Non-Romantic Nearness, The Billy Graham Rule, and Pope John Paul’s Friendship With a Married Woman

Non-Romantic Nearness, The Billy Graham Rule, and Pope John Paul’s Friendship With a Married Woman

Apparently, Pope John Paul II had a long term, platonic friendship with a married woman named Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.

First, I will list an assortment of news articles summarizing the former Pope’s relationship with this woman –

And then I will link to (much farther down this page) a really good blog post by a Christian, Dan J. Brennan, who criticizes other Christians who sexualize all male-female relationships or who discourage male-female friendship.
He is against the BGR (Billy Graham Rule), which teaches Christian men to sexually objectify ALL women, even celibate Christian women and keep single women at arm’s length.

(Link):  Pope John Paul II secret letters: Pontiff’s deep affection for Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka revealed

Feb 15, 2016

Letters shown to the BBC by the National Library of Poland have revealed an intense 30-year relationship between former Pope, John Paul II, and philosopher, Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka. There is no suggestion the late pontiff broke his vow of celibacy with Tymieniecka, a married woman.

(Link): The letters show the friendship through letters sent by the then-named Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, it is unknown whether the National Library of Poland also holds letters from Tymieniecka, though analysing Wojtyla’s correspondence has led some to surmise that Tymieniecka professed her love for him around 1975.

Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978, after his predecessor lasted only 33 days in office. He died in 2005 and was canonised in 2014.

 The pair began corresponding in 1973 after Tymieniecka contacted Wojtyla about his philosophy book. By 1974, the relationship seems to have become more intense as Wojtyla wrote that he was re-reading four of Tymienicka’s “meaningful and deeply personal” letters.
—- end —

You’ll notice when stories about sexuality and Popes or priests are reported, there invariably follows writers who trash celibacy, as in this page:

(Link): If John Paul II really did fall in love, he was more human than we knew by Joanna Moorhead

The pope might have fallen in love with a professor. This is no ‘revelation’, only a reminder that priestly celibacy is a corrosive Catholic tradition

…So the unhealthy tradition was born of a priesthood whose members eschewed all feelings towards women. In effect, they quashed their natural and normal emotional and sexual urges, believing that this would somehow make them “better” at representing Christ. In fact, many of us now strongly suspect, the exact opposite was the case. The Catholic priesthood has become a ghetto with more than its fair share of emotionally stunted social misfits.

It’s also a place where many, perhaps most, are unable to meet the celibacy requirement: one conservative study puts the number of priests who are, or who have been, sexually active, at around 50%.

…No matter, say the diehards who defend it: celibacy is an ideal, and it doesn’t matter if not all priests live up to it. But why, precisely, is it an ideal at all?

To the author who wrote that, Moorehead: there are Non-Catholics who voluntarily stay celibate over their lives. Please do not refer too all celibacy in demeaning terms such as “corrosive.”

(Link): Letters reveal Pope John Paul II’s intensely emotional relationship with a married woman 

by Tom Kington
Feb 17, 2016

Newly revealed letters written by Pope John Paul II show he had an intensely emotional relationship with a married woman that spanned more than 30 years.

…Although the letters do not suggest that John Paul, who became a saint in 2014, had a physical relationship, they show he was conflicted about his feelings for the mother of three.

…The pair struck up a friendship in 1973 when Tymieniecka contacted the then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who was archbishop of Krakow, about translating into English a book on philosophy he had written. Tymieniecka, then 50, had left her native Poland to settle in the U.S., where she was married to Harvard economist Hendrik Houthakker.


Here is the blog post by a Christian who is critical of how so many Christians objectify unmarried (and sometimes married) women, who say that male-female friendship is impossible, and he criticizes the BGR:

(Link): The Nearness of Christ: Pope John Paul II Was No Billy Graham or C.S. Lewis by Dan J. Brennan


…. Men and women in the evangelical world are still suffering from the Freudian calculated coldness that both Graham and Lewis modeled and passed on to the evangelical community.

In the past fourteen years, I’ve encountered numerous evangelicals who have either referenced the Billy Graham rule or Lewis mid-20th century gendered tome, Four Loves in their objections to deep opposite sex friendship.

But the revelation of an intense friendship between Pope John Paul II and a married woman for thirty years did not surprise anyone who has studied the rich connection between sexuality and friendship in Catholic spirituality. I explored that history in my book, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions.

…There is a striking silence among evangelical/missional male leaders in the wake of news about Pope John Paul II because the evangelical world they live in and breathe in has been powerfully shaped by Billy Graham and C.S. Lewis.


 Because Graham and Lewis modeled to them a legacy of excessive anxiety in the nearness of women as neighbors to men.

Evangelical male leaders feel safe in telling the world that sex is the heart of nearness with women.

