When the world remembers Pope John Paul II, what themes from his papacy will come to mind? In this philosophical meditation, the Holy Father reflects on values he deems critical to the destiny of humankind, with freedom and the value of life underlying all others. Pope John Paul IIs theological understanding of evil and suffering was forged in the crucible of Nazism and communism in his native Poland, as was his belief in the importance of cultural identity. He points out that "evil, in a realist sense, can only exist in relation to good, and in particular, in relation to God, the supreme Good," which underlies even the darkest moments in history with the promise of redemption and hope. His encounters with those dark moments lend credibility when he writes, "All human suffering, all pain, all infirmity contains within itself a promise of salvation, a promise of joy…"
He champions freedom, yet cautions the faithful that when freedom in no longer linked with the truth, it sets the premise for "dangerous moral consequences." The West must overcome its moral permissiveness, he exhorts, listing divorce, free love, abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and genetic engineering as evidence of its degeneration. He also issues a plea for the church, a repository of historical memory, to remember its primary mission: to proclaim the Gospel.
The world will remember Pope John Paul II for espousing many of the convictions he expresses here: that good is ultimately victorious, life conquers death, and love triumphs over hate. --Cindy Crosby
From Publishers Weekly
The pope's 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope,
sold some 20 million copies in more than 30 languages. Both that book and this one grew out of interviews conducted in the early 1990s, but the differences between them are significant. The interviewer for Threshold
was an Italian journalist who focused on questions Catholic laypersons might ask; the interviewers for Memory
were Polish professors of philosophy. Though advance publicity has focused on the pope's description of the 1981 attempt on his life and on several comments on abortion and homosexuality, most of the book is devoted to rigorous discussion—laced with quotations from the Bible, documents of Vatican II and his own poetry—about the nature of evil, especially as seen in Nazi and Communist regimes; the nature of freedom, with its concomitant responsibilities; and the challenges facing post-Enlightenment, secular Europe. Praising the medieval church and Thomist philosophy, condemning Cartesian self-sufficiency and modern "unbridled capitalism," the pope upholds tradition (memory) as the basis for individual, religious and national identity. His conclusion is characteristically optimistic: "The evil of the 20th century was... an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state structures in order to accomplish its wicked work." But "there is no evil from which God cannot draw forth a greater good. There is no suffering which he cannot transform into a path leading to him." (Mar. 27)