Many thanks to the members of The Wanderer family for your messages of prayer and support as I began my medical treatment for rectal cancer.
Following my first surgery on February 26, I began a five-week regimen of chemotherapy and radiation on March 17, and after the first two weeks I can report I am doing fine, though I am seriously fatigued. I expect to have another surgery in early to mid-May, and following that will be another eight weeks of chemotherapy.
I must also report that I have complete confidence in, and respect for, the team of wonderful doctors and nurses who are caring for me, and they are determined to “fix” the problems.
Readers, please feel free to contact me while I am on leave from The Wanderer by e-mail at email@example.com, or by snail mail at: P.O. Box 236, Hector, NY, 14841. If there are readers who would like to assist with some extraordinary expenses related to my treatment, tax-deductible contributions can be made out to my parish, St. James the Apostle Church (Fr. John Tokaz, OFM, Cap., pastor), P.O. Box 709, Trumansburg, NY, 14886; attach a note indicating that the contribution is for Paul Likoudis.
Thanks to a Wanderer reader, and good friend from Washington, for sending me Andrzej Micewski’s biography of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Cardinal Wyszynski: A Biography (Harcourt, New York: 1984), which I read while in the hospital recovering from surgery.
Cardinal Wyszynski, primate of Poland and archbishop of Warsaw from 1948-1981, was, of course, the mentor of Pope John Paul II, and so much about the future saint was a manifestation and development of the work of the cardinal, especially regarding the family, labor, and the rights of the Church in the face of a totalitarian, atheistic regime.
As John Paul II is about to be canonized, let us remember his heroic mentor — and pray for his intercession.
Here are a couple of passages from the biography I would like to share with Wanderer readers.
p. 13: “After finishing his dissertation [at the University of Lublin, in 1928], Wyszynski received a traveling scholarship that allowed him to study the state of Christian social sciences in Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. This journey in 1929-1930 widened the young priest’s intellectual horizons and led to his first publications in the field of social Catholicism: The Work of Cardinal Ferrari: Ideals and Socio-Apostolic Action (1930) and The Main Types of Catholic Action Abroad (1931). Above all, the foreign journey reinforced his passion for the social sciences. The world was entering a great economic crisis. Could there have been a more inspiring moment for dedicating oneself to the Christian teachings about society?”
p. 15: “Wyszynski’s views oscillated between two principal tendencies. On the one hand he warned against the influence of communist ideology on the workers, and on the other hand he firmly supported policy and structural changes to answer workers’ needs. In 1931 he wrote that the current economic crisis ‘is not a temporary interruption of the economic boom, but in large part a necessary consequence of world capitalism. . . . All pomp and modern luxury [are] open only to the privileged, who enjoy it in the presence of the proletariat with the frivolity and thick skin typical of plutocrats and the boorish nouveau riche. Endlessly created artificial needs have a negative effect on the capacity for charity….Lacking other methods, one can easily end up on the side of lawlessness! They talk about the decline of morality in the working class in order to prepare an adequate number of prison cells. . . .
“They talk about the increase in communism, and yet they do not believe that the reason for this growth is not so much Bolshevik propaganda as the lack of work, of bread, and of a roof over one’s head’.”
p. 17: “Critics often accuse Christian social science of wanting to substitute moralizing for social change. Wyszynski, however, forthrightly acknowledged in his writings the inevitability of change. He also knew that the Christian reformer often faces charges of promoting communism hurled by the conservatives, only to turn around and find the communists distorting his views because they want to hold on to their revolutionary monopoly on social transformation. He resolved the two tendencies in 1937, speaking to the Catholic Action pastoral course in Plock:
“‘It is necessary to realize what is, and what is not, communism. The name of communism is often applied to all reforms intended to improve the lot of workers and peasants, to all calls for social justice, better distribution of income, agricultural reform, and so on. . . . The Church fights socialism because that doctrine warps the view of the nature of society, of its sense of purpose, and then of the purpose and character of social man, which it presents out of accord with Christian truth. . . .
“ ‘The class struggle proclaimed by communism keeps the “future state” in constant turmoil, while the revolutionary method makes it impossible for even today’s oppressed classes to develop social well-being. It links to such development the destruction of several social levels on the road of revolutionary transformation which destroys the basic principles of the past once and for all’.”
p. 18: “These sketchy examples of Wyszynski’s social views testify to his social radicalism and his conviction that a third road exists between liberal capitalism and revolutionary Marxism. His early conviction later blossomed into the idea that Poland, lying between East and West, has a definite, well-understood mission: to create — based on the strength of a Catholicism that had stood firm through the long battle with atheism — a political system that opposed not only the inherent mistakes of collectivism but also the structural weaknesses and egotistical tendencies of capitalism. The social teaching of the Church provides a basis for such solutions. Such a system has not yet been realized, for which the major Christian countries of the West certainly bear a great responsibility. Faith in Poland’s mission to realize such a system, despite the country’s membership in the Eastern Bloc, seems noble — although one might doubt the prospects for quick success. Looking, however, at the dangers to humanity and the hopes presented in Pope John Paul II’s first encyclical Redemptor Hominis, we recognize the distinct echoes of Stefan Wyszynski’s efforts within the Polish Church.
“Between 1931 and 1939, the future primate brought out 106 publications, of which the overwhelming majority dealt with the economic crisis, unemployment, and social justice.”
What a rich lode there is to mine for someone who can translate Polish to English — and why has it not been done yet?
p. 361: “In an average year, the Primate delivered six hundred sermons, and all of them dealt in one way or another with the situation of the individual and the nation; indeed, the Primate spoke out against inequality not only in great matters of state, but even in such mundane affairs as health insurance.”
