This paper considers the well- grounded social philosophy of Pope John Paul II and its implications for the problems facing modern Poland. The pope’s rights- centered personalism and moral realism, along with his confidence in personal freedom and his endorsement of entrepreneurial capitalism represent sound guiding principles for Poland’s economic and social policies. John Paul II never accepted the “inevitability” of communism and always remained confident that human beings create their own history. While arguing for an instrumental role for the state the pope nonetheless recognized its essential responsibility for curbing the excesses of the market. In addition, the paper explores John Paul II’s insistence on the linkage between justice and mercy, and it contends that mercy might help the Polish people to finally forget and forgive what cannot be reversed. By following the pope’s social doctrine Poland might be able to avoid the economic reductionism that plagues many capitalist societies, while also avoiding the inertia of socialism.

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