Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Robert Morrison

5/9/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

This Polish Pope, surviving and thriving through 40 years of atheist Communist tyranny, could still echo the words of the Archangel to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Be not afraid.

The truth was becoming increasingly clear that what LCMS President Dr. Ralph Bohlmann called "ethical ecumenism"-our strong agreement with Catholics on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, our sincere concurrence on the importance of marriage, and our mutually respectful defense of religious liberty--was healing the divisions of centuries. We may not yet be in full communion, but we are ready to stand with one another and to honor each Christian leader's efforts to speak truth to power in an increasingly hostile media world. That's why I as a Lutheran can celebrate the canonization of these two Catholic Popes

Saints John Paul II and John XXIII

Saints John Paul II and John XXIII

Highlights

By Robert Morrison

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/9/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Robert Morrison, Pope John Paul II, St John Paul II, ecumenism, Lutheran, Christian unity, ethical ecumenism, St. John XXIII, Family Research Council


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - The forthcoming birthday (May 18th) of Saint John Paul has given me occasion to reflect on this great man's legacy. He was the one who taught us all that everyone deserves a birth day. And it's an occasion for reflection on my own gift of long life.

I graduated from high school the month Pope John XXIII died. Even so, I felt the winds of change from the windows he had opened. With the Vatican II Council underway at this genial Pope's call, my Catholic relatives were excited about the new aggiornamento-updating-they were seeing.

We had only recently elected the first Catholic U.S. president, John F. Kennedy.  Now, it seemed, historic divisions were coming together.  Protestants were not becoming Catholic, nor Catholics becoming Protestant. But there was a new found mutual respect. We Protestants were now being called "Separated Brethren." That had a warm and embracing sound to it.

Unchurched then, I joked that my loving family was divided between Catholics and Protestants and I was always seated on the Protestant side at the reunions. The church we didn't go to was definitely the Protestant one.

When I came to faith in Christ, however, I knew which Protestant church I would not join. It was one of those that constantly preached against the Catholics. As it turned out, my newfound faith,  my pro-life convictions, and my love for history impelled me to join The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). Serving then in the U.S. Coast Guard, I had been ministered to by the powerful biblical preaching of an LCMS Navy chaplain.

In October, 1978, I was on a Coast Guard cutter in the middle of the Bering Sea when word came across our teletype machine of a second convening of the College of Cardinals in Rome. We were at first confused by the chattering teletype message printed on the yellow roll of paper. But, here, yes, they were in a conclave again. The new Pope, John Paul I, had suddenly died!

We were in the midst of the Soviet fishing fleet when we received the first words of another Pope-a Pole! Around us were arrayed the red hammer-and-sickle flags of our Cold War adversary. I could hardly be more separated from Rome as one of those Separated Brethren. And yet the news from Rome brought us the first words to the City and to the World from this new Pope: Be not afraid!

My brother officers-especially my Catholic and Evangelical shipmates-were thrilled by this message. I certainly was. Our duty in boarding Soviet trawlers could be dangerous. At any moment, we might find ourselves in the midst of an international incident. Might our cutter inadvertently stray across the border between the Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands? It was the only place on earth where the United States and the Soviet Union faced each other warily across a common border.

We soon learned what Be Not Afraid meant to this Polish Pope. As the young Karol Wojtyla, he had sought refuge with his Polish army officer father in the East when the Nazis invaded his homeland on September 1, 1939. Within days, however, he and his father learned of the Soviet invasion from the East. They decided to return to their home and risk life under the German occupiers. That move doubtless saved young Karol's life. Stalin's secret police shot thousands of Polish army officers and secretly buried their bodies in the Katyn forest. Karol and his father might well have been among them.

Even returning to his home, however, was fraught with danger. One of his brother seminarians, a close friend studying with him under the revered Adam Cardinal Sapieha, was swept up by the Gestapo and killed. The Nazi scythe passed very close to the neck of Karol, this would-be priest.

And yet this Polish Pope, surviving and thriving through 40 years of atheist Communist tyranny, could still echo the words of the Archangel to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Be not afraid.

Soon, I got out of the Coast Guard and married. My wife and I were on our honeymoon in a California Alpine village. We had been happy to get out of San Francisco, the city of our wedding, because that was the week when bodies were brought back from the mass suicide at Jonestown. In that same week, Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated in City Hall.

We didn't want to see a newspaper or television report. Except that we couldn't avoid the news of Pope John Paul II taking his first vacation. He was in the Alps skiing! The headline read: Pope on the Slope and it filled our hearts with hope.

Moving East, I was recruited for a job with the Catholic dioceses of Connecticut. But I'm a Lutheran, I told my interviewers. That's okay, said Bill Wholean, my would-be boss. He wanted to show his fellow faithful Catholics that the Church's pro-life message was for everyone. "It's like the TV ad," Bill joked. "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Real Jewish Rye." Well, you don't have to be Catholic to understand the pro-life message.

For three years, I worked faithfully for the four Catholic dioceses of Connecticut. One time, I attended a weekend convention of the other, more liberal Lutheran denomination. It was being held in Hartford at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph. I had my booth and my literature for the pan-Lutheran group, Lutherans for Life.

When the convention organizers learned I was not there to sell life insurance, they tried to kick me out. I protested I had paid the registration fee and was not causing trouble. "We're going to call Security," they threatened.

"Okay," I said, "but I work for Archbishop Whealon. He's your host. The Hartford Courant might find it a good story how Lutherans were kicking a Lutheran out of a Catholic Cathedral because he's pro-life." I stayed.

