One of the cardinal rules in the Catholic church: obedience to the pope. So it has come as a shock for many in the Catholic world that John Paul II's most trusted confidant has betrayed the beloved pontiff's last will and testament by publishing personal notes he wanted burned.
John Paul ordered the notes burned after his death and put Stanislaw Dziwisz, his secretary, in charge of the task. To everyone's surprise, Dziwisz, now a cardinal, said recently that he "did not have the courage" to destroy the notes and is having them published as a precious insight into the inner life of the beloved pontiff, who will be declared a saint in April.
The book — Very Much in God's Hands. Personal Notes 1962-2003 — comes out in Poland today.
Criticism has outpaced praise.
"I don't think it is right for a church member to go against the will and authority of the pope, whatever the reason," Ewelina Gniewnik said as she was leaving Savior's Church in Warsaw. Angry comments against Dziwisz also have flooded the Internet.
The Polish-language book contains religious meditations that Karol Wojtyla recorded between July 1962 and March 2003 — spanning a period in which he went from being a bishop in Poland to a globe-trotting superstar pope. There are plans to publish the book in English and other languages.
The decision to publish does not go against papal infallibility, which contrary to popular belief applies only to matters of church doctrine. And Dziwisz was free to follow his conscience — since the obligation to obey the pope ends with his death or retirement.
The book itself may be a tough slog for ordinary readers. It runs 640 pages and basically consists of deeply religious, compact, sometimes arcane ideas or trains of thought that spring from citations from the Bible.