Sixty Years Since the Hungarian Revolution

Friday, October 28, AD 2016

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.

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5 Responses to Sixty Years Since the Hungarian Revolution

  • These history lessons are very important, Donald. However, they sadly demonstrate that clerics even as highly placed as the Pope have all too often been weak and ingratiating towards the enemy. It is a miracle the Church survives – a testament to Jesus’ declaration that the gates of hell will not prevail.

  • Weakness is part and parcel of the fallen human condition LQC. What continuously surprises me, and gladdens me, in my non-stop look at human history is how much courage against the odds is displayed, as in the Hungarian Revolution.

  • It is so inspiring to hear about those princes of the Church who know what the red hat actually signifies. Thank you Donald.

  • I remember Sister Mary Theresa* trying to explain the plight of Cardinal Mindszenty to a class of second graders. I was one of the second graders.

    * After so many years, I am no longer certain of her name but I think this is close.

  • I was 14 years old and boarding at Sacred Heart College in Auckland at that time. I remember this well – if only because this guy turned up at the college during our Barracks Week in early 1957. ( In those days in NZ, CMT – Compulsory Military Training was still in force where when boys reached the age 18 years, they has to spend 16 weeks in the Military – sad that they stopped in in 1959, under a Labour Govt – say no more) Barracks Week was that first week back at school after the Christmas holidays – a 6 week break during our summer – when all boys colleges spent the first week teaching boys about the military, how to strip and clean a rifle (Lee Enfield mk.III .303 cal.), learn how to march and drill in platoons and companys etc.
    He claimed to be someone who was involved in the revolution and had escaped, and made his way to NZ – he had a great story. Turns out, one of my classmates recognised him as a bloke from his home town who had spent a couple of years in clink for misrepresentation – and he was at it again. He gave a stirring address to all us boys (complete with fake accent) and the Marist Brothers (who ran the college at that time) gave him a good hearing and welcomed him, and gave him accomodation and meals etc., but when Nick Walker told the Principal that he knew him and told them of his past, he was rapidly escorted by the Principal out to the waiting Paddy Wagon to be chauffered off by the cops. 🙂

July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate

Sunday, July 24, AD 2016



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.

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2 Responses to July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate

  • Great performance by Nixon though I wish the video had a dubbed translation of Khrushchev’s remarks.
    In Khrushchev’s memoirs (fascinating reading) he gives the kitchen debate short shrift. I’m sure it would have gotten a much fuller treatment if he thought he had won.

  • Another matter to consider always with regard to Khrushchev (cf. “Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar”) is that he came up the ranks from his extremely poor upbringing in southern Russian farm near the Ukrainian border, later working during WW1 as a metal worker, then eventually becoming a party boss in Moscow in the 1930’s. What aided his ascension up the ranks was his facility as a skilled murderer and efficient hit-man for the Communist party leaders. Though very short in height, he was beastly strong and was known to throttle strong men with his bare hands or squeeze unfortunates to death in a fatal bear hug. The deceased were said to have “died of natural causes”, always a plus.

    Later when Stalin was conducting his purges against NKVD people like Yagoda and others for “crimes against the people”, Montefiore records how Khrushchev nervously admitted to another party boss (I think it was Molotov), “Look at us: we all have blood on our hands, who will be next?”

    Give credit to Nixon that he could see through Khrushchev from the start, and knew exactly what a devil he was dealing with.

Twenty-Five Years Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Sunday, November 9, AD 2014

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:

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October 12, 1960: Nikita Khrushchev Pounds His Shoe at the UN

Monday, October 13, AD 2014


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.


Nikita  Khrushchev

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5 Responses to October 12, 1960: Nikita Khrushchev Pounds His Shoe at the UN

  • I read Khrushchev’s memoirs ages ago, truly fascinating, for instance referring to the building of the Berlin wall as “the establishment of border control” apparently oblivious to the fact that in most of the world border control refers to keeping people out.
    Otoh, he does at least admit (to some extent) the role Lend-Lease played in the Soviet war effort.
    Btw, the translator noted that “we will bury you” is not as aggressive as it sounds, according to him it means more like “we will dance at your funeral”.

