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Non-Mainstream-Media Notes on the Beatification of John Paul II

The only way one is permitted to write anything negative about the Super-Star pope in the mainstream media (Catholic and secular) is to begin with homage to the “saint” created by the self-same media. So, while I will have some good words to say about the real man at the end, if you want to read praise and admiration, I refer you to what must be by now the millions of flattering books, articles, films, etc.

Yes, journalists are now permitted to include some criticism that the late pope ignored the ecclesial torture of children around the globe but are not allowed to state that John Paul II, along with the worst of his prelates, covered-up, lied, laid the blame on others, protected and promoted his offending hierarchs and priests.

 (As posted on www.streetprophets.com)

The inspiration for this blog is an excellent documentary about the IOR (Vatican Bank) produced by the Al Jazeera news network and broadcast on April 27, 2011. That Al Jazeera agreed to produce this  video in the best tradition of investigatory journalism is another indictment of our own media – in this case as regards their reluctance to investigate the sordid financial activities of the Catholic Church. Yet even Al Jazeera held back from placing blame on John Paul II for overseeing what was/is one of the largest illegal financial empires in the world.

By referencing the Banco Ambrosiano scandal in the early 1980’s, the documentary reminded me of how and why Karol Wojtyla became pope in the first place.

(Most of this blog will be a synthesis of several chapters in my book, The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America, which contains copious endnotes. It seems that some younger readers doubt the veracity of the written word absent “links” to other websites. Sorry.)

Wojtyla was an unknown churchman in an unimportant country. When the archbishop of Krakow died in 1964, the Polish Communist Party refused to approve the first seven names (as was permitted under their law) put forth by the Church to fill the vacancy, waiting until Wojtyla’s name was proposed to give their approval. Why? Because Wojtyla was one of the Polish bishops least defiant of the government; his reputation was to go-along to get-along. His one act of resistance that we know of – calling for the construction of a church in the “workers’ paradise” of  Nowa Huta – was cited ad nauseam by the media as an example of his bravery with predictable embellishments after he became pope.

Whether it was Wojtyla’s reputation of being flexible which warranted his being noticed, or his natural charisma or whatever, the man who – except for one pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a young priest – had never travelled further than Poland to Rome and back was thrust onto the world stage in 1968. Poland was an impoverished country suffering periodic food shortages. It was never revealed, however, where the funding came from which enabled Wojtyla to tour the Pacific basin and take several trips to the US where he was introduced to those who matter. Similar to the grooming which brought Ronald Reagan from B-list actor and huckster for GE to increasingly important political appearances, Wojtyla was also invited to speak at Opus Dei-affiliated institutions, centers and groups across Western Europe.

The CIA, which had worked in conjunction with rightwing elements in the Catholic Church against the “Reds” in postwar Europe, Vietnam and Latin America, had a file on Wojtyla. The CIA was concerned because Popes John XXIII and Paul VI had embraced ostpolitik, a movement to normalize relations with the Communist bloc, and the agency actively supported prelates who were staunchly anti-communist as candidates for the papacy.

Since the end of World War II, the Vatican Bank had been used as a pass-through for financing rightwing terrorism and dictators. Under the presidency of Bishop Paul Marcinkus in the 1970s, the IOR also formed a partnership with the Banco Ambrosiano creating shell companies in the Bahamas, Panama and other locales.

In 1978, whether by poisoning or being smothered with his own pillow, the assassination of Luciani Albino – Pope John Paul I – because he had announced his intention to clean out the Augean stable of Vatican finance is a widely-held belief. Since no autopsy was permitted and his successor never permitted exhumation of Albino’s remains to confirm cause of death, that belief remains. And what would be the point of eliminating a pontiff unless his murderers could be sure that his successor would go-along to get-along with those running the Vatican Bank?

I believe that Wojtyla was promised that if left alone, the IOR would funnel millions of dollars to Solidarity, which indeed happened. Perhaps it was the prospect of a free Poland which enticed Wojtyla to make his pact with the devil. So the election was rigged and Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II.

When Italian financial authorities began investigating the IOR/Banco Ambrosiano partnership the following year, blood first appeared on the new pope’s hands. At least three law enforcement officials were gunned down as was an investigative reporter. Numerous others involved in the investigation survived assassination attempts or were “suicided,” violence which would have been prevented if a pope had turned over information on the IOR accounts to the authorities. The murder of Roberto Calvi, “God’s Banker” and head of the Banco Ambrosiano, led to the ultimate collapse of the house of cards and the discovery of the loss of $1.2 million of investors’ money.

As noted in the book, Vaticano SpA (Vatican Inc.) written by the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi based on documents later smuggled out of the IOR, illegal operations continued well into the 1990s under John Paul II’s leadership. The still-current investigations into Vatican money-laundering show that Benedict XVI’s supposedly new efforts towards financial transparency are as false as his predecessor’s claims to have reformed the IOR.

