John Paul II Institute Is Being Destroyed, Says Friend of Late Pope
Professor Stanislaw Grygiel warns that the institute is forsaking moral theology and John Paul II’s anthropology for ‘opinion polls’ and ‘sociological and psychological meanderings.’
A close friend of the late Pope St. John Paul II has firmly criticized recent changes at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, saying they are not about renewal, expansion or even change but rather about its dissolution and destruction.
Professor Stanislaw Grygiel, who was dismissed last month as a lecturer at the institute along with eight other academics, said he was “surprised by such words as the ‘renewal, expansion and deepening’ of this Institute, which are uttered by those who are destroying it together with its foundation.
“Destruction doesn’t equate with renewal,” he said.
The Polish-born philosophy professor was speaking to Polish journal Teologia Polityczna Aug. 18 in light of new statutes published at the end of July which followed Pope Francis’ “refounding” of the institute in 2017 with his motu proprio Summa Familiae Cura.
The new statutes led to the suspension of five master’s degree programs and the dismissal of Grygiel and others’ teaching positions. In particular, two leading professors were removed from tenured positions: Msgr. Livio Melina, a former president of the institute, whose chair of fundamental moral theology was abolished, and Father José Noriega, a moral theologian who was removed on grounds that being a superior general of a religious congregation was incompatible with being a tenured professor in the new institute.
None of those let go from their teaching positions were notified in advance of the decision, nor were they given recourse to challenge it, leading to a number of protests, including by its own students and alumni.
In his interview, Grygiel said he believes the graduate school is forsaking moral theology and John Paul II’s anthropology for “opinion polls” and “sociological and psychological meanderings.”
The academic body, founded by John Paul in 1981 as the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, has been “attacked by theologians and ministers who lacked hope and faith,” he said, adding that they have “substituted the vertical dimension of metaphysics” with the “horizontal plane of sociology, psychology and similar sciences.”
But he believes such a development was predictable after the “doctrinal maneuvers” of the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family which “left no doubt that the postmodern tendencies of people’s behavior and thinking beyond good and evil invaded the Church through theologians and pastors, who for reasons known only to them, started twisting the Word of God to fit those tendencies.”
Grygiel said he was “convinced” that recent events at the institute are “linked to the changes that might be introduced by the approaching Pan-Amazon Synod.” The synod is meant to be a “pastoral reflection, open to recognizing diversity” in the region, but a working document for the Oct. 6-27 meeting has been widely criticized, with Cardinal Walter Brandmüller describing it as “heretical” and an “attack on the foundations of the faith.”
Grygiel noted that some academics removed from the institute had read Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family synods, in the light of the Church’s faith and Tradition, but that “according to the imperious voice of today’s followers of situational ethics and pseudo-Ignatian discernment,” others had read it as if “Christ didn’t know what was hidden in every man.” For them, therefore, “Christ wasn’t God.”
Using “ambiguous words and oblique statements” during the family synods, they “cleverly created chaos and confusion in the minds and hearts of many people,” Grygiel said.
He stressed that what people need today is “painstaking work in which truth liberates the person,” and bishops “courageously professing their faith in Christ and saying a strong ‘No’ to the devil.”
As an example, he commended a Polish bishop, Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, who recently publicly opposed the LGBT symbol and ideology, calling it a “rainbow plague.” The rainbow of the covenant of God has “seven sacramental colors” and are the “life of the Church,” Grygiel said, whereas the “false rainbow brings chaos into human love,” and in such chaos, man becomes “brutalized and enslaved.”
He reiterated the importance that bishops and priests’ yes mean yes and their no, no, and that they not “beat about the bush and seek their own private success.”
“Maybe it’s comfortable to be in with the Devil but it’s never honorable,” he said, adding that John Paul II “didn’t kneel in front of the Evil One” but rather stressed that freedom meant the liberty to do what one should. “Freedom comes from the Truth not from lawlessness,” Grygiel said. “It has nothing to do with a lack of rules.”
Christ is present in faith, hope and love, he continued, not in “opinions about him, especially those which are created by some theologians and ministers according to the Marxist principle: Praxis determines truth (in this case, the so-called pastoral praxis).”
Asking if the family will break down in the face of these attacks, Grygiel said he was “sure it will not” because the “Truth, which a human person is entrusted to, and so marriage and the family as well, will not break down.” God, he said, “cannot be broken by any opinion about him” and the “Truth defends us.”
Grygiel said many factors are weakening the Church, but one main one is “this lack of vigilance” which “is a lack of prayer and also a lack of culture” — a means to cultivate humanity through the “liberating and healing truth without which no man can understand himself.” The new name of the institute, he said, shows a new thinking about marriage and the family “which means a different perception of love and freedom.”
Instead, he believes they place pragmatism over proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma) due to corruption by “weakness of the flesh,” leading them to believe only in “the power of politics and possession.” It is not therefore surprising, Grygiel believes, that in their “pragmatic mercy” they obscure the “mercy that is the redeeming Word of the Living God.” This is why secular universities “lose their way toward the truth” and “sink into mindlessness,” he said, and he asked if the Church wants its universities to suffer the same fate.
Grygiel said he rejects the “horizontal idea of the brave new Church” which he said is a Marxist principle: that “praxis decides what is true at any cost, leading to what is not true.”
“The Church is not about politics but about salvation in Christ — in the Word of the Living God,” he stressed, adding that in the Church “there is no place to preach empty words and for mindlessness.”
“Christ always speaks the same Word, because He speaks Himself, the Son of the Living God,” Grygiel explained. “Nobody and nothing can drown It out, because nobody and nothing can drown out the Word, which is the center of the universe and of history.”
The full English text of Prof. Grygiel's interview can be read here, on the PCh25.pl website.