home carl portrait
home name

The Pope’s secret letters to Mme. Tymieniecka, first revealed in His Holiness:

In 1974, a vivacious, cosmopolitan Polish aristocrat entered the cardinal’s office convinced she had found a kindred philosophical spirit. Her name was Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, and for the next four years she and the cardinal embarked on a philosophical dialogue that resulted in a recasting and definitive English-language edition of his most important written work, The Acting Person.

Later, after he was elected pope, reporters would scour the earth looking for women who had been Karol Wojtyla’s lover, wife, or companion. They found none because there were none.

But in the process, they overlooked the crucial role of Dr. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka in his life: her influence on his philosophy and thus on his papacy. They missed the fact that she helped to make him prominent—and papabile.

Until Mme. Tymieniecka, the major figures in the adult life of Karol Wojtyla had been men. Her interaction with the cardinal—weeks spent writing together, taking walks, laboring over the text of The Acting Person—and her introduction of Wojtyla first to the European philosophical community and then to American audiences were formative experiences for the young cardinal.

The story of their remarkable collaboration is recorded in their correspondence, more than ninety pieces of which are under lock and key in a Harvard University library; in Tymieniecka’s uncontroverted written account, in her interviews with the authors of this book; and in the personal testimony of Dr. George Huntston Williams, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, author of The Mind of John Paul II: Origins of His Thought and Action (1981), and a friend of Tymieniecka’s.

Dr. Williams is a Protestant minister who was an official observer at Vatican Council II, where he befriended Bishop Wojtyla. In his book he briefly notes Tymieniecka's role as co-author of the English-language edition of The Acting Person but never mentions the personal relationship that developed between the two or the extent of their collaboration. Nonetheless, he and others say that the Vatican became extremely unhappy with his book solely because of its mention of her work with the cardinal and sought to disavow it in Catholic circles. Elsewhere the book was widely praised.

There were two primary reasons for the Vatican’s reaction, according to both Dr. Williams and Mme. Tymieniecka: First, the Vatican feared news reports that a woman personally known to Wojtyla had influenced the future pope’s thinking and writing; and second, the project on which they collaborated, a massive reworking of the original Polish edition of Osoba i Czyn (literally Person and Act), embraced the modern philosophy of phenomenology at the expense of Thomism—the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas which for centuries have guided Catholic philosophy.

In 1977 Cardinal Wojtyla profusely acknowledged his debt to Mme. Tymieniecka in a handwritten introduction reproduced in the book, and a year before he signed over to her the world rights for this new English version, which he proclaimed the only “definitive” and authorized edition. He directed that all future editions of the book be translated from it rather than from the original Polish.

However, when Wojtyla became pope, a papal commission appointed to consider how to handle the suddenly valuable literary output of Karol Wojtyla urged the new pope to disavow the work he had done with Mme. Tymieniecka, get back the rights to Osoba i Czyn, and redesignate the original Polish edition as the authentic text. Representatives of the Vatican tried— unsuccessfully—to stop both publication and distribution of the Tymieniecka version of the book.

John Paul II did not question the recommendations or actions of the commission, and a period of estrangement followed between the new pope and Mme. Tymieniecka— although he continued to write to her regularly (almost every month, she says) and, less often, to members of her family. Meanwhile, she engaged lawyers and considered suing the supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church or his representatives for copyright infringement. She began assembling a meticulous record of their collaboration and correspondence and turned it over to various persons and institutions for safekeeping and eventual release upon her death. Against the wishes of the Vatican, she persisted in publishing their joint effort, and it remains in print as the standard English edition. When it was published, the Vatican launched a campaign in the Catholic press against Tymieniecka’s work on the book, intimating that her thoughts had usurped Wojtyla’s, resulting in an overly phenomenological interpretation of his ideas.

She has characterized the pope’s public silence in the dispute as a personal “betrayal,” though she and the pope have since reconciled. In the papal entourage, however, there is no question about the authenticity of either their collaboration or the philosophical content of the resulting book.

“He was an incomparable philosophical partner,” says Tymieniecka, who was born in the late 1920s. “Ours was a philosophical partnership. He said so too, but whether he really meant it is another question. He expressed it very vividly.”