I was certainly more in line with the Archbishop and the good folks who generously maintained that great cathedral than these liberal convention organizers were. It was during that time that I made a point of reading all the Encyclicals of Pope John Paul II.

Especially important to me was his majestic Evangelium Vitae-the Gospel of Life. That powerful statement of Christian doctrine for the defense of defenseless unborn children was a unifying message.

Then, in 1983, I was excited to see "my" Pope visiting a Lutheran church in Rome. He was cordially greeted by the pastor of Christus Kirche, Dr. Christoph Meyer. Dr. Meyer was dressed in a black clerical gown and skullcap and a white 16th century ruff. I liked that. (It was about time we Lutherans showed some press savvy.)

This was the first visit of a Catholic Pope to a Lutheran congregation in history. But Pope John Paul II was always making history, it seemed. The Pope said in that Quincentennial Year "the commemoration of the birth of the reformer Martin Luther makes the ecumenical question particularly important this year."  He greeted my fellow Lutherans as ""brothers and sisters in Christ."

The visit went off most warmly. I would sometimes tease my Catholic family and friends. "You know, the Pope got a friendlier, more respectful reception from those Roman Lutherans than he got from some of those radical American nuns!"

Humor or not, the truth was becoming increasingly clear that what LCMS President Dr. Ralph Bohlmann called "ethical ecumenism"-our strong agreement with Catholics on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, our sincere concurrence on the importance of marriage, and our mutually respectful defense of religious liberty--was healing the divisions of centuries.

We may not yet be in full communion, but we are ready to stand with one another and to honor each Christian leader's efforts to speak truth to power in an increasingly hostile media world.
That's why I as a Lutheran can celebrate the canonization of these two Catholic Popes.

-----
Robert Morrison is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More U.S.

Hurricane Katrina: Ten Years Later Watch

Image of Hurricane Katrina tore communities apart.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hurricane Katrina left nearly 2,000 people dead and thousands more were homeless and wounded. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused America's most expensive natural disaster, with a repair bill of $150 billion. Entire roads were washed ... continue reading


PASTORPOCALYPSE - At least 400 church leaders to RESIGN Sunday after Ashley Madison accounts revealed Watch

Image of At least 400 pastors are expected to resign this Sunday.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This Sunday could be a distressing day for millions of churchgoers across the country. As many as 400 pastors, some of them leading megachurch congregations, may resign following the Ashley Madison leak. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Hypocrisy can be found in ... continue reading


Christian man beaten to death by Muslim refugees in Maine Watch

Image of Freddy Akoa, the victim of a savage beating by three men.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An assumed Christian man was found dead in his apartment with a bloody Bible near his head. The murder is believed to have been committed by three Muslim refugees who attended a party at the dead man's home in Portland, Maine. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


St Augustine on a Personal Relationship with Jesus Watch

Image of St Augustine

By Deacon Keith Fournier

But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we ... continue reading


'We're going to get through this together': WDBJ stands together the day after the tragic live-shooting of reporter and cameraman Watch

Image of Colleagues hug during the moment of silence for their fallen team members.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

WDBJ-TV station grieves the loss of Alison Parker and Adam Ward the morning after their on-air murders.  Los Angeles, California (Catholic Online) - Thursday morning was emotional, as WDBJ-TV anchor Kim McBroom joined hands with anchor Steve Grand, who came in ... continue reading


Colorado movie theater assassin James Holmes will never step outside of a prison - ever Watch

Image of Obsessed with killing people since he was a teenager, James Holmes said he studied neuroscience in part to fix his own

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

On July 20, 2012, James Eagan Holmes, now 27, walked into an Aurora, Colorado movie theater during a late-night showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." He opened fire, killing 12 people and wounded 70. Holmes will never step outside a prison ever again - he was sentenced ... continue reading


Bizarre, twisted story trails behind Virginia TV reporter killer Vester Flanagan Watch

Image of Failed TV news anchor Vester Flanagan was notorious for his

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Stories have come forward regarding 41-year-old former TV news reporter Vester Flanagan, accused in the on-air shooting deaths of 24-year-old WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old camera operator Adam Ward. Flanagan, who committed suicide after the ... continue reading


Vatican did not consent to sponsor Palestinian flag initiative at United Nations Watch

Image of Only member states' flags are currently eligible to fly at U.N. headquarters.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It seems that certain parties leapt to conclusions too readily... The Vatican has requested that the Palestinian U.N. mission to remove all references to the Holy See from a draft resolution. The Palestinians have put forth a formal request to the U.N. General Assembly ... continue reading


Now legal for police to fly drones armed with weapons in North Dakota Watch

Image of Police drone illustrating abilities to release tear gas from above.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With the last-minute push of pro-police lobbyists, it is now legal for the North Dakora law enforcers to fly drones equipped with "less than lethal" weapons such as tasers, pepper spray and tear gas. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - During a hearing in ... continue reading


Catholic hospital forced to bow down before ALCU, will perform sterilization - religious freedom dying in the name of convenience Watch

Image of A Catholic hospital in Redding, CA has been forced to agree to perform a sterilization procedure.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The ALCU has succeeded in forcing a Catholic hospital to perform a sterilization procedure in what is certainly a direct affront to religious freedom. More importantly, the case could be a predictor of how the larger issue of religious freedom will play out across the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
1 'And now, Israel, listen to the laws and customs ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
2 Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly, who ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
1 The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come ... Read More

Reading 2, James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
17 all that is good, all that is perfect, is given us ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 30th, 2015 Image

St. Rumon
August 30: St. Rumon, also known as Ruan, Ronan, and Ruadan, was probably a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter