The Power and the Glory: Inside the Dark Heart of John Paul II’s Vatican

(Credit: Catholic Church England and Wales / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Excerpt from The Power and the Glory: Inside the Dark Heart of John Paul II’s Vatican, by David Yallop (Constable, 2007). Reprinted with permission from the author.

From Chapter 11: Thou Shalt Not …

Wojtyla had from his earliest years believed that the role of conscience lay at the very heart of Christian ethics and decision making by Christians in their everyday lives. However, there was an unspoken catch. The informed Christian conscience must base all of those decisions upon Christian ‘Natural Law’ which within the Church is defined ultimately by the Pope. Freedom of choice is therefore for the Catholic faithful an illusion. For non-Catholics the moral rulings of the Pope and the Catholic Church are matters for the Church alone. However, this particular papacy did not confine itself to regulating Catholics. It sought, often with great success, to undermine the democratic process of government. It intervened repeatedly in the affairs of nations and without any mandate from the people it brought about profound changes, not just for the Catholics of a country but for every citizen. Evaluating the papacy of Pope John Paul II very much depends on where the individual stands on a wide range of moral issues. It also depends critically on whether the individual is a man or a woman.

On the issue of abortion, Karol Wojtyla throughout his life held to the Church’s historic position. For him, it was the greatest crime and he was adamant that there are no exceptions, no justifications. As for the frequently raised argument that if there were fewer unwanted pregnancies there would be fewer abortions Wojtyla wrote nearly fifty years ago in Love and Responsibility, ‘There are no grounds for discussing abortion in conjunction with birth control. To do so would be quite improper.’ In a document entitled ‘The Problem of Threats to Human Life’, a report to the Consistory of Cardinals in April 1991, the head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, developed the line of defence for the Church’s position on both abortion and birth control:

it is precisely by developing an anthropology which presents man in his personal and relational wholeness that we can respond to the widespread argument that the best way to fight abortion would be to promote contraception. Each of us has already heard this rebuke levelled against the Church: It is absurd that you want to prevent both contraception and abortion. Blocking access to the former means making the latter inevitable. Such an assertion, which at first sight seems totally plausible, is, however, contradicted by experience: the fact is that generally an increase in the rate of contraception is paralleled by an increase in the rate of abortion.

Ratzinger offered no sources or statistics for that remarkable statement. In May 2003 the Pope had a meeting with 500 Italian pro-life activists to ‘commemorate’ the twenty-fifth anniversary of the legislation of abortion in Italy. He commended the group for ‘never ceasing to work in defence of human life’. Then he recalled the warning of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the woman whom in October 2003 he beatified in St Peter’s Square: ‘Abortion endangers the peace of the world.’

Cardinals in a variety of Latin American countries have reminded their congregations that the penalty of excommunication Latae Sententiae – automatically imposed – still applies to all those involved in an abortion ‘including the assistant doctors, the nurse, whoever provides the money … etc, etc.’

The Pope’s frequent stern injunctions to his bishops and priests to stay out of politics do not apply to abortion, birth control or homosexuality. The American bishops had been into politics long before Karol Wojtyla became Pope, and he knew it. But so long as their views coincided with his there was no attempt to silence them. In 1974 an American report ordered by President Nixon was presented to his immediate successor Gerald Ford. Nixon had specifically commissioned a study of the ‘implications of worldwide population growth for US security and overseas interests’. The report – National Security Study Memorandum 200 – addressed a range of problems directly arising from the predicted increase in world population in the foreseeable future. Underpinning many of the report’s recommendations was the implicit need for urgent action to improve family planning worldwide. What occurred subsequently has been the subject of exhaustive documentation by Doctor Stephen Mumford in a series of works listed within the bibliography. They are required reading for anyone with concerns on world population growth. They detail a constant and unremitting battle by the Vatican, in particular, to outlaw abortion and artificial birth control methods globally.

One of many successes of the Papacy in changing legislation enacted by a duly elected government occurred in the Reagan years. At the time Reagan took office in January 1981, the United States foreign aid funding included programmes that promoted both birth control and greater availability to procure a legal abortion. In the United States two historic Supreme Court rulings in 1973, Roe vs Wade and Doe vs Bolton, had established respectively that there was a constitutional right to abortion and that abortions were permissible through the entire term of pregnancy. Within twenty-four hours of the Roe vs Wade decision, a consensus of America’s Catholic bishops had begun to plan a sustained campaign to overturn the Supreme Court decisions by forcing government to introduce a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion. They did not seek to limit abortion to certain categories or situations; they wanted a total ban.

On 20 November 1975 the Roman Catholic bishops of America issued their Pastoral Plan For Pro-Life Activities. Dr Mumford has described this detailed blueprint as ‘the bishops’ strategy for infiltrating and manipulating the American democratic process at the national, state and local levels’. Timothy A. Byrnes, Professor of Political Science at the City College of New York, saw it is as ‘the most focused and aggressive political leadership’ ever exerted by the American bishops.

The plan included a brilliantly conceived campaign with an attention to detail worthy of a major political party. It also sought to justify the campaign by utilising the classic Vatican technique of doublethink:

We do not seek to impose our moral teaching on American society, but as citizens of this nation we find it entirely appropriate to ask that the government and the law be faithful to its own principle that the right to life is an inalienable right given to everyone by the Creator.

