frontline: pope john paul II - the millennial pope

pope praying
discussion:  spirituality and faith...What are your thoughts and stories about seeking faith, or losing faith, or finding faith? (Please limit your letter to under 200 words)


Unfortunately, the Frontline story on the Pope was a classical example of the Ken Burns School of Indoctrination. Following this method, the producers used pre-selected people that simply presented so-called human stories or analyses that simply amplified producers bias. Deplorably, indoctrination is not what education should be. Controversial subjects need discussion and presentation of different points of view.

The most biased and even comical was the segment on the Pope and Liberation Theology concluded with the opinion of a pompous chap from The Washington Post deploring the fact that the Catholic Church and the Pope did not join the Marxist revolution in Central and South America. According to this rich Communist sympathizer and anti-Catholic, this revolution would solve the problem of poverty.

Fortunately, the Pope was a better scholar of history and knew that Communism has proven time and time again that when in power, it not only destroys the Church thousands of priests were murdered by Communists but that the poor are the most numerous victims of Communism...

Norman Pieniazek
Suwanee, GA


The Pope will be remembered for what he was and is - a reactionary trying to maintain and defend an institution which has caused more death and suffering throughout history than any other. His views on birth control in particular, and the manner in which he has used his influence in the Third World to proclaim these views, guarantee him a place amongst the most evil men alive on the planet today.

Future generations will shake their heads when they read about this 20th century figure who more properly belongs in and to the Dark Ages.

HB Mischling
Cincinnati, OH


As a practicing Catholic what I find most interesting about people and faith religion - is the perception that what matters is how it affects me. Not what you, as an individual do, what is done to you.

Jesus spent a lot of time speaking about helping your neighbor, more than about how to become saved. One of the ideals that I hold is the belief - if you can't see God in everything around you, you will not find God in a book. Everytime you ignore someone in need, you are in essence ignoring God.

One of the qualities that is most difficult for people, is standing up for what is right, no matter the consequence. That is a quality that Pope John Paul has. It is the one I admire most. I encourage Catholics to learn about their religion. Understand where the teachings come from and try to distuinguish between the actions of people and the dogma of the Church.

Bridget O'Rourke
Merrimack, New Hampshire


The program is very nicely produced and you can see how much research and work are being done behind it. I did not step away from the TV at all for the whole 2 1/2 hours. It feels so great to watch an educational, spiritual, excellent program like this. So many good comments to say but I am just so impressed, happy, and speechless :
Looking forward to more program like this. Great work!!!

Christine Leung
Daly City, CA


Your program on John Paul II was a stunning visual experience. At the same time, however, the substance of it was both superficial and unrealistic. The use of sophomoric psychoanalytical speculation to explain the Pontiff's veneration of God's Mother was not only shallow but irritatingly patronizing intellectual indolence and quackery a wilted and discredited device of third rate literary criticism.

Your writers agonizingly tippytoed around the principle reality governing the life of the Holy Father just as it governs the life of any person of faith - the real presence of God in ourselves that is the ineluctable consequence of unconditionally reaching out to His mercy, a consequence that really mediates the events of our lives as we struggle for the gift of His grace.

Even the first Pope, St. Peter, had his moments of darkness and separation from God, denying Christ three times before returning to the light. It's not possible to understand John Paul or honestly represent his life and influence without measuring his propinquity to God and its real consequences often providential, sometimes miraculous.

In essence, your presentation was a fine suit of clothes your graphics dressing up an otiose dwarf your words a sometimes intensely compelling photo journal trivialized by doctrinaire secularism.

Jonathan Robbin
Bethesda, Maryland


Thank you for your beautiful presentation on Pope John Paul II. You are to be congratulated on trying to handle a huge topic in a relatively short period of time.

As Catholics, many of us have a hard time in being truly "Catholic" and seeing the evolving views of the church over the course of 20 centuries. St. Paul told his hearers that "servants should be subject to their masters" and yet over the course of the centuries Christian religious belief became one of the sources which brought down slavery in this country. We are so much caught up in the "present moment" that it is hard to take the "long view" and how Christianity continues to interact with the world. Many of us see "liberation theology and the role of women" in that same light.

I personally disagree with Pope John Paul II's views on these subjects
but I leave it up to the Holy Spirit and the course of history to let it play out.

Thanks again for this documentary and your "From Jesus to Christ" series which I have used in adult religious education. It is far superior to anything I can get from church sources.