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of children whose lives were destroyed by sex abuse and the growing number of recorded suicides among the victims, John Paul II’s partnership with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to crush the freedom movements in South, and especially Central, America should lead to judgement that he was a war criminal, not beatification. Immediately after Reagan’s election, John Paul II sent Archbishop Pio Laghi as his ambassador to Washington directly from Laghi’s assignment as nuncio and supporter of Argentina’s military junta.

John Paul II installed bishops throughout Latin America who were able to move monetary support and supplies through groups such as the Knights of Malta, Opus Dei and the CIA to the military dictators and their death squads/militias who slaughtered their own people. Some of these same prelates furnished the names of “troublesome” clergy and men and women in religious orders to the CIA for elimination.

Hailed as a champion of human rights, Wojtyla was interested only in the rights of Poles while working to deny them for those in other parts of the world. Acclaimed for his defense of religious freedom, John Paul II trashed the careers of anyone of importance within his own Church who disagreed with him.

Saluted for writing about the dignity of labor, Wojtyla’s longest lasting legacy will be the recent collapse of the world economy suffered entirely by the poor and working classes. We may never have an accurate accounting of how many have died of starvation, or how many premature deaths have resulted in this and other countries by lack of clean air and water, inadequate health care, the stress of un/under employment – all achievements of the neoconservatives who John Paul II helped put in power.

Laghi’s most important function was to scrutinize and appoint (in the pope’s name) US bishops who would support Republican oligarchs. When Laghi was called back to Rome in 1990, his appointees to the US episcopacy were left in charge of filling in new vacancies with like-minded hierarchs, a task now complete. Their crowning achievement was the presidency of George W. Bush, re-elected by a majority of Catholic voters, who finished the work begun under Reagan to shift the wealth of this country from the middle class to the elites who continue to show their appreciation via donations to the Catholic Church both here and in Rome.

That said, I do believe John Paul II died a saint, not the type beatified in opulent ceremonies but the kind we recognize as all good people. After the fall of the Soviet Union, his attention did turn away from anti-communist politics towards more pastoral matters although by that time it was too late to stop the neocon juggernaut he helped to create even if he wanted to. His appointees were already in positions of unassailable power although the pope did nothing to stop them. It was his personal struggle with debilitating illness which brought about compassion and empathy for and with all who suffer.

Few Americans are aware of Wojtyla’s mighty struggle, probably taking the last of whatever strength he had left, to stop the invasion of Iraq. His handlers just put him away, available no longer to the press which adored him and proclaimed in his name that indeed, Iraq was a “just war.”


5 Responses

  1. Betty, thank you for this valuable commentary, which preserves so many important pieces of information that the hagiographical record is already working to expunge.

    I am particularly dismayed, as I reflect on this story in recent days, by John Paul II’s constant penchant to side with bloody dictators oppressing the poor in Latin America. What he did to liberation theologians and how he treated Oscar Romero continue to cause me grief.

    And then when I remember how he protected Maciel, and when I read about Maciel’s close ties to John Paul’s corrupt secretary of state Cardinal Sodano–both of whom were very cozy with Chilean dictator Pinochet–I feel my faith really challenged.

    My faith in a loving God who cares for the poor, and whose church stands unreservedly on the side of the poor . . . .

    • Thanks for you comment, Bill.

      When the Vatican’s support for dictators, whether monarchs or fascists, since the French Revolution is considered, then JPII’s active support for the military dictators in Latin America is not so surprising nor the hierarchs’ current support for our Republican oligarchs. The institutional Church has always sided with whichever government was willing to protect it’s interests.

      However, how wonderfully appropriate that the greatest challenge to their power since the Reformation should be brought about by the innocent children who have been tortured for so long with impunity!

      My faith in the Catholic religion, in all its fullness and beauty, has not diminished.


  2. This is absolutely true: “The institutional Church has always sided with whichever government was willing to protect it’s interests.”

  3. Betty and Colleen, I agree: the church has always had a tendency, institutionally, to side with whatever power seemed to guarantee the church’s interests.

    And I think that, theologically, this is because the church tends to regard itself as separate from, not answerable to, and above secular society and its governments. To use Niebuhr’s typologies, the Catholic church relates to secular government in a Christ-above-culture way.

    This leads to a disdain on the part of the Catholic church for secular law–a disdain now on full display in the way top clerics have dealt with the abuse crisis, evading civil law and thwarting attempts to report pedophile clerics to the civil authorities.

    The Christ-above-culture typology is also evident in the scorn some Catholics display towards civil marriage–though, curiously, Catholics who regard civil marriage as meaningless and empty (notably, the clerical leaders of the church) simultaneously want to fight as hard as possible to exclude same-sex couples from the rights of that “empty” institution!

    • I think you are being very kind and generous, Bill. I remember another theologian (from Australia – I can’t remember his name) stating that the Vatican was like the Chinese politburo. The truth was whatever served the interests of the institution. I also think theology has nothing to do with the US Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Like Christians defending slavery or opposition to womens’ equality, they just reach into scripture and theology and pull out whatever supports their already decided position.

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