Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

The Pope is dead, and already much is being said about his legacy. He is thought of as a partner to Ronald Reagan in bringing down Communism in his native Poland. What is not being said is the part that the Polish Solidarity movement, led by Lech Walesa, played a bigger role than anything the Pope or President Reagan ever did. That is a wicked side irony in this issue. Reagan hated unions and it must have been a bitter pill for him to swallow in sharing the credit with a trade union for such a huge accomplishment. But that is a subject for another post...

At the same time Pope John Paul II was preaching freedom from Communism for his fellow Poles, a similar battle was brewing in Central America. In El Salvador, a vicious right-wing government was destroying the country. A courageous priest, Archbishop Romeros, tried to calm things and was told by Pope John Paul II to stay out of politics. The Archbishop was soon assassinated by the notorious death squads that were covertly funded and trained by the United States.

That is a more lasting image of this Pope's legacy. He picked and chose battles based on how the Reagan White House felt at the time, and over 100,000 El Salvadorans were murdered as a result.

I was raised Catholic, but from an early age I questioned everything only to find that questions were not tolerated by the clergy. It has always seemed to me that Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, is driven by superstition and prejudice, two things I find completely abhorrent. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Christianity preaches things that are that much more stupid than any other religion, it is just that I hate the hypocritical posturing by politicians and priests that takes place whenever they sense a chance to exact some personal gain. The Terry Schaivo case is a prime example of such shameful behavior. The Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal is another.

As is often the case in my writing I seem to have strayed a bit from the main topic, the legacy of this Pope. Or have I? Do the actions of the Catholic Church on a worldwide scale reflect the wishes and directives of Rome? It will be interesting to see who becomes the next pontiff. Already there are stories that high-ranking officials and bishops are clamoring for a pope who will be more evangelical. Great. That's just what we need, a Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson clone. If that occurs then it will push the Catholic Church even further into its shell of ignorance, superstition and prejudice. I hope they can do better than that.

No comments: