Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Robert Morrison

5/9/2014 (2 years 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 (2 years 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'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for SEPTEMBER 2016
Universal:
Centrality of the Human Person: That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.
Evangelization: Mission to Evangelize: That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.



Comments


More U.S.

Historic Statement Affirms the Catholic Church's Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality Watch

Image of

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A small body of Catholic scholars and religious have issued a statement dissenting from the teaching of the Catholic Church on the gift of sexuality, marriage and contraception. The statement was issued by the "Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research" and calls on ... continue reading


Major relic of St. Padre Pio in the United States Watch

Image of Padre Pio.

By Mary Rezac (CNA/EWTN News)

The Capuchin keepers of the relics of the late mystic Padre Pio are sending the saint's heart to Boston for his feast day. Boston, MA (CNA/EWTN News) - "I'm very excited to announce that the Capuchin Friars who run the Shrine of St. Padre Pio have offered to come to ... continue reading


Summit Declaration: Use These Principles to Compare Candidates and Platforms in the Upcoming Elections

Image of American Flag and Bible

By THE STREAM

The Church is the light of truth and the salt that preserves society. We realize that the state of our country now is partly our responsibility. If America is troubled, it means that we have failed to waken it to the principles that could grant it peace and ... continue reading


Protests in Charlotte, N.C. turn violent - It's time for a change in attitudes Watch

Image of Maybe pull your pants up first?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Protesters ran riot in downtown Charlotte, NC on Wednesday night, as they vented frustration over the killing of a disabled man by police. Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by police on Tuesday. Police say he had a gun, while others contend the police mistook a ... continue reading


The case for Biblical justice in America - It's time to put God back into America Watch

Image of What has happened to America? George Washington would be disappointed.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

We need Biblical justice back in America. The Bible tells us how to be and how we can build a fair and equitable society that reflects the many blessings of God we have already received. We all deserve justice, but today nobody is getting any. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


We Are the Mother and Brothers of Jesus Watch

Image of Through our Baptism, we are all invited into the very family of God. We are the mother and brother and sister of Jesus

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Through our Baptism, we are all invited into the very family of God. When we choose to be obedient to the will and the Word of God; we enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We actually become a part of the "family" of God; ... continue reading


Terror over the weekend - stabbings, bombings and several IEDs discovered in US cities Watch

Image of Homeland Security ups its efforts to keep future attacks from occurring.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Two attacks were conducted and one dangerous threat was detected over the weekend in three separate cities across the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In Minnesota, a man walked casually into a mall then proceeded to stab nine people.Each of the ... continue reading


'We will find whoever did this:' Bomb explodes in New York neighborhood Watch

Image of The pressure cooker appears to have played a role in the explosion.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Dozens were injured when an "explosive device" was detonated in a Manhattan neighborhood Saturday evening. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Twenty-nine people were injured but there are no reports of fatalities.The explosion occurred at 23rd street and 6th avenue. ... continue reading


ISIS claims responsibility for Minnesota mall stabbing Watch

Image of The suspect was shot and killed at the scene.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A man ran into a Minnesota mall Saturday night, where he stabbed nine people. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The attack occurred around 8 p.m. at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota.Eight victims were treated for non-life-threatening wounds and were later ... continue reading


How the U.S. Government CENSORS your news Watch

Image of

By Marshall Connolly, (California Network)

Most Americans remain blissfully unaware that the U.S. government has found a way to censor news without being implicated in the plot. However, staff at the California Network and in other media organizations have been made painfully aware that certain topics are not ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ecclesiastes 11:9--12:8
9 Do not wrangle about something that does not concern you, do not ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
3 You bring human beings to the dust, by saying, 'Return, children of ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:43-45
43 and everyone was awestruck by the greatness of God. But while everyone ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 24th, 2016 Image

Martyrs of Chalcedon
September 24: A group of forty-nine Christians slain in ... Read More