Chained to the Truth like a Rock

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Hey everyone! Dylan here this week bringing the following article written by one of our professors here in Rome, Dr. Stanislaw Grygiel. He has generously allowed us to post a translation of his article, which he handed to our class last week. This was the same day, as one family at the John Paul II Theological Institute, we celebrated mass for Cardinal Caffarra, the first president of this institute, after his death.

Father Carlo Caffarra: Chained to the Truth like a Rock


By: Stanislaw Grygiel
Translated By: Hansol Goo

One of the greatest gifts God has offered me is the presence of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra in my life. In the beauty of his friendly persona  - now, after his death, with doubled force - the truth of man is revealed for me, to which everyone called must respond with love and work. I dare to say that the cardinal was chained to this truth as if to a rock: he could not live other than in and from the truth. The love with which he built his dwelling on the truth made him a free man.

It aroused admiration for men who desire for such freedom. It caused shame in pusillanimous men, sometimes it aroused in them concealed anger. For everyone it tested a cordial love. Those who were ashamed of themselves refused him. To justify themselves, they accused his evangelic courage a fanaticism, thanks to which his talk was always "yes-yes" or "no-no". Opposing his testimony, they revealed their own moral misery and their own intellectual apathy in the face of the surrounding reality. With a humble courage, the cardinal faced the challenges of modernity that bans the difficult beauty of truth from the lives of people and society.

I met him in Rome in 1979 at a congress dedicated to catechesis, to which I had been invited by Cardinal Ugo Poletti, then vicar of the Pope's diocese. The young priest Caffarra impressed; I was able to admire the courage and the fervent conviction with which he led a very critical intervention against the catechism recently published by the Italian Episcopate.

His deep faith in God, entrusting to the Spirit of the Trinitarian Love and the vision of the Church, they agreed with what I had seen and experienced in the Man who just months before had come to Rome "from a far country." During a break between sessions, in our short dialogue, something happens in us that continues to happen, and that means that the friendship with Carlo Caffarra only now, when the consciousness of his departure begins to hurt, he tells me who man shall be when he really is a man.

A year later, in 1980, St. John Paul II called him to Rome to realize his project of an Institute dedicated to philosophical and theological studies anthropologically oriented on marriage and family. The Pope had come to Rome from Krakow already formed by the love he lived in and with the young people he prepared for life in marriage or in celibacy, that anticipates the marriage of man with God in eternity.

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra had been formed by the same experience and he was therefore really the perfect executor of the will of St. John Paul II. The encounter of these two great priests began their friendship without authority and left in the life of the Church indelible traces that no force can destroy because they have been imprinted not only on paper, but above all in the hearts and minds of people.

The time in which the Institute was founded were characterized by the lack of anthropological reflection on the fundamental problems of life in marriage and in the family, which negatively impacted on pastoral care. St. John Paul II knew very well how it is not enough to know only the technique to be a pastor. The presence of the pastor among the men entrusted to his work must be a practical epiphany of the truth of man, the truth that is Christ. He, Christ, and not the priest, does what in the deepest sense of the term is called pastoral praxis.

The Holy Father wanted the institute he founded to develop the primordial idea of the university as a communion of professors and students who prayed and worked together, rejoice together and are in suffering together. He wanted, without neglecting academic rigor, that this institute would have the character of a family community, gathered in the common question about the truth of love, the freedom and the common search for this truth. Fr. Carlo Caffarra succeeded in fulfilling the wish of John Paul II so that professors, students, and employees still feel today at the Institute like in their family house. For the experience lived in Krakow, the Holy Father knew well that the presence in the world of pastors formed in such an institute would bring abundant fruit.

Fr. Carlo Caffarra understood the idea of St. John Paul II without difficulty since both were concerned about the future of pastoral care for families in an era of misery caused by modern ideologies that eliminates the truth from society and with it also eliminates freedom, love, and justice. These two holy priests were tormented by the ever-present demand of how to prepare Christians for a presence in the world to make them epiphanies of truth that, by participating in the eternity, wins over the time, without ever ceasing to be current.

