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Review
October AD 2007
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin, 

Yallop, David. The Power and the Glory: Inside the Dark Heart of John Paul II’s Vatican.
New York: Carroll and Graf, 2007, XII + 530 pp., $26.95

    David Yallop’s earlier investigative work, In God’s Name, concerned itself with the untimely and suspicious death of Pope John Paul I. It presented several plausible scenarios in which one interest group or another anticipated changes which it considered disastrous to be implemented almost immediately by the new Pontiff:

    On September 28th, 1978 these six men-Marcinkus, Villot, Calvi, Gelli, Sindona, Cody-had a great deal to fear if the papacy of John Paul I continued. One of these six men applied the Italian Solution: The Pope must die!  [In God's Name, prologue]

    Yallop persuasively demonstrated motive. One could not imagine them working together-the list included liberals, conservatives, and just plain crooks -but each of the men mentioned had different reasons for wanting the new Pope to go away. Yallop also presented a plausible suggestion that someone found a way to make John Paul’s normally low blood pressure, fatally lower still. But in the end, he gave no really conclusive evidence of a murder, and did not confirm the identity of the alleged murderer.

    The Power and the Glory is far less speculative. John Paul II probably died of natural causes. But the liberals, conservatives, and just plain crooks, are every bit as much a part of the plot as they were in the first book.

    From the orthodox Catholic point of view, the power of Yallop’s writing is diminished by the Modernist perspective he takes on the matters of morality with which the modern papacy has had to deal. He claims that “The informed Christian conscience must base all of these [moral] decisions upon Christian ‘Natural Law’ which within the Church is defined ultimately by the Pope.” [Page 387, and Chapter 11]  In reality the Natural Law is written in the conscience of every man, and is, in no way, subject to change by any power on earth; not even the Pope. Throughout Chapter 11, Yallop holds that the Popes were at fault for not taking a more liberal attitude toward things like abortion, birth control, and divorce. But if the late Pope had faults, they will not be found in over zeal to uphold the Natural Law.

    Yallop also misses the point by repeatedly referring to homosexual molestation by priests as “paedophilia.” He makes the distinction between pre- and post- pubescent molestation, but then goes on to ignore it.  [LINK]  [LINK] More importantly, he confines his narrative of priestly immorality almost exclusively to those cases which are actionable under civil law-ignoring the larger problem, of which molestation is but a part-albeit a very horrifying and damaging part. The only mention of an “homosexual network” describes the infamous goings-on in an Austrian seminary, which resembled a pornography shop and brothel more than an institute of religious higher education. [LINK]  [LINK]  Yallop is more concerned with the efforts of the Church to avoid scandal then he is with Its failure to correct the root cause of the problem.

    On the other hand, Karol Wojtyla’s contributions to the documents of Vatican II, as Archbishop and Cardinal, particularly with regard to fostering religious indifferentism in Dignitatis humanæ, have Yallop’s admiration.

    Where the traditional Catholic will appreciate The Power and the Glory is in the chapters that put the lie to the hagiography that surrounded the second John Paul’s papacy. “Hagiography” is the term used to describe those delightful stories about the saints which mix fact and fiction to edify the reader and leave him without any question as to the saint’s special relationship with God. There is no attempt at deception, but hagiography lacks the factual precision of history or biography. For example the legend of Constantine’s Baptism and cure from leprosy by Pope Saint Sylvester speaks the grand importance of the fourth century alliance of Pope and Emperor. [Matins of November 9, Dedication of the Lateran Basilica]  The historical reality is that Constantine put off Baptism until, on his deathbed, he was baptized by an Arian Bishop. Hagiography is a fine thing for the edification of the faithful by the glories of the saints-but it becomes unproductive or even dangerous if it is used to hide the imperfections of modern day characters. Yallop distinguishes clearly between the hagiography and the history surrounding the deceased Pope John Paul II-an hagiography which surrounded him even before death.

    The hagiography portrays Wojtyla as a priest and bishop who actively resisted the Nazis and Communists, and who went out of his way to protect both the Christians and Jews against these oppressors. Yallop declares that, quite the opposite, he avoided personal involvement with the victims and rarely criticized the regime. He was no Wyszynski! The young Wojtyla was more concerned with networking, getting to know the right people in the right places. For example, during the Nazi occupation, Wojtyla’s French tutor was able to secure a position at the Solvay chemical plant making caustic soda for the German war effort. While the hagiographers describe this as a stint of forced labor, in reality it was a plum position.

