Recalling a Hero
ALICE VON HILDEBRAND
Catholic News Agency
April 16, 2013
How easily do we forget! How easily heroes, who should be our role models for today, are classified in historical documents, which we file away, and then fail to turn to for help.
The dramatic situation in which Catholics find themselves today, particularly in the Middle East, should be a clarion call for us to remember a hero who seems to be widely forgotten today: Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty. It is high time that we recall his heroism, animated by his ardent faith, and that his life—he was a “dry martyr”—gives strength and courage to those facing similar trials today. May the Church soon give him the honor of the altars, for indeed, he was a saint.
When Nazism was defeated in 1945, many were those who acclaimed peace, while closing their eyes to the fact that monsters often have two heads—and that rejoicing the fact that the one of Nazism had been cut off, did not allow us to forget that there was another one, still more dangerous because injecting its poison more cleverly.
Few were those like Dietrich von Hildebrand, who, having received the gift of clear sightedness, went public and declared the non-aggression pact between Stalin and Hitler in 1939 to be the “hour of truth,” hoping thereby to open the public’s eyes to the fact that these two vicious dictators were partners in crime. In 1945, Hitler’s death was acclaimed as a promise of universal peace, totally overlooking that of the two headed monster of Nazism and communism, there was still one left—and the more dangerous one. For the philosophy of racism, based on the glorification of the “blond beast,” was so incredibly stupid that one was tempted to question the intellectual sanity of those endorsing it. Moreover, it was bound to be defeated because the majority of human beings do not qualify having brown, black, or even red hair. Communism was much more subtle and more dangerous: opening people’s eyes to the shocking abyss separating the rich, sometimes living in insane luxury (the minority), from the poor (the majority), and therefore inviting the noble hearted to join their flanks and achieve the noble goal of a “paradise” for the worker.
It was a sort of willful blindness to the danger of communism. One of the never ending temptations of mankind is to endorse the view that the state can solve all problems, and, by means of laws and social reforms, reestablish an earthly paradise. In fact, it is the Gospel and the Gospel alone that has a golden key to many of man’s problems and sufferings, and this is something that “modern man” is closing his eyes to: for the Gospel teaches us that before changing the world man should change himself. We could describe revolutionaries as men who want to reform the world, but refuse to change themselves.
The Golden Calf will never lose its attraction, and I fear that if many people—by some magic—would become billionaires overnight, they would be as ruthlessly selfish as some (not far from all) are today. For money is the door not only to comfort, but also to power, fame, success, and “earthly happiness.” How right Father Groeschel was to claim that money never has and never will make people happy, but “it does make their lives more comfortable.”
The honeymoon with communist Russia, which was prevalent in 1945, had opened the door to the illusion that the future of the world was “rosie”: guaranteeing peace and prosperity.
Very few were those who dared to face the truth, refusing to see that animated by a most clever communist propaganda in schools, in the news media, and in Hollywood, communism had made deep inroads in the United States. Stalin was its “great friend” and an ally of the United States of America. Truman declared publicly “I like old Joe”—should one laugh or weep?
In the spring of 1944, Dietrich von Hildebrand gave a talk at a Catholic college in the Midwest. Thanks to the clarity of vision that God had given him, he mentioned that as evil as Nazism was, it was matched by communism. After his talk, a nun raised her voice in protest. She said, I quote, “How dare you compare Nazism to the gallant communists?” That the latter had widely penetrated into American politics and American education was totally overlooked. By all counts Stalin trumped Hitler in the number of millions whom these two diabolical heads of state murdered.
Archbishop Sheen deserves our praise. He told Bella Dodd that she was “converted” to communism at Hunter College (she was soon followed by another Hunter student, Joyce Davidson, later to become Mrs. C.S. Lewis, who also embraced communism for many years). She came to him, heart broken, finally realizing the terrible irreparable harm she had done by faithfully and efficiently following an order of Stalin, namely to recruit men having neither faith nor morals and to “infiltrate Catholic seminaries and religious orders.” Given her talents, her eloquence, and her charisma, she was successful beyond expectation, and when her eyes opened she was tortured by guilt that only God’s infinite mercy could assuage. This undeniable fact—infiltration in Catholic seminaries had gone back for many years—sheds some light on the abominable priestly scandal that has plagued the Church in the course of the last years. Horrified by what she had so successfully done, Dodd told Archbishop Sheen that she wanted to enter the most severe penitential order in the Church to try, in some modest way, to pay her crushing debt. She was told by this venerable prelate that her mission was to remain in the world and open the eyes of blind citizens of the United States to the horror of communism. She obeyed, and from the early 1950s until her death in 1969, she crisscrossed the country giving talks to shake her fellow citizens and open the Americans’ sleepy eyes to the horror of atheistic communism.
By doing so, Dodd, now labeled “a traitor,” knew that she was endangering her life. But, animated by her ardent faith and her deep contrition, she tried to pay her debt and put her rich talents, intelligence, clarity of thought, charisma, and selfless dedication, at the service of the truth. She truly deserves our thanks and loving admiration.
The climate prevalent in many universities is that “all ideas should be welcome” and that “freedom of thought” is the ABC’s of a “democratic” education. One idea, however, is taboo and should be radically ostracized: namely, that there is such a thing as truth and objective moral values that should not only be accepted, but lived, by all men. This is violently objected to on the ground that it militates against freedom, confused with “license.” The thought is, “No one is to tell me how I should behave.”
To open our eyes, Bella Dodd wrote a book, School of Darkness, which should be a must-read in all American schools together with the masterpiece of Whittaker Chambers, Witness. It is a fearful book, but, if properly understood, will be the greatest safeguard against the destructive forces which today threaten the very foundation of the United States of America: a nation under God.
What I am writing on infiltration is not meant to deny that some bishops, some heads of religious orders, and some priests have not fallen into the very grave sin of closing their eyes to the horrible sins committed by people under their authority—but to make aware of the fact that a key factor hardly ever mentioned, or not mentioned at all, is that many of the worst culprits were not Catholic priests who had fallen prey to “unbridled lust,” but infiltrators who had obtained false baptismal certificates and were plainly agents of Communism. I heard from Bella Dodd that these evil men had even infiltrated the Vatican—for the Catholic Church is the arch enemy of Communism; and they know it.
What are faithful Catholics who are aware of the gravity of the situation to do? The answer is the one the Church has given us from the beginning: prayer, sacrifice, and the glorious conviction that the forces of evil shall not prevail. May I also suggest that we revive the glorious life of Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty and beg for his help.