THE LEGACY OF POPE JOHN PAUL II: His Contribution to Catholic Thought
Edited by Geoffrey Gneuhs
(Crossroads Publishing Company, 2000, 127pp, RRP $24.95, available through AD Books)
This neat compact series of essays sets out to evaluate Pope John Paul II's contribution to Catholic thought. In doing so, all five contributors leave no doubt in the reader's mind that this contribution has been quite notable.
The first essay is written by Fr Joseph Koterski, who presents us with an overview of Pope John Paul II's writings - his poetry, philosophical treatises, catechetical writings, lessons and encyclicals - as well as a partial, but nevertheless thorough, list of the Holy Father's writings.
In the following two essays both Fr William B. Smith and John F. Crosby explore in detail the Pope's contribution to moral theology.
Fr Smith argues that the "doctrinal-moral patrimony" of John Paul II has surpassed the "scope and volume" of Pius XII, and that John Paul II will have the same influence in the 21st century as Pius XII had in the 20th Century (p.38).
Crosby's essay is devoted to the Pope's methodology in his moral theology writings, particularly focusing on the "Theology of the Body," which he argues is a "corrective to contrasting errors frequent in contemporary thought" where the body is reduced either to a materialistic understanding or rather the neo-Manichean interpretation that reduces the body to a mere instrument.
Russell Hittinger's essay looks at the social writings of Pope John Paul II, with particular focus on the problems of the modern state and the industrial revolution. He endorses the Pope's analysis of these two areas, which he describes as both accurate and consistent.
The last essay, and by far the longest, is written by David Schlinder, editor of the well regarded journal, Communio. Here Schlinder's focus is on the re-orientation of the Church's mission based on the Pope's Christ- centredness of the human person.
From this fundamental premise, Schlinder gives the reader a thorough re-reading of the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes.
The five essays compacted into this volume serve as an introduction to the Pope's writings, clearly demonstrating their grandeur and enormous likely impact they will have in the 21st century. The book is also an invitation to "take up and read" the numerous encyclicals, apostolic letters and exhortations that have come from the pen of the Holy Father.
Anthony Cappello is a Melbourne Catholic writer.