Belief in the innocence of rulers depends upon the ignorance of
Hugh Ross Williamson.
The Catholic world at large had barely recovered from the shock of
John Paul’s death, sudden and unexpected as it was, when another
event diverted their attention from the Sedis vacantia (vacancy of
the Apostolic See) to the puff of white smoke that, on 16 October,
1978, issued from the small bent chimney of the Sistine Chapel, and
to the announcement that followed it: ‘We have a new Pope.’
More than the usual excitement resulted, and there were those among
the more experienced observers who noted that much of it came from
the same quarters that had acclaimed John XXIII; from those who
greeted the changes (or disasters, as many thought) that resulted
from his reign, as long awaited and welcome signs that the Church
was throwing off its iron archaic fetters.
For the new Pontiff was Karol Wojtyla, who received something like a
hero’s welcome because he was a Pole, from behind the Iron Curtain,
where religion, especially the Christian, had had to run the
gauntlet, and where now, although the era of blows and taunts was
somewhat relaxed, it was still subject to a mainly wary and
restricted acceptance. Wojtyla was, incidentally, the first
non-Italian to be elected Pope since 1522.
A veteran American journalist who had the not inappropriate name of
Avro Manhattan, who knew the Vatican more
intimately than he did the White House, and who was well versed in
Russian tergiversation, had earlier written:
proportion of radical Cardinals, and of future members of the Sacred
College, whose political leanings range from light pink
to scarlet red, has been mounting and will continue to increase. The
inevitable result will be that, thanks to the
greatest number of Leftist clerics, the election of a Red Pope is
becoming more likely.’1
Had such a Pontiff arrived in the person of
In view of the strained relationship between countries in the West,
and those behind the Iron Curtain, the officially irreligious
of the latter, and the emergence of John Paul II as the new Pope
elected to be called, a number of questions presented themselves
that called for an answer. His orthodox early training and
development, his becoming a priest, and his rise to Archbishop and
then to Cardinal, had proceeded normally.
Many hundreds of his co-religionists in Poland during the thirty
years of Communist domination had undergone petty or serious
persecution, many being jailed, some put to death. Yet there is no
indication of Wojtyla ever undergoing more than the usual trials
that have to be endured by known dissidents. He had not been subject
to any sustained or menacing outcry, and his relationship with the
Marxist authorities had been the same as that of any ordinary
citizen who wore his faith upon his sleeve.
Through it all he must have been called upon, as a prelate, to give
not only religious but also social, and even economic advice to
those of his faith, advice that must have sometimes conflicted with
the governing code. Yet he was never actually silenced, and he was
tolerated, even privileged by the authorities, while his religious
superior, Cardinal Wyszynski, then Primate of Poland, lived under
A case in point was the granting of permission to leave the country.
When the Synod of Bishops was called for Rome, both Cardinals
applied for exit visas. The Primate encountered a blunt refusal, but
Wojtyla was given permission as a matter of course.
He experienced the same favour when it came to attending the
conclave at which he was elected, and those who had been dismayed by
the prospect of a Pope from a Soviet background soon felt they were
Pierre Bourgreignon, writing in Didasco, a French publication that
appeared in Brussels, April 1979, said:
‘No one capable of coherent
thought will easily believe that a Cardinal from behind the Iron
Curtain can be anything but a Communist plant.’
A similar doubt was expressed in The War is Now, an Australian
production issued on behalf of Catholic tradition. If Wojtyla, it
asked, is a true Catholic Pole,
‘why would proper, sensible, prudent
Cardinals with the Church’s welfare at heart, elect a target, a man
whose family and people remain under the gun, a whole nation of
ready-made hostages or martyrs?’
The Abbé de Nantes, leader of the Catholic Counter-Reformation of
the Twentieth Century, was more downright:
‘We have a Communist Pope.’
It was formerly acknowledged that differences, when they were in
Poland, did exist between the two Cardinals. Wyszynski never yielded
an inch when dealing with the controllers of his country. Wojtyla
was all for coming to terms and continuing ‘dialogue’ with them,
along the lines that had been established by Paul VI; and what was
more noticeable, Wojtyla, apart from never actually condemning
atheistic Marxism, stood in the way of those who wished to adopt a
more militant attitude towards it.
Someone had noted that during the conclave in the Sistine Chapel, at
which he was elected, the solemnity of the occasion, and the fact of
being overlooked by Michelangelo’s gigantic frescoes of the Last
Judgment, did not prevent Wojtyla reading from a book that he had
thought fit to take in for instruction – or for a little light
relief from the gravity of choosing the Vicar of Christ? It was a
book of Marxist principles.
Those who regarded him with suspicion were not reassured when he
rejected the ritual of coronation and chose to be ‘installed’, and
when he let it be known that he rested more easily in an ordinary
chair than on the Papal throne. Were Church practices, they asked,
to undergo a further paring down after those that had already
resulted from the Council?
Their fears grew when he put aside the mantle of authoritarianism
with which the Church, of which he was now
the Head, had hitherto been invested. And any lingering doubts they
may have had vanished when, in his inaugural
speech, he undertook to fulfill the last will and testament of Paul
VI, by adhering to Pope John’s directives of collegiality
and the liturgy of the New Mass – and that, it may be observed, in
spite of the fact that he must have been aware of all the
obscenities that followed it.
When making that announcement, Wojtyla stood by a makeshift altar
that, like Paul VI’s bier, was bereft of any religious sign in the
form of a crucifix or cross.
Other indications of what might be expected of the new Pope soon
followed. In his first encyclical he praised Paul VI for having
revealed ‘the true countenance of the Church’. He spoke in a similar
vein of the Second Vatican Council which had given ‘greater
visibility to the Eucharistic sacrifice’; and he undertook to follow
and promote the renewal of the Church ‘according to the spirit of
A later statement referred to that Council as having been ‘the
greatest ecclesiastical event of our century’; and it now remained
‘the acceptance of fulfillment of Vatican Two in accordance
with its authentic content. In doing this we are guided by faith....
We believe that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was with the
Council Fathers, that the Church contains, within its magisterium,
what the Spirit says to the Church, saying it at the same time in
harmony with tradition and according to the demands posed by the
signs of the times’.
His remark on being in harmony with tradition was flatly
contradicted by his admission that ‘the liturgy of the Mass is
different from the one known before the Council. But’ (he added
significantly) ‘we do not intend to speak of those differences.’
was essential to renew the Church, in structure and function, to
bring it into line with the needs of the contemporary world; and
from that admission it needed but a step for Wojtyla to
the revolutionary principles of 1789, with the glorification of man,
liberated man, as a being who is sufficient unto himself. Man was
the only idol deserving the reverence of those on earth, his stature
being confirmed by and classified as the Rights of Man.
That somewhat hazy terrestrial belief has been the inspiration of
every Left-wing movement from then on. With a fine disregard for the
authority of law it was proclaimed, in America, that ‘liberty is the
very foundation of political order’.
While a few years ago François Mitterand, the Communist
who is now President of the French Republic, said that ‘Man is the
future of Man.’ It was then left for Karol Wojtyla, as John Paul II,
to enshrine that belief in a modern religious setting by declaring
that ‘Man is the primary issue of the Church’; a Papal announcement
that is thoroughly in line with the Marxist principle that ‘Man is
an end in himself and the explanation of all things.’
The Pope then proceeded to pass from verbal to more active approval
of the political system from which he had emerged. Speaking of the
Church in Poland, he said that ‘its relationship with Communism
could be one of the elements in the ethical and international order
in Europe and the modern world.’ He maintained a friendly
understanding with the Red occupiers of his country, and thought it
possible to open up a spiritual détente with them. In furtherance of
this the Communist Minister of State, Jablonski, with a train of
comrades as large as that of any Eastern potentate, was received at
the Vatican. Then came the Soviet Minister, Gromyko, who was granted
more than the prescribed time with His Holiness.
He greeted guerrillas between their bouts of ‘freedom fighting’ in
Africa and Nicaragua. His moral support went with them. He opened
the door of his study to the Mexican Jose Alvarez, who travelled far
and wide in South America calling on extremists to light the flames
of anarchy. Not even the Pope’s intimates knew what passed between
them. He was the ‘star’ speaker at a Latin American Congress in
Panama City, where the theme was certainly not religious, since the
organizers were the Communist dictator, General Torrijos, and the
Marxist Sergio Mendez Arceo, of Cuernavaca.
When addressing a group of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and
Cambodia, the Pope’s lukewarm attitude was commented on by Robert Serrou, the
Paris Match correspondent. The Pope, naturally enough,
had commiserated with his audience, but why, asked Serrou, had he
not so much as mentioned the Red terror from which they had escaped?
