A happy epilogue for the Cold War

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 03, 2014

One of the most enduring visual images of the Cold War—one of the early signs that the Soviet empire was doomed—was the sight of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish strongman, literally shaking as he addressed the enormous crowd that gathered to greet St. John Paul II on his triumphant return to his homeland.

Make no mistake about it; Jaruzelski was a formidable enemy of the Catholic Church. With his Soviet comrades watching over his shoulder, he launched a harsh crackdown on the Solidarity movement. He was responsible for the imprisonment of hundreds of human-rights activists. He probably gave the order for troops to fire on striking workers, killing several; he may well have approved the brutal murder of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, the “Solidarity priest” who was bludgeoned to death in 1984. But Jaruzelski was also a realist, and when the Pope arrived in Poland, the general knew in his heart that he was overmatched. As indeed he was—not only by the man, but by the spiritual force the Pontiff represented.

General Jaruzelski lost the battle for Poland, of course. But for years he kept fighting another battle: to justify his leadership, to rationalize the decisions he made while he held power. Shortly before his death last week he surrendered that battle as well. Before he lost consciousness, Reuters reports, Jaruzelski “asked a Catholic priest to administer the last rites.” No longer an atheist, no longer an enemy; Wojciech Jaruzelski died a Catholic.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: feedback - May. 31, 2017 8:38 PM ET USA

    This kind of short-sighted policy opens for the Catholic school a can of worms. All involved will be forced legally to bend over and backward to accommodate any homosexual students and homosexual "parents," pretending that their sexual preferences are normal and acceptable. It will become "controversial" to present proper Catholic teaching on homosexual behavior. And traditional Catholic non-homosexual enrollment is very likely to decline.

  • Posted by: Leopardi - May. 31, 2017 9:46 AM ET USA

    Phil, cynicism can be blinding. If your goal is to cure disease, isn't it best to travel among the sick?

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 31, 2017 9:29 AM ET USA

    "We feel that We must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters,... Present indications are that the human family is on the threshold of a new era..." Pope John XXIII, 10/11/62 Catholic Culture. A hallmark of the springtime in the Church has been an abandonment of the great caution necessary for prelates to protect the faithful. Untoward tolerance and reticence are omnipresent. Intransigence is pervasive. Enormous problem; we have a tiger by the tail.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - May. 31, 2017 8:11 AM ET USA

    The policy is cruel. In true Catholic schools the teachers would explain how God: "created man in His image...male and female He created them...[to] be fertile and multiply. ...I will make a suitable partner for him. ...This one shall be called 'woman'...This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife" (NAB). A fundamental doctrine of our faith is that God created man and woman as the married progenitors of the human race, marriage being a sacrament instituted by God (Ott).

  • Posted by: normnuke - May. 30, 2017 11:22 PM ET USA

    While you're at it, shut down the parish

  • Posted by: nix898049 - May. 30, 2017 11:36 AM ET USA

    Amen and Amen. Just when did these non-traditional households achieve the rank of families? This whole mess is based on this glaring untruth.

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Jun. 12, 2014 11:50 PM ET USA

    May God have mercy on his soul.

  • Posted by: Defender - Jun. 03, 2014 7:04 PM ET USA

    Poland, during the Crisis, was a strange place. Many might not know it, but there was a considerable number of Soviet troops and aircraft in Poland and the daily political and military occurrences often staggered the imagination. It does make one wonder if things might have been different if the Soviets weren't already in Poland or not.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2014 6:47 PM ET USA

    And those who worked only 1 hour received the same as those who worked all day. There's hope for all of us.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jun. 03, 2014 6:29 PM ET USA

    Some good news. I read the link (Reuters) and was disappointed to learn that some protested at his funeral. I understand their bitterness -- he and his government killed some of their relatives or friends! -- but we have to rejoice when a lost soul finds the Church, even at the last moment. Remember Oscar Wilde, a great writer but his true genius showed through most clearly on his deathbed. Alleluia!