The Guardian bluntly runs the headline: “The Pope has blood on his hands*” In the article that follows, Terry Eagleton has this to say about the reasons for selecting Karol Wojtyla to the papacy (emph. my own):
The Catholic church had lived through its own brand of
flower power in the 60s, known as the Second Vatican Council; and the time was
now ripe to rein in leftist monks, clap-happy nuns and Latin American Catholic
Marxists. All of this had been set in train by a pope - John XIII - whom the
Catholic conservatives regarded as at best wacky and at worst a Soviet
What was needed for this task was
someone well-trained in the techniques of the cold war. As a prelate from
Poland, Wojtyla hailed from what was probably the most reactionary national
outpost of the Catholic church, full of maudlin Mary-worship, nationalist
fervour and ferocious anti-communism. Years of dealing with the Polish
communists had turned him and his fellow Polish bishops into consummate
political operators. In fact, it turned the Polish church into a set-up that
was, at times, not easy to distinguish from the Stalinist bureaucracy. Both
institutions were closed, dogmatic, censorious and hierarchical, awash with myth
and personality cults. It was just that, like many alter egos, they also
happened to be deadly enemies, locked in lethal combat over the soul of the
And guess who won.
Earlier, in my first postings following the death of John Paul II, I suggested that with his passing, maybe Poles could at last examine without guilt the role of the church within their borders. It bears examining.
This true product of postwar Poland, the Pope was conservatively positioned within the church hierarchy, yet he held progressive ideas on everything from the death penalty to positions taken on war and the opression of workers. It is interesting to watch the world unite in their respect for him, given that during his life, neither the right nor left wanted to claim him as their own.
* This refers to the Pope’s was adamant opposition to condom use, even in regions where they would have prevented the spread of AIDS.