In one of his letters to her, dated February 8, 1979, Pope John Paul II reminisced about their relationship: “In this respect I have myself to a considerable degree relied upon your competence, experience or—as I nevertheless believe—your intuition. Do not defend yourself against it, because it is intuition (and not only some ‘erudition’) that is your enormous strength precisely as a philosopher.”

It is her contention—and Dr. Williams supports it, as do many other experts on the Wojtyla papacy—that there is a direct connection between The Acting Person, particularly the English edition, and the encyclicals, pronouncements, and philosophy of Pope John Paul II. “Their work together was extremely important,” says Williams. “And afterward the Vatican and the pope behaved rather badly in trying to suppress knowledge of their collaboration.

Discussing the encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), perhaps the pope’s masterpiece, Dr. Williams says: “It is part of the relationship. He cannot be understood, even as pontiff, without this encyclical; he couldn’t have done what he's done without that relationship [with Tymieniecka]. It cannot be wiped out of the biographical, intellectual account.”

The original Polish text of Osoba i Czyn, never formally edited by anyone but Bishop Karol Wojtyla, was a much less developed, imprecise, and (by many accounts) almost impenetrably dense work than the version produced through their collaboration.

The pope’s friend and philosophical protégé Tadeusz Styczen wrote in I in ember 1978 in Tygodnik Powszechny that, “due to the care of Professor Teresa Tymieniecka, director of the World Institute for Advanced Phenomenological Research and Learning, this work ... is not a translation in the ordinary sense of the word, for the work has been enriched with new reflections by the author, contains a series of new analyses and a new precision ... so much that we could talk about a new book worthy to be translated into Polish.”

Dr. Tymieniecka does not maintain that the underlying philosophy of his English edition of The Acting Person is hers rather than Wojtyla’s. Her role in his thought, she says, was “influential.” She and other experts maintain that his work enabled Wojtyla to articulate and refine his ideas through what she has described as the development of the cardinal’s “philosophical style.” Eventually Cardinal Wojtyla wrote in his preface to the English-language edition that Dr. Tymieniecka was responsible for the book’s “maturation” and “its final shape.”

In essence, she was a collaborator and editor. Until her presence in the cardinal’s life, he had been ignored and even rejected by the philosophical community.

“You know, the Polish Catholic philosophers didn’t think very much of this book,' ” Tymieniecka says the cardinal told her at their first meeting. “He was very discouraged about his book. He was discouraged in general with this reception of his book—and his philosophy.”

But perhaps just as important as the contents of the English-language edition is the story of the collaboration itself. The cardinal and his philosophical partner spent countless hours together, and in the process Tymieniecka—the wife of a distinguished Harvard professor who served on President Richard Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisors—became one of the few witnesses to his character outside the narrow ecclesiastical circle of his Polish milieu.

During a period of four years, they worked together on the manuscript in Krakow, in Rome, in Vermont, in Switzerland, and in Naples and maintained a regular dialogue and correspondence that turned, by her account, for the most part on philosophy. On at least two occasions during their collaboration, she says, they quarreled seriously—though she will not say about what. Theirs was “a philosophical dialogue between two independent minds,” Dr. Williams observes.

She promoted him, helped plan his first extended visit to the United States, and arranged for Harvard to invite him to deliver his first American lecture. Working with the apostolic delegate to the United States, she secured speaking engagements in Washington. She managed to get him an invitation to tea with President Gerald Ford in the White House (the cardinal had to decline because of a schedule conflict), and she flooded the media with press releases announcing the visit to America of the distinguished Polish cardinal who some Europeans were saying might be in the running for the papacy.

Wojtyla and his private secretary, Father Stanislaw Dziwisz, stayed at the Vermont country home of Mme. Tymieniecka in the summer of 1976. The cardinal celebrated mass each morning at a picnic table in the backyard; he borrowed her husband’s shorts to wear beneath his swimming trunks when they swam in a neighbor’s pond; and they took long walks (usually in the company of Dziwisz) to discuss philosophy and their work.

She devoted herself totally to the project for four years, visiting him six times each year in Krakow and Rome, working with his secretary and with the cardinal, and then returning to her home in New England to work alone on the manuscript.

