Despite the belief in the United States that Pope John Paul II is an aged man with values out of touch with most Catholics, he is acutally “the world’s most important and effective advocate of freedom and democracy,” writes Adrian Karatnycky in the National Review (May 4).
Karatnycky, head of Freedom House, writes that the record at century’s end shows that dictatorship has been virtually eliminated in countries with a Catholic majority. When he became Pope in 1978, 22 of 42 countries with a Catholic majority were tyrannies. All but two of these have now collapsed.
These now-democratic countries include Argentina, Chile, The Czech Republic, Guatemala, Hungary, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Poland, the Philippines and Lithuania. Mexico is also nearing the completion of its transformation to democracy, as is Croatia. Only two Catholic countries remain dictatorships: Equatorial Guinea and Cuba.
The underlying reasons for this revolve around the Pope who with his personal understanding of dictatorship in Poland, set the pro-democracy agenda for his ministry. His travels were planned to advance freedom at strategic moments in the host country’s history. In such travels, and from Rome, John Paul has accented the need for more protection of human rights and democratic procedures in government.
To the Pope, totalitarian regimes violate Christian teachings because they control the sacred rights of individuals. Alongside that has been the high priority for legal protection of the right of association for all citizens. The author acknowledges the impact of Papal visits and writings “is never immediate.”
Other decisive elements have encouraged the gains for democracy; these include the improving transparency of borders, technological changes and improved access to information, and the gradual emergence of more affluent “robust middle and working classes . . .”
(National Review, 150 E. 35th St., New York, NY 10016)
— By Erling Jorstad