I stand for God, for the Church and for Hungary. This responsibility has been imposed upon me by the fate of the nation which stands alone, an orphan in the whole world. Compared with the sufferings of my people, my own fate is of no importance.
József Cardinal Mindszenty, Primate of Hungary, 1948
The Hungarian Revolt of 1956 was an extremely important turning point in the Cold War. It demonstrated to the world that Eastern Europe was not, and never would be, Communist but rather merely territory held down by the force of the Red Army. This spirit of resistance lived on in each of the countries in the Warsaw Pact from the first imposition of Communist governments at the end of the World War II to the fall of the Communist states at the end of the eighties. It was a magnificent struggle that is too little celebrated in the West.
The heart and soul of the struggle in Hungary was one of the great men of the 20th Century: József Cardinal Mindszenty, primate of Hungary. Imprisoned by the pro-Nazi government in Hungary during World War II, he was imprisoned, tortured and condemned in a show trial by the puppet Communist regime after World War II. Freed by Hungarian patriots during the Hungarian revolt, he quickly joined the revolt. After it was crushed he took refuge in the American embassy in Budapest where he stayed for 15 years, a symbol of the unconquerable spirit of his beloved Hungary. Shamefully, in my view, the Vatican compromised with the Communist regime, annulling the excommunication imposed by Pius XII on all involved with the trial of Mindszenty, and calling him “a victim of history” rather than “a victim of Communism”. Mindszenty traveled to Vienna rather than Rome, upset at the suggestion of the Vatican that he should retire and live in Rome. He was stripped of his titles by Pope Paul VI in 1973, although the Pope did not fill the primacy until after the Cardinal died in 1975. The Church in Hungary has launched a strong effort to have the Cardinal proclaimed a saint, and I pray that it is soon crowned with deserved success.
Below is the public domain movie Guilty of Treason 1949, which tells the story of the trial of Mindszenty by the Communists. There was also the 1956 movie The Prisoner starring Alec Guinness, a heavily fictionalized account of his trial, which the Cardinal intensely disliked. Continue reading
Hard to believe that it is 57 years since the Kitchen Debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschchev. The US scored one of the biggest propaganda coups of the Cold War by building a typical American house, cut in half for easy viewing, at the American National Exhibit at Sokolniki Park in Moscow in 1959. This was part of an agreement where the Soviets staged an exhibit in New York the same year. Ordinary Soviets flocked to see it and were awed at the technology in the house featuring the latest labor saving and recreational devices in 1959. They were floored at the contention of the Americans that this was a typical house that an average American could afford. The impromptu debate between Khruschchev redounded greatly to the benefit of Nixon who came across to American audiences as an able champion of their cause. Khruschchev was also impressed by Nixon, so much so that he later claimed that he did everything in his power to defeat Nixon when Nixon ran for President in 1960. Continue reading
Twenty-five years ago today my bride and I arrived home from buying software for our Commodore 64 (Yeah, it is that long ago.) and watched stunned after we turned on the tv as we saw East Germans dancing on top of the Berlin War, tearing into it with sledge hammers. It is hard to convey to people who did not live through the Cold War how wonderful a sight this was. Most people at the time thought the Cold War was a permanent state of things. Not Ronald Wilson Reagan. He knew that Communism would end up on the losing side of history and throughout his career strove to bring that day ever closer. His becoming President so soon after John Paul II became Pope set the stage for the magnificent decade of the Eighties when Communism passed from being a deadly threat to the globe to a belief held only by a handful of benighted tyrannical regimes around the world, and crazed American professors. In most of his movies, the good guys won in the end, and Reagan helped give us a very happy ending to a menace that started in 1917 and died in 1989.
Here is an interview Sam Donaldson did with Reagan immediately after the fall of the wall:
Lech Walesa, a leader of that band of millions of heroes and heroines, at the head of which were Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan, who won the Cold War, gave this salute to Reagan after Reagan died in 2005: Continue reading
Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you! (Alternative translation of the Russian: We will dig you in.)
Nikita Khrushchev, to Western diplomats, November 18, 1956 at a diplomatic reception. He later denied that he meant it literally but that, as Marx said, Communism was the grave digger of capitalism and that it was the Western proletariat who would topple capitalism in the West and not the Soviet Union.
By the time I reached the papers of 10 October 1960, I was convinced that the shoe had never left Khrushchev’s foot. Like every New Yorker 40 years earlier, I, too, wanted him to go home. As in a perfect detective novel, I was now afraid that my hero would get caught by some stupid mistake, just before the case closed in his favour.
That day, Khrushchev announced he would be leaving the United States on Thursday 13 October. The UN and New York took a deep breath. I also sighed with relief. On Tuesday 11 October, the Soviet leader addressed the UN one last time. The argument was heated as usual, but no shoe was indicated. I prayed: “You’ve done what you could. Please, go home. We are all tired.” On Wednesday 12 October 1960, there it was, on the front pages of all national papers: Nikita Sergeyevich and his famous shoe. My heart fell. I was in a state of shock, probably no less than those in the UN hall 40 years earlier. Swallowing tears of disappointment, I stared at the page for minutes, then the words started to turn into sentences.
