Tischner, Józef Casimir

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Priest, philosopher; b. March 12, 1931, Stary S[symbol omitted]cz, in the southern mountain region of Poland; d. June 28, 2000 in Kraków. Ordained a priest in 1978. Studied philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, where Karol Wojtyła (the future john paul ii) and the phenomenologist Roman Ingarden were among his teachers. Beginning in the 1950s, Tischner contributed to the Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, which was at one time during the Communist era the only opposition newspaper in poland, providing a forum for many of Poland's intellectuals. Using his position as head of the Papal Theological Academy in Kraków, Tischner brought academics and other intellectuals together for discussions that Archbishop Wojtyła hosted in the archbishop's palace. In 1983, Tischner was instrumental, with the financial support of Cardinal Franz kÖnig of Vienna, in organizing the first of the biennial seminars at Castel Gandolfo that provided Pope John Paul an opportunity for conversation with intellectual leaders and academics in various disciplines.

An early supporter of the Solidarity movement, Tischner served as chaplain to its first congress in Gdaήsk, September 1981. The sermon he delivered at the Mass anticipated by two weeks John Paul's social encyclical "On Human Work" (Laborem exercens ) and touched on many of the same themes. Later that year, when the Communist regime imposed martial law, he wrote The Spirit of Solidarity, which endeavored to expound philosophically the motive spirit behind this extraordinary social and political movement. This work set out to subtly demonstrate the errors underlying the ideology and practice of the Communist regime as concerns democracy, work, progress, and human dignity. The regime, he argued, had seriously undermined the meaning of these important concepts in the public discourse, and so Solidarity must, building on the common bonds between people, and their common concerns (which Communism sought to obscure), restore them to their proper sense, that is, to show their full ethical dimension. In 1993, in another one of his works, The Unfortunate Gift of Freedom, Tischner chided people who, dissatisfied with the rapid changes underway, blamed the nation's newly won freedom for the threat of consumerism, abortion, pornography, and other social evils.

Like his teacher and friend, Karol Wojtyła, Tischner is notable as a philosopher and academic who never lost the ability to speak to ordinary people. Many of his nine books were widely read and well received by a broader public.

Bibliography: j. tichner, The Spirit of Solidarity (Cambridge, Mass 1982). j. tichner and j. z·akowski, Tischner czyta Katechizm (Kraków 1997).

[p. radzilowski]