The Intellectual Fermentation of John Paul II



A book that I want to write in the not so distant future will be titled The Mind and Heart of John Paul II: A Critical Examination. In this work, I will explore just exactly what John Paul II believed and taught. One of the curious periods in John Paul II’s intellectual career is his study under Fr. Garrigou Lagrange, the last great Thomist. One would think that the impeccable orthodoxy of Fr. Garrigou Lagrange would rub off on John Paul II, and maybe it did.

In his recent autobiography, George Weigel notes that Polish Stefan Swiezawski “introduced Wojtyla to the works of the French philosophers Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, which took Wojtyla beyond the intellectual milieu in which he was immersed at the Angelicum during his doctoral studies.” Thus like Paul VI, John Paul II was bitten by the bug of Neo-Thomism, and we can thus trace some of the liberal political ideas as well as some of the roots of the personalist anthropology that corrupted John Paul II’s thinking in his reading of Maritain, the grandfather of Catholic neoconservativism.

It is further interesting that Weigel is clearly pleased that John Paul II was weaned off of the the traditional Thomism he learned at the Angelicum.



2 thoughts on “The Intellectual Fermentation of John Paul II

  1. I affirm the literal meaning of “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus,” (No Salvation Outside the Church, aka EENS). If you investigate Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s position on EENS, you will find that he is quite laxist. For him, it isn’t a question of whether non-Catholics can be saved, but whether the majority of them are saved or not. I suggest checking out this PDF version of the “Our Saviour and His Love for Us” (

    In the PDF, scroll down to the chapter entitled “The Grace of Christ and the Mystics Outside the Church.” While reading the chapter, note the favorable references to Jacques Maritain (see pages 368 and 374 for typical examples). Please share your thoughts. It seems with this chapter, we’re right back to the Renaissance humanist/ecumenist nexus. If the Sufis are saved as Sufis, then how many steps are we away from the Assisi Prayer Meeting? Even Archbishop Lefebvre and Cardinal Ottaviani were weak on this dogma compared to, say, Fr. Leonard Feeney, MICM (formerly SJ), Fr. Michael Mueller, CSSP, Archbishop George Hay, and Orestes Brownson.

    I’ve also noted Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s propensity to take certain quotations from St. Thomas in isolation, to silly results. It’s as though one is forbidden to think critically about St. Thomas’ thought. Check out p. 375 in the PDF. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange claims that a non-baptized child, upon obtaining the age of reason, must either commit mortal sin or enter the state of grace. He cites St. Thomas on this point. Now, I personally don’t see why this situation must be the case, but okay, let’s grant it for the sake of argument. From this, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange seems to think that the child can obtain justification while remaining ignorant of the True Faith. One citation from Aquinas, and the necessity of Faith is gone. Just plain gone.

    An earlier and much better Dominican, Fr. Girolamo Savonarola (a friend of Pico della Mirandola, by the way . . .), in his “Triumph of the Cross,” quotes St. Thomas saying that God will send any abandoned desert islander a missionary or an angel to teach him the Faith. I.e., yes, the child will either commit mortal sin or be justified upon reaching the age of reason, but for him to enter the state of grace, God *necessarily* provides the means to make an act of supernatural Faith. This necessary stipulation is missing in Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange. It seems that minor premises become major ones, and major premises get lost.

    So maybe some of this rot has a source in Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s own limitations.

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