In numerous works both before and after his papal election, John Paul II offers ample reflection on the themes of personhood, relationality, and sexual complementarity, but while he advances a clearly articulated theology of femininity and motherhood, as in his apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, he might seem to offer no equivalent treatment of masculinity and fatherhood.
In Viri Dignitatem, David Delaney seeks to surface and systematize the rich but often overlooked theology of masculinity and fatherhood that is found dispersed throughout John Paul II’s writings, demonstrating its essentiality for understanding his larger anthropology. In the first part of the study, Delaney treats the foundations of this anthropology, establishing John Paul II’s thought on personhood, relation, and human action. Building on this, the second part considers sexual differentiation, drawing out from John Paul II’s teaching on the body, femininity, Mary, and the Church his corresponding perspective on masculinity, which is itself rooted in nuptial complementarity and the revealing work of Christ. The third part focuses on John Paul II’s theology of fatherhood, which Delaney presents as both a natural and spiritual vocation that is based on the Fatherhood of God as this is manifested and imaged by the incarnate Son. Finally, the fourth part provides a synthetic assessment of this theology of masculinity and fatherhood, showing its coherence and addressing contemporary criticisms and misinterpretations.
At a time of accelerating crises of sexuality, the family, and fatherhood, Delaney’s Viri Dignitatem provides a welcome and important elaboration of John Paul II’s teaching on the dignity and vocation of man.
David H. Delaney (PhD, Catholic University of America) is director and senior fellow at the Mother of the Americas Institute in San Antonio, Texas, a think tank for the new evangelization. His research interests range over topics related to Christian anthropology, with a focus on contemporary issues related to sex difference. He is incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and lives in Helotes, Texas, with his wife, Tricia.
“The fruit of wide reading and years of research, David Delaney’s Viri Dignitatem: Personhood, Masculinity, and Fatherhood in the Thought of John Paul II offers an overview of the great Polish Pope’s somewhat scattered and fragmentary thought on ‘the masculine genius’ and the vocation of fatherhood. Delaney systematizes John Paul II’s ideas and presents them in the context of his philosophical and theological method and his vision of the embodied human person as male and female. He carefully examines the internal coherence of this anthropology as well as objections and criticisms that have been leveled against it over the years. Delaney reads widely, writes clearly, and thinks deeply about the issues he treats. The result is a book that is both substantive yet accessible to a wide audience. This volume will be welcomed by students and scholars as an important contribution to John Paul II studies. Highly recommended.”
John S. Grabowski
The Catholic University of America
“Viri Dignitatem: Personhood, Masculinity, and Fatherhood in the Thought of John Paul II fills a void in the scholarship on Pope St. John Paul II. In this book, Dr. Delaney takes a deep dive into John Paul’s thought to present the sainted pope’s insights into the meaning of masculinity and fatherhood. While many are aware that John Paul II articulated an explicit theology of femininity and motherhood, Dr. Delaney successfully shows that understanding John Paul’s more implicit theology of masculinity and fatherhood is essential to understanding other areas of his thought, especially his insights into the human person. In the course of this exquisitely researched book, through the thought of John Paul II, Dr. Delaney presents a theology of human personhood, sexual difference, masculinity, and fatherhood. In an era of relativism and subjectivism that treats these realities as fungible, Viri Dignitatem, by mining the thought of John Paul II, moors the reader in reality.”
Perry J. Cahall
Pontifical College Josephinum
“With the publication of Viri Dignitatem, David H. Delaney has made an enormous contribution to what, until now, has been considered a lacuna in the work of Pope St. John Paul II. Dr. Delaney’s extensive analysis illuminates a critically important dimension of the late Holy Father’s project: that it reflects a profound understanding not only of womanhood but of masculinity as well. This volume is a rich and well-considered treatment of the foundational elements of John Paul’s anthropological framework, his account of sexual difference, and the way in which both inform the philosopher-pope’s theology of masculinity and fatherhood. Viri Dignitatem will be a valuable resource for those of us intent on arriving at a coherent and comprehensive account of man and woman, their identities, and their mission in the world.”
Franciscan University of Steubenville
“This crucial work fills an important lacuna in the anthropological thought of John Paul II on personhood and sexual difference. At a time when the very notion of masculinity is under assault (‘toxic masculinity’) and when sexual difference stands at the precipice of losing all meaning (the roles of male and female have become interchangeable and unmoored from any firm biological reality), Delaney provides us with a return to sanity through the lens of John Paul II. But more than a simple return to sanity, this work offers a plumbing of the depths on an aspect of John Paul II’s anthropology that has garnered too little attention over the years. Most appreciated is Delaney’s contribution on fatherhood. There is perhaps no notion in greater need of recovery and supportive reflection than fatherhood. To that end, this work proves invaluable. A must-read.”