But once nearness moves beyond that—to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically close to women as neighbors, they exhibit this evangelical chronic anxiety handed down to them from Billy Graham and Lewis.

Evangelical male leaders have so little embodied awareness and knowledge of intimate nearness with women as their neighbors.

…What so many evangelical male leaders are unable to say this hour because of that chronic anxiety, is that sex is not at the heart of nearness between men and women. There is a time and place for a deep conversation about the pros and cons of enforced celibacy—especially when men in leadership insist on it for women who are not married. That’s another conversation for another time.

But within a robust vision of Catholic celibacy is something totally foreign (as to embodied knowledge, awareness, and shared trust) to evangelical male leaders: sex is not at the center of nearness between men and women.

It’s the nearness of Jesus that is at the heart of nearness between men and women.

Related Posts:

(Link):  Reclaiming Stolen Friendships – a blog post criticizing the Sexist, Anti – Singles Christian Billy Graham Rule

(Link): Debunking Eros: Why Romantic Love Isn’t the Only Love Worth Having by Mimi Haddard

(Link): Think The “Billy Graham Rule” Would Have Saved Tullian? Think Again… (Billy Graham rule has all Christians treating single adult women as though they are harlots who cannot be trusted)

(Link): Attack on Celibacy an editorial by Direction For Our Times

(Link):  The Islamic Billy Graham Rule – Unmarried Muslim People Are Punished For Being Alone Together

(Link):  Christians Overly Fond of the BGR / How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Billy Graham Rule and Love Like Jesus by T. Grigg

(Link):   Our Bodies Were Not Made for Sex by T. Swann

(Link):  Discipling Healthy Male/Female Relationships in the Church Part 1 by W. Alsup

(Link):  Brotherly Love: Christians and Male-Female Friendships

(Link):  Evangelicals are Rethinking Friendship and Sexuality 

(Link):  Topics: Friendship is Possible / Sexualization By Culture Of All Relationships

(Link):  Relationships Of Welcome, Not Fear (Re: How Sexist Christian Views Marginalize and Isolate Adult, Single Women and Maintain Other Stereotypes About Adult Singles)

(Link):   How the Sexual Revolution Ruined Friendship – Also: If Christians Truly Believed in Celibacy and Virginity, they would stop adhering to certain sexual and gender stereotypes that work against both

(Link):  Topics: Friendship is Possible / Sexualization By Culture Of All Relationships

(Link):  Hey Ed Stetzer: Opposite Gender Friendships Are Not Sinful – Ed Stetzer’s Advice: “Avoid Any Hint” – More Like: Re Enforce UnBiblical Stereotypes About Men, Women, Sex, and Singles

(Link):  Why So Much Fornication – Because Christians Have No Expectation of Sexual

(Link):  Jesus Christ was not afraid to meet alone with known Prostitutes / Steven Furtick and Elevation Church Perpetuating Anti Singles Bias – ie, Single Women are Supposedly Sexual Temptresses, All Males Can’t Control Their Sex Drives – (but this view conflicts with evangelical propaganda that married sex is great and frequent)

(Link):  Patriarchy tends to sexualize all male / female relationships (article via Junia Project blog)

(Link):  Christian Patriarchalists and Gender Complementarians Sexualizing the Trinity and Insisting Sexual Activity is Necessary to Fully Know God (via Under Much Grace blog)

(Link):  Christian Stereotypes About Female Sexuality : All Unmarried Women Are Supposedly Hyper Sexed Harlots – But All Married Ones are Supposedly Frigid or Totally Uninterested in Sex

(Link):  Ever Notice That Christians Don’t Care About or Value Singleness, Unless Jesus Christ’s Singleness and Celibacy is Doubted or Called Into Question by Scholars?

(Link): A Grown-Up, Not Sexed-Up, View of Womanhood (article) – how Christian teachings on gender and singlehood contribute to raunch culture and fornication etc

(Link):  Apparent Inconsistency at SCCL Group – They’re Repulsed by Sexualization of Some Relationships But Not All

(Link): Anti Virginity Editorial by Christian Blogger Tim Challies – Do Hurt / Shame Feelings or Sexual Abuse Mean Christians Should Cease Supporting Virginity or Teaching About Sexual Purity

(Link): No Christians and Churches Do Not Idolize Virginity and Sexual Purity – Christians Attack and Criticize Virginity Sexual Purity Celibacy / Virginity Sexual Purity Not An Idol

(Link): Sex and Never Married Single Christians / Virginity Virgin / Where Are America’s Virgins? Discouraging the Virtuous (by Julia Duin)

(Link): Douglas Wilson and Christian Response FAIL to Sexual Sin – No Body Can Resist Sex – supposedly – Re Celibacy

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