2011 | 53 | 177-198
Article title

Jan Paweł II o odkupieńczym sensie ludzkiego cierpienia. Aspekt teologiczny

Title variants
John Paul II about the Redemptive Sense of Human Suffering The Theological Aspect
Johannes Paul II. über den heilenden Sinn des menschlichen Leidens. Theologischer Gesichtspunkt
Иоанн Павел II об искупительном смысле человеческого страдания. Теологический аспект
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In this article entitled John Paul II on the Redemptive Meaning of Human Suffering. An Theological Perspective the pope’s main idea of meaning of suffering is discussed. The most important papal document dealing with this topic Salvifici doloris declares human suffering to have a redemptive value. This view is regarded as the true answer to the problem of suffering given to us by Christ. We can save other people by our suffering when we offer it for others in union with the offering of Jesus Christ. The article goes in more detail about the theological consequences of this view, showing mainly numerous inconsistencies that it produces. Interesting is that this view is relatively new: it seems to have arisen only in the 19th century in the writings of some Catholic mystics and visionaries. It cannot claim to have any antecedents in the earlier tradition of the Catholic thought, John of the Cross, the mystic of the night, included. If we accepted the pope’s interpretation, we would need to say medicine is quite contrary to it. The more we suffer the better it should be for our fellow sinners because while suffering we have a good occasion to offer our suffering in union with The Crucified for their salvation. The pope’s view seems also to marginalize the Christ’s offering, making it very difficult for us to understand why we should continue to call him the Saviour or the Redeemer; since people are still supposed to participate in his redemptive work, we in fact should stop calling him in this way. Marginalization of the Christ’s offering is in logical relationship with John Paul’s hidden supposition that God’s mercy is not infinite and that it is limited by our will to offer our suffering for the sake of other people’s salvation. Especially peculiar is the pope’s idea that we save other people by suffering even if we have no intention to do so. This option was referred by him to the Jews who died in the Holocaust. We can suppose he took the concept of unintentional redemptive suffering from the writings of Polish mystic, sister Faustina Kowalska, in whose Diary the suffering of poor children is presented as the one of powerful redemptive value. The article goes on to suggest that the pope’s view on the redemptive value of human suffering could have been a result of an implicit conviction that Christ suffered on the cross too little when compared with long and severe suffering of many a human being (in this context it may be interesting to note that the pope’s official doctor suggested that dying John Paul II suffered more than Jesus himself). It is claimed in the article that in the framework of the concept of redemptive value of human suffering it is difficult to understand why Jesus concentrated on healing people in his earthly life. If he had thought it was better to suffer, he would have sent all the sick and crippled back home. Pope’s conclusion in Salvifici doloris is that we should do good by our suffering and do good to those who suffer. Or these two tasks cannot go together because we do not seem to have the right to heal other people’s wounds if they actually happen to offer the suffering of their wounds for the salvation of the world. From the papal point of view healing would be completely irresponsible because our care for a sick person would mean a disaster for some sinners who were possibly helped by the merit of the sick person’s suffering. The pope’s idea presupposes the idea of unmerciful God also in that He does not send suffering to all the people all the time making it impossible for many persons to save others. Also if we ascribe the capacity to save others through suffering only to the Roman Catholics living from the 19th century onward (because, as I mentioned above, only in the 19th century the idea of the redemptive value of suffering has begun to be better known), a question arises whether God is really merciful since he gave such an important message only to a minority of humankind living in a relatively short period of time. At the end of the article the activity of Mother Theresa of Calcutta is presented as an example of practical realization of John Paul’s teaching on the suffering. The dark side of her activity is the fact that in her medical center in Calcutta she never let use strong painkillers for terminally sick, TB patients were not isolated, and syringes were washed in lukewarm water before being used again. All this happened in spite of receiving huge sums of money from all over the world for treatment of the sick persons. The article suggests this kind of “healing” activity seems to be a direct consequence of papal teaching on the redemptive meaning of human suffering (and particularly a consequence of his supposition that the intention to save others is not crucial for the work of redemption).
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