On the Alleged “Emotional” Affair of Pope John Paul II

Here’s something that mystifies me about common Roman Catholic perceptions of Karol Józef Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II).

Please stay with me. This post will be long.

First, some background. A few years ago, it came to light that Wojtyła and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka engaged in what many have called an emotional affair [1]. Ed Stourton, a reporter with the BBC, discovered that around 1975, Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka first told Karol Wojtyla that she was in love with him [2]. She reiterated her feelings for Wojtyła in the following years, prompting Wojtyla to assure her that she was a gift from God to him, writing, “If I did not have this conviction, some moral certainty of Grace, and of acting in obedience to it, I would not dare act like this.” Wojtyła even wrote, “God gave you to me and made you my vocation.” Furthermore, in his letters, Wojtyla acknowledged that Tymieniecka was “being torn apart” by her feelings for him. Though he “could find no answer to these words [her confessions of love],” he continued their relationship for over thirty years, despite his election to the Papacy and her marriage to another man [3]. Sources report that the two of them would canoe and camp together [2], [3], [6]. Wojtyła is said to have borrowed and worn Tymieniecka’s husband’s swimming trunks under his own whenever Wojtyła and Tymieniecka would take a dip in a pond near her house in Vermont [6].

This news story broke before the present Global Scandal, and most reporters back then were careful to emphasize that they had no reason to believe Wojtyła had ever violated his vow of celibacy in a physical manner [4]. Indeed, during her last years, Tymieniecka denied having ever been in love with Wojtyła, and no one pursued the question much further [4], [6]. The Vatican seemed to downplay the relationship between Wojtyla and Tymieniecka as nothing but another close but chaste friendship among many. And at the time, with no reason for suspicion, the official explanation appeared reasonable to most people.

But was this the right conclusion based on the available evidence?

Even before the Global Scandal came to light, Chris Damian, a believing Catholic and admirer of Wojtyła, expressed discomfort about Wojtyła’s apparent love letters [1]. However, he reasoned that many respected Church figures have also had emotional affairs, including Dante Alighieri, and therefore it must be acceptable in God’s eyes in certain situations. In fact, he concluded that Wojtyła had blazed a trail in pursuit of love that Christians should imitate, presumably by opening themselves to the possibility of chaste expressions of extra-marital eroticism. And, he didn’t seem troubled that, at the time he wrote his reaction, the National Library of Poland had not yet publicly released all of the letters. Understandably, since this was several years ago, Chris Damian never even entertained the possibility that Wojtyła’s letters may have hinted at something more sinister. The widespread moral corruption of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy wasn’t on too many people’s radar yet.

That being said, it has always struck me as almost self-evident that an emotional affair between a powerful man and a married woman usually includes a sexual affair, especially when secret, sensually-charged letters are exchanged by both parties for more than thirty years. Given what we now know about Bransfield, Jenik, Maciel, McCarrick, Morneau, Pell, Ricca, Salazar, Wuerl, and dozens of other alleged and convicted perverts in the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, why should anyone trust the Vatican’s official story of a chaste friendship when the texts of Wojtyła’s letters provide compelling evidence of something else? Even if no sexual element existed in Wojtyła’s and Tymieniecka’s relationship, isn’t an emotional affair of this depth, if fully confirmed, actually in some ways worse than a short-term fling? In any other situation with any other man, there would be calls for an investigation to determine the whole truth. We know that Wojtyła elevated and protected many perverse men, and we now know that many bishops have been intentionally lying about very important matters, including Wuerl [5]. Why then, is it so hard to imagine that Wojtyła may have participated in the perversity of his own administration?

Certainly, common decency and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ side with Professor Eamon Duffy, who criticized Wojtyła’s relationship with Tymieniecka as “extremely unjust to the other partner [Tymieniecka’s husband], who is being deprived of that kind of intensity with their spouse.” Indeed, our Lord Himself said, “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt. 5:28). And again, Ecclesiasticus 9:9 says, “Sit not at all with another man’s wife, nor sit down with her in thine arms, and spend not thy money with her at the wine; lest thine heart incline unto her, and so through thy desire thou fall into destruction.” And yet, the clear teaching of God seems to have been set aside in evaluating Wojtyła’s behavior, who as a canonized Roman Catholic Saint is now commonly seen as beyond criticism — but should he be? Did Wojtyła fool the world regarding his sanctity, just like Maciel, the Legionaries of Christ, and other conmen of the cloth?

There’s no conclusive answer at present, but something smells rotten to me, and people deserve to know the truth.

References

[1] The Emotional Affair of John Paul II.
[2] The secret letters of Pope John Paul II
[3] Letters From Pope John Paul II Show Deep Friendship With Woman
[4] Letters from Pope John Paul II reveal friendship with married woman
[5] Despite denials, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew of sexual misconduct allegations against Theodore McCarrick and reported them to Vatican
[6] Did Pope John Paul II Have a Secret Lover?

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My Conversion Story

I trembled.

Christ’s gaze penetrated through the flickering candle flame. My heart perceived its Lord and Maker, who was standing right in front of the altar, robed in clouds of sweet-smelling incense. The Deacon carrying His Body and Blood proclaimed: “With fear of God, and faith, and love draw near!” At that moment, God called me to become an Orthodox Christian and join St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church.

In retrospect, Divine Providence clearly foreshadowed this conversion experience. If you go by the Julian calendar, I was born in 1987 on Christmas Day. My parents, although not Orthodox Christians, always joked about this. There were other heavenly coincidences too. My birth godmother, for example, had been born to an Orthodox Christian family in Greece. God even used my physical disability, Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, to introduce me to the Faith. Because I had to rely on other people to help with physical tasks like dressing myself, preparing meals, bathing, or transferring between chairs, relying on God came naturally. My physical disability became an opportunity to experience the loving-kindness of countless people, and through them, the tender mercies of God.

During childhood hospital visits and surgeries, I vaguely remember God’s Angels comforting me and other patients. Miraculous signs of His fatherly care fill my earliest memories. For example, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I was blessed to meet Darlene Smith, a woman who had been completely healed of a severe case of polio at seven years old at the Monte Sano Hospital. These beautiful encounters with God’s love embodied in faithful believers and miracles led me to embrace Christianity at a very young age. I asked to receive Baptism when I was eight years old, and thanks to the loving support of my family and friends at Bethel Baptist Church, I enjoyed a relatively normal childhood shaped in part by Pastor Gene Strother’s humble faith, but above all, informed by my mother’s careful teaching and example.

Pastor Gene taught me:

“Becoming a Christian is a life-changing experience. The Bible tells us that God loves us and wants to have a personal and everlasting relationship with us. Unfortunately, the Bible also tells us that our sin separates us from God and leaves us spiritually inept. While many choose to depend upon what they can do themselves and mistakenly believe they can live good enough to win God’s favor and approval, there is a different choice, a better choice we can make. Jesus Christ, through his death on the cross and resurrection three days later, has already paid the price for our sins. God promises forgiveness and eternal life to everyone who will simply and sincerely believe in Jesus. Believing can be explained as trusting in another, instead of depending upon what you can do.”

— Rev. Gene Strother, Pastor of Bethel Baptist

Thanks be to God, my wonderful parents and friends at church and school continually showered offered affection and encouragement, building up my faith and my trust in Jesus Christ. They also cultivated my intellectual and spiritual curiosity. I became interested in plants and theology, and I enjoyed growing ivies and bean sprouts in leftover plastic communion cups. There was something special and life-giving about Christ’s Last Supper as celebrated by the Southern Baptists, and I thirsted for knowledge that would reveal a path to deeper union with God.

As a teenager, curiosity (and contending with my mortality during spinal surgery) led me to search for the original Christian Church that had been founded by Jesus Christ. I hoped to discover the full truth about Christ’s teachings and to clear up my confusion about difficult passages in the Bible. That’s when I encountered Orthodox Christianity for the first time in an intellectual context. During the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I began visiting St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church and kept coming back throughout my junior year to talk with Fr. David Barr about theological questions. Upon attending my first Divine Liturgy there, I had a profound spiritual experience during which I perceived the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. At that moment, as already mentioned at the beginning of this conversion account, God called me to become an Orthodox Christian and join St. Elias.

My story should have ended there. But, after only a matter of days, I turned away from God’s call to serve Him at St. Elias. Instead, I pursued another way that seemed like it would better satisfy my own desires and needs. I began dating a young woman who was a practicing Roman Catholic and an altar server at St. Louis Catholic Church in Austin, TX, and, as many teenage boys do, I let my hormones color my judgment.

After we had been dating for a few months, I briefly met with her priest and asked to join the Roman Catholic Church. He waived the usual requirement to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and appointed my girlfriend’s father as my Confirmation Sponsor. Two weeks later, during Christmas break, I was received into the Roman Catholic Church. Against Dad’s strongly-worded advice, I agreed to convert partly to please my girlfriend and her family. It wasn’t long though before my guilt pushed me to confess my sin to her priest. Thankfully, he was kind and approached the serious situation with humor. He persuaded me that my girlfriend wasn’t the only reason I had become Roman Catholic. Indeed, I must admit, I liked the apparent certitude that the Papal Claims brought to Christian Doctrine in uncertain times. I also greatly revered Pope John Paul II as a role-model of how to live with a disability. Back then, unfortunately, I was ignorant of the colorful and convoluted history of the Roman Papacy’s development and knew nothing about the global Catholic sex abuse crisis and its subsequent cover-up by bishops and the Pope.

Even in my ignorance, doubts about my decision to become a Roman Catholic lingered. These doubts were aggravated when I discovered that my girlfriend had been not-so-secretly dating someone else for many months prior to my conversion. It was a very painful breakup, but she truly loved the other man and has remained with him to this day. Due to the awkwardness of the situation, her father and I stopped speaking. Almost a decade passed before he and I tried to reconnect, shortly prior to my reception into Orthodox Christianity. Thanks to Jesus Christ, we did reconcile our differences. By then, however, my ex-girlfriend had left the Roman Catholic Church to embark on her own quest to find happiness and figure out life. It was humbling to learn that my decision to convert to please her had merely shown how little I truly knew her.

When I went off to college, I briefly reconsidered converting to Orthodox Christianity. In view of the absence of my Confirmation Sponsor and his family, I no longer had any solid support system in the Roman Catholic Church. Plus, modern Catholic historical-critical, revisionist, and ecofeminist approaches to the Bible in official Church commentaries and catechetical manuals had almost destroyed my faith in Jesus Christ as depicted in the Gospels. I was drifting into a vague sort of pantheism and spiritualism. Only the patient and often personal guidance of compassionate Christians like Lee Strobel, John C. Wright, Mark Shea, and Jennifer Fulwiler kept me from walking away from Christianity entirely. I can never repay my debt to them, especially for the time some of them took to talk to me at length and exchange emails. Through them, God revealed the agendas at work in contemporary Catholic Biblical scholarship, and soon I learned to see straight through the intellectual weakness of most academic theologians. Moreover, a dearly departed friend came to me in a dream and told me not to lose the Faith, proving to me by a private, deeply personal, and convincing sign that everyone who dies in Christ is indeed alive by His power and love (I have written about this elsewhere). My belief in Christianity was restored, but sadly, because of my pride, I didn’t want to be seen as a church-hopper and decided to stay put in Roman Catholicism to help fight the creeping spread of unbelief.

Thus began a series of bad experiences with many Catholic priests. Most notably, the priest who had received me into the Church and had previously shown me great compassion soon betrayed his whole congregation. Without consulting the faithful, he volunteered the sanctuary at St. Louis Catholic Church for Reformed Jewish ceremonies led by Planned Parenthood board members and staff, as well as charity talks and fundraisers that promoted Planned Parenthood. “No one from this parish has expressed concerns with me or the parish council [about this],” he said. “To the contrary, this congregation is highly supportive of this effort.” In fact, his actions inflicted a deep wound on the Catholic community in Austin, which still has not healed. His bishop ultimately decided to cancel the services, but the damage was done. Around the same time, another priest, whom I had invited to give a talk about Roman Catholicism to a comparative religions class at college, denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ in front of my classmates. And disturbingly, another priest who admired my writing style asked me to compose an article for a Diocesan blog defending him against sexual misconduct allegations. The full details of these experiences are so horrifying, I refuse to even mention any of these priests’ names here. “The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot” (Proverbs 10:7, KJV). Nevertheless, the curious reader can discover their identities with minimal research. Please pray for the conversion and salvation of these priests. Pray also, fervently, for their victims.

In the midst of these painful experiences with Catholic priests, the Holy Spirit was telling me to turn around. Regretfully, I didn’t listen to God and things got even worse. Questions were soon raised regarding the validity of my Protestant Baptism at Bethel Baptist Church. A canon lawyer with the Austin Diocese advised me to stop taking Holy Communion until I had received Baptism and Confirmation again, conditionally, in the Roman Catholic Church. Although I was suffering profoundly from legalism, perplexity, scandal, and scrupulosity, I was still too proud to convert to Orthodox Christianity. I had also become obsessed with Roman Catholic apologetics by that point in an attempt to combat my ever-increasing doubts about the Roman Catholic Church’s status as the exclusive guardian of the fullness of Christian truth. I thought I knew a lot about my newly adopted religion, which made me extremely arrogant toward any Christian tradition that was not in complete agreement with Roman Catholicism. Therefore, I doubled-down harder on my earlier decision to become Roman Catholic. This time though, I was received into the Maronite rite of the Roman Catholic Church in 2007 on Easter Sunday.

Despite my mixed motives in undergoing another Baptism, in retrospect, it was a positive decision to move toward Jesus Christ and thus a step in the right direction. I wanted to avoid certain people and controversial liturgical and governmental disputes in the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church. I also longed for God’s raw presence in ancient services similar to what I had experienced at St. Elias. Thus, for a little over a decade, I attended Our Lady’s Maronite Catholic Church and served God as a Sunday school teacher and choir member.

For the first six years at Our Lady’s Maronite Catholic Church, I was at relative peace with myself. I drew close to several Saints commonly revered by Maronites, especially St. Maron, who is also revered by Orthodox Christians. I enjoyed belonging to an exotic eastern Catholic community. I was also enraptured by the beautiful theology and profound moral clarity of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings. Surrounded by the apparent safety and compassion of my parish family and my Roman Catholic service fraternity at college, I was able to slowly heal from past bad decisions and experiences. During this happy period, Fr. Jonathan Niehaus, a German Schoenstatt priest, became a dear friend, a spiritual father, and a guiding light. He has since passed on to his heavenly reward, but while on Earth, he encouraged me to turn to the wisdom of the Benedictine spiritual tradition to find peace and understanding. The Benedictine monks of Big Sur graciously took me on as a long-distance friend of their hermitage and helped me work through my issues with regret, resentment, and scrupulosity. Alongside St. Isaac of Nineveh and St. Ephrem the Syrian, the writings and constant intercessions of St. Benedict and St. Romuald nursed my wounded soul back to a semblance of health. During the same period, I made lifelong, amazing friends with people from Austin’s Catholic 20-Somethings young adult group and an associated ecumenical Christian fellowship.

Then, my inner peace shattered when Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013. Like many of my Roman Catholic friends, I felt abandoned and despondent. The father of our spiritual family had walked out on us. Left with a new Pope who was neither a heroic role-model nor a source of theological or moral clarity, I had to confront several uncomfortable truths. Chiefly, after years of reading Church history and the writings of the Church Fathers, I no longer saw any historical or Scriptural justification for the Infallibility and Supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. To make matters worse, the reign of Pope Francis marked the beginning of an era of anger and confusion throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church. Groups of formerly good friends turned against each other as bishops and priests went off the rails. The whole world was going insane and nowhere felt safe. I started caring less about God, and I found it increasingly difficult to continue caring about other people in the face of so much betrayal, fraud, and folly. It was nearly impossible for me to reflect the joy of Jesus Christ in my life. I felt like I was suffocating with fear and regret. More than that, I felt like I deserved to suffer for not following God’s original call for me to become an Orthodox Christian and join St. Elias.

Providentially, God rescued me from rebellion against his intended plan for my life through a series of fortuitous events, three of which deserve mention here. First, my job moved to a downtown location, and I was assigned a parking space where I could look at St. Elias Orthodox Church every day. Second, a friend of mine who had become an Orthodox seminarian came back to Texas, and we reconnected. Third, another friend from my ecumenical Christian fellowship announced that he was joining St. Elias and invited me to attend his Baptism. During the exorcism prayers of the Baptismal service, all of my confusion and spiritual darkness disappeared. For the first time since my junior year in high school, I felt completely free and lucid. In an instant, absolute certitude crystallized in my heart.

It was time for me to become an Orthodox Christian and join St. Elias.

