An autocratic reactionary

We are all catholics now. Or so you would think when confronted by the sheer scale and intensity of the officially orchestrated grief for the recently departed pontiff. Rather than being remembered as a reactionary autocrat who has left a baleful legacy for humanity, he is transformed into one of the greatest people who has ever lived. The virulently anti-communist, anti-gay, abortion-banning, ultra-male chauvinist, theological obscurantist, Karol Wojtyla, is now presented as a 'man of peace' and a shining example of how 'love' can change the world. Accordingly, in a high-profile display of ecumenical and ruling class solidarity, Wojtyla's funeral on April 8 was to be attended by leading representatives from virtually every state and religious faith in the world, including a certain protestant fundamentalist, George Dubya Bush - becoming the first US president to ever attend a papal funeral. Whatever exact theological difference he may have with the pope, in a sort of 'branding' or 'trademark' dispute within christianity, Bush obviously recognises a fellow authoritarian soul-mate when he sees one. After all, both the presidential pontiff and the papal pontiff were united in their shared hatred of communism and secularism. In particular, John Paul II came to papal ascension on a political-theological programme that consciously rejected the 'liberalising' agenda of the Second Vatican Council - thus, for example, as soon as he was ensconced in the papal chair, he summoned various 'liberation theology' priests and promptly gave them their marching orders. Then contraception became an "intrinsic evil", abortion was more and more compared to "the holocaust", IVF and stem-cell research was now part of the "culture of death", and all the rest of the christian dogma we have been subjected to. No wonder Bush was such a big fan of John Paul II. Naturally, and a bit depressingly, the mass media has enveloped us with its usual mixture of reverential and utterly inane second-by-second coverage of every inconsequential detail of the lying in state and funeral - before moving on speedily to the hastily rescheduled royal wedding of Charles Windsor and Camilla Parker Bowles the next day. We are still waiting to hear if the abortion-hating, euthanasia-loathing George Galloway of Respect will be attending the funeral of his fellow 'pro-lifer' on Friday. There was a certain strain of 'official communism', or Sovietised 'Marxism', which routinely informed us as a matter of high doctrine that all religious and superstitious thought would inevitable wither under the relentless march of science and technology. Obviously, this was always an idealist and self-serving fallacy. Indeed, as the funeral graphically, and grimly, symbolises, religion is very much alive and well. All manner of supernaturalistic, metaphysical and irrational twaddle is now becoming common parlance - whether it be astrology, imbuing a foetus with 'rights' or the creeping but steady introduction of 'intelligent design' theory (ie, creationism) into the curriculum of US schools. Hence, we have to wade our way through seemingly endless acres of mushy - and often downright daft - paeans of praise to Wojtyla. For instance, in the supposedly secular and progressive pages of The Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash gushed: "The world lived this death. It was a global Calvary. People from every corner of the earth gathered in St Peter's Square, peering up at those two windows of the papal apartment, illuminated against the night sky. Across five continents, christians, jews and muslims joined them through television. Marcello, from Rio de Janeiro, emailed CNN: 'We are watching the agony of the greatest man of our time'" - and so revoltingly on (April 4). Predictably, Bush lauded John Paul II as a "champion of human freedom". The always devout, and ever vacuous, Tony Blair treated us to one of his little homilies: "Even if you're not a catholic, even if you're not a christian, even if you have no religious faith at all, what people could see in pope John Paul was a man of true and profound spiritual faith, a shining example of what that faith should mean." Even Fidel Castro expressed his condolences and declared three days of official mourning, allowing catholics to publicly grieve. As for the morally and intellectually challenged Bono, he declared that John Paul II was "the first funky pope" - though it does have to be said that it seems very unlikely that the "funky" Karol Wojtyla was a U2 fan (and in that, if nothing else, who could blame him?). There is now talk of a 'pre-emptive canonisation' of Wojtyla - that is, immediately turning him into a saint and hence securing his conservative theological doctrines in one swift legal-theological stroke. This speculation was ignited by the fact that cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state or 'prime minister', described the late pope as "John Paul the Great" in the text of his homily delivered at a requiem mass in St Peter's Square - even if he did not actually utter these pregnant words himself at the time. The phrasing is significant because only three of John Paul's 263 predecessors have been awarded this honorific, all of them from the Dark Ages and all of them canonised. If Wojtyla had sainthood conferred upon him, this would clearly be a case of back to the future. Then again, by all accounts, Wojtyla always had a very high estimation of his own intellectual and theological powers - so much so that the permanently lapsed Graham Greene once acerbically imagined waking up one day to see the newspaper headline, 'John Paul canonises Jesus Christ'. For us communists, it almost goes without saying that it would be quite obscene to posit any sort of line of continuity between the apocalyptic communism of the revolutionary Jewish Galilean, Jesus, and the maudlin anti-communism of the Polish tsar of the Vatican. In fact, christianity itself stands in direct antithesis to everything Jesus and his early followers struggled and fought for - which was to turn the world upside down and make the common people the masters. Naturally, for the papacy, socialism, communism and Marxism were anathema - quite literally. At times, the hypocrisy surrounding the unlamented pope borders on the monstrous. Rote-style, we have been repeatedly told by the brain-washing media that the pope "loved the poor". Of course, this is total nonsense. Like his good friend, the truly loathsome Mother Theresa of Calcutta, John Paul II "loved" the poor only insofar as they remained passive, viewing them merely as a collection, or depository, of souls wanting to be 'saved' by the catholic church and hence earn loads of brownie points with the Big One sitting up there in heaven. Clearly, for the likes of Theresa and Wojtyla, in no way was it part of the divine plan for "the poor", or working class, to actually organise and fight for human dignity in the here and now - quite the opposite in fact. Seeing how dignity was strictly reserved for the after-life, time spent on this sin-infested mortal coil was reserved for penitence and suffering - hence the hostility to voluntary euthanasia, contraception, abortion rights, gay sexuality, IVF, stem-cell research, and so on. Life is not meant for the living - so therefore it is no great deal that millions are needlessly dying of HIV thanks to the continued papal ban on condoms. Now, there is the real "culture of death" ... Gallingly, Angelo Sodano - who, it should not be forgotten, worked hard to forge close links between the Vatican and fascist ex-dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet - was overcome by the pope's 'beautiful death', claiming: "I saw him. He died with the serenity of the saints." In other words, surrounded by medical experts and having instant access to all the latest medical-scientific technology, John Paul II exercised an extremely high level of conscious choice over the manner of his dying, a choice he would deny to others who do not subscribe to his version of christian obscurantism. Karol Wojtyla is allowed to exercise his 'right to die' as he pleases, but the Terri Schavios of this world are not. There is one law for the rich, spiritual or otherwise, and another for the rest of us. Communists fight for human freedom, which includes freedom from religion, especially the bigoted stew served up by John Paul II and his co-thinkers. Eddie Ford see also God's cold war warrior