Towards a Theology of Suffering: The Contribution of Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II
"Towards a Theology of Suffering:The Contribution of Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II"Reverend Peter C. Harman, S.T.D.Director: John S. Grabowski, Ph. D.Pope John Paul II's 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris shares a common anthropology with his "Theology of the Body" audiences delivered between 1979 and 1984. In them, drawing on his work in phenomenology as a professional philosopher, he discusses the revelatory potential of the human body. His method of inquiry into man's self-understanding of his nature and the struggles he faces invites academic investigation of both issues of human sexuality and human suffering. Analogous to his description of man's coming to understand a language of the body between spouses, there is also the potential for a communion of persons to be released in the experience of the mystery of human suffering by both the suffering person and the one who cares for him.This dissertation investigates the themes addressed in Wojtyla/John Paul's teaching, particularly in the "Theology of the Body" with the purpose of synthesizing an anthropology found there in order to present an expanded theology of suffering as a much needed tool for a culture that often views the experience of suffering as only a negative one, something to be eliminated at all costs. Wojtyla/John Paul's view will be shown to counteract this mindset, treating the experience of suffering, though an evil in itself, asuniquely affording the potential to release love and hope in the suffering person's relationship with God and others, as well as the for those who care for him.Part I addresses the need for a better grounding of the issue of suffering in our current culture by evaluating the lack of discussion of this mystery in the realms of medical ethics, for even within Christian reflection the topic of suffering is often dismissed or eliminated rather than addressed as a revelatory part of human experience. Part II offers a brief synthesis of Wojtyla/John Paul's philosophical and theological anthropology by analyzing foundational writings, such as The Acting Person and his first encyclicals, as well as his presentation of the Theology of the Body. It will do so by analyzing both the content and method of his catechesis and evaluating how this catechesis addresses particular needs of contemporary culture, especially issues which form a basis for the understanding of the revelatory nature of the body as pertains to suffering. Part III articulates, per John Paul's request from the conclusion of the Theology of the Body catecheses, a more complete understanding of the role of suffering in Christian life. This section expands traditional views of the redemptive potential of suffering with John Paul's own thoughts on how the promptings of the body of the suffering person afford an opportunity for both greater self-awareness and communion with others. Part IV offers conclusions and briefly considers the possibilities for further development of a theology of suffering.
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