Jeffrey Tranzillo has compiled a thick text here: exhaustive, but not exhausting; multi-faceted, but focused. The book is an impressive analysis of the theological anthropology expressed in John Paul II’s life and written corpus, with a focus on the category of persons Tranzillo calls “the vulnerable.” As Tranzillo writes, the aim of the book is “to articulate philosophically and theologically the principles that allow us to affirm true personhood and personal agency in vulnerable human beings” (p. xviii). It is an aim generously met.
The vulnerable, in a certain sense, includes everyone: the vocation to be human necessarily involves vulnerability through bodily reality. When Tranzillo speaks of vulnerability, however, he pays particular attention to the most vulnerable: children (in the womb and those already born), the aging, the poor, the socially marginalized, and the disabled. Tranzillo makes a huge contribution here to scholarship on John Paul II and Catholic anthropology in general by tracing the explicit and implicit attention to the vulnerable throughout John Paul II’s life work. This book could stand as a rich resource for Catholics (and all Christians) interested in a specifically Catholic approach to a theology of disability.
If Tranzillo had focused entirely on the social encyclicals of John Paul II, there would be little new here. Indeed, John Paul II has been widely acknowledged as a champion of the poor and marginalized, and credited with a renewal in Catholic social teaching across the board. What is new about this work is ….