Meanwhile, during the period of their collaboration many of Cardinal Wojtyla’s philosophical reflections and papers—previously published only in Poland—were translated into English and published in the Analecta Husserliana, the hardbound publication of the International Husserl and Phenomenological Research Society, of which Dr. Tymieniecka was the director. He also presented papers at many philosophical congresses in Europe, as arranged by Tymieniecka.

- - -

When asked whether she had developed a romantic attachment to the cardinal archbishop—however one-sided it might have been—Tymieniecka, a Catholic, says, “No, I never fell in love with the cardinal. How could I fall in love with a middle-aged clergyman? Besides, I am a married woman.”

But Dr. Williams, who has spent hundreds of hours in conversation with her, has no doubt that such an attachment did develop. “Yes, of course there was that. Eros is the basis of philosophy in a way. You have to love. She is a passionate human being. Hers was a catholic passion towards Wojtyla, that is to say, it was restrained by his ecclesiastical dignity and her own understanding of what restraints there would be. But there would be a lot of emotion, within those limits, on her part.”

Having observed Wojtyla in her presence and discussed the situation with Mme. Tymieniecka, Dr. Williams concludes, "I don’t think he understands what she’s coping with when she’s in his presence. ... A magnet pulls steel particles. He doesn’t know that.”

Dr. Tymieniecka, small, pixyish, blond, has described Wojtyla as sexually naive, both in his manner and in his writing in Love and Responsibility. “The cardinal was modesty itself” in their relationship, she says. “He is a man in supreme command of himself, who has elaborated this beautiful, harmonious personality.” She adds:

     “To have written [as he has] about love and sex is to know very little about it. I was truly astounded when I read Love and Responsibility. I thought he obviously does not know what he is talking about. How can he write about such things? The answer is he doesn’t have experiences of that sort. Love and Responsibility is not only about sexuality. Its philosophy is linked to The Acting Person.
      He’s innocent sexually, but not otherwise. To be a cardinal under the Communists he had to be extremely shrewd. There is no naiveté. This is a very clever person who knows what he is doing.

To an inquiry about a sexual component or attraction in her relationship with the pope, Tymieniecka replied: “I will be extremely personal and tell you that I am not interested in sexuality in any way. I am an old- fashioned Polish lady who considers that this is not a matter for conversation of any sort.”

- - -

Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka was born on an estate in Masovia in Poland and was educated at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, where she studied in 1945-46 under Roman Ingarden—the phenomenologist whose work also influenced Karol Wojtyla around the same time.

She left Krakow in 1946, the year she got her bachelor’s degree, as the Communist government began dividing up the large estates of the old Polish nobility. Thereafter she made her home in Paris and Fribourg, Switzerland. She received her M.A. from the Sorbonne in 1951 and her Ph.D. from the University of Fribourg in 1952, where for six years she had been working on her doctorate under the direction of Professor Ignacy Bochenski.

Bochenski, an authority on Marxist philosophy, was a Polish priest who had been chosen by Archbishop Sapieha to carry a letter to Pope Pius XII seeking the Vatican’s aid in working against the Nazi occupation of Poland. The letter fell on deaf ears.

In 1954, Mme. Tymieniecka came to the United States and subsequently taught philosophy as an instructor at the University of California at Berkeley and mathematics at Oregon State University. She completed postdoctoral research at Yale, became an assistant professor of philosophy at Pennsylvania State University, and lectured at Bryn Mawr College.

- - -

The story of the relationship between Karol Wojtyla and Anna- Teresa Tymieniecka begins in 1972, when Tymieniecka, then in her mid-forties, acquired a copy of Osoba i Czyn, published in 1967 by Karol Wojtyla. "At the time the author [was] completely unknown to me,” Tymieniecka has written.

     “A brief perusal quickly showed that this work displayed certain affinities with my own work in phenomenology, as evidenced in [Tymieniecka's] Eros and Logos (published in 1962). In my book I had argued forcefully for the priority of action over cognition as the key to an understanding of human being—in opposition to the prevailing emphasis in phenomenology upon the priority of the cognitive character of intentional constitution. . . .
     I was astounded, and not a little excited, by the thought that another philosopher had arrived at a point of view so compatible with my own. My interest in this book was, therefore, understand-able. . . . Here, at last, was a kindred spirit.”

