The Pope and Communism
Lech Walesa, founder of the Solidarity movement that toppled communism in Poland in 1989-90, recalled the power of John Paul’s visit to Warsaw in 1979. It was the first to his homeland after becoming pope a year earlier, and he ended Mass with a prayer for the Holy Spirit to “renew the face of the Earth,” words that became a rallying cry.
“We know what the pope has achieved. Fifty percent of the collapse of communism is his doing,” Walesa told The Associated Press on Friday. “More than one year after he spoke these words, we were able to organize 10 million people for strikes, protests and negotiations.
“Earlier we tried, I tried, and we couldn’t do it. These are facts. Of course, communism would have fallen, but much later and in a bloody way. He was a gift from the heavens to us.”
The pope’s role in the fight against communism was largely symbolic and moral.
It seems to me that Walesa and others completely overstate the Pope’s impact on the fall of communism in the Soviet Union. In fact, it has been my position that the Pope (and the Church in general) has been extraordinarily weak in the face of tyranny, always counselling the United States against using military force but never calling the Soviets or other dictatorial regimes to account for their persistent violations of natural law.
The most recent example of this one-sided pacifism occurred when the Pope admonished President Bush not to invade Iraq, but never called on Saddam Hussein to stop murdering his own people. To constantly call for the good to stand down in the face of evil, in the name of allowing peace to come in God’s time, seems a contradiction that I can’t get over.
I’m not trying to pick a fight with this man and his supporters as he lies on his deathbed, but I don’t see the need to rewrite history either.