Read: The Gospel of Life @ 25: Part 7: Pope St. John Paul & The Loneliness of Radical Self-Autonomy:

Just over a quarter of a century ago, Pope Saint John Paul II released his encyclical, Evangelium vitae, in response to the ever-increasing attacks against human life and dignity. Each Friday, we aim to explore a different aspect the prophetic papal document.

Today’s passage drawn from Section 20 of the encyclical where Pope Saint John Paul notes the loneliness, mistrust and unhappiness that comes from distorted, radical notions of self-autonomy and personal freedom. He writes:

“This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself,” Pope Saint John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, Section 20.

Reflecting upon this passage today is Jenny Ingles, Director of Fertility and Life Ministries for the Diocese of Lansing. Jenny writes:

“This dark assertion of Pope St. John Paul the Great calls to mind a work of fiction by C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, in which he describes Hell as one giant grey city that continues to get larger and larger because the inhabitants of the city cannot stand to be around one another, so they continue to move farther and farther apart in an ever-expanding gloomy urban sprawl. On the flipside of this sad and dark assertion, Guadium et Spes (24), one of the documents that came out of Vatican II, proposes an antidote to the problem created by ‘absolute autonomy’: ‘Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself’.”

Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!