Both knew that emotions, sentimental compassion, and, as far as said, merciful indulgence in contrast with the misery in which sin drags man, will never replace the truth. The affirmation of truth and good, and the condemnation of lies and evil, which are their denial, have made Cardinal Charles Caffarra a man who is totally inept to compromise with sin. He loved man, but his love of truth, that is, freedom, was so great that he was obligated to tell them the truth about their behavior without regard to the consequences.

The cardinal, as well as St. John Paul II, loved men in truth and loved human love. He was never conditioned by the fear of losing something. He did not let himself be guided by nothing but the fear of God. His freedom, whose source stemmed from the love of truth, made his thought clear and even transparent. So his words traced a logical and uninterrupted pathway that led his audiences and readers to what transcends thoughts and words. He spoke in a clear and humble manner above all of what ignorant doctrine speaks. His docta ignorantia, "Learned Ignorance," was clear and distinct. It followed the rule that the denial of some affirmation does not identify with its development.

Caffarra recalled as a theologian who believes that to be able to make progress in understanding the nature of the human person, one has to question, for example, what Christ and Genesis say about marriage, causing chaos in the life of the Church. At the end of life the great sadness and pain caused by theological and pastoral confusion martyred the cardinal. However, they have not altered the faithfulness of attachment to truth and its hope in the final victory. Until the last day he was present for others, until the end of life he made plans for the future. Before the last holiday we had decided what to do in the fall for next year. I am convinced that everything will proceed according to our project, only in a different way.

Faith gives me the confidence that the cardinal will help us to love and work better, that is, it will help us to live better. Dwelling with God, he will be with us to give us a hand in our preparation for full union with the eternal truth. I imagine the meeting of Charles Caffarra with John Paul II. I try to listen to their dialogue and also - and why not? - their prayer.

In fact, the questions that formed the very essence of the talks with John Paul II and the Cardinal were questions of prayer to receive what we lack from God (cfr. Lk 10: 42) and that which calms the stormy sea on which we are sailing (cfr. Mc 4 , 35 et seq.). Their fidelity to the "gift of God" (cfr. Jn 4:10), that the truth of man created male and female oriented in their mutual love to God, was expressed in the pastoral care of men who suffered from an anti-human as in anti-divine understanding of love due to man. Those who have forgotten what man is missing, accused John Paul II and Cardinal Charles Caffarra of a fanatical idealism.

Their wisdom was revealed in their knowledge of suffering. In the early years of the existence of the institute founded by John Paul II, criticisms and accusations fell again mainly on the shoulders of Fr. Caffarra. John Paul II, however, knew well about who they were. "I know," he said to me one day, "that the blows that Caffarra are taking are destined for me. God will give him reward. Meanwhile, He shows how this Institute is necessary for the Church.” The first director of the Institute and his co-founder received these blows with serene faith, with great hope, and with fervent love. It was at that time that I could touch his wisdom and his freedom, and hence his holiness.

I can not "pardon" him for just one thing. He, a great lover and connoisseur of the music of Mozart, one day after having listened to one of his works with me, to my question if he had something of Chopin, he replied with malice but with a friendly smile: "I have them, but not much, Stashi, they say, he was a great composer." Today, after more than thirty years of this "confrontation", I hope that my friend listen in God the music of Chopin and appreciate it. That night had brought me the pain that can only arise among friends: my friend did not know how to enjoy me, a Polish, the genius of Polish Chopin.


About the Author


Stanislaw Grygiel is Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Anthropology at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Director of the Karol Wojtyla Chair at the Pontifical Institute John Paul II since 2004. Since 1980 he has lived in Rome. As visiting professor, he also teaches at the Pontifical Institute John Paul II in Washington (U.S.A.). From 1992 until 1997 he taught philosophical anthropology at the Academy of Theology in Lugano. Between 1990 and 1993 he taught the philosophy of man at Academy of the Holy Cross in Rome. From 1964 to 1980 he taught philosophy at the Seminary of Religious in Krakow. From 1968 to 1980 he taught philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow. From 1963 to 1980 he was editor of the Catholic, monthly "Znak" in Krakow.

He is co-founder and director of the magazine "Il Nuovo Areopago". He is a member of the editorial board of the Communio magazine (French version). He is also a member of the Polish Philosophical Society, of the Philosophical Society of Argentina, and of Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europea (Vienna).

About the Translator


Hansol Goo is a multilingual theologian and art historian based in Rome. If you would like to inquire about translating services, click the link below.