The danger of a John Paul II canonization

I actually think he was a man of apparent holiness who did a pretty good job as pope.  However, I remember this dust up from a few years ago.  The main facts of the case being 1) Wielgus signed a statement to cooperate with the communist secret police, 2) he indicates it was the price he had to pay for permission to leave the country for work-related reasons, and 3) there was, last time I heard, still no reason to doubt his claim that no one was accused or hurt by his “spying”.  Nevertheless, this was considered a major scandal.

Now, I don’t particularly care about Bishop Wielgus, and behind the drive to expose communist collaborators is at least the rare but laudable recognition that communism is a bad thing.  However, consider this.  In communist Poland, as in any other totalitarian society, you don’t get to climb above the rank of toilet scrubber without in some way giving the regime an assurance that you’re willing to play ball.  You don’t get to leave the country, say to attend an ecumenical council.  You certainly don’t get appointed as bishop, since the communists had a direct veto over episcopal appointments.  The fact that Karol Wojtyla did both means he must have “collaborated” in some way.  At the very least, he must have agreed to avoid anti-communist associations and to report his activities while abroad (which, remember, is all Bishop Wielgus admitted to doing). The entire Polish hierarchy must be implicated to some degree, just because they were allowed to be the hierarchy.

And I don’t blame them for it.  History shows that they manipulated the communist system better than it manipulated them, and Poland and the rest of the world are better places because of it.  However, the general response to clerical collaborators has not set us up to make this case.  The Polish Church behaved quite properly in investigating the behavior of its priests while declining ahead of time to make the results of this investigation public.  There is absolutely nothing to be gained from a public release.  Why would any anti-communist want to humiliate the institution that everyone realizes was the most vigorous opponent of communism?  Even setting aside damage to the Church, it would have been far better for all the former communist states of Eastern Europe to have destroyed the records of their secret police before anyone could see them.  The main revelation of all these records is the great degree to which ordinary people could be induced to spy on their neighbors.  This is a bad thing to know.  A healthy organic community depends on social trust.  Convince people that their neighbors are a bunch of willing Stasi spies, and they will fail to trust their neighbors, turning instead to the government for protection.  The government thus becomes all-powerful and can then institute the actual Stasi and start recruiting actual spies.  The only ultimate beneficiary of a witch hunt against communist collaborators is communism itself.

Anyway, Western Catholics criticized the Polish Church for its culture of secrecy, but I don’t think we’re going to like what they’ve found.  They presumably know the extent to which all the Polish cardinals and bishops were “collaborators” but think they can just sit on the knowledge forever.  However, they’re not the only ones with access to it.  (If they were, Wielgus would still be Archbishop of Warsaw.)  If any damaging information is in the hands of the Church’s enemies, why haven’t we heard it yet?  Well, suppose you are an enemy of Church, and you have what you consider a compromising document–say a written promise by young Father Wojtyla to discourage social unrest and to turn in to the police anyone who he hears plotting the overthrow of the communist state (all of which would be defensible from the Catholic doctrine on duty to established authority, even if he really did mean it and wasn’t just gaming the system by planning to excuse himself whenever his friends started to talk rebellion).  What do you do, run to the press or sit on it?  Well, ask yourself this–which would do the maximum damage:  going to the press the day before John Paul II’s canonization or going to the press the day after?

13 Responses

  1. I used to give JPII some credit for his “contribution” to the Cold War that was before I became better acquainted with Marxism both in theory and as it was practiced in Eastern Europe. Several decades on it seems his fruits there have proven just as rotten there as they have inside the Church. “Free” Poland is now open to all sorts of cultural “enrichment” most especially in the form of PUAs who go and pillage the local women. The symbolism is apt. JPII “freed” the East so that the West could go in and culturally and economically rape those countries. Incidentally Church attendance rates were higher under the Communist government than they are now. The man was obsessed with Communism and his own anti-Russian prejudices, he failed to see the real and much greater danger (America).

    Of course JPII’s constant scandalous behavior and mismanagement dwarf any of his predecessors. I would take Alexander VI over John Paul the “great” any day.

    If there was a time for a “restoration” it should have been with JPII but instead he basically ensured the triumph of Vatican II and oversaw a vast unprecedented demolition of the Church from which we have not recovered.

  2. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from a public release.

    I’ll make explicit what Bonald is leaving implicit here. There is a great deal to be gained from finding out who the collaborators are, though—both in the particular case of collaborators in the Church and the general case of Commie collaborators in society. This information can be used, by a right-thinking ruler, to put the collaborators in prison or out of power using some pretext. It can be used to cause collaborators to be found face down in ditches. It can be selectively released to destroy collaborators. It can be used to turn collaborators to the good guys’ side via the threat of these other three.

    Thus, Pope Francis’ failure to make public the dossier he was left on the Lavender Mafia is not, in and of itself, troubling. If he is a good Pope, he is making very good non-public use of it about now.

  3. “Thus, Pope Francis’ failure to make public the dossier he was left on the Lavender Mafia is not, in and of itself, troubling. If he is a good Pope, he is making very good non-public use of it about now.”

    I’d like to think he is making good use of it but it’s a virtual certainty he isn’t. We know exactly how he ran the Church in Buenos Aires, where the “filth” was tolerated in the name of pastoralism and a quarter of his flock defected to Protestantism. Is there much reason to believe he’ll run the universal Church any differently?

  4. Proph, not that I know of, no. His “who am I to judge” was issued, after all, to a reporter who asked him whether it was a good idea to appoint a notorious pederast and frequenter of male prostitutes to head the Vatican Bank. Anything is possible, though.

