12 cities in 12 days. He spent six weeks in the United States in 1976, visiting 13 cities, lecturing at universities and attending the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia."

"Although toiling in the shadow of the more prestigious daily newspapers, Hagedorn has had a fling as a big-time publisher. During the three-month newspaper strike in 1978, the City News expanded to a daily paper with a circulation of over 300,000, the largest interim paper in New York."

Anne: the communist who dies in September 1976 was Mao Zedong.

I never doubted the quote attributed to Cardinal Wojtyla/JP II for it reflected his thinking.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that Karol Wojtyla-John Paul II was not an extreme liberal or conservative, not an enemy of feminism nor a supporter of it, and not a blind advocate of democracy nor someone who entirely rejected it. He was a liberal Catholic bishop during Vatican II, liberal in terms of social ethics and ecumenism, but a strong conservative in terms of sexual ethics.

As bishop and cardinal there is much to admire in Karol Wojtyla. He helped free Poland from communism and his theology offered Catholics a way to act reverently with respect to their bodies and relationships. Nevertheless, his philosophy and theology were not free from serious misunderstandings about the world, especially Western societies, women and human sexuality.



Helen and Claire, we're getting there.

Does whoever finds an original source giving the date, place, and audience of the talk  win a prize?


Michael, I'm sure you are right, because you know more about John Paul II than anyone I know of, including, probably, the professional bloggers on this website.  But, it's still a strange quote and I would love to read it in context of whatever talk he gave.


On Monday, November 18, a vial of the blood of John Paul II will go on display at Saint Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, IL.  I hope this does not mean that he is the new San Gennaro, and that the festival in Little Italy in NYC will be discontinued.

As hard as it is to believe, wonders never cease!

Anne and Helen and Grant -- thanks for all the sleuthing

Claire -- thanks for the Mao Tse-Tung date.  I was really muddled on that one.

Alan -- let's hope the blood and all the sainly left-over corpses eveentually all get buried.  Ugh!!!

US bishops again reaffirm health care mandate opposition

From NCR. See also Whispers in the Loggia.

A statement unanimously approved by the US bishops at their meeting in Baltimore, but with a fleeting reference to each bishop's being free to grapple with the best approach in his diocese. Recipe for confusion, if not chaos? And the statement clearly evidences a hope for a solution to the bishops' continuing objections to the HHS mandate either in the Congess or the judiciary, religious freedom, including for individual Catholic business owners, being the paramount claim. 

Perhaps this deserves a separate thread.


@Alan Mitchell.  It can be a highlight at the annual fair at the shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown

(and the Feast of St Anthony in the Bronx is way better anyway)


As a student at Fordham, I always enjoyed the feast for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Could not get enough of those zeppoli.

@ Alan C. Mitchell:  A totally personal reference:  Back in the Jurassic period, I taught at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School right there on Bathgate Avenue.  Some days if I close my eyes I can still smell the zeppoli and bread baking somewhere in the neighborhood.

"You can take the boy outta the Bronx, but you can't take the Bronx outta the boy!"

Found this short video about the Mt. Carmel School, which is just one block across from Fordham University on Fordham Road, right next to George Washington High School.  The school facilities look almost unchanged from when I was there.  I noticed that students are much more ethnically diverse now than it was then dominated by Italian American kids.

As Brother John DeLucer would have said, this is for your edification


Jim Jenkins,

Thanks for the video.  Brought back memories.

In those days I lived at Murray-Weigel Hall on the corner of Bathgate and East Fordham Road.  It was just a short trek to Arthur Avenue.  

I remember the high school as Thomas Jefferson.

Jim Jenkins,

Strike that last sentence. I meant Theodore Roosevelt High S


Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment