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'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More U.S.

FBI arrests Cliven Bundy leading to protesters' surrender in Oregon occupation Watch

Image of Cliven Bundy was arrested by the FBI moments after stepping off a plane (Reuters).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy stepped off a plane at the Portland International Airport Wednesday evening and was taken to Multnomah County jail, where his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy were already being held. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On Thursday morning the ... continue reading


Beauty and the Priest - Cleric indicted for murder in cold case from 1960 Watch

Image of Irene Garza was 25 at the time of her death. No motive has been established in the death of the beauty queen from McAllen, Texas, but John Feit is the only suspect.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A former priest has been indicted for a 1960 cold case murder of a woman. According to Texas authorities, then 27-year-old priest, John Feit, heard the confession of Irene Garza, then asphyxiated her afterwards. Her body was found in a canal days later. Feit will now ... continue reading


Former Catholic priest arrested in connection with beauty queen's murder - 56 years later Watch

Image of Now a married grandfather, former Catholic priest John Feit is accused in the 1960 murder of 27-year-old Irene Garza in 1960 (CNN).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Many thought, but few actually believed that a small town Catholic priest would be capable of such a savage crime. Fifty-six long years later, former priest John Feit, now a married grandfather living in Arizona has been arrested in connection with the 1960 ... continue reading


Ash Wednesday and Lent. It Works if you Work It Watch

Image of After receiving the ashes, we are exhorted to leave the Church as penitents and pilgrims and continue in a Christian way of life every day

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If we enter into the observance of Lent with our entire person, it can draw us, at its' closure, into a deeper embrace and experience of the power of the Resurrection, beginning right now and stretching into eternity. Our frequent liturgical celebrations present ... continue reading


No Catholic or other Christian Should Support the Candidacy of Bernie Sanders Watch

Image of Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, denies the fundamental Human Right to Life of children in the womb.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Legalized abortion on demand is an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and calls it a right. No ... continue reading


Mardi Gras' several names and traditions: How is it celebrated around the world? Watch

Image of Mardi Gras is famous for its colors, masks, beads, food, floats and more (Pixabay)!

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

People around the world celebrate Fat Tuesday each year with regional traditions - but did you know it is a celebration with roots in Christianity?  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Fat Tuesday" is English for the French "Mardi Gras," and is traditionally ... continue reading


7 Fun facts about Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras celebrations Watch

Image of Mardi Gras first became a holiday in 1582.

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday; it comes directly before Ash Wednesday. "Mardi Gras is a raucous celebratory affair that serves as a final shebang before the 40-day abstinence of Lent," explains The Huffington Post. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amidst all ... continue reading


605,000 undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses in California Watch

Image of California driver's licenses do not bestow any federal benefits to the recipient. State sources say the law is intended to make California roadways safer.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Thanks to a new California law known as AB60, which took effect on January 2, 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV has handed out 605,000 driver's licenses to undocumented workers. It is estimated that 1.4 million migrants will receive licenses under ... continue reading


Center for Medical Progress releases another Planned Parenthood video despite injunction Watch

Image of Pro-life CMP stands against abortionists NAF (imgsuccess).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

After ousting illegal actions performed by Planned Parenthood clinics, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and its founder Daniel Daleiden, have been ordered to cease further distribution of illegally-obtained Planned Parenthood footage. Unfortunately for the ... continue reading


Huff Po Gestapo, beats down Trump, First Amendment with editorial billy club Watch

Image of Huffington Post has found a way to turn the First Amendment into a billy club for their PC police duties.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Liberal mouthpiece, The Huffington Post (not to be confused with an actual news organization) is pandering to liberal readers by posting an addendum at the end of every story about Donald Trump. The addendum labels Trump a "racist" and a "serial liar." LOS ANGELES, CA ... 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

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20
15 'Look, today I am offering you life and prosperity, death and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:22-25
22 He said, 'The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 11th, 2016 Image

St. Paschal
February 11: Paschal was the son of Bonosus, a Roman. He ... Read More