God in History: Collapsing Divine and Human Agency in John Paul II’s "Memory and Identity"

JVF Conference Papers

The late John Paul II’s theology of history involves some collapse of the agency of divine objects and of human beings.

A close reading of his last book, Memory and Identity, shows that John Paul’s divine objects are multiple and that he describes them most frequently using metaphors of close kinship, particularly parents and children. For this reason, it is useful to read his work with psychoanalytic theories of “self-objects,” which are objects (primarily caregivers) used by small children to develop a sense of self. In addition, given the collective nature of John Paul’s divine objects, I draw on anthropological theories about collective participation in imaginal phenomena to move the focus to the larger scale of the Polish nation-state.

I show that the theologico-political claims in Memory and Identity reflect a troubling exclusivist grandiosity which must be addressed by Catholic thinkers interested in shaping the moral work of a global Church.

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