    Of course, half of Khrushchev’s statements/behavior were a result of him being half in the bag.

  • “Of course, half of Khrushchev’s statements/behavior were a result of him being half in the bag.”

    Bingo, which made him even scarier.

  • I have the years to admit that I saw Khrushchev’s banging of his shoe on tv in person. Later, when my brothers were all drafted to fight in the war, my father went to Washington, since letters did nothing. Father banged his shoe on the desk. And as in Saving Private Ryan, one of my brothers was sent to Korea while the other brother was sent to Viet Nam. One other brother failed the physical but had to report every six months for recheck.
    Khrushchev’s son teaches at Brown University, last I remember.

  • God bless the Filipinos.

  • “Khrushchev’s son teaches at Brown University, last I remember.”

    Why am I not surprised? *sarcasm*

Red Nightmare 1962

Friday, November 16, AD 2012

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!

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3 Responses to Red Nightmare 1962

  • I shall have to watch this video tonight when I come home from neutrons ‘R us. Thanks, Donald. It is a shame we are throwing away our religious heritage as a nation for a bowl of soup as Esau did. In a way, Religion is what bind us to God and yet what gives us our freedom. But even in the old evil Roman Empire, while yet martyrs, men like St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Polycarp and St. Ignatius were still free. I hope, however, it doesn’t come to that.

  • First, they’ll establish a political military force and build the concentration camps they have already legislated.

    Then, they’ll confiscate the fire arms.

    Today, we have financial repression and monetary fascism.

    “Financial Repression”: running inflation higher than interest rates to reduce government debt loads. It papers over debt-burdened economy. Fed gravely fears deflation. Connection between expanding monetary base (orienting money) and employment growth is broken. Inflation incentivizes buying before dollar value drops. No longer is it for capital investment and hiring. In this way, the State robs citizens of wealth and income, above and beyond the onerous burdens of taxation and regulations that are crushing them. The State cannot “print its way to prosperity”. The opposite is true: this policy diminishes the economy’s ability to generate true wealth. If anything, “we” are printing ourselves into the poorhouse. Now, they are running unlimited QEternity.

    “Monetary Fascism”: financial interests control the State for the advancement of financial class. It is anti-free market and anti-capitalistic. The diversion operates in plain sight. It began around 1970. This differs from traditional Fascism: where State and industry work together for the advancement of the State. Today the financial/banking class enforces this ideology through the media and government with the ruthlessness of the Church during the Dark Ages: to question is to be a heretic.

    The Fed ran up the stock market; then it ran up the housing bubble; now they’re running up the stock market again; and next they’ll run up the housing bubble again. The credit markets are also in a bubble.

    The higher education bubble never paused or was suspended.

    And, each bubble burst is blamed on the free market.

    As George Orwell, said “Imagine a boot smashing a human face forever.”

  • What a sunny, cheerie prospect T-Shaw. Thank you for brightening the day!

November 9, 1989

Tuesday, November 9, AD 2010

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. 

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12 Responses to November 9, 1989

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  • My close friend’s son-in-law was in Berlin at the time on his OE, and he collected 2 small rocks from the wall, which he considers priceless souvenirs.

  • I have a piece also Don, and I agree that such bits of the wall are priceless reminders that tyranny can be defeated.

  • Small correction – the USSR fell on December 25, 1991, I believe.

  • A good point Mark, but I think 1989 was the decisive year for the ending of Communist regimes in Europe. 1789 ushered in the era of totalitarian regimes in Europe and 1989 ushered them out. God has an exquisite sense of humor.

  • My daughter will remember the date, and tell folks about it, because she was born on the 20th anniversary.