In view of that failure to condemn tyranny, it is remarkable that
one of the few strictures uttered by John Paul II has been
directed against those Catholics who deplore the gradual taking to
pieces of the Church since Vatican Two:
‘Those who remain attached
to incidental aspects of the Church which were more valid in the
past but have now been superseded, cannot be considered the
His orthodoxy, when it came to the teaching of Catholicism and its
relation to other religions, has also been called into question. It
is a commonplace, but no belittlement of Islam, to point out that
the fatalistic Arabian tradition, with its denial of Christ’s
divinity and of the redemption, is a far remove from the essentials
of Christian belief. Yet the Pope told an audience of Moslems that
their Koran and the Bible ‘are in step’.
And in more casual mood,
was he pandering to the mechanical spirit of the age when he told a
gathering of motorists to have the same care for their cars as they
have for their souls? Or was it by a slip of the tongue that the
importance attached to cars preceded that of souls?
One of the Pope’s letters, dated 15 September, 1981, on the subject
of private property and capitalism, shows a marked contradiction of
and a departure from the Church’s teaching. For in the letter he
‘Christian tradition has never upheld the right of private
property as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always
understood the right as common to all to use the goods of the whole
That is so blatantly false, and so opposed to what every Pope from
Leo XIII to Pius XII had said, that one is tempted to agree with
those outspoken trans-Atlantic critics2 who bluntly call
Karol Wojtyla a liar, and who follow that up with the exhortation: ‘Break
For here I quote from Leo XIII:
‘The Socialists endeavour to destroy
private property, and maintain that the individual possessions
should become the common property of all, to be administered by the
State or by municipal bodies.... It is unjust, because it would rob
the legal possessor, bring the State into a sphere that is not its
own, and cause complete confusion to the community.’
Leo went on to say that a man works in order to obtain property, and
to hold it as his own private possession.
every man has the right by nature to possess property of his own.
This is one of the distinct points between man and the
animal creation.... The authority of the Divine Law adds its
sanction forbidding us in the gravest terms even to covet that which
From Pius XI:
‘The primary function of private property is in order
that individuals may be able to provide for their own needs and for
those of their families.’
And from Pius XII:
‘The Church aspires to bring it about that
private ownership shall become, in accordance with the plans of the
divine wisdom and with the laws of nature, an element in the social
system, a necessary incentive to human enterprise, and a stimulus to
nature; all this for the benefit of the temporal and spiritual ends
of life, and consequently for the benefit of the freedom and dignity
And still from the same Pope:
‘Only private ownership can provide
the head of a family with the healthy freedom it requires to carry
out the duties allotted to him by the Creator for the physical,
spiritual, and religious well-being of his family.’
Side by side with these proclamations the Church has issued warnings
against Liberalism, which ends in capitalism, and against Marxism
which preaches the abolition of private property. Therefore the
statement made by John Paul II may be seen to be extraordinary
compared with many of those made by his predecessors.
During his early life in Cracow, both as student and as a young
priest, Wojtyla acquired a liking for the theatre that has never
left him. It began when he joined a school dramatic group, and
later, during the war when Poland was occupied, what is often
referred to as a ‘subterranean theatre’, which means that rehearsals
and performances took place in a room, sometimes the kitchen of an
apartment, secretly and by candlelight.
‘It was round about that time’, says one of his biographers3, ‘that
he formed a sentimental attachment to a young woman’;
and from then on she has followed him like a shadow, by rumour,
newspaper report, and in the conversation of Polish exiles on both
sides of the Atlantic.
Sometimes the details differed. The most unlikely version, that was
probably put out to engage sympathy, was that she worked against the
Germans, had been discovered, and shot. Another gives the date 1940
as marking the height of their attachment. According to Blazynski,
who was born in Poland, the future Pope was popular with the girls
and ‘had a steady girl friend’.
His love of entertainment extended to the cinema, and to such
superficial mock-religious shows as Jesus Christ Superstar. After
one performance of the latter he spoke for twenty minutes to the
audience on the theme of love and joy. He encouraged the adolescent
bawling and aimless strumming of guitars that, in the name of
popular accompaniments, make some present day Masses unbearable to
many. In the same spirit, he invited the American evangelist, Billy
Graham, to preach one of his red-hot sermons in the church of St.
One of the subjects discussed by the circle in which he moved was a
book by the writer Zegadlowicz, which had been frowned upon by the
Church because of its obsession with sex; while an early piece of
writing by Wojtyla (translated by Boleslaw Taborski and quoted by
Blazynski) contains such lines as ‘Love carries people away like an
Sometimes human existence seems too short for love.’
The same theme occurred in Wojtyla’s book Love and Responsibility,
1960, which, Blazynski says,
‘does not ignore the bodily reality of
man and woman, and goes into considerable detail in describing both
the physiology and psychology of sex (the latter often with a great
deal of insight that might seem surprising in one who is now, after
all, a celibate clergyman.’