  5. The real problem seems to be the diminution of sainthood. Naturally, after the canonization, conservatives will deal with things like Assisi by emphasizing that “saints are not perfect” etc. This leaves the door entirely open to a new form devaluation of the Crusades, etc. by liberals — “St. Bernard, St. Peter Arbues, etc. are saints for personal holiness, but made grave mistakes in their public actions and political beliefs.”

  6. @Ita Scripta Est

    Do you really think that communist societies were less corrupted than the West in 1989? You seem to be underestimating the way communism dissolves societies. As I see it there was nothing left to corrupt in 1989 and no real choice. One party wanted democracy, the other capitalism. So „going west“ was the only option. Sometimes I wonder if communism in the East wasn’t the only thing that was holding back total decline of the West so when the Enemy fell decline of Western civilization accelerated.

    Church attendance doesn’t mean anything in this case. As in Slovakia the Church was perceived as a resistance against communist opression which could make her more popular. Moreover, the Church in Poland was stronger than elsewhere and even communists had to respect her. Still there had to be strong secular tendencies and communists did everything to make them even stronger. Now the process just goes on. I don’t thing JPII could change anything about that.

    So I understand JPII obsession with communism as I understand and share his anti-Russian prejudice. It is same as anti-German prejudice of my grandfather. He was Pole after all and Poles always hated Russians. Russia of nineties was a hellhole. The country has recovered recently (under Putin’s rule) but the old sentiments of hatred are still there. The Russians are now antiliberal not because they are somehow less corrupted or whatever but because they are instictively against all things western.

  7. Is it really true that JPII was “obsessed” with communism? We all tend to remember him as a Cold Warrior, but that may have more to do with our preoccupations than his. A lot of his writings as pope dealt with abortion, moral relativism, and sexual immorality–the vices most characteristically championed by the West–but I don’t remember him making a big deal about socialism. Polish Catholicism was an effective thorn in communism’s side just by existing; it was seldom explicitly counter-revolutionary.

    One could argue that JPII actually did direct a lot more of his fire at America than Russia, but it just turned out that America was the stronger adversary and triumphed regardless.

  8. I think the one issue the Second Vatican Council was really clear on was its condemnation of Marxism. Meanwhile quite a number of Catholic intellectuals were basically stooges of the US government. Jacques Maritain is the most conspicuous examples of this and there are many others- usually associated with the personalist “pro-democracy Thomist” position. Even the reactionary Brent Bozell had an almost psychotic hatred of communism- he once said “To stamp out world Communism I would be willing to destroy the entire universe, even to the furthest star.” Bozell gave speeches about America as the great defender of Christendom. Bozell quickly repented of that though, after witnessing the “conservative movement” of his day in action. He came to see American liberalism as the greater threat. Bozell and his small band of fellow reactionaries came to oppose the Vietnam War, and even support certain subversive elements in the 60s as a revolt against liberal-capitalism. American liberalism simply wasn’t worthy of defending Christendom.

    It seems JPII more or less adopted Martain’s position. Nor was this aspect somehow cordoned off from some of his other blunders. JPII pushed the outrageous ecumenism mainly as a way of uniting all religions against the Soviet Union. Again this played right into American foreign policy interests let alone sowing confusion among the faithful and setting a terrible precedent. His encyclical Centesimus Annus comes very close to baptizing neo-liberalism in some sections while in other sections he condemns the free market rendering the whole encyclical a nebulous incoherent wreck. Of course here in America under JPII, Fr. Sirico gets chosen to write an anthology on Catholic Social Thought- such an excellent choice that was.

    JPII was much clearer in his condemnations of the left, but on most other issues he was nebulous especially with regard to the West and Church discipline. He was just frustratingly obscure enough to give any faction enough leeway to do whatever it wanted. Unless it of course it pertained to a certain French cardinal and his followers. Indeed JPII proved he could bring down the hammer when it suited him. Liberation theology was also famously singled out. I know on that score I probably won’t garner much sympathy among trads, but it does sort of boggle the mind. The Church can it seems quell these types of movements when it wants to even movements that enjoy popular support. So why is it then that it hasn’t reigned in the Americans?

  9. Have you heard of the Metz Pact?

  10. Bill,

    “Tradition and Action” is a dubious source.

  11. It’s not unreasonable to suppose something like the Metz Agreement happened even if not according to the exact historical details laid out in any particular conspiracy theory. The Russian Orthodox at that time were basically KGB assets. John XXIII wanted their delegates in attendance at the Council for ecumenical purposes, but they would not dare to legitimate by their presence a Council which condemned their bosses. Hence some kind of accommodation had to be made. It is easy to see how, in the aftermath of the Council, the increasing transition of power from the CDF (concerned with doctrinal integrity) to the Secretariat of State (concerned with international relations), mirroring the increasing emphasis on “pastorality” (i.e., theological realpolitik) over truth, mirrors that.

  12. “I think the one issue the Second Vatican Council was really clear on was its condemnation of Marxism.”

    On what grounds? Everything I’ve read states the complete opposite, that many expected a condemnation but the Council avoided the subject, and I’m not aware of Marxism being discussed in any of the documents. Maybe I’m misinformed?

  13. Does this article below help any, Ita Scripta Est? It may not prove that the Metz Pact is real, but it suggests that Vatican II said nothing about Communism. I’m you’ll learn about the Metz Pact if you read Fr. Ralph Wiltgin’s history of Vatican II “The Rhine Flows into the Tiber” or Michael Davies’s book “Pope John’s Council,” both of which I own. I see Mr. Davies’s book, and I’ll look for the one by Fr. Wiltgin.

    Why did you put the phrase “Tradition in Action” between quotation marks?

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