Translation of Full Interview With John Paul II's Close Friend, Dr. Półtawska
Discusses the synod, gender ideology, Humanae Vitae and more.
Here below is a translation by EWTN-Germany of their interview last week with Dr. Wanda Półtawska
(Krakow/Rome) Dr. Wanda Półtawska (93), married for 67 years with Professor Andrzej Półtawski, four daughters, eight grandchildren, psychiatrist, marriage and family counselor, university lecturer in pastoral medicine in amongst others Krakow and at the John Paul II Institute in Rome, member of the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita, longstanding member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, winner of the Gregorius-Order ... is one of the last great witnesses of the 20th century.
Not only has she survived a stay at a German concentration camp, which has been an experience that she has worked out in her book “And I Fear My Dreams”, but she has also overcome challenges evolved from communist ideology. Still, she has never felt hate, but has rather been wondering, for which reasons a human being could inflict such suffering on the other. That’s why she decided to become a psychiatrist. Her greatest passion, however, was that very one challenge which Pope John Paul II had realized to be the most urgent challenge of the present: to heal marriages and families and to contribute to make marriages and families work.
Finally, she was also one – if not the closest – friend of Pope St. John Paul II, the "Pope of the Family".
During the Family Synod she granted Robert Rauhut of EWTN/CNA an exclusive interview and talked with him about marriage, family, love and God.
Dr. Wanda Półtawska, you are considered one of the world's greatest connoisseurs of Saint John Paul II’s “theology of the body”. You knew him personally and were close friends with him. The Ordinary Synod of Bishops is currently meeting in Rome on the topic of marriage and family. Which aspects in that regard have been of great importance to the great Saint? And why?
Saint John Paul II, a deeply believing theologian and philosopher, wanted to help the people to reach eternal happiness that is especially to save the sanctity of the family. He was convinced that our life here on earth was just a walk, nothing more than a journey towards heaven, since the human being has not been created for the earth’s sake, but for heaven. (This is also, what he said at the meeting of the youth in Paris).
People say that since the world has changed the church has to change accordingly, for instance they are talking about approving divorced and remarried to the eucharis and recognizing same-sex partnerships. What do you think about such changes?
The changes in the world cannot change the truth about man. Everyone is created by God and everyone has to die. The road to heaven cannot be changed fundamentally.
What we also hear again and again is: “There is no need to change the teaching, but the practice.” If we change the practice, however, won’t that ultimately change the theory and the teachings as well?
The doctrines of the Church which are dealing with such important and fundamental themes of revelation, such as the Eucharist, cannot be changed. On the other side, the practice of the legal proceedings concerning the validity of marriage can be modified.
Thirteen cardinals of the Catholic Church, including Carlo Caffara, Gerhard Ludwig Mülller and Robert Sarah, have written a letter expressing their deep concern about the theologically very deficient Instrumentum Laboris, the imperfect and arbitrary procedures of the Synod on the Family as well as a serious issue (the demand for communion for civilly divorced and remarried), which challenges the Catholic teaching on marriage and hence contests the sacramental nature of marriage. The Pope has not responded to it. How do you assess that?
The words of Christ are written in the Gospel and cannot be changed. According to my experience gathered at the previous synod, it is not important what views and opinions are expressed in the discussions, but what is written down in the last document. Regardless of particular shocking statements that were heard during the discussions, the beautiful document Familiaris Consortio is valid until today. When I left Rome, John Paul II told me: “Do not forget that God knows everything, and that He is the true custodian of the world.”
Pope em. Benedict XVI stressed that the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” was one of the big achievements of Pope John Paul II. However, many theologians and bishops question that document at the Synod. How do you deem this development?
There have always been, there are and there will always be people who have doubts.
Supporters of a marriage for everyone argue that homosexuals should have the same rights, since their relationship is the same as a relationship between a man and a woman. You are a doctor and a psychiatrist, would you agree to this from a medical point of view? In other words: Is sexuality between two men more or less the same as between man and woman?
That’s the problem of a lack of common sense. You don’t have to be a wise man, in order to note the difference between the sexes. Genesis states clearly: “as male and female he created them”. Of course it is true that the sinful people break all commandments of God, including the sixth commandment. According to the essence of marriage, it cannot be unisexual, because marriage is meant to serve life and family. The unity of “two in one body” cannot be realized with two persons of the same sex.
Given your pastoral experience of more than 40 years you have come to know the problem of “homosexuality and the clergy”. Is there a gay lobby in the church and does it constitute a danger to itself? If so, how exactly?