In 1972 and 1973, she kept talking to her students about “a book of genius” by Cardinal Wojtyla. When in the spring of 1973 she was invited by the Seventh Centennial International Thomas Aquinas Congress to represent American scholarship on its Scientific Committee, she went to Poland to invite the cardinal to present a paper in the phenomenology section, which she was to moderate.

“The cardinal, whom I had contacted by mail, answered my invitation by granting me an audience on July 29 at [his residence] in Krakow,” she has written. “He was surprised to find such admiration for his philosophical thinking, since his work had been severely criticized on all points by a number of Catholic philosophers in the course of a symposium in Lublin devoted to the discussion of his thought. However, after a further audience, I was able to overcome his reluctance to take part in an international forum of professional philosophers, and he promised to contribute a paper.”

Their first conversation was in one of the drawing rooms of the arch-bishop’s palace, where they sat and chatted for about an hour. Wojtyla, she says, told her he “was startled by my visit. He said he was definitely amazed that I came from abroad to tell him I considered Osoba i Czyn a great book.”

The cardinal’s secretary, Sister Eufrozja, was delighted that someone had taken a positive interest in Wojtyla’s philosophy, and when the two women had tea and cookies together in the sisters’ refectory she encouraged Tymieniecka to return the next day. “That’s when I gave the speech [to Sister Eufrozja],” says Tymieniecka. “I wanted to work on her to convince him. I said I was inviting him to address the Thomas Aquinas conference in Naples. I wanted him to represent Catholicism—I had a Jew and a Protestant. I saw him as having ideas very congenial with my own. ... I gave her an enormous speech—on the theme that we needed a leader of Christianity in the world because everything was falling apart—that I came there because I’d read his book. I said I needed him because I am a laywoman, a freethinker, and I needed someone [in the conference] to represent Christianity.”

In their subsequent correspondence, the cardinal and Tymieniecka agreed that he would appear in Naples and Rome for the Aquinas congress, deliver a paper at the plenary session on “Self-Determination as the Constitutive Structure of the Person,” and then participate in her phenomenology colloquium. At the conference itself, held from April 17 to 24, 1974, Cardinal Wojtyla also accepted her invitation to contribute future papers to the scholarly journal Analecta Husserliana.

According to Tymieniecka, they had by then started discussing the possibility of an English edition of Osoba i Czyn on which both would work and which she would have published by the phenomenology society.

      “This was on my part a labor of love, to make him known and to bring him proper recognition as a philosopher. . . . My condition was that we do it together. He wanted me to do it alone [edit the work], and I refused. I said, ‘Only if we do it together.’”

In November, after receiving a letter from the cardinal responding positively to her suggestions for more undertakings like the one at the Aquinas congress, Tymieniecka traveled to Krakow to visit Wojtyla again. During this visit, which lasted more than a month, they agreed that she would publish an English translation of Osoba i Czyn in volume 10 of the Analecta Husserliana, and a contract was drawn giving Tymieniecka exclusive worldwide publication rights. Meanwhile the cardinal commissioned a professional translator in Poland to begin work on an English version of the manuscript. Tymieniecka has recalled:

      “[My very first discussion with the prospective translator on July 13, 1975 did suffice to bring out the enormous difficulties involved in rendering the book into English. The criticisms delivered by the Polish scholars did appear to be justified in many respects. When questioned by me on this point the author admitted that he had never edited his book for publication, and that after he had com-mitted it to paper the typewritten text was simply printed.

This had always been Wojtyla’s method, and it appears to be one of the reasons that so many of his writings are considered vague, difficult, or inaccessible. In addition to “innumerable deficiencies in the text,” the original included “unfinished sentences, improper grammar, vague expressions, a profusion of repetitions, and unfinished analyses,” Tymieniecka has said.

At this point, according to Tymieniecka and others, their collaboration began in earnest: an undertaking that stretched over the next three years, in which she arranged other appearances for him at European philosophical conferences (in Rome in March and September of 1976, for instance), usually of a week or more duration. In 1975 she began working on arrangements to bring him to the United States for a speaking tour the following summer, in conjunction with his participation in the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. Her purpose was “to introduce this great thinker to the international community.”

