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2005-04-01

A Look At The Legacy of Pope John Paul II

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Pope John Paul II is in what the Vatican describes as very grave condition and has been administered the last rites after suffering heart failure yesterday. The 84-year-old Pope reportedly decided himself not to go to the hospital. [includes rush transcript]

According to the Vatican, he is still "conscious, lucid and tranquil. The Vatican said that the pontiff asked aides to read him the biblical passage describing the final stage of the Way of the Cross, the path that Jesus took to his crucifixion. This latest health crisis–only a day after doctors fitted him with a feeding tube–was set off on Thursday by a urinary tract infection. That infection, the Vatican said on Thursday, caused a high fever in the already frail and weakened pope, who has suffered for more than a decade from Parkinson’s disease.

The last time he is known to have been administered last rites was on May 13, 1981, after he was shot by a would-be assassin in St. Peter’s Square, almost three years after he was chosen pope.

We are joined now on the phone by Tom Cornell, an Editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper. He is a founder of the Catholic Peace Fellowship and was one of the first people to burn his draft card in protest of the Vietnam War. He is co-editor of the book "A Penny A Copy: Readings From the Catholic Worker."And we are joined by Robert Ellsberg, the Editor in chief of Orbis Books. In the mid 1970s he was the managing editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper. He is author of the book All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses For Our Times. He also happens to be the son of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame. Robert Ellsberg, let’s begin with you.

  • Tom Cornell, Editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper. He is a founder of the Catholic Peace Fellowship and was one of the first people to burn his draft card in protest of the Vietnam War. He is co-editor of the book "A Penny A Copy: Readings From the Catholic Worker."
  • Robert Ellsberg, Editor in chief of Orbis Books. In the mid 1970s he was the managing editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper. He is author of the book All Saints: Daily Reflects on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses For Our Times. He also happens to be the son of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined now on the telephone by Tom Cornell, an editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper, founder of the Catholic Peace Fellowship, one of the first people to burn his draft card in protest of the Vietnam War, co-editor of the book A Penny a Copy: Readings from the Catholic Worker. We’re also joined by Robert Ellsberg, the editor-in-chief of Orbis Books. In the mid-70s he was the managing editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper, author of the book, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Times. He also happens to be the son of Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers fame. Robert Ellsberg, let’s begin with you. Can you talk about the legacy of Pope John Paul II?

ROBERT ELLSBERG: I think that the way people perceive the Pope, you know, depends sort of on their perspective, where they’re starting from, and the image of the Pope in the U.S. tends to be shaped pretty much by how you stand in relation to certain, you know, hierarchy of moral issues, role of women, homosexuality, abortion. And, of course, you know, on those grounds he is lauded by conservatives and, you know, many liberals and progressives would tend to see him as a very conservative or reactionary force. But I think that, you know, that’s looking at it through sort of an American lens or the way that his image is filtered by the American media, and probably his legacy in the rest of the world will be shaped much more by an awareness of his strong commitment to social justice and the right to the poor, labor, human rights, his critique of liberal capitalism and those kind of issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom Cornell, can you talk about those issues?

TOM CORNELL: Sure, I would like to. Everyone knows that the Pope had some kind of link with the fall of the Soviet Union and the downfall of communism. They’re not aware that there is a link between the Berlin Wall and the nonviolent revolution against Marcos in the Philippines in the late '70s. Cardinal sin was supported by the Pope in that instance and that gave the possibility of mass nonviolent direct action to other people, including the Germans. On the labor front, Carol Voitila was teaching a variant of the labor theory of value back in Krakow in the 1940s, when you could be exiled from the University of St. Louis for teaching the same thing as one of my friends did. Common Wheel published a version of the Pope's teaching on that subject some years ago. Over and over again he reiterated the principle established in 1893 of the universal destination of goods. That means that everything in creation, all goods, are meant for all people, and although we defend the principle of the right of private property, private property must always be viewed under the rubric of the common good. Do you want me to go on? I can go on. Labor should never be —

AMY GOODMAN: What I would like to go back to Robert Ellsberg about is a brief thumbnail biography of the Pope, where he was born and his role through the 20th century.

ROBERT ELLSBERG: Well, this is — you know, a Pope who has experienced firsthand some of the, you know, kind of crushing ideologies of the 20th century. He experienced the Nazi occupation of his country. He experienced communist rule of his country. And that was, you know, gave him a — you know, kind of shaped his view of the world. And certainly a sense, I think, also of his — of the role of the church as a force that stands against totalitarianism and the affirmation of the human person in the face of great forces, dictatorship, war, oppression of various kinds, and that was certainly one of the factors that kind of shaped his own personal sense of destiny and his sense of the role of the church in the world. In some ways it over-determined, you know, his view of the world, I think. It made him overly suspicious of, you know, liberation theology in Latin America, for instance, because of its, you know, use of certain kind of Marxist categories of analysis. He tended to see that, I think, as some ways as a dangerous flirtation with the communism he had experienced and made him very suspicious and reserved toward that. Though ultimately he embraced a lot of the rhetoric and the language of liberation theology and spoke of, you know, structures of sin in the world economic system. He adopted the language of the option for the poor, and he certainly, you know, put his own personal authority behind movements for nonviolent social change.

AMY GOODMAN: And where the church goes from here, who replaces the Pope when he dies? Tom Cornell.

TOM CORNELL: I’m not available.

ROBERT ELLSBERG: You’re married for one thing; rules you out.

TOM CORNELL: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, pope can do what they want. Joking here. I think they are going to go for an older man. Certainly, it will be a moderate conservative, because the College of Cardinals has been seated very nicely with people who can be counted upon to keep the ship as steady as possible. A moderate conservative and of some years. Someone like Tettamanzi, someone with a social progressive view, but a moderately conservative theological view.

ROBERT ELLSBERG: I think the point there is that this is a Pope who has had an extraordinary long reign, and that is, you know, has its positive and negative aspects, and I think the church is not going to be eager once again to choose somebody who is going to have such a long and dominant kind of effect in determining the future of the church.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Robert Ellsberg of Orbis Books and Tom Cornell of the Catholic Worker and the Catholic Worker newspaper. Thank you so much for joining us.

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