The head of the Philippine delegation, Senator Lorenzo Sumulong, expressed his surprise at the Soviet Union’s concerns over western imperialism, while it, in turn, swallowed the whole of eastern Europe. Khrushchev’s rage was beyond anything he had ever shown before. He called the poor Filipino “a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of imperialism”, then he put his shoe on the desk and banged it.
Nina Khrushchev, Granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev
Sometimes I hear people who view with alarm the complexities and the dangers of the contemporary world claim to be nostalgic for the Cold War. As someone who lived through most of the Cold War, with the free world locked in a seemingly never ending conflict with totalitarian enemies, and the threat of instant nuclear annihilation always hovering on the horizon, I do not miss it at all.
An interesting artifact of the Cold War from 1962. Jack Webb hosts a Department of Defense film in which a normal American citizen goes to sleep and has a nightmare in which America has been transformed into a Commmunist state. It has a Twilight Zone quality to it and all it needs is Rod Serling as the host instead of “Just the Facts Ma’am” Webb. I will leave to the viewers any invidious comparisons with contemporary America!
Twenty-one years ago today my wife and I arrived home from buying software for our Commodore 64 (Yeah, it is that long ago.) and watched stunned after we turned on the tv as we saw East Germans dancing on top of the Berlin War, tearing into it with sledge hammers. It is hard to convey to people who did not live through the Cold War how wonderful a sight this was. Most people at the time thought the Cold War was a permanent state of things. Not Ronald Wilson Reagan. He knew that Communism would end up on the losing side of history and throughout his career strove to bring that day ever closer. His becoming President so soon after John Paul II became Pope set the stage for the magnificent decade of the Eighties when Communism passed from being a deadly threat to the globe to a belief held only by a handful of benighted tyrannical regimes around the world, and crazed American professors. In most of his movies, the good guys won in the end, and Reagan helped give us a very happy ending to a menace that started in 1917 and died in 1989. Continue reading
Salvete TAC readers!
Here are today’s Top Picks in the world of Catholicism:
1. Today is the twenty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher all played pivotal roles in bringing down Communism and discredited all socialistic and atheistic systems the world over. Pope John Paul II played the most important role of the three, providing the moral backbone that is needed when confronting these manifestations of evil.
Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, and Vince Haley wrote a timely article concerning this important anniversary titled The Victory of the Cross: How spiritual renewal helped bring down the Berlin Wall. For this article click here.
2. Dave Hartline has already posted three articles here with us. His latest is titled, Following the 2009 Election Results which Way is the Tide Turning toward Truth or Relativism?
For the article click here.
For all of Dave Hartline’s articles on The American Catholic click here.
3. Catholic Culture has changed their look again. Unlike the last time I mentioned their new look, I have to say it is a major improvement. It’s much easier to find Diogenes of Off the Record (under Commentary). Blue has replaced what I think was the color pink as it’s primary color and the fonts are much stronger.
For the Catholic Culture link click here.
For Diogenes, which is under Commentary, click here.
Adolph Hitler’s evil twin in terror, Joseph Stalin, once remarked “How many divisions has the Pope?”. This was done in response to the future saint Pope Pius XII’s disapproval of his policies.
Well it wasn’t a mocking tone nor was it a sarcastic remark in reference to the Vatican. It was a serious concern to the ‘meddling’ of the Catholic Church in thwarting Communism’s attempt at world domination. Stalin was well aware of the tremendous moral power that the Vatican wielded and Vladimir Lenin implemented the full power of the KGB and the eastern bloc spy agencies to monitor and undermine the mission of the Catholic Church.
A new non-fiction book by John Koehler titled, Spies in the Vatican, has recently come out that documents the final twenty years of the Cold War and how it played out as the Soviet Union and their allies infiltrated the Vatican.
Here is a good portion of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis written in 1987 and is followed up by Pope Benedict’s most recent. It is a relevant passage because it deals directly with the subjects dealt with in the ongoing discussion on “Guatemala” et al, on the debated need for apology/examination of our American conscience for abuses- or some would argue not- by our American leadership and elite interests, in regard to other nations- particularly poorer, weaker ones. There seems to be the idea floating around in conservative political circles that Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were cut from the same cloth. I do not believe the approach to foreign relations by those who praise the Reagan/Bush years, holds up to Catholic scrutiny. But here are the words of our previous Holy Father- and no I do not accept the argument that we can distinguish where the Peace and Justice crowd at the Vatican is speaking and where the Pope is- that sort of treatment of these official Encyclicals is beneath my contempt. I will offer commentary on the latest encyclical after I have time to digest it, I refuse to rush my judgment on such important Church offerings. : Continue reading