I was really looking forward to watching the PBS' special on Pope John
Paul II, "The Millenial Pope." I knew that there would be some
controversies, some speculation. But I was not prepared for what I saw.
This is my impression of the show that was truly slanted journalism!
One of the first things I heard was someone calling the Pope a king
working to save his kingdom. Alright, I thought, one person who
misinterprets who this man is, and what he stands for. But it got worse.
Next we hear of a strict father, suppressing his son's emotions, scarring him.
One friend told how, when they were playing soccer, Karol (who was an
excellent goalie) suddenly left because he promised his father he'd be home
by four. A commentator made this appear to be oppressive, bordering on
abuse. I saw an obedient son. One who felt his obligation to his father was
more important than a game with friends.
One poet, reviewing a poem to his mother "The White Grave" said that it
was Karol's longing for his mother, and wishing his love for her would end.
But then….recognizing that he's opening himself up, suppresses his emotions
and closes with a terse…."God grant her eternal rest."
What I got from the poem was a son, who sees his mother's love, even in
death. Not a son who feels he has to hide his emotions. Asking God to grant
her eternal rest is not the phrase of an uncaring, unfeeling child.
But the real slander began with their assessment of his activities
during World War II. They first spoke of how the Church set up the
Holocaust, that by specific teaching, the Church encouraged the oppression
and death of the Jews. The history of the tensions between Christians and
Jews is sown in 33 AD Jerusalem. Far too long ago to go into detail. The
Cardinal Patriarch of Poland had a letter read that said that Jews were a
danger to Poland, to Europe, etc. But no 'official' Church teaching was ever
shown where the CHURCH advocated such a thing. One fellow told of his
earliest memories of 'Catholic' children in Krakow, chasing him so they could
beat up "the dirty Jew." Again, no official Church document showing this
activity was ever encouraged. The fault of the Holocaust, they imply, lies
with the Catholic Church.
One person even spoke of Saint Maximillian Kolbe's publication, "Knights of
the Immaculata," as an anti-semitic rag, Even though, again, there is ample
evidence that he did hide and care for Jews in danger. Hardly the actions of
They did make one concession, they did admit that Pope Pius XII DID do a
lot to help Jews. But then turned around and condemned him for his silence.
Again, I saw historical revisionism and narrowness. Everyone, including the
Chief Rabbi of Rome, knew what would happen if Pope Pius XII openly condemned
Hitler, and the Holocaust. (They conveniently forgot to mention how Pius XII
set up a collection of gold to give the Germans who promised they would be
left alone if they gave them a set amount of gold.) They forgot to see what
happened when other Bishops DID openly condemn the Nazi's. Four Dutch
Bishops did so in the latter days of World War II. The Germans, who were
busy fighting the Allies, took enough time to, not only step up their
deportation of Jews (Anne Frank may be alive today if they remained silent),
but arrest and execute anyone else they wanted to. The four bishops were
executed as were many others, among them Saint Edith Stein.
No, for the PBS producers, this only made Karol feel guilty. One author,
writing a book on non-Jews who helped Jews, interviewed a number of people
who knew him. They all spoke of him doing what he could to save Jews. (He
worked in a quarry, hardly a position to aid many people.) When asked the
Pope if he had helped any Jews, the Pope answered, "NO." Now, to be kind to
the author, he may have taken this as the definitive answer. However, he had
volumes of testimonies saying that the Pope did indeed help Jews. Could it be that, regardless of
what he did, he felt it wasn't enough? We all have heard stories of 'heroes'
who said that they didn't do anything. That is the mark of a real hero.
Now, this guilt ridden, emotionally scarred Pope then set out to 'atone'
for his sins by re-uniting Jewish children with their families after being
hidden in convents and seminaries. (Those dirty anti-Jewish Catholics),
going to the Jewish Synagogue in Rome, and making it clear that anti-Semitism
is a sin...that you cannot hate Jews (you can't hate…period) and be a
The majority of the show finished, I couldn't stand any more. No doubt,
this 'guilt-ridden' Pope, emotionally scarred by an oppressive father, who
sought God only in as much as an emotionally scarred person will to turn to
fantasy to 'shield' him from the world.
John Paul II has seen the best and worst of humanity. He has seen our
cruelty disguised as angels of light, and our glories, covered as in clay.
He has seen the truth of humanity, good and bad. And he knows the only way
out for mankind's woes. But I doubt that is what the documentary showed.
Rather, it showed a mixed up person, who wants to remain in the safety of an
'oppressive' Church. A person trying to hold onto a (supposed) medieval
Church in the 20th century. I'm sure it made the dissidents feel secure
their opposition to him. But I have to agree with Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
who felt John Paul II would go down as one of our greatest Popes,
regardless of what PBS thinks or unfairly portrayed.
As for my impression of this two-and-a-half hour put-down of the Pope, I was not impressed.
Neither, I would suspect, were loyal and devout Catholics who know the truth about this great
and compassionate man of God. One thing for sure: Catholic bashing is alive, well, and growing.
Pax Christi, Pat