The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

THE POPE: Mr. Porretto, your neighborhood Curmudgeon over at Eternity Road, has a long post up about the late Pope and his many detractors; it comes in the form of a long fisking of Colm Toibin's article about the Pope in the NYTimes. Mr. Toibin's criticisms are basically the same list we've all heard at one time or another so I won't bother boring you with the details, but in thinking about the detractors and their complaints I am always struck by how these folks are put out by John Paul II's refusal to even contemplate change or to heed them in the slightest way. Since his passing I've been thinking of the dressing down the Pope gave the priests in the Sandinista government back in the early 80's and how all the smart people in the chattering classes then went along with the characterization of the Pope as a man with a conquistador mentality out of touch with what was happening in Latin America.

That analysis was wrong then and it is wrong now. John Paul II was not a conquistador, a European mindlessly determined to bind a Latin American church to a European perspective; he was a man who had spent his entire adult life living under totalitarian dictatorships. The problem the Sandinistas had with the Pope was that he was not some mush minded gringo dolt who couldnt get past his romantic notions and the Sandinista propaganda about the glories of the Revolution; he was a man who saw the Sandinistas for what they were: Communist totalitarians out to turn the Nicaraguan church into an arm of their regime. And the Pope was having none of it. The Pope lived through the Soviet occupation of Central Europe and knew the tactics the Russians used to get their way in such countries as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the salami tactics, as people called those tactics back in the day. The tactics are relatively simple to understand: the Communists would make a series of non-negotiable demands and threaten civil disorder if they didnt get their way. Once in the government they would demand control of certain ministries, especially those controlling national security and the police, and then would use that power to systematically destroy their political rivals. Hence, slice by slice, like cutting up a salami, the ability of the government to resist the Communists would weaken with every concession until the Communists, with the help of the occupying Red Army, could overthrow the government.

If the Pope resisted even so-called minor reforms in the Church, I think he did it because he questioned the ultimate motives of those making the demands for change, knowing that if he backed down on one item then the pressure to back down on other items would be all the greater, for having made one concession would only convince the detractors that they could have their way. One only has to look at the disaster caused by the more liberal interpretations of Vatican II to see that. The much-heralded spirit of Vatican II had very little to do with the actual decisions of that council, and while Christians hold that the letter of the Law killeth, but the Spirit giveth life, it helps when the Spirit of the Law has something to do with its letter, if only to guarantee we are all singing out of the same hymnbook.


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