There is a good explanation for the hatred shown towards the Catholic Church in some circles: this hatred is essentially drawn from a deep rooted fear that the Church speaks to human hearts in a way that the cold theories of so-called “rationalism” never can.
For all of its very many failings, Holy Mother Church can afford us a glimpse of something very much greater than ourselves (I’m not just writing about the glimpse of heaven that the Mass can give us, I am also writing about the very tangible sense of the Church throughout the world uniting a billion people) and understands us as human beings, not as cogs in an ideological machine, a “juche” to use the North Korean term.
We have a modern-day example of this before us – for many of us, within our recent memories – that of the combat between the late Holy Father, Pope John-Paul II, and the communist political system. George Weigel, in his new book, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, the second part of his biography of Pope Wojtyla reminds us of this struggle, so easy to forget in the light of the dog-days of his papacy and the Augean stable of abuse that the present Holy Father has been left to clear out. A review of Weigel’s book by Mary Eberstadt, writing in the Policy Review gives us a flavour:
There was indeed much that the communists didn’t understand — including that men like the pope and Alexander Solzhenitsyn were more right than wrong about what really makes human beings tick. Nonetheless, the masters in Moscow and Krakow and East Berlin and other tragic wastelands of modern history did get a few pretty big things right. They knew, or at any rate were forced to learn, that an otherworldly pauper in a Roman collar could do more to bring them down than any worldly prince seeking business as usual. They knew that Christian religious belief and practice were on a permanent collision course with totalitarianism, which is why they persecuted it everywhere they could. They understood, in short, that the chief enemies of the state were those who did not believe the state had the authority to call the ultimate moral and political shots.
Traditionalist Catholics have reason for holding mixed feelings towards Pope John-Paul II (Assisi, Piero Marini’s “polyester” Masses, his failure to reverse the rampant disregard for the penal provisions of Canon Law that had started under Paul VI and facilitated the abuse crisis), but in the context of the mortal combat with a terrible evil that the latter stages of the Cold War represented, it is undeniable that God sent us the Pope that the world needed.