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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Karol Wojtyla's Legacy

Though he took the name of John Paul II, the Pope is inextricably linked to his Polish roots. And linked to a time and threat we've somehow forgotten. He set his face against the Communist threat long before Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher came on the scene.

And once the Cold War was won, the man set his face against the creeping liberalism threatening his Church:

We had our own disagreements with this pope, notably over America's efforts in Iraq in two wars. But even in disagreement we have always understood that this pope was no schizophrenic. It is possible, as many who otherwise admire him do, to disagree with Pope John Paul's teachings on marriage and homosexuality, on abortion, and so on. But it is impossible to understand him without conceding the coherency of his argument: that the attempt to liberate oneself from one's nature is the road to enslavement, not freedom.

In progressive circles in the West, religion in general and Christianity in particular tend to find themselves caricatured as a series of Thou Shalt Nots, particularly when they touch on human sexuality. But it is no coincidence that George Weigel entitled his biography of John Paul "Witness to Hope." For billions of people around the world--non-Catholics included--that's exactly what he was. Perhaps this explains why China, where only a tiny fraction of its people are Catholic, remained to the very end fearful of allowing a visit from this frail, physically suffering man, fearing what he might inspire.

We don't expect the secularalists who dominate our intelligentsia ever to understand how a man rooted in orthodox Christianity could ever reconcile himself with modernity, much less establish himself on the vanguard of world history. But many years ago, when the same question was put to France's Cardinal Lustiger by a reporter, he gave the answer. "You're confusing a modern man with an American liberal," the cardinal replied. It was a confusion that Pope John Paul II, may he rest in peace, never made.

I suspect the iron rulers of China remains fearful of this man's influence, even in death. He represents freedom for millions, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Many of us have disagreements with the Church. Few can disagree with the mpact this man's life has had on the world. He will be greatly missed.

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