One month later, on the eve of the Feast of Holy Cross (September 14, 2017), I formally renounced communion with the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches to become a catechumen at St. Elias. Since then, I have enjoyed a degree of clarity, resolve, and inner peace that I didn’t know was possible for me. My prayer life has blossomed and my love for God and other people has returned full-strength and continues to grow, all by God’s infinite and unmerited gift of grace. On Holy Saturday, April 7, 2018, I was received into the Orthodox Church under the patronage of St. Geoffrey (Ceolfrid), the devout Benedictine monk who raised St. Bede the Venerable and was also a researcher, a librarian, and an avid Bible collector.

SaveSave

Why Forgive?

In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter asks Jesus, “‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Mt. 18:21-22, ESV). Seven signifies perfection or plenitude. Thus, we are commanded by the Lord to forgive fully, for each offense committed, no exceptions.

But why should we forgive? What is the rationale behind Jesus’ commandment? At first glance, it seems that it would be a lot easier to hold grudges against other people for what they do to each other or for what they do to us, or perhaps if we are more focused on ourselves, to begin to hate ourselves for what we do to them. But when you think deeply about it, not forgiving is the much harder and more costly path to walk. Refusing to forgive ultimately destroys us and blinds us to God’s purpose in our lives. It leads us to dwell on the evil that’s already been done rather than to focus on the good that should be done.

Consider the wayward prophet Jonah. God told him to warn the Ninevites that they would be destroyed if they did not repent of their sinful ways. But Jonah hated the Ninevites so much for the terrible things which they had done to his fellow Jews that he refused to obey the Lord’s command. He did not want to extend the possibility of salvation to the Ninevites. But wouldn’t it have been a good thing if the Ninevites had decided to repent as a result of his preaching? In the first place, the whole reason for Jonah’s hatred was that they had done bad things to the Israelites. However, by not offering the Ninevites forgiveness, wouldn’t Jonah, in a sense, become partly responsible for their continued sins against his people when he had the means to stop them by simply delivering his message? That’s what happens when we don’t forgive—we often strengthen the very evil we think we’re opposing.

Jonah made a mess of his life by refusing to forgive. He endangered the lives of innocent sailors on board a ship he foolishly thought could whisk him far away from the Lord’s presence. He ended up in the belly of a giant fish for three days, after which he was unceremoniously puked up on a beach. Out of fear, he did obey the Lord and finally went to preach to Nineveh, but he did not reform his way of thinking. Even so, his message was well-received, and to his anger, the Ninevites repented, with their king commanding:

By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not (Jh. 3:7-9, RSV-2CE)?

Whereas people and animals alike repented in Nineveh, Jonah went to stew in his anger, now directed at God for being so merciful and forgiving. In a last ditch effort to show Jonah the unreasonableness of unwillingness to forgive, the Lord caused a giant plant to grow up and shade the wayward prophet, only to have a worm eat it away by the next morning.

When the sun rose, God appointed a sultry east wind, and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah so that he was faint; and he asked that he might die, and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left…?’” (Jh. 4:8-11).

Jonah had come to regard a plant as more valuable than the lives and well-being of other people. By hatred, he had become what he hated. He ended up with less respect for human life than his enemies, and he was willing to commit atrocities—such as abandoning a major city to destruction—equal to or greater than what the Ninevites themselves had perpetrated against the Israelites.

But we don’t have to end up in a sad state like Jonah. Instead, we can imitate Mary and her willingness to forgive. When God sent the archangel Gabriel to Mary to announce that she would give birth to Jesus the Messiah, she wondered, “How will this be, since I am a virgin” (Lk. 1:34, ESV)? That would be a dumb question in light of her betrothal to Joseph unless she had already resolved in her heart never to know a man in the sexual sense for the sake of her God. Thus, imagine how emotionally painful it must have been for her to undergo an unexpected pregnancy that would bring shame and suspicion on both her and her entire household. She had to give up being viewed as a pure virgin in other people’s eyes; instead, she suffered from being wrongly viewed as a fornicator. We often forget that even though Mary lived a life without sin, she was human like we are and subject to the whole spectrum of human emotions. It’s likely that she was very scared and heartbroken over the horrible insults she endured from her neighbors, family, and friends. Just think about how devastating it must have been when Mary heard that Joseph, the man whom she had trusted to be her protector, “unwilling to put her to shame, [had] resolved to send her away quietly” (Mt. 1:19).