A Better Future
During the early years of the Cold War, Cardinal Wyszynski was often criticized by anti-Communists in the West for his willingness to dialog with his Communist overlords, in contrast to other prominent churchmen, such as the great Cardinal Mindszenty, who would not dialog. Wyszynski, I would also note, was a supporter — if not the originator — of the policy pursued by Pope Paul VI and his Secretary of State Agostino Cardinal Casaroli for the oft-criticized policy of Ostpolitik, which sought breathing room for the Church in the Soviet state.
In his prison diaries — Wyszynski was imprisoned from September 1953 to October 1956 — retold in A Freedom Within: The Prison Notes of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski (Harcourt, New York: 1983) — he recalled some of the controversies over the “Mutual Understanding” he crafted with the Communist government of Poland:
p. 23: “We did deliberate as to how the situation of the Church would appear if the Polish episcopate said it wanted no Mutual Understanding. Since the Government rejected the Concordat and did not recognize the Code of Canon Law or the Church Constitution, the resulting legal situation would have made it exceedingly difficult to avoid run-ins. The experience of several years of the Mutual Understanding proved to be useful, even though the agreement was not always effective, because it did tie the government’s hands [to some extent] and restrained any programmed annihilation of the Church. Looking at it ex post, we could agree that as far as public opinion was concerned, the government had chained its own hands with regard to the Church. First, the government’s program to destroy the Church institutions did let up; and when the government had to speed up that program, it was obliged to cover up its actions as much as possible, so as not to appear in the eyes of public opinion as the violator of the Mutual Understanding.
“In closely studying the historical development of the October Revolution, I noticed that the tactical approach to religion underwent changes by exhibiting a certain flexibility. The original brutality of the trials, the museums of atheism, the closing of Orthodox churches, the robbing of sacred art — these methods broke down and gave way to the Dimitrov method. And when the Great National War came, the government of the USSR entered into a ‘secret agreement’ with the Orthodox Church. Of course, this ‘agreement’ was made when it [the government] was in extremis; nevertheless it proved that certain forces still existed in the country that could insist on such an agreement. This evolution shows that any form of government, no matter how ruthless, will slowly cool and wane as it runs up against difficulties that the bureaucrat cannot resolve without cooperation from the people. Somehow, the people must be taken into account. It was possible, therefore, to expect that in our own native experiment, which is not too original a copy of the Soviet model, such an evolution would be possible. . . .
“This careful study of the development of methods of war against religion led me to believe that in Poland things could be different from those in the USSR, or in Hungary or in Czechoslovakia. At any rate, the constitutions of democratic countries in Eastern Europe, especially that of East Germany, demonstrated that the legal aspects of these problems could look different from country to country. We know that the Catholic Church is in a much better position in Protestant East Germany than in Catholic Poland. Assuming, then, the unequal position of the two sides, assuming the atavistic nature of the lies with which the negotiating tactics of the other side are burdened, assuming the inconsistency of the behavioral patterns and the evolution of the methods applied, I was justified in expecting that the Polish experiment would turn out differently and could be approached boldly.
“It was also a question of the restructuring of the entire program of socioeconomic changes, which we could not ignore before we made our decision. I was convinced that this program had a lengthy future before it and to some degree could be realized. Together with many others who have long fought for social justice in Poland, I came to consider that altering the socioeconomic structure was a must. I was not certain what kind of socioeconomic structure Poland needed. I did know that some kind of structure existed, that it could not last, and that social stability — that condition for internal freedom — required economic changes. A tremendous amount of energy of social forces had already been used to restructure the system, and in this effort there was no lack of encouragement and direction on the part of the Church. Indeed, it is not true that the Church did nothing in this respect, as is claimed by the ‘progressive social Catholics’; certainly, the Church did not become the patron of the revolution, but it achieved a tremendous liberation of conscience, providing people with the freedom to fight for a just social system. This was a psychological break, that drawing of fresh air into the lungs, for the beginning of a better future.”
Fr. McNabb Revisited
During my recovery from surgery, I also had time to revisit some works of spiritual counseling that I had not read in years, decades, actually, particularly the various conferences delivered by the great Fr. Vincent McNabb, OP, the Irishman who was very much the spiritual guide to Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton and other leaders of the Distributist movement in early 20th-century England.
One particular passage struck me as exceedingly timely, in view of all the excitement — and undue criticism — generated by Pope Francis who declared famously, “Who am I to judge?”
In a retreat conference on “Judging,” delivered in October 1938 (published in Stars of Comfort, Burns & Oates: 1957), Fr. McNabb reflected on the passage, “Judge not according to the appearance; but judge from judgment” (John 7:24).
“Judgment,” explained McNabb, “is the final act, in which there is truth or falsehood. It is quite easy for us to be infallible, if we know our own ignorance. We can all have natural infallibility if we only say, ‘We don’t know,’ because error means a wrong judgment. Infallibility means the elimination of error. So that to refrain from judgment is one way of being infallible. Truth and error are only to be found in judgments. . . .
“Our judgments are usually the result of making some conclusion from appearance. Judgments about the physical or animal world would cause no harm. But judgment concerning persons begins to be a moral thing. The judgment that does harm is about a human being — somebody’s intention or moral state. The judgment might be right, but we would be wrong to make it, because we would not have sufficient evidence. . . .
“Judgment about moral character and intention is one of the most difficult things to do, and is rarely of the slightest necessity, and I think when such a judgment is unnecessary and quite difficult to make, it becomes a grievous fault.”