[Paleopsych] Gary North: What I Learned From John Paul II

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Sun Apr 10 16:59:19 UTC 2005

From: Gary North & The Daily Reckoning <RealityC at prioritymailer.net>


Issue 435, 5.4.5


      I shall leave it to other columnists to comment on the
profound impact of John Paul II on our times.  I am content
to confine myself to comments on what I learned from his


      Robert Burns's phrase about the best-laid plans of
mice and men often going awry is illustrated better by John
Paul II's career than anyone in my era.  Only one other
figure comes close: Deng Xiao Ping.  The best-laid plans
can come to naught in an amazingly short period of time.

      The year 1978 was a year of expected caretakers.  In
March, Deng Xiao Ping had become the undisputed leader of
Communist China.  At age 74, he seemed old: probably a
caretaker.  The National People's Congress decided to go
with a safe bet: age.

      Pope Paul VI died in early August.  He had overseen
the transformation of the Roman Catholic Church.  The death
of John XXIII in 1963, after Vatican II had begun, left to
Paul VI the task of overseeing the sessions and
implementing them.  This he did.  The Church changed more
under his administration in 15 years than had taken place
in the previous 500 years -- maybe 1,000.  It moved
decisively in a liberal/modernist direction.

      The election of John Paul I took place in one day of
the Conclave in late August, 1978.  There is no doubt in my
mind that a Conclave that brief indicates pre-Conclave
agreement regarding a short list of candidates before the
cardinals were locked in their room (which is what
"conclave" means).  John Paul I was to be a caretaker Pope.
He immediately took the names of his two predecessors,
indicating his commitment to extend Vatican II.  Thirty-
three days later, he died.

      There are lots of really choice conspiracy theories
about his death.  My favorite has to do with the secret
Masonic brotherhood, P2, and its connection to the
unfolding Bank Ambrosia scandal.  Do I actually believe he
was murdered?  There is insufficient evidence to persuade
me.  (The standard book on this non-standard theory is
David Yallop's "In God's Name."  The fictional account is
the novel by Malachi Martin, "Vatican.")

      Whatever the cause of his death, no conspiracy theory
has come close to explaining the outcome: the election of a
Polish Pope and what followed next.

      The Conclave that elected John Paul II took three
days.  There are no notes published after a Conclave.
There are no leaks during it.  Silence prevails.  So,
theories about what went on are without verifiable support.
The duration indicates that there had been a short list.
Wojtyla was probably on the previous short list.  I say
this because there had been little time for pre-Conclave
politicking.  The cardinals had barely arrived home by the
time John Paul I died.

      Wojtyla took the name John Paul II.  This was the
equivalent of calling Wilt Chamberlain "Wilt the Shrimp."

      Consider the next 14 months after John Paul II's election
in October.

      In December, Deng announced the agricultural reform
that transferred land ownership to farmers.  That marked
the beginning of the capitalist revolution in Red China.
He lived long enough to implement his economic reforms.  He
died in 1997.  We see the results of that revolution in
every Wal-Mart and in every report on the U.S. trade

      January, 1979: the Shah of Iran abdicated and fled
Iran.  Khomeini took over.

      On May 3, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister
of Great Britain.  She was to serve longer than any Prime
Minister in 150 years: 11 years.  Under her administration,
much of the system of government-owned monopolies was

      On June 2, John Paul II arrived in Poland and began a
series of public meetings that drew millions of visitors.
This was the beginning of the end of Communism in Poland.
The Solidarity movement began within a year.  Poland's ex-
Communist tyrant, Gen. Jaruzelski, later said that this was
the central event in the toppling of Communism in Central
Europe.  Gorbachev, when out of power, agreed.

      Late June: OPEC announced a 50% hike in the price of
oil.  Jimmy Carter went into defensive mode economically.

      November 4: Iranian mobs captured the U.S. Embassy in
Tehran.  Jimmy Carter went into defensive mode militarily.

      In December, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
This marked the beginning of a decade of bloodletting that
culminated in 1989 with the withdrawal of Soviet troops
and, within two years, the disintegration of the USSR.

      None of this was remotely visible in October, 1978.

      So far, I haven't mentioned Ronald Reagan.

      We know the phrase, "seize the moment."  Pope John
Paul II not only seized the moment, he seized the next
quarter century.  For someone officially in charge or an
organization that large, seizing a quarter century is no
small accomplishment.


      Alexandr Solzhenitsyn was the other figure of the
twentieth century who rivaled Pope John Paul II in undermining
Soviet authority by the power of his words.  He, even more
than the Pope, made painful and embarrassing any support of
the Soviets by Western intellectuals, too many of whom had
become early admirers of Stalin and then his successors
until "The Gulag Archipelago" finally undermined them in
the mid-1970s.  He wrote of his decade in the Soviet
concentration camps that this experience saved him.  The
camps took everything material away from him.  He had
nothing left to lose.  Outside the camps, victims of
Communist oppression clung to a few possessions and
conformed in order to keep what little they owned.  By
being stripped of everything, Solzhenitsyn said, he avoided
this fate.

      By the time Wojtyla was 21, every member of his
immediate family had died.  The Nazis had invaded Poland
when he was 19.  He began as a student for the priesthood
in a clandestine seminary.  He was ordained in 1946, to
begin life under the Communists.  He was in opposition from
the beginning.

      He was trained by a consummate anti-totalitarian,
Stefan Wyszynsky (pronounced, ironically, "Vishinski" --
just like the Soviet foreign minister), the primate of
Poland, who became a cardinal in 1953 and was immediately
put under house arrest for over three years.  Wyszynsky
served as president of Vatican II in 1962.  Wojtyla learned
how to survive under a rival bureaucracy that also claimed
universal authority, eschatological inevitability, and the
infallibility of its supreme council.

      He had no family to terrorize, no possessions to
confiscate.  "What's a tyranny to do?"  He went into
opposition and remained in opposition until there was
nothing left of worldwide Communism to oppose.

      The nothing-left strategy is not open to most men most
of the time.  But it is what is required of a dedicated few
in times of moral confrontation.  Mentally, you have to
surrender it in advance in order to preserve any of it in a
time of life-and-death confrontation.  Jesus said: "He that
findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life
for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39).

      Of all Catholic nations that had been in opposition to
totalitarianism longest, Poland was it in 1978.  So, when
the Conclave chose Wojtyla, it chose the man most suited
for a long-term confrontation.

      The Western media have identified his strategy of
resistance with respect to Communism.  This strategy was
also visible in his open confrontations in Latin America in
the 1980s.  His opponents were priests who had joined the
liberation theology movement.  That movement sank on the
Good Ship Marx after 1991, to the dismay of seminary
professors, Protestant and Catholic, around the world.

      We do not yet know the outcome of his strategy of
opposition with respect to his steady, quiet, non-headline-
grabbing undermining of the social liberals in the Church's


      John Paul II was the second-longest reigning Pope
after Pius IX (1846-1878), the Pope of Vatican I (1870).

      Under his reign, he appointed well over 100 cardinals.
Of the 117 eligible to vote (those under age 80), he
appointed all but three.

      In his 1987 book, "The Jesuits," former Jesuit Malachi
Martin discussed Romanita.  Romanita is the ability to
outlast your competition.  There are always factions in any
bureaucracy, and there is no bureaucracy with a longer
tradition or more factions in the West than the Roman
Catholic Church.  The faction that provides the longest-
lasting survivors in any battle wins the next phase of the

      Pius IX was a conservative.  Until John XXIII reversed
this tradition, it held firm.  Yet it was visibly on the
defensive within a decade of the death of Pius XII in 1958.

      I have little sense of the details of John Paul II's
philosophy.  As for his theology, it is clear that he
upheld traditional Catholic views regarding the virgin
Mary.  This outlook was the product of his years in Poland
and also the assassination attempt.  He had moved
unpredictably just before he was shot, looking more closely
at a Sacred Heart emblem worn by a little girl.  (This is
reported in Martin's book, "The Keys of This Blood.")

      Everyone knows his social views: no female priests, no
abortion, no contraception devices, no homosexuality.
Also, it should be added, no war.  On abortion, he voiced
his opposition to the policy of Clinton.  On war, he voiced
his opposition to the policies of Clinton and both Bushes.

      Year after year, appointment after appointment, he
wove a tapestry of traditionalism.  It will take a
concerted effort on the part of liberals to reweave this
tapestry.  In the seminaries, they have more than a
foothold.  They have control.  The Pope did not
excommunicate entire seminary faculties.  To get a sense of
what I am talking about, click here:


      He did not resign, although the American media kept
running interviews with liberal Catholics who thought he
should.  He grew old and infirm before our eyes.  He did
not hide what was happening to his body.  He was reduced at
the end to silence, unable to speak in any of the eight
languages he spoke.  But he did not hide from the cameras.

      If ever there was a man whose career said "No
retirement," it was his.  He stayed on the job until the
end.  It was not a bitter end, but it was painful.


      Has any man worked the mass media better, longer?

      He got in front of the cameras, and there he stayed
for 26 years.

      One interviewee revealed that when the Pope first met
with members of the press, when the interview was over, he
stood up and walked around the room full of reporters to
shake hands.  This was unheard of.  They had expected to be
allowed to file past him, one by one.

      He had a unique skill.  He exercised his ability as
Pope to go directly to the people -- the first Pope in
history to do this internationally.  He made 103 trips
outside of Italy to some 120 countries.  No other figure
has ever toured a reported 120 countries in front of TV

      No one has ever drawn the crowds that he did.  So, the
media had to show up.  So, the crowds kept getting larger.
By 1995, an estimated seven million showed up to see him in
Manila -- the largest crowd in man's recorded history.

      He had a unique ability to capture attention.  He used
it for all it was worth.

      The media reported that he had been an amateur actor
early in his career.  This was not said in derision.
Another former actor, also known for his ability to handle
the media, received more criticism for his similar
background.  In both cases, the public responded favorably.


      Deng, an old man in 1978, was not expected to do much.
The twenty-first century already looks back at what he did
and marvels.

      Brezhnev, a doddering old man in 1979, launched a war
in Afghanistan that brought down the USSR a decade later.
This caretaker failed to take care.

      John Paul I, another expected caretaker, did not
remain on the job long enough to fulfill his expected role.

      The Shah of Iran, a caretaker of Western oil, did not
stay on the job.

      Pope John Paul II knew that a resistance strategy was
suitable in 1978.  He publicly issued traditional
encyclicals, while maintaining absolute mastery of the
media -- a skill also possessed by Mrs. Thatcher and Ronald

      What blindsided liberals after 1978 was the ability of
conservatives to commandeer the media to extend their
agendas.  Liberals had long assumed that their control over
the media was unbreakable.  They believed that they could
set the agenda.  The best-laid plans. . . .

      In each case, what had been expected by the various
establishments did not come to pass.

      I am reminded of the words of my teacher, Robert
Nisbet, in the closing words of a June, 1968 essay in

      What the future-predictors, the change-analysts,
      and trend-tenders say in effect is that with the
      aid of institute resources, computers, linear
      programming, etc. they will deal with the kinds
      of change that are not the consequence of the
      Random Event, the Genius, the Maniac, and the
      Prophet. To which I can only say: there really
      aren't any; not any worth looking at anyhow.

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