The Pastoral Plan has had a long list of successes since its inception. Although it has yet to achieve the total abolition of abortion within the United States it has chalked up an impressive array of victories in the continuing fight. One of the most stunning achievements directly attributable to the Catholic lobby was to persuade the Reagan administration to alter the foreign aid programmes so that they accorded with the Roman Catholic Church’s position on both birth control and abortion. In 1984 at the world conference on population in Mexico City, the United States withdrew funding from two of the world’s largest family planning organisations, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

The first US Ambassador to the Vatican, William Wilson, has confirmed that

American policy was changed as a result of the Vatican not agreeing with our policy. American aid programmes around the world did not meet the criteria the Vatican had for family planning. AID (the Agency for International Development) sent various people from the Department of State to Rome and I’d accompany them to meet the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and in long discussions they (the Reagan administration) finally got the message. But it was a struggle. They finally selected different programmes and abandoned others as a result of this intervention.

In Spain, Chile, the Philippines and Poland, as well as a raft of countries where the Catholic vote can significantly affect the outcome of a general election, the Catholic Church has infiltrated into the democratic process. At world conferences, in the United Nations, in the Council of Europe, at Strasbourg, the Church has fought a no-holds-barred campaign in its efforts to have abortion and artificial birth control banned globally.

In the United Kingdom during the last week of March 2004, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a series of faith-based initiatives with the release of a document entitled ‘Working Together: Cooperation between Government and Faith Communities’. ‘Faith-based initiatives’ is an idea ‘borrowed’ from the Bush administration. It has provided back-door access to the democratic process whereby unelected pressure groups such as the Roman Catholic Church can influence the administration on many issues, headed predictable by abortion, birth control and homosexuality. President George W. Bush was highly susceptible to the Catholic position on these issues.

In the United States, Catholic bishops have regularly acted against Catholic candidates running for political office who believe it wrong to impose their moral position on others. Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Texan candidates Tony Sanchez and John Sharp were banned from speaking at any Church-controlled event. In 2004 Presidential candidate John Kerry was hounded, slandered and repeatedly subjected to character assassination. Their collective experiences give the lie to the Roman Catholic Church’s assurance in 1974 that it did not want to impose its moral teachings on American society.

Ironically the Pope complained that many ‘religious believers are excluded from public discussions’. He then claimed to ‘recognise the legitimate demand for a distinction between religious and political affairs’ but ‘distinction does not mean ignorance’. He called for ‘a healthy dialogue between the State and the Churches, which are not competitors but partners’. He concluded these comments in mid-December 2003 to all the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See by yet again returning to his frequently repeated request for recognition that religion should continue to play an important influencing role within the European Union. He said that ‘Europe is having difficulty in accepting religion in the public square.’

Both the late Pope and the majority of his bishops never accepted the separation of church and state, whatever they said to the contrary and whatever Concordats they signed. In the United States the Conference of Catholic Bishops have frequently represented themselves to be acting on behalf of the entire community of the Catholic Church in the United States. They have created over the decades policies and procedures that aspired to impact not only on Catholics but upon every American. Examples of their attempts to manipulate the democratic process include policy on nuclear deterrence, policy relating to immigration and illegal aliens, health care issues and practices in both Catholic-funded and non-Catholic hospitals, the Right to Life Movement and legislation related to abortion, the Hispanic and Black Ministry Movements, the Family Life ministry, the Youth ministry and legislation involving education, minorities, immigrants and rights of children.

In September 1994 the UN population conference convened in Cairo. Attending were representatives from 185 nations and the Holy See. The agenda was a 113-page plan calling on governments to commit $17 billion annually by the year 2000 to curb population growth. Some ninety per cent of the plan had been approved in advance, but the Pope was determined to destroy some of the remainder. He was convinced that one proposal in particular was aimed at controlling global population through abortion. The offending clause owned its inclusion at least in part to a Clinton administration directive to all US embassies that had been sent on 16 March 1994: ‘the United States believes access to safe, legal and voluntary abortion is a fundamental right of all women.’

President Clinton and his administration had been adamant that the Cairo conference should endorse this policy. The Pope was equally adamant that they should not. For nine days, various Vatican delegations gave a powerful demonstration of how to wreck an international conference. Under the Pope’s personal long-range direction they lobbied, filibustered and formed unholy alliances with Islamic nations who were traditionally opposed to abortion. They kept a vice-like grip on their Latin American bloc. The Pope prevailed over the governments of 185 nations. A statement was inserted: ‘In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.’ In return the Vatican gave ‘partial consent’ to the document. The Pope received a largely hostile press. One Spanish critic observed that he had ‘become a travelling salesman of demographic irrationality’.

Excerpted from The Power and the Glory by David Yallop. Copyright © 2007 by David Yallop. All rights reserved.

David Yallop is widely considered to be the world’s leading investigative writer. In the course of his career, he has met with some of the world’s most powerful and most dangerous men, often he has uncovered truths that they had wanted to keep buried. He is the author of, amongst others, In God’s Name, The Power and the Glory, and Beyond Belief.

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  1. I am a Catholic, but if this is the game they want to play and control some of our politics, then they with many, many other groups must start paying taxes. Their free ride is over. All of this, every single issue is controlled by men and affects women, the most.

  2. Its a pity the catholic church (roman) is a total failure. The revelations in IN GODS NAME is terrible. The people are ignorant of the activities of those at the helm of affairs in the church, especially in africa, where the priests are seen as Gods. GOD ll save us.


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