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Pope John Paul II's confidante caught in controversy over book publication

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - One of the cardinal rules in the Catholic church: obedience to the pope. So it has come as a shock for many in the Catholic world that John Paul II's most trusted confidant has betrayed the beloved pontiff's last will and testament by publishing personal notes he wanted burned.

Deep moral dilemmas were at stake for Stanislaw Dziwisz - between loyalty and conscience, the wishes of the pope and the obligations of history.

John Paul ordered the notes burned after his death and put Dziwisz, his secretary, in charge of the task. To everyone's surprise, Dziwisz, now a cardinal, said recently that he "did not have the courage" to destroy the notes and is having them published as a precious insight into the inner life of the beloved pontiff, who will be declared a saint in April.

The book - "Very Much in God's Hands. Personal Notes 1962-2003" - comes out in Poland on Wednesday.

Criticism so far has outpaced praise.

"I don't think it is right for a church member to go against the will and authority of the pope, whatever the reason," Ewelina Gniewnik said as she was leaving Savior's Church in downtown Warsaw. "I'm not sure that Cardinal Dziwisz knows what he is doing."

The Polish-language book contains religious meditations that Karol Wojtyla recorded between July 1962 and March 2003 - spanning a period in which he went from being a bishop in Poland to a globe-trotting superstar pope. There are plans to publish the book in English and other languages but no details have been fixed.

The decision to publish does not go against papal infallibility, which contrary to popular belief applies only to matters of church doctrine. And Dziwisz was also free to follow his conscience - since the obligation to obey the pope ends with his death or retirement.

Still some are expressing shock that a trusted aide would defy the orders of the pope, especially on a matter as sacred as a will - with the Internet flooded with angry comments against Dziwisz.

The book itself may be a tough slog for ordinary readers. It runs 640 pages and basically consists of deeply religious, compact, sometimes arcane ideas or trains of thought that spring from citations from the Bible. Priests, theologians and philosophers will be inspired - the layperson will find it opaque.

However, one cryptic remark about sinful priests, registered in March 1981, perhaps gains new significance under the flood of pedophilia cases against Roman Catholic clergy.

"The social aspect of sin," wrote John Paul, "it hurts the Church as a community. Especially a sin by a priest."

There have been other cases in history in which executors defied instructions of famous people to destroy their work.

Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov's son, Dmitri, published his father's unfinished work "The Original of Laura" - which Nabokov had left instructions to burn - and justified the act by saying he didn't want to go down in history as a "literary arsonist."

Dziwisz was prepared for accusations of betrayal.

He was John Paul's personal secretary and closest aide for almost 40 years in Poland and at the Vatican, where - Vatican experts say - he made key decisions in the pope's waning years. After John Paul's death in 2005 at age 84, he was made Archbishop of Krakow, in southern Poland, where he is building a museum memorial to the Polish pope. The book's proceeds are to go to the memorial.

"I had no doubt," he said recently. "These notes are so important, they say so much about the spiritual side, about the person, about the great pope, that it would have been a crime to destroy them." He noted the despair of historians after Pope Pius XII's letters were burnt.

Respected church commentator, the Rev. Adam Boniecki, wrote in a Polish Catholic weekly that he was at first "surprised in an unpleasant way" by Dziwisz's decision, but after reading the book "I am grateful to him for having taken the risk of following his own conscience and not being a meticulous formalist."

Some ordinary worshippers were also supportive.

"The teaching and prayers of our pope are most precious to us and we should study them with attention," said Maria Welgo. "We should be thankful that Cardinal Dziwisz left these notes for us."

Lawyers in Poland are not sure whether Dziwisz broke the law by disobeying the will - which explicitly said: "Burn my personal notes." There is scant tradition in Poland of having will executors so the rules are not clear-cut.

Jacek Stokolosa of the Domanski Zakrzewski Palinka Law Firm said that without studying the entire will he was not even sure whether Dziwisz was an executor under Polish law.

The Rev. Jan Machniak, who wrote the preface, told The Associated Press that the book is intended for readers who need to bring order into their life, or need guidance in their own spiritual growth.

The book may be more surprising for what it does not contain: reference to world events and the collapse of communism in John Paul's native Poland, which the pope played a critical role in bringing about.

But John Paul gave an enigmatic insight into his social, and possibly literary, concerns by writing about an "American female writer O'Connor" - an apparent reference to short story writer Flannery O'Connor.

"Lack of emotional approach to the human person - seemingly substituted by the notion of the 'quality of life' - a symptom of our times."

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lunalup1 February 05 2014 at 4:25 PM

tell Polish NOT to do something....

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Walt February 05 2014 at 3:25 PM


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komedicrj February 05 2014 at 3:19 PM

F the pope

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vimaranis2 February 05 2014 at 3:03 PM

Probably I will not read the Pope's book. I am not Polish anyway.
However, I will not condemn the Cardinal by publishing the John Paul's book. It will contribute for a better understanding of the former Pope and future Saint. Since, it seems, it doesn't mess around with basic doctrine of the Church, then I wish a good success for the publication.
At least better than my own.
Tarsicio Lopes

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vin7no46 February 05 2014 at 2:39 PM

how you ever wondered why nobody confessed anymore?

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1 reply to vin7no46's comment
BoniLu February 05 2014 at 7:10 PM

what do you mean nobody confesses anymore? Trillions of Christians confess to God daily, and that is the way it should be. Man...Preist or otherwise is still just a mere mortal, not capable of forgiving one's sins.

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trebor68 February 05 2014 at 2:26 PM

No doubt the publisher probably offered him a deal......Money...........Just follow the money trail

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John Nicewander February 05 2014 at 1:57 PM

The Pope requested that they (his notes and writtings) be destroyed and his secretary agreed. Not only did he break the law but he broke a promise to the Pope. "To The Pope."

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B.Gee February 05 2014 at 1:52 PM

I guess everyone has a Snowden.

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jwyola February 05 2014 at 1:49 PM

Just Think, If Thomas Aquinas' writings were destroyed as might have been that philosopher's wish, he considering himself but a "Dumb Ox". It would seem humbleness drove Wojtyla to want the notes destroyed, but their intrinsic worth demonstrating inner workings of the Saint's mind would indicate the need for preservation, publication, and following .

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carmellinda February 05 2014 at 2:00 PM

so good, well said-

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JIM February 05 2014 at 1:45 PM

Hopefully he was gracious enough to take out the notes about the clergy molesting little boys. Hard for a saint to be connected to such actions.

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bdavidsmith7777 February 05 2014 at 3:43 PM

The Bible was written by the Holy ghost not by man and it in infallible in its entirety. God is eternal and has no space of time limits. Jesus Christ The same Yesterday today and for ever. If you read The Bible you would know this.

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2 replies to bdavidsmith7777's comment
steve February 05 2014 at 4:29 PM

Man wrote the bible not the Holy Ghost. I agree with you on everything but that one statement. Jesus is quoted in the bible, but did no writing. As much as you may dislike it the bible is mans interpatation of all the happenings in the bible.

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Storm February 05 2014 at 5:27 PM

You are crzy as the rest of them.Jesus or God did not write the bible. Man wrote the bible is it is so full of contradictions and BS tht it isnt worth the paper it is written on. Nothing is infailable especially a book rewriteen over 900 times in thousands of languages with MEN only sticking their idea into that book. Jesus was dead 1oo year before these so called holy men wrote that book. I cannot beieve that educated people can believe in this nonsense written by man as man happens to be failable as you can see by whom they elected for president not once but twice. The state of the USA is in the hands of the devil and the bible doesn't help one bit lol..

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