    At the time all able-bodied Polish males were candidates for forced labour in Germany, or working on border fortifications on the Eastern Front. Either route led to a brutal and usually short life. Working at Solvay carried a large range of benefits. It was in some respects a self contained village with residential homes, containing a surgery with a resident doctor, staff canteen, a shop and a gymnasium. Apart from his wages and the perk of vodka coupons that could be traded on the black market, Karol Wojtyla carried at all times his guarantee that he would have a good war: an Ausweis, or identity card that indicated that the bearer was employed in a kriegswichtig industry, work that was essential to the Third Reich’s war effort. [Page 6]

    The hagiography-Yallop cites a passage by Father Andrew Greeley-maintains that as layman and cleric Wojtyla was active in the underground, hiding Jews, providing false identification, and helping them to escape-and later denouncing the Communists for their anti-Semitism, rebuilding the Jewish cemetery which they desecrated, and speaking at the Cracow synagogue. Greeley claimed to be quoting the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and B’nai Brith.

    Despite the fact that Father Greeley’s source was a Rome based official of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League there is not one single word of truth in the [account by Greeley which Yallop quoted]. More than twenty years into the Wojtyla papacy, the Vatican website was still quoting another Jewish organization, B’nai Brith as a source of these fantasies. Yet B’nai Brith hold no evidence to justify any of the claims made in the quoted passage and further denied to this author that they have ever made the claims attributed to them.  [Page 28; see also chapter 8, especially page 243]

    Many have wondered how Bishop Wojtyla managed to travel and speak freely while the Polish Communist regime was beating, imprisoning, and murdering other priests. Yallop acknowledges the large number of collaborator priests in Cracow, suggests that Wojtyla was not one of them, but that the collaborators reported favorably about him.

    It has been suggested that Wyszynski was bounced into the decision in 1958 to make Wojtyla a bishop by the regime. Whatever the truth, the Primate certainly did not want to give a further promotion to Wojtyla, whom he regarded as little more than an ambitious man preoccupied with networking. [In 1964, in order to fill a vacancy in the Cracow diocese] ... acting on the traditional protocol, Cardinal Wyszynski submitted three names to the Polish government. All three had previously been approved by the Pope. Wojtyla’s name was not on the list. Months later the list came back to Wyszynski with all of the candidates rejected.... After a further three months the second list came back..... Zenon Kliszko, the Communist number two [is said to have explained], “Wojtyla was the best, indeed the only choice.... I’ve vetoed seven so far. I’m waiting for Wojtyla and I’ll continue vetoing names until I get him.”

    Why Wojtyla? The regime considered him politically naive and as a man who had never displayed any of the intransigence for which his Primate was internationally famous, someone who would be open to compromise....

    The clinching element, however, was the highly detailed report that Kliszko had requested from the Communist Party’s top agent in Cracow, Father Wladyslaw Kulczycki. Kliszko’s tactics worked a charm, When he received a further nomination from the Cardinal, the list contained the name ‘Wojtyla.’ It is not every Communist leader that can claim to be instrumental in the making of a pope, particularly a Polish pope. [Page 11-12]

    Suffice it to say that Yallop does not credit Pope John Paul II with the fall of Communism in Poland, let alone throughout the world.

    The Chapters which deal with Vatican finances and the politics of the Curia read like one of Damon Runyon’s prohibition era gangster comedy movies. The unlikely cast of characters includes archbishops, bankers, mafia dons, priests, Freemasons, hit men, and Opus Dei types. The plot would be funny if not for the fact that real people died, bribes were passed (including “the Mother of all Bribes”), gangster money was laundered, banks failed, immoral businesses were financed, criminals were harbored in the Vatican, Church money disappeared, and the Church’s reputation tarnished for a long time to come.

    Nor is any of this the product of David Yallop’s imagination-most of it has been in the papers over the last few decades-Sicilian Mafioso, Michele Sindona, really did manage Vatican finances before going on to crash the Banco Ambrosiano of Milan, and the Franklin Bank in the US, and on to death in jail-the “P2” Masonic lodge nearly crashed the Italian Government-Archbishop Paul Marcinkus did hide out in the Vatican-the Italian government just recently reopened the investigation of Roberto Calvi’s Masonic “suicide” under London’s Blackfriars Bridge-and the Opus Dei people really do have a multimillion dollar building near Wall Street, and do make up a goodly part of the Vatican deficit. If the newspapers ever tire of reporting the bankrupting, church closing, settlements the Church has made with the victims of child molesters, the “Magic Money” scandal is waiting in the wings to keep the reporters employed.

    Nonetheless, we must lament the dearth of footnotes that might have helped substantiate the many controversial statements throughout the book. Of the thirteen footnotes for over five hundred pages, only the three which cite Scripture are specific enough to verify the reference.

    For those interested in contemporary Church history, The Power and the Glory is worth reading. Just don’t pay much attention to Yallop’s theology.

 



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