The [progressives'] assumption is always that there's some middle ground that a less "doctrinaire" pope might have staked out: he might have supported abortion in the first trimester, say, or reciprocal partner benefits for gays in committed relationshipswrites Mark Steyn as he attempts to explain why progressive Westerners never understood John Paul II (Gratias ago, RV).
The root of the Pope's thinking — that there are eternal truths no one can change even if one wanted to — is completely incomprehensible to the progressivist mindset. There are no absolute truths, everything's in play, and by "consensus" all we're really arguing is the rate of concession to the inevitable: abortion's here to stay, gay marriage will be here any day now, in a year or two it'll be something else — it's all gonna happen anyway, man, so why be the last squaresville daddy-o on the block?
We live in a present-tense culture where novelty is its own virtue: the Guardian, for example, has already been touting the Nigerian Francis Arinze as "candidate for first black pope". This would be news to Pope St Victor, an African and pontiff from 189 to 199. Among his legacies: the celebration of Easter on a Sunday.
That's not what the Guardian had in mind, of course: it meant "the first black pope since the death of Elvis" — or however far back our societal memory now goes. But, if you hold an office first held by St Peter, you can say "been there, done that" about pretty much everything the Guardian throws your way. John Paul's papacy was founded on what he called — in the title of his encyclical — Veritatis Splendor, and when you seek to find consensus between truth and lies you tarnish that splendour.
Der Spiegel this week published a selection from the creepy suck-up letters Gerhard Schröder wrote to the East German totalitarian leaders when he was a West German pol on the make in the 1980s. As he wrote to Honecker's deputy, Egon Krenz: "I will certainly need the endurance you have wished me in this busy election year. But you will certainly also need great strength and good health for your People's Chamber election." The only difference being that, on one side of the border, the election result was not in doubt.
When a free man enjoying the blessings of a free society promotes an equivalence between real democracy and a sham, he's colluding in the great lie being perpetrated by the prison state. Too many Western politicians of a generation ago — Schmidt, Trudeau, Mitterrand — failed to see what John Paul saw so clearly. It requires tremendous will to cling to the splendour of truth when the default mode of the era is to blur and evade.