    Can’t ask for a better start!

  • Indeed Foxfier, and happy birthday to your daughter!

  • Ahhh I remember being in 6th grade and winning 1st place ribbons and a gold medal for all the physical fitness tests our school went through. I was the fastest girl runner in the whole school. But what I remembered the most, and cherished, was my physical fitness award signed by none other than the greatest president of my time, Ronald Reagan. It was great to be a kid back then. So many hopes and dreams. I’m sad to say my kids don’t have those same hopes and dreams of the America today. But , I do believe that the hope we all still have is eternal life after death. So know matter how bad it gets here in this life we always have the after life to look forward to and if that’s the only hope I can encourage my kids with then I’m one up! 🙂

  • Happy birthday to your daughter, Foxfier. My eight year old daughter was born on D-Day. I affectionately call her my D-Day girl and her birthdays serve as an opportunity to recall that great and horrible day. Last birthday when I asked “And what is D-Day again”, she replied in one of those questioning tones, “when we won the war.” I replied, “No no no. It was when the Allied Powers assaulted Fortress Europe at the rocky beaches of Normandy to begin the long drawn out process of wresting the continent free from the dark power of the National Socialism.” Oh what fun it was to say that!

  • “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” is the perfect ante-upper to “Ich bin ein Berliner,” in my opinion.

  • “An OCED (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) study of 1985 carefully examined the performance of the advanced capitalist economies and concluded… [that] Sweden, with one of the most generous welfare states, outperformed Ronald Reagan’s America at a time when he was cutting programs… As the Wall Street Journal editor computed those Reagan percentages [of his public spending ratio], they were over 23 percent of the GNP and therefore higher than at the end of the Carter presidency, which Reagan himself had excoriated for its big spending… ” – Michael Harrington’s Socialism – Past & Future

Res et Explicatio for AD 11-9-2009

Monday, November 9, AD 2009

Salvete TAC readers!

Here are today’s Top Picks in the world of Catholicism:

reagan pope john paul ii

1. Today is the twenty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin WallPope 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.

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2 Responses to Res et Explicatio for AD 11-9-2009

Lenin, Stalin, and the Secret War Against the Vatican

Sunday, August 30, AD 2009

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[1] 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.

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4 Responses to Lenin, Stalin, and the Secret War Against the Vatican

  • The French Revolution must have been a pretty long lasting catalyst, I guess, as the Romonov’s fell more than a half or full century later, depending on how you count such things, with the intervention of minor things like Napolean and WWI, again depending on how you count it.
    And although 70 years of “athiestic terror” may have occured, subsequetly, I can’t say that it was much worse than the centuries of very theistic terror that occurred under the rule of the Romanovs.

  • Lenin, Marx, and most Socialists and Communists have read up and were inspired by headless French intellectuals from the French Revolution.

    It’s an invention called the Gutenberg Press that has been able to facilitate the knowledge of evil.

    As for the Atheistic terror, more people died under Stalin and the Soviet Union in 70 years than all the previous centuries combined under the Romanovs.

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Pope John Paul II Doesn't Sound Like A Reaganite

Saturday, July 11, AD 2009

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. :

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4 Responses to Pope John Paul II Doesn't Sound Like A Reaganite

  • A letter from a “sandalista” (a non-Nicaraguan supporter of the Sandinistas) on her reaction to Pope John Paul II’s visit to Nicaragua in March 1983:

    “Katherine Hoyt
    National Co-Coordinator
    Nicaragua Network Education Fund

    March 16, 1983

    Dear Folks–

    Well, I promised to write about the Pope’s visit and so I guess I must even though I would rather not even think about it much less write about it! I feel that the visit to Central America as a whole has meant a return to a pre-1967 Church: before Paul VI’s encyclical “Popularum Progressio”–which specified the cases in which insurrection and rebellion would be justified–and the 1968 Latin American Bishops Conference at Medellin, Colombia, which gave the big push to liberation theology.

