The Pope and Communism
To the Editor:
I am grateful to Arch Puddington, himself a stalwart ally of the forces of freedom during the cold war, for his thoughtful review of my book, The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism [Books in Review, March]. I should like, however, to correct what may be a misimpression of my views—and, far more importantly, of Pope John Paul II’s understanding of his ministry.
The question has to do with whether John Paul understood himself to be the instrument chosen by Providence “to lead the Church in the final struggle against Communism,” as Mr. Puddington put it. If I may quote briefly from The Final Revolution:
Did John Paul II receive the pallium of the bishop of Rome on October 22, 1978, convinced that he was God’s chosen instrument for dismantling the Yalta imperial system? The answer to the question, put that way, is almost certainly, “No.” Why? Because John Paul would not have conceived his ministry primarily, or even secondarily, in those terms. What we can discern from the public record, read against the background of his life, is a deep conviction that the election of a Slavic and Polish pope was an expression of God’s purposes in history; that his primary task was to “strengthen the brethren”; and that doing that would involve a persistent defense of basic human rights, especially the right of religious freedom.
But John Paul also seemed to sense that, precisely by being a vigorous pastor, he could have an impact on the politics of nations. . . . He was determined to lead, out of a deep sense of vocational responsibility and a deep conviction that God had put him where he was precisely so that he could say, again and again, “Be not afraid!”
So he would lead. . . .
And, as Mr. Puddington so rightly notes, that moral leadership had an enormous impact (largely unappreciated in the West) on the Communist crack-up.
President, Ethics and Public Policy Center