The Catholic University of America

 Final Examination of 

Rev. Pawel Tomczyk

for the degree of 

Doctor of Philosophy 


The Presence of Virtue Ethics in the Thought of Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II

Director: Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, Ph.D.

The last fifty years have seen an impressive revival of interest in virtue ethics. Many prominent figures, including Catholic theologians, have contributed to the restoration of the pivotal role of virtues in Christian moral life. Unfortunately, Wojtyla/John Paul II is rarely considered one of them. The Polish philosopher and Pope is often credited with reconnecting Scriptures and philosophy with morals, but not with using virtues as a central category for moral reflection. This dissertation argues that such an interpretation is inaccurate. A careful analysis of Wojtyla/John Paul II’s writings suggests that there is, in fact, virtue ethic operative in his work. One can come to the conclusion that the key elements of virtue ethics are essential to the overall coherence of his moral system.

The study offers a comparison of the traditional account of virtue theory, as developed by Aristotle and Aquinas, with the writings of Wojtyla/John Paul II. It identifies the basic ideas and concepts which are considered essential for the building of comprehensive virtue ethics, and then determines their presence in the writings of the Polish philosopher and Pope.

The results of the investigation point to Wojtyla/John Paul II’s deep appreciation for the virtue-centered approach to morality. Although often scattered and disorganized, the references to virtues and other virtue-related concepts are frequent and intentional. The virtues, according to Wojtyla/John Paul II, are essential for developing the good moral character and are indispensable for effectively pursuing authentic moral good.   


Even though the moral theology of the Polish philosopher and Pope resists being unequivocally virtue-centered, much of its character coheres with the traditional model of morality inspired by virtues. By locating the key elements of virtue ethics in the writings of Wojtyla/John Paul II, the study ultimately shows that the contribution of the Polish philosopher and Pope to the broader renewal of moral theology is greater than previously thought.

More about Tomczyk

Fr. Pawel Tomczyk was born to Krystyna and Andrzej Tomczyk in Szczecinek, Poland. He has an older sister, Agnieszka. In 2011, Fr. Pawel received an equivalent of Bachelor of Philosophy from the Theological Institute of the Missionaries of St. Vincent at The Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow, Poland. In the same year, he left the country and came to the United States to continue his formation to the priesthood.

He obtained a degree of Master of Theology with distinction from SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, MI. During his stay in Michigan, Fr. Pawel discovered his interest in moral theology and ethics, which led him to the writing of his master’s thesis on the morality of lying. In the Fall of 2013, he was transferred to the Theological College seminary, where he completed his formation to the priesthood and begun advanced studies at the Catholic University of America.


Fr. Pawel was ordained a priest on May 23, 2015 for the Diocese of Paterson. He currently works at The Catholic Center for New Evangelization in Madison, New Jersey, where he serves as the Diocesan RCIA Director and a co-leader of the young adult and college ministry.