    On this recent visit John Paul II spoke in words easily understood by the Right as support for its cause: You peasants live in unjust and inhuman conditions but don’t be tempted to rise up in arms against your oppressors; and Archbishop Romero was a martyr but we must not allow his memory to be manipulated politically, etc., etc. But this I’m sure you know. What you’d like to know is our experience of his visit here.

    Well, the government and the Church working together made a tremendous effort to mobilize all means of transportation available in the country so that 800,000 people, approximately 36% of the total population, saw the Pope, either in Leon or in Managua. (Older people, children under 12 and pregnant women were asked not to brave the heat.) Everyone who wanted to go had the chance.

    Victoria [my 13 year old daughter] and I went on the bus to Managua two days ahead. We saw on television his arrival at the airport with Daniel Ortega’s very appropriate (but, I hear, badly received by the U.S. press) quotation from a 1921 letter from Bishop Pereira of Leon to U.S. Cardinal Simpson protesting U.S. intervention in his country. The Pope was even then quite cool and we could see that he lectured Father Ernesto Cardenal, but his airport speech was pretty good. The service in Leon went off quite well. The only objectionable thing that he said in his homily was about the “strict right of believing parents” to not see their children submitted in the schools to “programs inspired in atheism,” something that has never been contemplated here.

    Well, after watching all this on TV, we ate lunch, I put on my sunscreen and we (Victoria and I) took off walking on the prescribed route to the Plaza [19 of July]. It took us almost an hour, from 1:40 to 2:30, to get there. (Access to the Plaza was completely open, by the way.) First we got behind some people who had brought ice chests and stools so because they stood on the stools and blocked our view, we moved over to the right among simpler folk. (It turned out that that first group was composed of Archbishop Obando supporters–there were maybe 40 or 50 thousand of them all together right up in front.) Most of the crowd where we were was composed of simple Christian revolutionaries, women of AMNLAE [the women’s association], peasants of the ATC [farmworkers association] who had had their hopes falsely raised by all sides, church and state, that the Pope was going to say some words of consolation to the families which daily lose loved ones to the counterrevolution, especially since just the day before 17 outstanding members of the Sandinista Youth Organization, killed in an ambush, had been buried after a memorial program in this very same plaza. Certainly if the head of a foreign state visits a country the day after a busload of teen-agers killed in an accident have been buried, he is expected to make SOME sympathetic remarks. However, the Pope studiously avoided making ANY sympathetic words either publicly or privately to the Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs who gave him their petition for peace. He could have said a few words of sympathy and won over that crowd easily and satisfied the Sandinista leaders who weren’t expecting more than a crumb. Then it wouldn’t have mattered how strongly he spoke about Church unity under the bishops. Both sides would have been both satisfied and disappointed. But he was extremely careful not to give even a crumb to the revolution and I think no one expected this unrelieved bleakness.

    The Mass began at 5:00 and as the revolutionaries in the crowd began to get the idea of the way things were going, they began to demand “A prayer for our dead,” “We want peace,” and “We want a church on the side of the poor.”

    When that terrible sermon (which demanded that we abandon our “unacceptable ideological commitments” for the faith) was half over I began to feel sick as a result of two and one half hours standing in the sun in the crowd and extreme distress at the direction the Pope was taking. Victoria insisted that we move back to a place where the crowd was less dense and we could sit down and buy some water in plastic bags. By this time the sun had gone down, the horizon was red from so much dust raised on the outer edges of the Plaza, people were chanting “people power, people power” now, too, along with “We want peace,” and the Pope was having a hard time moving along with the Mass. At the silence between the consecration of the bread and that of the wine, a women broke in with a megaphone to say (in respectful tones, actually), “Holy Father, we beg you for a prayer for our loved ones who have been murdered,” or something very similar. The Lord’s Prayer somehow never got said and only a few people were given communion (one was the mother of Daniel and Humberto Ortega who was with the Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs, having lost another son, Camilo, in 1978). Finally at 8:00 p.m., the Pope gave the last blessing and was off while the vast majority of the crowd stayed at attention to hear the Sandinista Anthem.

