The Papal Spiderweb - II: A Reverence for Fundamentalism
Lernoux, Penny, The Nation
Religious fundamentalists usually bring to mind well-known stereo types-Jim and Tammy Bakker pleading poverty from their multimillion- dollar home or Pat Robertson ordering a hurricane to retreat. Yet fundamentalism is not limited to the Bible Belt, a particular kind of Protestantism or a single country, as shown by its upsurge in Iran and Israel. The most powerful fundamentalist of them all, at least in terms of the number of followers he commands, is not the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or an American evangelical but Pope John Paul II, leader of the Catholic world. A throwback to the 1950s, before the reforms undertaken by the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), the Polish Pontiff has the same characteristics as those of Moslem, Jewish and Protestant fundamentalists, including a reverence for authority and a fear of secularization -or "secular humanism," as the Vatican and U.S. evangelicals call it. Like his counterparts in other religions, John Paul insists that his church alone possesses the truth. "To deserve the name at all," the Pope told a Polish audience, "a civilization must be a Christian civilization." He has also aligned himself with the political right, another characteristic of religious fundamentalists.
Although much was made of President Ronald Reagan's ties to Jerry Falwell and other Protestant fundamentalists, the Pope actually did more to further the Republican cause by disciplining Reagan's most outspoken Catholic critics and throwing the church's institutional weight behind groups identified with U.S. interests, such as anti-Sandinista Catholics in Nicaragua. While John Paul has followed his own agenda, which is primarily concerned with re-establishing Vatican authority over local churches, Rome's interests have frequently coincided with those of the White House, producing a "parallelism in viewpoints," to quote Archbishop Pio Laghi, the Vatican's Ambassador to the United States. At the same time, U.S. Catholic fundamentalists played a key role in providing the church with the means to attack Reagan's domestic critics, such as the "peace" bishops who in the early 1980s persuaded the Catholic hierarchy to write a pastoral letter that challenged Washington's nuclear arms buildup.
An important figure in the fundamentalist Catholic cause is Paul Weyrich, a founder of the New Right who was influential in advancing Falwell's career and who is credited with coining the phrase "Moral Majority." Weyrich also helped found the Heritage Foundation with the financial aid of Joseph Coors, the ultraconservative vice chair of the Coors brewery and an adviser to President Reagan. Heritage, the first and most influential of the New Right think tanks, was for several years directed by Frank Shakespeare, a friend of Reagan's and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Like John Paul, Weyrich is a pre-Vatican II Catholic who …
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Publication information: Article title: The Papal Spiderweb - II: A Reverence for Fundamentalism. Contributors: Lernoux, Penny - Author. Magazine title: The Nation. Volume: 248. Issue: 15 Publication date: April 17, 1989. Page number: 513+. © 1999 The Nation Company L.P. COPYRIGHT 1989 Gale Group.
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