There is no “homosexuality of the clergy”. There is only one pathology of behavior in some men and women. There are people who sin against the sixth commandment. From this point of view, every life can be deemed as a sin, because only the Holy Mother was sinless.
As a psychiatrist, I have been dealing with this pathology for 60 years and I’ve found more homosexuals among – for instance soldiers and doctors than among the clergy. Homosexuality does occur more often in men than in women – at least according to my practice.
The encyclical Veritatis Splendor talks about “intrinsically evil actions”. Are there any of such actions? And if so, what are they like regarding marriage and family?
Not only does the encyclical Veritatis Splendor speak of intrinsically evil acts, but also does the whole Catechism of the Catholic Church teach, what evil is. In marriage the clearest “evil in itself” is every act against life: abortion, euthanasia, artificial insemination, “in vitro” or the “morning after pill”.
60 internationally renowned philosophers and theologians point out in an appeal (http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/09/an-appeal) that the key finding of the encyclicals Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor being presented in No. 137 of Instrumentum Laboris in abbreviated form only bears a risk that a new moral theology might arise, in which the conscience is the last and highest instance. Is that true? Is the conscience the last and highest authority? Or what else is the last standard?
There is nothing new since the blessed Paul VI. People contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church on the ethics of life in family again and again. Part of the Catholics, even members of the clergy, did not accept the teaching of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.
You have experienced two totalitarian systems. You have been in German concentration camps. And you have experienced communism. Today we deal with gender ideology. Do you see this in continuity to the before mentioned totalitarian systems? What's so dangerous about gender ideology and how can you protect yourself from it?
Gender ideology is in my mind a lack of common sense and disrespect of biology. Any reasonable person knows very well whether he is a man or a woman. To negate it cannot change anything. Of course, you can go and mutilate yourself and have your genital organ cut off, but that doesn’t really change the sex of the person, because the biological gender is genetically determined as male or female and so is every cell of our body.
Certain circles call for a "new, positive language". For instance, everybody talks about "marriage" but they understand something very different about it. Does a new language eventually lead to a new faith and a new church?
No new language can change an old truth and ─ whether you like it or not ─ you get your sex as a fundament for your existence.
It occurs more and more often that people question the words of Jesus Christ on marriage. What can you do about it and how can you protect yourself against the new totalitarianism?
One should simply live as a witness of the realism of faith and not get upset too much about what people say. The Catholic Church does not need discussions in the press, but true believers. John Paul II said: “Do not be afraid to bear witness to Christ.”
Some groups speak of the positive signs that are present in the world. They say, everything would be fine and dandy. Yet many tragic things do happen: Marriages fail, spouses are abandoned and children remain traumatic. What do you think about seeing the world only through rose-colored glasses?
I always look at the world, because it is beautiful; and you always have to keep in mind that you are waiting for death ─ for an encounter with God. Death is the only thing which is certain in human life. The point is that death should be beautiful and happy, you should enter into heaven; where “there is a lot of space”.
You are a doctor yourself. Some sexual behavior is very dangerous to humans. Isn't the Church appointed to refer to that for the love of people? What is such questionable behavior and why should you avoid it?
All human actions are either male or female. Generally, people associate sexuality with reproductive organs. In truth, however, the whole body of a human being alongside with all of his actions are sexually stigmatized. A human being acts as a person, as a human being, and the possession of procreation organs is a privilege for those people who are called to marriage and parenthood; this vocation occurs often, but is not universal.
You have accompanied and advised many spouses for many years. What is it that people should bear in mind and look at in dating? What factors are important and decisive?
It's not a matter of “looking for a partner”, but rather of seeking the will of God. The point is to find your personal vocation and to choose “with a well-formed conscience”, in order to find the father or the mother for your children. Marriage should serve life.
Does it make a difference if you let God inside of your relationship? And if so, what is different then?
The blessed Paul VI wrote how conjugal love should be: “Who really loves his spouse, loves him for his own sake, not just because of what he receives from the other. And it is his spouse’s joy that he can enrich through his total devotion” (HV, 9). God is everywhere, so being in a state of grace, you do and accomplish everything with the Holy Spirit. The human being is not just a body, but he has a body which is supposed to be subordinated to the spirit.
So, being married, what are the basic factors to make the marriage work? What aspects should you pay attention to in particular?
Marriage can only be successful, if the couple seeks holiness throughout its life.
What hopes do you have in regards with the Synod on the Family? What would you like to give the Synod Fathers to take along their way?
Our hope lies not within the synod, but within God. It's all about one thing: the realism of the “beautiful love” ─ and that can be realized only with the help of the gifts by the Holy Spirit.
Thank you very much for the interview.