    Daniel Ortega’s impromptu speech at the airport as the Pope left was enough to make one cry. He almost begged the Pope to make one solid proposal for peace in Nicaragua, to say one word, to give that one crumb that he was not willing to give. We heard only part of it as we were walking back to Toyita’s house, dirty exhausted and I, of course very distressed by the whole visit and certain we were headed for schism. One of the last slogans somebody had cried out as the Mass was ending was one of anguished defiance: “Because of Christ and His Gospels, we are revolutionaries.” That seemed to just about sum things up.

    While I showered, I turned the radio on to the BBC 9:00p.m. news. The British announcer, in typical understatement, said that the Pope had just finished saying the “most unusual Mass of his career in Managua, Nicaragua.”

    Of course it was a boost for the counter-revolutionaries and we are seeing an increase in the number of battles right now, some close to Matagalpa–near San Ramon and San Dionisio–and all anybody talks about is war. This has had serious repercussions in our Paulita who has developed a terrible fear of war and what might happen to us all. She starts crying when anyone talks about battles or civil defense measures in school.

    Write soon.

    Love, Kathy”

    John Paul II was a complicated man and he was often critical of the West, but in the confrontation between Democracy and Communism John Paul II was much closer to the position of Reagan than the Catholic Left of the time.

  • 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.

    How does this stratospheric complaint about global political economy ca. 1987 have much to say about the parsing of responsibility between the U.S. Government and Guatemala’s political class?

    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.

    Just out of curiosity, what aspects of that ‘approach’ do not? While you answer that, consider what discontinuities existed between the Reagan Administration and its predecessor. Increased military expenditure, promotion of democracy abroad, modernization of nuclear arsenals, confrontation with foreign reds (in El Salvador, &c.), and subsidy and training of insurgencies challenging communist governments were all policies that had been adopted by his predecessor, albeit more tentatively, by 1980.

    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. :

    You quote an introductory paragraph, three paragraphs which are drily descriptive, one which locates the antagonism of the West and the East bloc in their dissimilar political economy (though blocs and mutual antagonisms are the rule with or without such dissimilarity). The equivalence drawn between Western media and that of the Communist bloc is foolish. The succeeding paragraph (“International relations, in turn,…” is again uncontroversially descriptive. The next (“Although at the present time”) is not much more so.


    two concepts of the development of individuals and peoples both concepts being imperfect and in need of radical correction. This opposition is transferred to the developing countries themselves, and thus helps to widen the gap already existing on the economic level between North and South and which results from the distance between the two worlds: the more developed one and the less developed one.

    This is one of the reasons why the Church’s social doctrine adopts a critical attitude towards both liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism. For from the point of view of development the question naturally arises: in what way and to what extent are these two systems capable of changes and updatings such as to favor or promote a true and integral development of individuals and peoples in modern society? In fact, these changes and updatings are urgent and essential for the cause of a development common to all.

    Whether it be the Holy Father speaking or krill suspended in some Vatican dicastery, passages such as this do not provide even minimal guidance for the faithful policy-maker. What does ‘true and integral development’ mean? N.B. by 1987, ‘liberal capitalism’ was a fair description of the political economy of … Hong Kong. The occidental countries had with scant exception adopted some variation of what Paul Samuelson called the ‘mixed economy’, featuring considerable income redistribution, collective consumption, and ratios of public expenditure to domestic product north of a third.

