One of the greatest paradoxes among many incoherent and disjointed arguments within the Catholic neoconservative narrative is the depiction of John Paul II as both the great humanist and advocate for liberty of conscience (with a necessarily attendant liberal view of salvation) as well as a great missionary for Christ, saving souls and bringing them within the fold of the Church.
It is interesting that a similar portrait of John Paul was given by the great reforming Communist of perestroika and glasnost (now turned New Ager), Mikhail Gorbachev. When asked to comment on JPII’s death, after noting John Paul was a “servant of the Church of Christ,” Gorbachev stated, “He was a humanist really. A Humanist with a capital H, maybe the first humanist in world history.” This is a very curious statement from the former leader of the Soviet Union and someone who now advocates nature worship.
The fans of JPII as well as JPII himself clearly saw John Paul as playing a world historical role in a world historical moment, what was called during his reign, without irony, a New Pentecost.
What is more, it is quite clear that John Paul was a Christian humanist whose great love for human beings caused him to “tone down” essentials of the faith. Furthermore, JPII’s humanism paved the way for Francis’s radicalism, which also combines more than a dose of Gorbachev’s occultism and environmentalism.
The roots of humanism like much of Enlightenment liberalism are rooted in the rediscovery of Neoplatonic philosophy, which exalted man as a God and argued for the destruction of Constantianian or Tridentine Catholicism in order to make way for a new Promethean freedom.
The question is: Is there something Gorbachev knew about John Paul II that we don’t? Or was his statement just a nice platitude?
I have finished Paul Kengor’s book, A Pope and a President, which seeks to reboot the good ol’ days of neoconservative Catholicism that began in the Reagan era and climaxed with the reigns of George W. Bush and John Paul II. One the books main theses is that the message of Fatima was fulfilled in the struggle between atheistic communism and American liberalism. American liberalism triumphs in the end, and Russia is “converted” not to Catholicism but to a form of government that more closely resembles Western democracy.
One of the apexes of this triumph of liberalism (again NOT Christianity) is in Pope John Paul II’s meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on December 1, 1989. Kengor makes special effort to show that Gorbachev was “a closet Christian” whose liberalization of the Soviet Union ultimately was the catalyst for the “conversion” of Russia, and Kengor’s depiction of John Paul’s meeting with Gorbachev three weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall is especially curious. According to Kengor, John Paul II was adamant that Russia accept “fundamental human rights” as well as “freedom of conscience, from which stems religious freedom.” John Paul even argued for freedom of conscience for “…Baptists, Protestants, Jews, as well as Muslims.”
Gorbachev responded positively, explaining that “freedom of conscience and religion” was connected to perestroika, or the liberalization of Soviet society.
Kengor describes the rest of their conversation as a mild debate over moral relativism versus objective moral values.
What we get from this meeting and Kengor’s description of it is especially interesting. Kengor is suggesting that perestroika was part of Our Lady’s plan of converting Russia not to a Catholic country but to a liberal country that allowed freedom of religion and conscience.
We also get a glimpse into John Paul II’s humanist thinking, which seems (at least in this scene) to be very concerned with liberal rights and less concerned with the salvation and conversion of souls.
It is clear that the neocons are desperate to seize the message of Fatima away from groups like the Fatima Center and traditional Catholics and fit it into their own narrative of the triumph of liberalism and not the Social Reign of Christ the King.
Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us.