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On February 4, 2015, George Weigel delivered the William E. Simon lecture at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC: “St. John Paul II: Lessons for Statesmen.” I’ll concentrate on three of the lessons that have a direct bearing on President Obama’s response or lack of one) to Putin and the Ukraine, Iran, and ISIS.
“Ideas count for good or for ill.”
“Weigel noted that John Paul II had personally experienced the horrific consequences of Hitler’s Nazi ideology and Stalin’s communist ideology, which led to the deaths of tens of millions, including friends and classmates. But he also experienced “the regenerative power of noble ideas, such as Christian democracy,” whose leaders, such as Germany’s Konrad Adenauer, helped rebuild Europe in the aftermath of World War II and set the foundation for what later would become the European Union. What was more crucial in John Paul II’s view was the idea of the human person being proposed. Weigel noted that democratic statesmen must take ideas, and the conflict over them, as seriously as measures of gross national product or military capability.”
“Neither wealth nor military power will be usefully deployed in the cause of freedom in the 21st century, if the will to do so is not present,” he said, adding that such a will is unlikely “if the political culture of the West continues to be eroded by skepticism, relativism and irony, by an anthropology that reduces people to a bundle of desires and a nihilism that mocks all moral and religious convictions.”
“Don’t psychologize the adversary.”
“He understood that bad guys behave badly because of who they are, what they espouse and what they seek, not because of anything we did to them.“In the modern context,” Weigel said, “statesmen, should acknowledge Vladimir Putin’s agenda in Eastern Europe and the Shiite mullahs’ pursuit of nuclear weapons for Iran as being driven by their own ideologies, not reactions to U.S. policy that can be pacified through behavioral changes.”
“Media reality is not necessarily reality, and statesmen cannot play acolyte to such narratives.”
He pointed out that The New York Times predicted St. John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland “does not threaten the political order of the nation and of Eastern Europe,” but events in history proved otherwise.
“Church leaders, clerical and lay, who respond to media-generated narratives about the Catholic Church, rather than to the imperatives of the Gospel, are not going to advance the evangelical mission of the Church or the cause of human dignity and freedom.”
He concluded that St. John Paul II offered a lesson in “not submitting to the tyranny of the possible” defined by conventional wisdom and low expectations.“Because he believed more deeply and thus saw more clearly, he discerned sources of renewal in the Church where others saw only decay. And he saw openings for freedom where others saw only impenetrable walls.”He added, “By refusing to bend to the tyranny of the possible, he helped make what seemed impossible not only possible, but real.”
President Obama and his acolytes do not have the intellect that St. John Paul II had. Those that educated them did not have the intellect that St. John Paul II had.
The west is paralyzed when trying to deal with Putin, the Mullahs in Iran, and ISIS. Paralyzed because we are quite willing to kill our own voiceless and defenseless by the millions. We are silent when our own state allows the shooting of our wounded by euthanizing the sick and the elderly. Unfortunately the Ukrainians, Jews, and Christians that cry out to us for help cannot expect any better treatment from us than our own defenseless citizens. We are deaf to their pleas because we have hardened our hearts.Published in