    Countries which have recently achieved independence, and which are trying to establish a cultural and political identity of their own, and need effective and impartial aid from all the richer and more developed countries, find themselves involved in, and sometimes overwhelmed by, ideological conflicts, which inevitably create internal divisions, to the extent in some cases of provoking full civil war. This is also because investments and aid for development are often diverted from their proper purpose and used to sustain conflicts, apart from and in opposition to the interests of the countries which ought to benefit from them. Many of these countries are becoming more and more aware of the danger of falling victim to a form of neocolonialism and are trying to escape from it. It is this awareness which in spite of difficulties, uncertainties and at times contradictions gave rise to the International Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, which, in its positive aspect, would like to affirm in an effective way the right of every people to its own identity, independence and security, as well as the right to share, on a basis of equality and solidarity, in the goods intended for all.

    The first portion of this paragraph is again descriptive. The terminal portion, an endorsement of the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, actually was likely at a variance with the views of the Reagan Administration. It was incumbent upon the Holy Father to explain why he thought the Conference of Non-aligned Nations, that international gathering where Togo could weigh in on Timor, was significant to those not on the payroll of its secretariat. Now, if my memory serves me, one of the Conferences in this era (in 1983 or 1984) passed 11 separate resolutions attacking the United States and not a one attacking Soviet Russia, so it would not be surprising for anyone in American politics this side of Ron Dellums to find the Conference repellant. How does this jibe with the Holy Father’s carefully balanced complaints?

    22. In the light of these considerations, we easily arrive at a clearer picture of the last twenty years and a better understanding of the conflicts in the northern hemisphere, namely between East and West, as an important cause of the retardation or stagnation of the South.

    This is not a statement of discrete empirical fact, but it does presume a settled understanding of the dynamics of economic development that was not in fact the case in 1987 – or now.

    The developing countries, instead of becoming autonomous nations concerned with their own progress towards a just sharing in the goods and services meant for all, become parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel.

    The best sense that can be made out of this passage is that it is an endorsement of conceptions of the international economic order associated with characters like Immanual Wallerstein. That also would be at a variation with the Reagan Administration. It is also controversial quite apart from that; Efforts to empirically verify through statistical method the conceptions of this school of thought were not notably successful.

    This is often true also in the field of social communications, which, being run by centers mostly in the northern hemisphere, do not always give due consideration to the priorities and problems of such countries or respect their cultural make-up. They frequently impose a distorted vision of life and of man and thus fail to respond to the demands of true development.

    The referent here was contemporary efforts by UNESCO to erect a ‘New World Information Order’ incorporating controls on the Western press. The Reagan Administration withdrew from UNESCO at the close of 1984, in part for this reason and in part because the agency was internally mismanaged (“a third world kleptocracy” in the words of one critic). So, yes, this is at variation with the Reagan Administration, but with a great many others. Michael Kinsley had this to say about his colleagues in the press: “[UNESCO’s behavior] caused them to lose some of their cultural relativism, and their patience.”

    Each of the two blocs harbors in its own way a tendency towards imperialism, as it is usually called, or towards forms of new- colonialism: an easy temptation to which they frequently succumb, as history, including recent history, teaches.

    That is more Cyrus Vance than the Reagan Administration, ’tis true. It could use some elaboration.

    It is this abnormal situation, the result of a war and of an unacceptably exaggerated concern for security, which deadens the impulse towards united cooperation by all for the common good of the human race, to the detriment especially of peaceful peoples who are impeded from their rightful access to the goods meant for all.

    Bipolarity and the presence of weapons of mass destruction were certainly unusual, as was the ideological dimension of internationial conflict. We do need to ask the question as to whether ‘united cooperation by all for the common good of the human race’ really characterized previous historical era, as this comment seems to suggest.

    Seen in this way, the present division of the world is a direct obstacle to the real transformation of the conditions of underdevelopment in the developing and less advanced countries. However, peoples do not always resign themselves to their fate. Furthermore, the very needs of an economy stifled by military expenditure and by bureaucracy and intrinsic inefficiency now seem to favor processes which might mitigate the existing opposition and make it easier to begin a fruitful dialogue and genuine collaboration for peace.

    23. The statement in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio that the resources and investments devoted to arms production ought to be used to alleviate the misery of impoverished peoples41 makes more urgent the appeal to overcome the opposition between the two blocs.

    This is also at a variance with the Reagan Administration. The thing is, I doubt you will find many third world countries in 1987 who had a ratio of military expenditure to domestic product exceeding .03, bar those in the midst of internal insurrections or wars of national mobilization. IIRC statistics I was scanning at that time, such was particularly true in Latin America.

    Today, the reality is that these resources are used to enable each of the two blocs to overtake the other and thus guarantee its own security. Nations which historically, economically and politically have the possibility of playing a leadership role are prevented by this fundamentally flawed distortion from adequately fulfilling their duty of solidarity for the benefit of peoples which aspire to full development.

    It is timely to mention – and it is no exaggeration – the a leadership role among nations can only be justified by the possibility and willingness to contribute widely and generously to the common good.

    There are several problems with this statement. One, is there a well established means by which international transfers of public capital induce sustainable local development?; two, to what extent are such transfers inhibited by specifically military expenditures?; three, how is it that ‘global leadership’ can be said to be conferred by virtue rather than merely being the artifact of power politics – something that exists rather than something that is ‘justified’?

    If a nation were to succumb more or less deliberately to the temptation to close in upon itself and failed to meet the responsibilities following from its superior position in the community of nations, it would fall seriously short of its clear ethical duty. This is readily apparent in the circumstances of history, where believers discern the dispositions of Divine Providence, ready to make use of the nations for the realization of its plans, so as to render “vain the designs of the peoples” (cf. Ps 33[32]: 10).

    What exactly is its ‘clear ethical duty’ in the realm of international relation?

    24. If arms production is a serious disorder in the present world with regard to true human needs and the employment of the means capable of satisfying those needs, the arms trade is equally to blame. Indeed, with reference to the latter it must be added that the moral judgment is even more severe. As we all know, this is a trade without frontiers capable of crossing even the barriers of the blocs. It knows how to overcome the division between East and West, and above all the one between North and South, to the point – and this is more serious – of pushing its way into the different sections which make up the southern hemisphere. We are thus confronted with a strange phenomenon: while economic aid and development plans meet with the obstacle of insuperable ideological barriers, and with tariff and trade barriers, arms of whatever origin circulate with almost total freedom all over the world And as the recent document of the Pontifical Commission Iustitia et Pax on the international debt points out,42 everyone knows that in certain cases the capital lent by the developed world has been used in the underdeveloped world to buy weapons.

    See above on the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product. Here are some figures from 2004, courtesy Global Security. I believe that global product is now about $60 tn, so the $1.1 tn devoted to military expenditure is less than 2% of the total.

    If to all this we add the tremendous and universally acknowledged danger represented by atomic weapons stockpiled on an incredible scale, the logical conclusion seems to be this: in today’s world, including the world of economics, the prevailing picture is one destined to lead us more quickly towards death rather than one of concern for true development which would lead all towards a “more human” life, as envisaged by the Encyclical Populorum Progressio.43

    Here we pose the question: in 1987, had median life expectancies been increasing, or decreasing? Was global food production per capita improving, or not?

    Tim, we have to regard the statements of our bishops on matters outside of faith and morals with the antecedent assumption that they understand of what they speak, and we should be taught by them. The thing of it is, they can and do adhere to conceptions of their social world the empirical reality of which is controversial and so for a reason so we are in conversation with them on these matters. That applies to the late Holy Father as well.

  • I don’t know if you are familiar with our site, the Catholic World Report, but we have a “Round-Table” wherein J. Brian Benestad, Francis J. Beckwith, Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., Richard Garnett, Thomas S. Hibbs, Paul Kengor, George Neumayr, Joseph Pearce, Tracey Rowland, Father James V. Schall, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico share their thoughts on Caritas in Veritate.

    It’s located at: