Finished reading the Wynn article on the train last night. It holds the key to the Great Riddle of Ted Kennedy's Funeral. It was not Cardinal Sean, or any American bishop who started the Catholic Church's ongoing... ah... flirtation with the left.
During that first, brief trip [to the Eastern Bloc countries], the shrewd Vatican diplomat [Casaroli] was more impressed by the weakness of the Communist sustem than its strength. The very fact that those governments found it necessary to deal with the Holy See was a sign of their internal weakness. Casaroli compared those regimes to a great oak tree with a powerful trunk and covered with green leaves, giving the extermal appearance of health and strength, but completely rotten inside.
"I sensed that the whole system was decaying and heading for collapse. They had failed to capture the imagination of their youth, they had failed completely to create the new 'Socialist Man'. And the erosion of the system was accelerating as a new, disaffected generation of young people grew up."
Ok, so, why "deal" with it? Why not work against it? Why not give that rotten tree a shove and see if it goes down any quicker?
Later, Wynn, who is himself totally uncritical of Casaroli or his policies, relates that Casaroli was worried, after the death of Paul VI, that his successor would not want to continue his work. This was to prove a well- founded fear. JPII, for all his failings, had no time for appeasement of communists.
"We were not trying to overthrow Communist regimes, we were trying to negotiate with them and to find a way of living with them. We had hope because we knew the Soviet system was weakening and tiring internally. What we did not know was how long it would last and what form its collapse would take, whether peaceful or bloody. But we knew its collapse was inevitable. Now, given that fact, the question naturally arose as to why we should negotiate with tehm at all, why not sit back and wait for the collapse, supporting the underground Church and continuing to resist?
"We opted for negotiations, because we didn't know how long those regimes would last, and in the meantime we had a moral obligation to insure that the Church had priests, that the faithful could receive the Eucharist and go to Confession. If we lost the hierarchical institution, we would lose the Church..."
Now, this is interesting, because I have known some priests who were underground in Soviet bloc countries and their stories are illustrative. Had the Vatican supported their efforts, would the Faith have died or flourished? Would the Church have been "lost" as Casaroli said? Hard to say at this distance in time.
But from what I have been told, the Church was flourishing. And one of my informants was a Slovak priest who was ordained secretly in Czechoslovakia, one of the countries that Casaroli described as a "hardline" state in which the Church would have "died out" without his "careful step-by-step diplomacy".
The difference, perhaps between men like Casaroli in the Vatican and the men actually baptising and marrying and saying Mass in secret in these countries was that the latter knew and accepted the possibility of martyrdom. It seems that Casaroli and his popes rejected that possibility utterly and were more interested in creating comforts, a typical Novusordoist goal.
But it seemed that there were limits even to Casaroli's capacities for dhimmitude. At one point there was a negotiation with Tito's Yugoslavia in which the Church was being told to admit that priests had taken part in "right wing terrorist" activities during the war.
Casaroli said, "Naturally most Church leaders in Croatia were totally against putting this item into the agreement. They said it would be an admission of guilt by the Church," and Paul's Secretary of State agreed with them. But the pope, having suggested some ambiguous wording, insisted the deal be struck. Casaroli relates, "I was deeply saddened when I signed that agreement," so maybe he's just in Purgatory.
The end to the Mindszenty and Beran stories is pretty dismal.
Neither of whom, you will recall, had the slightest desire to be 'released' because they knew it would mean exile and that the Vatican would cease resisting the regime and put communist-approved replacements in their sees.
Wynn says that Casaroli "succeeded in negotiating the release of Mindszenty and Beran and bringing them to Rome...
Unfortunately, he recalls, "they were both rather bitter at having to leave their countries, and both felt they had been betrayed."
They aren't the only ones.
It took eight years to persuade Mindszenty to leave Budapest, and only after the Vatican promised the Hungarians that the cardinal would remain in Rome and would not speak out publicly against their regime.
Mindszenty, of course, would have no part in this kind of deal and once out of Budapest, he visited Rome long enough to tell Paul exactly what he thought and removed to Vienna where he spent the remainder of his life writing against what had been done. Or, as Wynn puts it, "he spoke out loud and clear writing anti-Communist articles and publishing his memoirs (in which, of course, he savagely attacked the Hungarian regime)."
But in the end, the pope dug that knife right in.
"Pope Paul felt it was unacceptably damaging to the Church in Hungary not to have a Primate on the scene," Casaroli told me with a bit of sadness in his voice. "And so he had to relieve Mindszenty of his titles and appoint someone in his place."
Beran suffered a similar fate and he never complained of betrayal by the Vatican, though he said that the Czech government had lied to him, telling him that he had the right to return.
Despite the "bitterness" of the two prelates, Casaroli went on to greater triumphs in his ongoing negotiations with the
Indeed a triumph.
Wynn and Casaroli both admitted, despite such high points in the history of the Church's relations with states, that there was "a price to pay" for their series of compromises and concessions. He notes,
One important, and little publicized concession the Vatican made was to agree not to attack publicly the Communist regimes with which Casaroli was negotiating. As he defended the policy to me:
"We were obliged to accept certain 'rules of the game' imposed on us by the demands of diplomacy. If we were to negotiate meaninfully, we had to be constant. We couldn't make agreements with those regimes one day and insult them the next."
These compromises and agreements, also naturally, led to the Vatican allowing communist regimes to decide who were and were not acceptable candidates for their sees.
As well, Wynn refers to a 1966 agreement with Yugoslavia in which the Church agreed to muzzle its clergy, ushering in, perhaps, our own times when it seems the policy of the Church to ensure that priests never declaim against any of the evils of the New GramsciistCommunism that has since then taken over the world (oddly enough, quite in keeping with the predictions made by Our Lady at Fatima).
I know that this kind of negotiation continues in the Church around the world. It is common knowledge,for example, that the reason no Canadian priest ever talks about contraception was out of a deal struck by the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto with Pierre Trudeau who wanted to abolish laws against it. (And divorce, and homosexual activity, and abortion, but who's counting?)
The Cardinal was promised government-supported Catholic schools in exchange. A neat deal for the government, it turned out, since these schools could then be controled directly with threats of loss of funding should they become to overtly Christian.
"Was it worthwhile?" Casaroli asked rhetorically after citing these compromises. "It's hard to say."