The Crumbling of Communism: Good for the Catholic Church?

January-February 1990

The two most impressive figures on the world stage in the 1980s have been Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev. But while the muscular Pontiff represents the steady reinte­gration of Catholicism, the accommodating Commissar willy-nilly symbolizes the rapid disintegration of Communism. Today Cathol­icism is enjoying a rebirth of vigor while Communism as we’ve known it appears to be going through its death agonies.

While the former is not the cause of the latter, the two are not unrelated. The unravel­ing of Communism in the 1980s began in Poland — and history’s first Polish Pope had not a little to do with the rise of Solidarity and the subsequent dethroning of the Polish Communists.

Since Marxism-Leninism and Roman Ca­tholicism are incompatible belief systems, many observers blithely assume that what’s bad for the former is good for the latter. But it isn’t necessarily so.

Actually, Catholicism has thrived under Communist persecution. For example, The New York Times for June 7, 1987, reported that “there are now more Roman Catholic sem­inarians in Poland than in any country in the world. A third of all newly ordained European priests are Poles.” Summing up the evidence, Cardinal Ratzinger has stated that the Faith “seems to be more secure in the East, where it is officially persecuted,” than in the West. Who would dare claim that Catholicism is healthier, more vibrant, and surer of itself in Paris than in Warsaw, in Holland than in Lithuania?

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