Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On the Vatican's Role in Geopolitics

When I first began reading The Keys of This Blood by Malachi Martin (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1990), I took it as an indictment of the Vatican. Upon re-reading the first chapter (Yes, it’s worth more than one reading!), I now find it all full of breathless admiration. Well, it’s a bit difficult to tell, as if Malachi Martin himself were ambivalent about it.

At any rate, most of us never attributed nearly as much importance as this author does to the pope’s role in the geopolitical arena.

In any case, though, it’s alarming to think of the papacy now once again imagining itself in such a role, seeking to control the world and considering this its rightful place. Here’s another couple of excerpts from the book to make us ponder. I’ve put into boldface the phrases I find most troubling, although all of it is.

In October of 1978, when [Korol Wojtyla] emerged from the Sistine Chapel in Rome as Pope John Paul II, the 263rd successor to Peter the Apostle, he was himself the head of the most extensive and deeply experienced of the three global powers that would, within a short time, set about ending the nation system of world politics that has defined human society for over a thousand years.

It is not too much to say, in fact, that the chosen purpose of John Paul’s pontificate – the engine that drives his papal grand policy and that determines his day-to-day, year-by-year strategies – is to be the victor in that competition, now well under way.

(p. 17)

In a move that was so totally unexpected at that moment…that it was misread by most of the world – but a move that was characteristic in its display of his independence of both East and West – Pope John Paul embarked without delay on his papal gamble to force the hand of geopolitical change.

In the late spring of 1979, he made an official visit as newly elected Roman Pope to his Soviet-run homeland of Poland. There, he defined [the issues of the day] again and again in terms based solely and solidly on Roman Catholic principles…

It is a measure of the frozen mentalities of that time that few in the West understood the enormous leap John Paul accomplished in that first of his many papal travels. Mot observers took it as the return of a religious leader to his beloved Poland, as an emotional but otherwise unremarkable apostolic visit, complete with sermons and ceremonies and excited, weeping throngs.

Presciently as well as by planned design, the Pontiff’s first step into the geopolitical arena was eastward into Poland, the underbelly of the Soviet Union. In John Paul’s geopolitical analysis, Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals is a giant seesaw of power. Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea is the center of that power. The Holy Father’s battle was to control that center.)

ANASTASIA’S NOTE: That center includes Greece and several other Orthodox nations.

World commentary and opinion aside, therefore, the point of John Paul’s foray into Poland was not merely that he was a religious leader. The point was that he was more. He was a geopolitical pope. … Now he served notice that he intended to take up and effectively exercise once more the international role that had been central to the tradition of Rome, and to the very mandate Catholics maintain was conferred by Christ upon Peter and upon each of his successors.

(p. 21-22)

On his trip to Poland in 1979, barely eight months after his election, he signaled the opening of the millennium endgame. He became the first of the three players to enter the new geopolitical arena.

(p. 23)

ANASTASIA’S NOTES: If this is true and if the author's earlier statement is also true, that "now that it [the competition] has started, there is no way it can be reversed or called off," then the Pope did us no favor in initiating it.

But it seems to me the Pope was the last of the three competitors to enter the arena. The United States and the Soviet Union had been at it since the end of World War II. Cold War, and all; anybody remember that?


Anam Cara said...

I read this book years ago right after it came out. I wonder what I did with my copy...

I can tell you this, that over 15 years later, I remember next to none of what I read in this book although I do remember that I enjoyed reading Martin's works, in particular The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I've bought that book, too. It's next on my list.

Now that I'm past the first chapter, I'm finding the rest quite boring. Very detailed and flattering accounts of all the stuff the Pope did, comparatively little of it of much interest or importance to most of us.

But I've still got at least 2 more posts coming up, taken from the fascinating first chapter!