John Paul II
Sometimes a great historical figure is not as recognized as such during his lifetime. Other historical figures are recognized as monumentally important even while they live. John Paul II, who was beatified yesterday, was definitely in the latter category. He was the most important Pope of the last century, and the first pope I think of what will be viewed by future historians as a great Catholic resurgence. It will take centuries for historians to fully assess his almost 27 year long papacy, but here are some of the factors that I think they will note.
1. He largely stopped the post Vatican II chaos-After Vatican II the impulse to transform the Church into an institution fully reflecting the current views of cultural elites in the West wreaked much havoc. Paul VI, a good and holy man, drew a line in the sand with Humanae Vitae, but he lacked the stomach and the will to fight it out with those who would have transformed the Catholic Church into what the Anglican Church is now: a dying institution, adrift from any allegiance to traditional Christianity, and fully in accord with the mores and beliefs of the secular elite of the West. Many were rubbing their hands with glee after the death of Pope Paul, in confident assurance that a new liberal pope would complete the transformation of the Church into something akin to Unitarianism with fancy dress. Instead they got John Paul II, a Polish fighter who had stood toe to toe with the atheist rulers of Poland and was not the least frightened or impressed by the forces that sought to neuter Christ’s Church. The chaos and low morale of the Church could not be completely reversed in one papacy, but John Paul II began the process and made a huge amount of progress.
2. Presiding at the Funeral of Communism-During World War II, both the Nazis and the Communists slaughtered a huge number of Polish priests, viewing them as deadly enemies. How very right they were! The Polish Church, in the midst of one of the worst persecutions sustained by the Catholic Church in the last century, never lost faith that the Church and Poland would both ultimately outlast the totalitarian regimes and emerge triumphant. John Paul II was the embodiment of this robust confidence that Communism, like Nazism, was merely a brief historical abberation that could and would be defeated. The rise of Solidarity was completely predictable to him, and his embrace of it made a crackdown by the Polish Communist regime, and its Kremlin puppet masters, impossible. John Paul II and Ronald Reagan in the Eighties brought about the largely peaceful collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and laid the groundwork for its collapse in the former Soviet Union. The heirs of Joseph Stalin learned to their sorrow that the type of power wielded by a skillful and determined pope cannot be counted in divisions but rather in human hearts.
3. Culture of Life-In the teeth of an overwhelming movement among Western elites to jettison the belief that human life is sacred, John Paul II rededicated the Church to that proposition and waged a long uphill struggle throughout his papacy against abortion and euthanasia. Like Moses, John Paul II did not live to see the victory in this fight, but ultimately we will win, and his brave stand at a crucial moment in history will be one of the reasons why. Continue reading
I honestly can’t believe they’re doing this again. I oppose gatherings such as Assisi for many reasons that I could explain with a lengthy diatribe full of references and quotations, but I decided to go with withering sarcasm instead.
I believe these meetings are immoral and imprudent. Even if they’re called by the pope and supported by the hierarchy. And I think they would find some of the answers to their own questions about the crisis of the Church, of Christianity, and religious faith in general if they examined their personal reasons for being a part of, as well as the objective social effects, of such gatherings. It was quite disappointing to hear a man who has spoken out so many times about the dangers of relativism call for an event that practically embodies the abstract concept in the physical world.
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
by Joe Hargrave
My post on the crusades has promoted a lot of discussion, here and around the web. I want to thank those who have linked to it on their blogs, including – and I know this won’t improve my reputation with some folks – Ann Coulter. Whether one agrees or disagrees with my perspective, it is a discussion long overdue, and one that ought to continue.
This post may not garner as much attention, since I am going to address relations among Christians, as opposed to those between Christians and Muslims, but I feel it is equally important. For another old canard is often floated around in discussions about the Crusades – that the noble, peace-loving Eastern or Byzantine Christians were the perpetual victims of the rapacity and greed of the Latin Crusaders.
Indeed, a certain commenter who accused me of “painting in black and white”, and engaging in a “dark dualism”, did more to paint such a picture with regards to inter-Christian relations. Well, I’ve always known that knee-jerk criticism (as opposed to the kind that, well, actually addresses the arguments made) is usually little more than projection. But there were others who made this point, and I have encountered it many times in the past.
Again, I cannot give an exhaustive historical review in a blog post. My goal here will be to highlight some basic historical facts and provide perspectives, and those who wish to add facts in the comments are welcome to do so.