Pope John Paul II, truly a man of his time, a man of and for the age. People talk about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher playing such a key role in the destruction and the bringing about the end of the old Soviet Union. The pope was right in there, too. You’d have to include him in the triumvirate. He went to Poland when it was still part of the Soviet Union amidst numerous threats. He was encouraging, he was demanding. He had his life threatened practically daily. There were actual attempts on his life a number of times.
One of the most amazing things that I think I’ve ever seen — well, it is, within certain contexts. The pope came to New York for a visit and offered a mass in Central Park. And I was all prepared for the local media, as is usual the case with anything Catholic or Christian, to be critical, to bash, to rip, to make fun of, to laugh at, to impugn. Catholicism and Christianity are two areas of religions these days that are totally immune from any criticism. You can criticize them, you can joke about them, you can make all kinds of comments you want and nobody will say that you’re violating any kind of political correctness when you’re crossing the line or whatever. But you can’t do that with Judaism. You can’t do it with Hinduism. Yu can’t do it with Buddhism. You certainly can’t do it with Islam. If you start making jokes about Islam, well, you’ll hear about it real fast and they’ll try to do all the harm they can, but you can rip Catholics all day long and you can rip Christians all day long and laugh at ’em and make fun of them. So I was fully expecting the report of the pope’s mass in Central Park to be criticized and ridiculed and have such things said about it like the pope came to New York attempting to impose Catholicism on the world, to impose Catholicism on New York and I’ll be darned, folks, if virtually every local station here in New York reported on this mass as though it was one of the greatest things that ever happened in the city. And I was, frankly, stunned. And I think one of the reasons for it was the pope.
The pope was such a consuming figure, such an all-consuming personality. He was soft-spoken in public. He was never loud and demonstrative, but just the power of his presence overwhelmed people and changed people, wherever he went and he took risks that other popes have not taken outside the realm of the Catholic church. Many people will say that the pope was a leader in the anti-communist movement. No question about that. He was. But the pope was also at the same time anti-socialist. The pope was not in a political sense. When the pope spoke, this is what was brilliant about him — you didn’t get the feeling a partisan political person was speaking. You just heard what people thought of as undeniable common sense, and as such he was that powerful a figure, a man for his age and a man of his time.
Peggy Noonan, I spent some time with her this week down in Florida. She’s writing, exhaustively as it turns out, a book on the pope. It won’t be out for a while because of the vagaries of the publishing industry. She’s not quite finished with it. She’s close. But it’ll be four to five months after she submits the manuscript that it will be out. She’s met the pope. She’s had audience with him, and I guarantee you it will be a riveting biography and tale of who he is and what he was and his importance.
RUSH: Lilell in Bloomington, Indiana, welcome to the program. Nice to have you with us.
CALLER: Hi, Rush, it’s such an honor to talk to you.
RUSH: You bet. Thank you.
CALLER: I’m from Cape Girardeau, actually.
CALLER: I had a question for you. I am 21-years-old, I’m a college student. Pope John Paul II is the only pope that I’ve ever known, and I guess my question for you is how do I view this passing. He is such a fundamental conservative, you know, with all the leaders in the world and all the corruption and evil and, you know, whatever I heard about his passing, it hit me a lot differently.
RUSH: Here’s how you do it. I understand this is the case for a lot of people. This is the only pope a lot of Catholics have ever known, and a lot of people have not gone through the death of a pope, and to most Catholics, the pope is the vicar of Christ, taken very seriously. What you need to do is never forget the consistent message from this pope and the optimism and the goodness. AP did a profile on him last Friday, and they put it this way, “Concerned that many Catholics have strayed from traditional teachings, he waved an unflagging battle against abortion, contraception, premarital sex, divorce, homosexuality, the breakdown of traditional family values. The article went on to say that liberal theologies balked signing petitions accusing him of wielding too much power but he once told reporters that ‘church doctrine cannot be based on popular opinion,’ and a lot of people expected John Paul to be a do-nothing pope, just sit there and preside and let the Catholic church take its shape as a reflection of the modern evolution of society and culture around the world, and he steadfastly refused that. He stood up for what the teachings of the church are. You can disagree with him or not, but if you disagree you don’t have to be a Catholic. For Catholics this is who we are, this is what we are. And he ended up being far from a do-nothing pope, he was one of the most relevant and meaningful popes, a man of his age, and I think you keep his memory alive.
I don’t think you’re going to have any problem keeping this pope’s memory alive. I think he’s going to have a legacy that many are going to want to emulate and some will not, but it’s going to be difficult for others to live up to the life of Pope John Paul II. But when good men come and go, it’s not a time for negativism. Sadness, yeah, but take what you learn from this pope, take what you love about this pope and live it and take it to people in your life and live that and let what he taught you continue to influence the way you live and others around you.