As you know, I just returned from 5 days in Warsaw, Poland where I attended the amazing symposium dedicated to Pope St. John Paul’s Natural Law and International Human Rights Legacy.

I was blessed and truly honored to be the keynote speaker at the opening dinner on May 17! I’d been asked to focus on my years at the Vatican and to talk about John Paul the man, his humanity, his humor, our encounters. My talk was entitled “I Made Cookies for a Saint.” Everyone was naturally intrigued by that idea and, to judge by response, they greatly enjoyed the presentation!

Far more challenging topics were the focus of the keynote speakers on May 18 and 19. Adrian Vermeule, Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard spoke on “Common Good Constitutionalism” on Wednesday. On Thursday, J.H.H. Weiler, Professor at NYU Law School, addressed us “On the Limits of Natural Law and the Virtues of Revealed Law.”

The conference, co-sponsored by Ave Maria Law School and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University of Warsaw, counted quite a number of eminent guests including two Eminences – Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw, and Cardinal Willem Ejik, archbishop of Utrecht, Holland, who spoke on Human Rights in a Secularized Society.

Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics of Riga, Latvia was also a riveting speaker! Among others things, he noted that in 2005 the Latvia constitution clearly and firmly stated that marriage was between a man and a woman,. That constitution now uses the word “family” to describe ‘unions’, including LBGT. However, he noted that he and other Church leaders worked hard to make abortion, if not outlawed, at least less available, and he said the number of abortions has indeed gone down in recent years.

Travelling on the bus to the various venues – the university and restaurants in the evening – and simply sharing two meals a day with the cardinals and archbishop and a judge of Poland’s Supreme Court, as well as the other contributors at this fascinating conference was a real bonus!

Our final dinner –

As I listened to the talks, I saw a huge, vibrant tapestry being created where, of course, the common thread was always St. John Paul and his teaching on natural law, human rights, the right to life, protecting life and human dignity. Given the SCOTUS leak of a possible overturning of Roe v Wade at the federal level, many of the talks were so timely!

Topics included constitutional law, religious freedom and secularity, natural law in contemporary understanding of international human rights, and much more.

A common thread to most talks was human dignity.

One speaker noted how, over time, what was not allowed in law because of human dignity (ie, abortion, euthanasia) eventually became allowed, and even enshrined in law, in the name of human dignity! That just boggles the mind! Has the idea of human dignity changed that much? It seems so!

Another speaker said: The world needs active protagonists of the cult of life and human dignity as human dignity of all and for all is the founding principle of human life. Yet another stressed the need for a positive change in the human rights climate towards freedom of speech, of practice, of religion.

Some guests noted how constitutions have changed over the years, going from protecting absolute rights to watering them down or introducing new rights. Yet other speakers noted how many international laws and constitutions that had rights and duties clearly laid out, with red lines so to speak, but now those lines have become pink or are close to disappearing.

My mind still reels from the depth of each talk – the brilliance, the thoroughness with which each topic was treated and the challenging nature of the talks!

I mentioned on my Friday blog that my Warsaw trip ended with a half-day spent outside the city with Franciscan sisters who, at their marvelous school and home for blind children, had welcomed several blind Ukrainian children.

I’d hoped to bring that story to you today in both words and photos but it just took me 90 minutes to download the pictures, not because they were that numerous but because my laptop simply closed the program every time I started the download. I’ll start working on that tomorrow, so stay tuned.

It is a wonderful, inspiring, heart-warming story of the deep love of these religious for their young charges as well as the story of the Polish people – the generous and warm welcome given to their Ukrainian brothers and sisters at the very worst time of their lives!




Ryan Brady, a seminarian at Mundelein Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Chicago will be ordained a transitional deacon this afternoon at 4 pm Chicago time in Mundelein’s chapel. I will be up late here in Rome to watch that beautiful ceremony online ( when Ryan joins 12 other young men in the diaconate. Ten will become deacons for the Archdiocese of Chicago, two for the diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana in Uganda and one for the American Province of the Vincentians.

Say a prayer for all of these wonderful young men. It is my heartfelt intention to be in Chicago in May 2021 for Ryan’s ordination to the priesthood as we have a special bond – the bond of a chalice that was in my family for decades that is now in Ryan’s hands.

Here is the story of that chalice and our friendship:


The second general audience of August took place this morning in the papal library of the Apostolic Palace and was carried online as has been the custom now for many months due to the Covid-19 crisis. When he resumed the weekly general audiences on August 5, after a staycation in the Vatican, Pope Francis announced a new series of catechesis and spoke of that as he introduced today’s audience.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” began Francis, “in our continuing catechesis on the effects of the current pandemic in the light of the Church’s social doctrine, we now consider the theme of human dignity.”

He explained that “the pandemic has made us more aware of the spread within our societies of a false, individualistic way of thinking, one that rejects human dignity and relationships, views persons as consumer goods and creates a “throw away” culture. In contrast, faith teaches that we have been created in God’s image and likeness, made for love and for communion of life with him, with one another and with the whole of creation.”

“In the light of faith,” continued the Pope, “we know instead that God looks at a man and a woman in another manner. He created us not as objects but as people loved and capable of loving; He has created us in His image and likeness. In this way He has given us a unique dignity, calling us to live in communion with Him, in communion with our sisters and our brothers, with respect for all creation.”

The Holy Father said that, “Jesus tells us that true discipleship consists in following his example by spending ourselves in service of others. Our God-given dignity and the rights that arise from it are the ultimate foundation of all social life, and have serious social, economic and political implications. In responding to the pandemic we Christians are called to combat all violations of human dignity as contrary to the Gospel, and to work for the well-being of our whole human family and our common home.”

Pope Francis was joined in the papal library by monsignori from the Secretariat of State – seated at safe distances from each other – who read syntheses of the audience catechesis in several languages.

In greetings to Arabic faithful, the Pope, said: I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. The Bible teaches that every human being was created out of love, made in the image and likeness of God. This statement shows us the immense dignity of every person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of knowing himself, of possessing himself, of giving himself freely and of entering into communion with others. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil!

In greetings to faithful from Poland, Francis said:I cordially greet the Polish faithful. In particular, I spiritually accompany the hundreds of pilgrims who walk from Warsaw, Krakow and other cities to the Shrine of the Black Madonna. May this pilgrimage, made with caution because of the pandemic, be a time of reflection, prayer and fraternity in faith and love for all. August 15 marks the centenary of the historic victory of the Polish army, called “Miracle on the Vistula” that your ancestors attributed to Mary’s intervention. Today may the Mother of God help humanity to defeat the coronavirus. To you, your families and the Polish people, I assure you abundant graces. I heartily bless you!”