Tom McCloskey
Boomingdale, NJ


Dear Frontline,

I watched your story on the life of Pope John Paul II...I could not turn the TV off. I was brought to tears many times in that 2 1/2 hour program.

It brought home the reality of our times.
It was the pure brutality of this century and the program's way of showing how one human's love for God and strength of faith was a message to us that we must end our self serving ways.

As I laid in bed with my sleeping wife, I rapped my arms around her and thanked God for the gift of our child.

Tony Kroska


I've been meaning to write to you ever since I watched your program last Tuesday. On the question of legacy, unlike our politicians, I really don't think John Paul II even thinks about that. One of the things I think your program aptly portrayed is his commitment to the truth, and that is infinitely more important than what people might think about him!

The Pope takes his cues from Jesus Christ, who, like John Paul, has been criticized for his teachings and his steadfastness to the truth. Like many others I know, I believe he will come to be known as John Paul the Great, and that he eventually will be canonized. But even that doesn't matter--to him, or to us.
What matters is his unwavering adherence to the Word of God, and his deep communion with Him.

The Pope is the embodiment of what a personal relationship with God can be--both trying and fruitful, but in the end, fruitfulness, abundance wins out. There are many who criticize his teaching on women, but I have to tell you, as a woman, I feel I have come to see a man who truly understands me for the first time, perhaps more so than many women I know.
In general, I was very impressed by your production, which I think truly tried to present a balanced picture of the ruling pontiff. One disappointment I had, however, was that the section on women included no interviews with women who supported and had knowledge and understanding of the Church's teaching on women, people such as Susan Muto and Alice von Hildebrand, for example. No one even mentioned the Pope's 1988 apostolic letter, "On the Dignity and Vocation of Women," which is critical to his thinking and our growth in the Church.
It also might have been nice to interview some of the Pope's biographers, like Tad Szulc and George Weigel.
That said, I am very thankful for this program. It was a real undertaking, and I appreciate it.

Susan McInerney
Washington, DC


I was fascinated and appalled by your program. Fascinated because of the Pope's enormous influence on our times. Appalled because what you showed was what led me to leave the Catholic church when I was in my 20s.

The treatment of women in the church has always been upsetting to me. From the Pope's ban on both contraception and abortion to his refusal to allow women to become priests, the church has always made me feel a second class citizen.

As I got older I also felt that overpopulation was going to lead to the eventual destruction of the earth as we know it. The Pope's continual daming of any thing that might help control a population out of control makes me feel that I can never rejoin the church of my childhood.

It is a saddening reality that the church that I loved as a child has become a negative force in my life as an adult.

I can never belong to a chuch that denies my equality to participate in the sacraments as well as tells me that I cannot control my reproductive destiny.

Donna Sullivan
Brookfield, Mass.


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


Why are you publisihing almost nothing but paens to John Paul II? This is a man who, by his very attempt to suppress dissent, has stirred up a hornet's nest of dissent within the church. Surely, some of the dissenters must be writing you.

I know I did previously. But my message and others expressing similar dark views of this very human pope don't show up in your "discussion" group.

Michael Morad-McCoy
Albuquerque, NM


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


He'll be remembered as the first pope to truly reach out personally and globally to his church members and to newcomers. ...he wasn't always as responsive to those in his church in the ways they felt they needed him to respond. Be that for good or for ill, he tried to respond how he thought best.

I think that he'll be remembered as the tough pope with the guts to say what he thought was right, whether that was fashionable or not.

Eva Riedman


As a young person I always equated "faith" with a set of doctrinal beliefs, and berated myself for not having faith when faced with doctrines that made no sense to me.

That changed for me when I finally learned that "faith" describes not necessarily a doctrine, but rather an action. The action described is "to reposit one's trust". I then began to see that I could trust in God for some things, the most important being that I could hang onto him. God has never promised me that I won't get hurt. However, He has promised me that if I hang onto Him, I ultimately won't be harmed.

Eva Reidman


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


home | discussion | interviews | his faith | testimonies on faith | the church and sexuality | the pope and communism

biography | anecdotes | his poems | "abba pater" | encyclicals | video excerpt | tapes & transcripts | synopsis | press | teachers' guide
FRONTLINE | pbs online | wgbh

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation



../etc/bio.html ../sex/ ../etc/faith.html ../interviews/ ../talk/ ../