Meanwhile, the pattern of their collaboration on the book was established during the conferences in European cities, around the table at the Collegio Polacco when Wojtyla was in Rome on ecclesiastical business, and on the visits she made to Poland.

      “I went to Poland three times a year, and Rome three times a year. Five weeks to Poland each visit, and two to three weeks to Rome each visit, for four years. In Poland, I would stay at least three weeks in Krakow during which we worked together any time he had the time. . . . He would send me a note or Sister Eufrozja would call.
     I stayed with my friends, usually university people—sometimes in a hotel. . . . He would send a note on the day before [they would meet]. For five weeks I was available whenever he was available: two weeks in Warsaw and three in Krakow. An absolute dedication. We had enormous discussions, the most fascinating philosophical discussions, about his book and his other writings. And my writings, he was reading all my writings at this time—not all of them, but whatever I gave him.”

A picture from around this time on the piano at her house in Vermont shows her as a fetching, diminutive woman in a miniskirt, her blond hair pulled back in a short ponytail.

During each five-week period of work together in Europe, they would usually be able to meet six to eight times, she says:

      “Sometimes [for] one hour, sometimes for lunch or for dinner, or for breakfast, or when he could find a little time. . . . Once for three hours in a car ride to Bologna and then back, just to discuss the book. He had no time. He was traveling all the time through the diocese. We met once or twice [during each of her stays in Krakow] for a day's outing during which we went for six hours to discuss philosophy. These were walks in the woods—he was a dedicated walker. I managed. I was rather on the weak side. These would be with Dziwisz. The three of us. . . . Often we went to the mountaineering part of the countryside, and the [Communist] secret service would follow the cardinal. Mucha [the cardinal’s chauffeur] would try to lose them.”

This point has an interesting footnote: After Wojtyla became pope, Polish Communist sources and police documents were the basis for some of the unfounded suppositions and rumors that Karol Wojtyla had had a relationship—presumably sexual—with a Polish woman while a prelate. In fact, the woman that undercover agents apparently had seen him with on several occasions was in all likelihood Mme. Tymieniecka.

They talked about literature, nature, poetry, anthropology:

      “We had a dialogue all the time between two philosophers—it went far beyond the book; that was the whole charm of this work. Had we not done this, I probably would not have developed such a devotion to the book. He was an incomparable philosophical partner.

As for The Acting Person itself, the broad themes were “already articulated in the book in Polish. We were concentrating on smaller philosophical points; there were very unclear formulations to be addressed, sentences had to be finished. But the big themes were clear.”

These were the same broad themes that would become the basis of his philosophy as pope:

      “In The Acting Person are found most of his politics of the Church as pope. These were the reasons why he was capable of leading Christianity, and why I went to Krakow the first time. They went against the tendencies of the Church culture of the time. He stressed the self-determination of a human being: that it is in the hands of an individual to delineate his life, to work out his life; and consequently a society and political system have to give the individual the opportunity for self-determination.
If, on the one hand, the social-political system does not give this self-determination its proper rights—as in totalitarianism and communism, which suppress the self-determination of the human being—then the state is pernicious. On the other hand, if societies and cultures allow the individual to become strictly individualistic and oblivious to the community ties which self-determination both calls for and establishes—then social cooperation disintegrates.

- - -

Wojtyla’s visit to the United States in 1976 was a triumph. It was also the first time he caught the attention of a large and influential American audience. “I wanted to introduce him as a great personality, a great statesman, but nobody would accept that at first,” says Tymieniecka. “He came from an inconsequential country, and nobody knew him. I got him a dinner at the Harvard president's house—two hundred fifty people—and the university gave him a car and driver, and all the Polish professors were to receive the cardinal at his arrival.” The formal invitation for Wojtyla to speak at Harvard had been extended by Dr. Williams.

At Harvard his lecture was extremely well received by both academics and leaders of the Church and was accorded extensive news coverage, including an article in the New York Times. Indeed, at a luncheon at Harvard attended by university officials and the press, Tymieniecka’s husband, Harvard Professor Hendrik Houthakker, a Dutch-born Jew who had spent time in a Nazi internment camp, introduced Wojtyla as the next pope.

