The Catholic University of America

Peter Harman

Final Examination of Peter Harman

For the Degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology

November 11, 2009 at 10 a.m. in Caldwell Hall Room 125

Director: John S. Grabowski, Ph.D


Towards a Theology of Suffering: The Contribution of Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II’s 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris shares a common anthropology with his “Theology of the Body” audiences delivered between 1979 and 1984.  In them, drawing on his work in phenomenology as a professional philosopher, he discusses the revelatory potential of the human body.  His method of inquiry into man’s self-understanding of his nature and the struggles he faces invites academic investigation of both issues of human sexuality and human suffering.  Analogous to his description of man’s coming to understand a language of the body between spouses, there is also the potential for a communion of persons to be released in the experience of the mystery of human suffering by both the suffering person and the one who cares for him.

This dissertation investigates the themes addressed in Wojtyla/John Paul’s teaching, particularly in the “Theology of the Body” with the purpose of synthesizing an anthropology found there in order to present an expanded theology of suffering as a much needed tool for a culture that often views the experience of suffering as only a negative one, something to be eliminated at all costs.  Wojtyla/John Paul’s view will be shown to counteract this mindset, treating the experience of suffering, though an evil in itself, as uniquely affording the potential to release love and hope in the suffering person’s relationship with God and others, as well as the for those who care for him.