Mary had a lot to be bitter about, and in fact, her Hebrew name, Miryām, means “sea of bitterness.” But instead, she forgave. She said over and over again in her heart, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). And her long-suffering was rewarded. Joseph came back around after an angel appeared to him and explained what was going on. And Mary found refuge with her cousin Elizabeth, who was also experiencing an unexpected pregnancy of a different sort. But unfortunately, the hardships didn’t end. Mary and Joseph were forced to flee to Egypt to avoid a delusional and paranoid King Herod who slaughtered all the male babies in Bethlehem because of Jesus (as if they weren’t already on bad enough terms with their neighbors). When they returned from exile, the family settled in Nazareth, fearful of Herod’s son, Archelaus, who then reigned over Judea. They had to leave everything familiar behind and start a new life because of Mary’s miraculous child. Simeon’s prophecy that “(…a sword will pierce through [Mary’s] own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34-35), must have seemed especially poignant in light of the family’s sorrows.

We may best learn about Mary’s spirit of forgiveness by looking at her Son. Jesus is fully divine, yes, but also fully human, and like the rest of us, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Lk. 2:52), thanks in no small part to the lessons he learned from his earthly mother. We can see Mary’s refusal to ever give in to bitterness and hatred clearly reflected in her Son, Jesus Christ, when he cried out on the cross and prayed for his murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34, ESV). Because Mary provided her Son with a life led according to the law of forgiveness, she reigns as the Queen of Heaven and of all our hearts. If we remain steadfast in forgiveness, we too will win a crown like hers.

Can you picture what the Bible would be like had Paul not forgiven himself for persecuting and murdering hundreds of innocent Christians? Two-thirds of the New Testament would be gone. If we don’t forgive ourselves, the world will similarly be deprived of the treasures we each have to offer as sons and daughters of God. We will fail in our duty to “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col. 1:24, RSV-2CE). Forgiveness is the only truly lasting way to defeat evil and to bring about good in the world. There’s no other path that leads to happiness and well-being than that of suffering the wrongdoings of ourselves and others graciously and patiently.

And besides ruining our earthly life, not forgiving can also ruin our afterlife. Every time we pray the Our Father, we plead for God to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. If we have forgiven partially or poorly, then God will forgive us in the same manner. If we have not forgiven at all, neither shall we be forgiven. As John the Apostle writes: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (Jn. 20:23, ESV). And Matthew the Apostle makes it even more explicit: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Mt. 7:1-2). That’s why to achieve Heaven, we must forgive.

In the Gospels, Jesus clearly proclaimed in his actions and in his words, “I judge no one” (Jn. 8:15). What does this mean? On the final day, it is ultimately we who will judge ourselves. As Paul the Apostle explains, all men will stand before God, “while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when…God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Rom. 2:15-16).

It will be like when King David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and then killed Uriah to conceal the sin. The prophet Nathan confronted the king with a parable, disguising the king as another man to see how the king would judge himself:

“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man” (2 Sam. 12:1-7)!

From his own mouth, King David had issued his judgment.

Therefore, if we wish to know whether we will be saved or condemned on the final day, we need only look to ourselves and ask: how have we judged others? That is exactly how we will judge ourselves. Our willingness or unwillingness to forgive will determine whether we receive God’s mercy in Heaven or his justice in Hell. Only through the grace of unmerited love and pardon will we be spared.

Statement of Formal Defection from the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches

Dear Family and Friends in Christ,

On the eve of the Feast of Holy Cross (September 13, 2017), I formally renounced communion with and membership in the Roman Catholic Church and all affiliated Eastern Catholic Churches. I have defected to become a catechumen at St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Austin, TX.

I took this decisive action after several years of study and months of in-person consultation with Catholic and Orthodox priests from various jurisdictions and rites. In the end, fundamental and irreconcilable theological disagreements, as well as differences in the interpretation of certain historical events, compelled my decision to definitively break communion with the Roman Catholic Church and all affiliated Eastern Catholic Churches. I had to follow the call of Jesus Christ to conform to his will for my life.

My decision is in no way a renunciation of the bonds of love I have with my Roman and Eastern Catholic family and friends. However, my defection means I will no longer receive sacraments from Roman or Eastern Catholic priests, including communion, confession, etc., nor participate in formal liturgical or catechetical roles for the Catholic Church. Over the past month, I have already alerted my choir director, Catholic parish priest, and other Catholic friends, so there is no reason to contact them.

In Christ,
Geoffrey