During the three weeks between the Eucharistic Congress and Cardinal Wojtyla’s lectures and meetings with American Catholic leaders in Washington and other cities, he stayed twice at Tymieniecka’s house in the Vermont woods—six or seven days in all. (In Washington, she acted as hostess for both a dinner and reception in the Cardinal’s honor.)

This period, Mme. Tymieniecka says, was the most intense of their collaboration, an impression shared by Professors Williams and Houthakker. The situation, says Tymieniecka, “was beautiful; we were doing marvelous things, an incomparable philosophical dialogue. He would work in the kitchen. When he sits at the table he concentrates extremely intensely and does not get up until he finishes. . . . Then he reflects on it.”

She had decided to receive the cardinal in "the most American way possible.” Breakfast was Quaker Oats. “Everybody went swimming in the neighbor's pond. Mass was under the tree, on a picnic table at seven-thirty A.M., so my son could assist [before work]. Father Dziwisz was the altar boy. We had animals—a horse, a goat, a donkey—and they approached during the mass to see what was going on.”

Sometimes she and Wojtyla worked for sixteen hours a day, she says, often taking long walks, discussing "philosophy, society, literature, poetry. We had enormous discussions. . . . He was planning after The Acting Person another volume of what he considered to be anthropology, a treatise on ethics, which eventually became the basis for Veritatis Splendor.”

She found him "the most elegant man . . . the most elegant actor. There is an ingredient of perfect composure and a very smooth—this is the key—self-control in his behavior. It should not be forgotten that he was trained as an actor.” She continues:

      “He has developed in himself an attitude of modesty, a very solicitous way of approaching people. He makes a person feel there is nothing else on his mind, he is ready to do everything for the other person. . . . Due to his innate personal charm, which is one of his greatest weapons, he has in addition a poetical nature, a captivating way of dealing with people. These are all evidences of his charisma—even the way in which he moves, though now it is no more, now that he is an old gentleman. He had a way of moving, a way of smiling, a way of looking around that was different and exceedingly personal. It had a beauty about it.”

Gradually, listening to the cardinal express his thoughts and working with him over a long period in intellectually intimate circumstances, Tymieniecka reached some other conclusions about him.

      “The greatest power of the pope, this special calling, is Christ-like. What does it consist of) He sees someone for the first time in his life and he is able to open to this man a hidden treasury of brotherhood. Christ himself could not do it better. This is why people are so mesmerized by him. By his smile, by his warmly emotional attitude, which is so solicitous, as if [the other person] were the closest brother, the closest kin to whom the pope gives himself entirely. This is beyond the question of pose or reality. It is essence.

People around him see the sweetest, [most] modest person. They never see this iron will behind it. That is the pope. His is the most relaxed manner. The incredible work going on in his mind, you don’t see it. . . His usual attitude [with others] is suavity. His iron will is exercised with suavity and enormous discretion. It doesn’t manifest itself directly. To some extent this is the pose. But it is a second nature, not altogether a pose. Probably he was always like this. You look at his pictures [as a youth]: a very sweet type of a boy—very thoughtful, even slightly sentimental.
If there is one trait of character which I can observe in him it is love of contradiction. . . . Perseverance is another primary characteristic. He never sees an obstacle. Nothing is an obstacle.”

“He’s extremely proud,” she learned, “terribly sensitive to pride. This is an extremely multifaceted human being, extremely colorful. He is by no means as humble as he appears. Neither is he modest. He thinks about himself very highly, very adequately.”

Does he ever change his mind? Tymieniecka was

      “I have the impression he does not. He’s very interested in new ideas. He’s open to new ideas when they are consistent with his. He is a very systematic person. This is not a man who acts by trial and error. He’s not experimenting. He entered the papacy as a mature man in possession of a system. The rest of his life is about implementing it.”

Mme. Tymieniecka found Wojtyla wise, except when discussing the West and the United States. Tymieniecka concluded that many of the cardinal’s impressions were wrong and his lack of knowledge disturbing. And she got the impression that he saw Communist rule in the East as impregnable. She discussed these subjects with her husband—though not much else about the details of the time she spent with Wojtyla. Dr. Houthakker recalls:

      “She felt that he considered the Communists to be more powerful than they really were. My wife had the impression that Wojtyla thought that in the long run the Communists would prevail, so that in a way he was fighting a losing battle. He was very much aware of the power of the Soviet system. He was not aware of the power of the Western system.
. . . My wife was certainly concerned about his lack of understanding for the West. She talked to him about the nature of this society which is so different from the society in which he was brought up. ... He tended to regard Western countries and especially the United States as immoral, amoral perhaps. He had no real appreciation of the virtues of democracy. She on at least two occasions was instrumental in telling him that he was going to sound like Savonarola in the United States, and she told him that it’s a wonderful country; and of course there are things that she may not like, but there are certain things that he can’t say. She persuaded him not to express his disdain or alarm about the decadence in the West and in the United States in particular. This is very important, because he could have spoiled his reception in the United States by the things he was going to say.”

Later, in a conversation with Houthakker in the Vatican after Wojtyla became pope, the impression was intensified: “I tried to talk to him about the merits of capitalism and democracy,” Houthakker says, “but I had a feeling I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

During the Wojtyla papacy, more than a few American bishops would have the same experience.

- - -

Observing the relationship between his wife and Wojtyla over the years, Dr. Houthakker says:

      “You have to realize that my wife and I have somewhat different spheres of interests. We don’t see each other except on weekends, when there’s always plenty to be done.
     My wife is very feminine, and I’m sure she thought of Wojtyla as a man as well as a priest. No doubt about it. My wife is always classifying people as handsome or otherwise. She must have made the same judgment with respect to him. The fact is that I don’t think she was especially attracted by him. She just was not unaware of the fact that he was a man, as she could not help but be. ... I think that my wife found and still finds the pope on the whole quite congenial. And so she finds she can discuss with him what she can’t with many other people, because he’s Polish and because on the whole she doesn’t get along with other Poles.”

What did the cardinal find in the relationship?

“Maybe a sort of window to the outside world,’’ Houthakker speculates. “Because I think he wasn’t aware that he had spent his life in a sort of circumscribed environment.”

Describing Tymieniecka as “a very outspoken and straightforward person" (Dr. Williams uses almost the same words), Houthakker says, “She has not treated him with undue deference, with more respect than is due the pope; she talks with him quite freely.’’ Perhaps, he believes, this is another reason for her influence with him.

- - -

Williams notes, “She has told me more about her relationship with him than I felt appropriate—surely for him, and for me to be hearing.” However, during the period when he was writing his book The Mind of John Paul II, in the first years of Wojtyla’s papacy, she was extremely circumspect—and of virtually no help, he says.

Later, after listening to her at length, he concluded (as he had thought all along) that Tymieniecka felt a powerful sexual attraction for the cardinal, but that this was “sublimated" by the reality of his office and replaced by “an intellectual passion ... in which she was excited by ideas. I believe it was a kind of collaboration in which her own sense of being a universal Catholic was enhanced by this winsome, mysterious scholar, who was not a standard product of a theological seminary, a phenomenologist rather than a Thomist. And I think she found that was frontier-crossing in terms of the intellectual history of her Church.

“Oh, I think they laughed and joked and swam and did everything together—in company of course,’’ he says.

Williams has no doubt that Tymieniecka, in her way, fell in love with the cardinal and that Wojtyla did not return her love: “There’s the question of whether he was emotionally engaged. I find there’s quite a disequilibrium even when they’re together and they’re also looking at the same scenery, picking the same grapes and so forth.” Wojtyla, he surmises, was attracted to her on an intellectual level:

      “The heart has its reasons, and the mind has a heart. His mind does have a passion, a kind of passion that may have been uniquely experienced in the sharing of The Acting Person. And that is Person and Act. If you just get the title of his book, the original conception, there’s a duality there—the person and the act—and I believe that that is a paradigm of the relationship. . . . And you might say that in reversing his original intentions he’s Czyn and she's Osoha.”

spacer spacer
site design :: scott pilutik spacer