Pope John Paul II gets the A&E “Biography” treatment in Pope John Paul II — Statesman of Faith, a 50-minute documentary made in 1993 focusing particularly on the Holy Father’s crusades against totalitarianism and violence.
With a typical blend of archival footage and interviews with former students, childhood acquaintances, and so forth, Statesman of Faith begins by painting a picture of the young Karol Wojtyla as the sort of boy who would help classmates with their homework but wouldn’t let them copy his — a boy about whom other children’s parents would ask their children, “Why can’t you be more like Lolek?”
Statesman of Faith vividly captures its subject’s energetic crusading style and the expert brinkmanship with which he wore down his totalitarian opponents, first as archbishop of Krakow and later as pope.
Yet it stumbles in contrasting its wholly positive treatment of these anti-totalitarian crusades with brief, one-sided references to the pope’s “insistence on the church’s strict codes of personal [i.e., sexual] morality,” described only as having “infuriated many Catholics and non-Catholics” (no indication how other Catholics and non-Catholics felt about it — or why). Unlike the superior Witness to Hope, Statesman of Faith has no insights into the relationship of the Holy Father’s teaching on sexual morality and his groundbreaking theology of the body; it can offer only lame comments about Poland’s religious conservatism and lip service to the pope’s moral courage.
Still, Pope John Paul II — Statesman of Faith is worthwhile for its glimpses into John Paul II’s personality and its tribute to his role in the nonviolent toppling of the Soviet Union, a revolution in which “not a window was broken.”
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.