Even when Wojtyla became Pope the ghost of the mystery woman who had
haunted his student days was not laid. There are those among Polish
exiles who claim to have known her, and one of the most downright
rumours spread is that her name is Edwige.
But be that as it may, not even Wojtyla’s apologists can deny that
he has shown more interest in human sexuality than any Pope since
the Middle Ages. Many listeners to an address he gave in Rome were
quite embarrassed when he launched into details on lust and the
nakedness of the body.
Some of his own statements have given publicity agents ample scope
to enlarge upon them. ‘Young people of France’, he cried to a far
from mature audience in Paris, ‘bodily union has always been the
strongest language that two people can say to each other.’ Those
words have been called some of the most stupefying ever spoken by a
During his visit to Kisingani in Zaire, Africa, a correspondent in
Newsweek shook his head sadly over the way in which the Head of the
Roman Church dispensed with formality. In humid heat, and almost as
soon as he stepped from the plane, he was seen ‘grinning, sweating,
swaying and stomping with dancing girls.’ He has been photographed
watching a group of adolescent girls in one-piece garments that
reached well above the knee carry out a series of acrobatic dances.
Another picture has recently come to hand in which, at
Castelgandolfo, he watches a young dancer perform convolutions in
front of him, with her head and face almost lost sight of in a
flurry of white underclothes.
A play written by Wojtyla, The Jeweller’s Shop, was produced at the
Westminster Theatre in May, 1982. Said to be written in purple
prose, the producer hoped that the play ‘should draw the punters’ as
well as the church audiences.
His hope may well be realized since the play, still quoting The
Daily Telegraph (28 April 1982) ‘embraces the unlikely
subject of prostitution.’4
There is no need for John Paul II to enter deeply into the
differences in the Church resulting from Vatican Two. It has
been said that he is walking with a rose in his hand – that is,
until the early gains achieved by John XXIII and Paul VI have
The once proud boast relating to the One True
Church has diminished into a spineless acknowledgment of ‘these
ecumenical days’. The claim of Papal authority, which has yielded
place to the idea of power-sharing with Bishops, may
remain on the
Church’s statute books for a while longer, but the force of its
divine origin has been watered down; and the altars, always a sign
of ‘whatever Gods may be’, have been demolished.
Even so, the next phase of the attack upon the Church, from within,
has passed beyond its preparatory stages and is already under way.
It is likely to be less spectacular than the earlier depredations.
The word ‘revisionary’ will be heard more often than ‘change’. The
churches will no longer be used as amatory playgrounds. Yet what is
likely to result from meetings in the Vatican Synod Hall, between
more than seventy Cardinals and Bishops, will probably, in the long
run, be quite as devastating as the innovations that have now been
accepted as norms by a largely unperceptive and uncritical public.
Among the subjects that are known to have been discussed are
marriage and abortion; and prelates such as Cardinal Felici are
rational enough to admit that the issues on these, and similar
questions, have virtually been decided in advance.
annulments, robbed of much of their earlier formality, will be made
easier. The threat of excommunication will be lifted from women who
undergo abortion; and, a still greater earnest of more and vital
concessions to come, the articles of Canon Law will be reduced from
numbering 2,414 to a possible 1,728.
But these considerations will not weigh heavily on those who are
likely to be impressed by the Pope’s visit to this country in May
this year, 1982. The power of Mr. Mark McCormack’s International
Management Group has been invoked to provide the same publicity for
a Pope that it has so ably done for golfers, baseball toughs, and
tennis players; while a firm of business consultants, Papal Visits
Limited, will add further promotional backing.
The proven dramatic instinct of John Paul II will doubtless come
into play as, scattering blessings from a glass-topped
vehicle, he rides slowly between miles of fencing, stands, marquees,
and Press platforms, and over carpet decorated with thousands of
plants, to where three crosses, the tallest a hundred and twenty
feet high – no, Mr. McCormack, Calvary was not like that – rise
above a steel and canvas altar structure.
After Mass, the faithful may come away with a screwdriver that bears
a sticker showing the Pope’s head on its handle. All arrangements
for the visit will be in the capable hands of Archbishop Marcinkus,
who has obviously been washed clean of the somewhat doubtful
reputation that clung to him in Rome.
1. The Vatican-Moscow Alliance, 1977.
2. The publishers of Veritas, an orthodox newsletter. Louisville,
3. George Blazynski in John Paul II (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979).
Some of the incidents related here are taken from that book.
4. English theatre critics did not exactly acclaim the Pope’s
efforts as a playwright-editor.
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