frontline: pope john paul II - the millennial pope

pope walking with staff
discussion:  general comments


I am a person that never writes opinions to newspaper/television,etc, but I must tell you about the impact last week's Frontline made on me.

I am a person on the edge of atheism. I have struggled to describe my stance on the role of religion in my life and have never had success. How can I hope for something on the one hand and at the same time question it? This documentary helped make sense out of the struggle I have had to define my sense of religion.

I found myself represented in the voice of Germaine Greer and my answer in the voice of Lorenzo Albacete. There is the desire for the ideal and the struggle for that ideal. This gave me hope and inspired me to continue my struggle to define the role of religion in my life. I was fascinated and deeply grateful that you presented a program that showed a man of such great importance in the world with such humanity.Thank you.

Amy Selfe
Orinda, California


I watched the program with great interest.
Despite some biases and simplifications
you were able to show some insights into the Pope's faith and teachings. His absolute trust in God's love and mercy has been a powerful testimony of a childlike faith, which comes from daily prayers and meditations.

His love for all people, especially the unborn, handicapped, and the elderly,is a driving force of his pontificate.

I wish you had talked more about the pope's special affection for young people.

Marek Sroka
Urbana, IL


Frontline did a superb job of portraying the Pope's deep spirituality. However I was offended by the one-sided, negative presentation of the Pope's views on women's ordination and on birth control. I was also disappointed that you used the documentary to repeat the old lies about Pope Pius XII not helping the Jews. Even Albert Einstein said that the Catholic Church did more to help the Jews than any other organization.

Bob Brine
Sacramento, CA


I wish to thank PBS for this program. Even if the show was incredibly biased in some arguments, I really appreciated the part on faith, especially Msgn. Albacete's contribution; I think you should go on working on the last question: is it His or our tragedy?

e. ciaccia
Houston, TX


Overall I thought the program on John Paul II was well done and exhibited less of the medias usual anti-Catholic bias. The Pope's critics made some interesting points, but were over-simplistic.

For example, one man said the Pope by condemning artificial
contraception missed an opportunity to prevent abortion in South
America. It is true that there is no logical link between true
contraception and abortion, but there is a practical link. After
contraceptives became widely available in the U.S.,
the demand for legal abortion actually increased, perhaps because
it produced a climate of less self control, more promiscuity, and
less tolerance for the unwanted pregnancies that occurred as a result.

We therefore can't assume that artificial contraception will reduce
the temptation to abortion. And this practical link to abortion
is not the only reason for the Pope's opposition to artificial contraception.

I also wonder about the honesty of the woman who said the Church's affirmation
of the value of Mary's free choice to accept God's will at the Annunciation in
becoming mother of Christ, is somehow negated by the Pope's
condemnation of the free choice of artificial birth control. I am not Catholic but I know the Church teaches that Mary in saying yes to God became the spouse
of the Holy Spirit. The Pope has never argued that women and men
be forced to marry. They have the right not to have children,
and they exercise it through their right to remain single, a
state of life which assumes celibacy.

What this woman really
wants is for the Pope to declare it moral for men and women to
enjoy sex while deliberately thwarting its natural consequence by
artificial means -- which is quite another question -- and
something the Pope cannot do in good conscience, as he views this
as an abuse of God's gift of sexuality.

Kelly Smith
Niagara Falls, NY


The fact that so many of the comments are negative is another example of anger being a stronger impetus to take pen in hand than is appreciation.

I suggest to my fellow Catholics who view the program as a whole negatively, and particularly to the many who use the term, hatchet job, that it is unfair to condemn the programs creators because they do not fully share your views of John Paul II and the Catholic Church.

The fact that their approach is different from what yours would be, and presents issues such as contraception and the ordination of women in a different light than you would, is a quite reasonable service to the American public at large and to American Catholics in particular.

It is a simple fact, no matter how lamentable you consider it, that Catholics are deeply divided on these issues, and further, that you are in the small minority within the Church in your unconditional support of John Paul II in his condemnation of both contraception and the belief that women are eligible for ordination.

Frontline would be remiss if it did not take cognizance of this fact and address it. Although the programs creators may not have handled every issue perfectly, it is quite clear that they were striving to give a deep and objective presentation. Whatever the specific complaints, it was definitely not a hatchet job, and they deserve high praise for their efforts.

P.S. Please forbear reproaching me for claiming that the majority is correct by virtue of being a majority. Im not saying that. Im saying that Frontline, in fulfilling its responsibility to the American public as a whole, cannot ignore the split among Catholics. Furthermore, neither does the majority claim to be right because it is a majority. It claims to be right on the merits of the cases, just as you do. And your minority status confers no particular moral or intellectual superiority.

William Breidenbach
Washington, DC


I thought the most interesting part of the program was that on faith, particularly the last question: if as the Pope witnesses, that God is real and that Christ is the Incarnation of God in the flesh, then that fact changes the way that we face all of reality, including the relationship between Jews and Christians, men and women, politics and all the other things the program talked about before the final part on faith. Faith and life are not separate.

Although I found some parts of the program to be biased and designed more as a forum to air the ideological agenda of the speakers, than to understand and portray the pope, I want to thank PBS for dedicating this program to the amazing human being that John Paul II is. I also want to mention that I found Fr. Albacete to be very profound, and I would have liked to hear more from him.

Debra Sheldon
San Francisco, CA


Overall, Frontline did a superficial job of documenting Pope JPII's impact on our world it would take at least 10 hours to really begin to go in depth. You neglected to interview the Pope himself and interviewed several individuals who, for personal reasons, had a grudge against the Church. I was also disappointed that you did not mention the Pope's love for young people, as evidenced by his establishing World Youth Day in 1985.

Mike Ludeman
Newberg, Oregon


I was deeply moved during parts of your 'Millennial Pope' piece. The warden, the conductor, and the entire polish nation showed me the power of Love!

However, I was equally repulsed by the
many "I hate Catholicism" interviews. i.e.Marina Warner points out that
The Virgin Maryhad a choice when the Arch Angel Gabriel asked her to bear the Son of God. Warner therefore concludes that women should have the choice to abort their own babies. Catholic women do have the same right to choose as Mary.
That is BEFORE conception.

Eric Ciccone
Marblehead, MA


Personally, I wish that JPII would have emerged truly as a catholic, millenial pope. Alas, he will be remembered as a Polish pope! He did well for his fellow poles. But he failed to be truly a catholic - a universal pope, bringing an equal passion for the suffering of others, particularly the poor of Latin America.

He will be remembered as more tribal than catholic, perhaps in the analysis of history. Beyond Italian or Polish popes, the church awaits a truly millenial pope who matches the spirit of Jesus who transcended tribe. As the poet Eileen Duggan penned,
"...conceive, if you can, it was not only life he gave up, but country for man."
When a pope is still frontiered by tribe or nation, he fails to reach the stature of a catholic, millenial vicar of Jesus of Nazareth.

Rev. Emmett Coyne
Washington, DC


First of all I would like to thank you, PBS, for airing a piece on the pope. A lot of people don't realize how truly remarkable and holy John Paul II really is. And while the show was incredibly biased in some segments, like those on Liberation Theology and Women, on the whole I think you did a great job at maintaining an accurate focus on who JPII is.

I would also like to say that Msgr. Albacete really struck me with his clarity and information on the pope. Some of the other guests seemed to me to be too oversensitive about certain issues with the pope or the church to keep a clear view of reality.

For me personally, as a young FEMALE Catholic, John Paul II serves as the only clear voice of reason in this "culture of death" and while the rest of the influencing powers try to destroy in me what is truly human, the pope indeed confirms that I have a true history, a rich tradition, and most of all, dignity.
Again thank you for the documentary.

Leah Heine
San Diego, CA


I wish to thank PBS, the producer,
and everybody else to made JP2's broadcast.I think it was one of the best programmes aired on PBS, ever.

I do however have one comment: you should have given more space to voices which express the church's view. For example,
Hans Kung is is a "renegade" theologician, therefore it would been
fair to also have Ratzinger's opinion heard.

Despite these pitfalls, the programme's central message and question
-- is JP2 a prophet or our time or a man out of step with reality ? --
focuses on the most important problem modern woman faces with her/his
relationship with God. Also, very good the choice of Mons. Albacete's

Fiorenzo Cattaneo
Santa Clara, California


I found the program and the man himself fascinating, intelligent and somewhat disturbing. John Paul II's spirituality cannot be doubted; some of his positions might be doubtful. But he is a man of his time and outside his time as well.

I knew long ago about his relationships to Jews, especially Polish Jews during the Shoah. There is a wonderful story about his attitudes and spiritual gifts in this regard in Dr. Yaffa Eliach's "Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust" 1982

I can only wish, as a Reform Protestant Minister myself, that my Catholic Brothers and Sisters do not regard this documentary as an attack on this man. He has a right to be shown in his saintliness and with his flaws, and documentary makers have the duty to show both of these very human aspects. If he is at war with the 20th Century, he has good reason to be.
Rev. Paulina K. Dennis, Brooklyn, NY

Paulina K. Dennis
New York, New York


In my opinion, Msgr. Albacete got closest to the heart of the matter when he stated that for the pope, it was not a matter of a 'person with faith,' as if faith were some compartmentalized facet of human life to be added and discarded at will, but that this faith itself defines the person in their totality. This really is what the pope is all about so to speak. It is in this vain that the world can make no proper account of this man PBS gave it a fair, though decidedly simplistic/dissidental attempt

The reason he is so contraversial is because he views the world with real faith, rather than the postured, focus-group tested, statements that characterize our modern-day leaders. He views the consequences of his teachings not in the shallow and fickle caprices of this age, but in view of the sweeping vistas of eternity. This is why this man is so important. He is the only voice in the world who coherently stands against the beliefs of this age. And it is because of this that so many people, Catholics included, despise him. Thankfully, there are millions of others, myself included, who value him tremendously. Thank You for doing this program.

Michael Tallman
Princeton, NJ


I'd like to thank PBS for this program. I do not want to focus on the things that I like or dislike but on the fact that the John Paul II was presented as a man. I really appreciatedd the part on faith the 'the business core', especially Msgn. Albacete.

I hope that some other programs will follow to develop the last question of the program: is it his or our tragedy?

M. Prina
Los Angeles, CA


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