TCS Daily


On States of Sin

By Kamila Pajer - April 4, 2005 12:00 AM

Pope John Paul II's death over the weekend has produced an outpouring of grief around the world, and especially here in Poland, his native country. Thousands of people have been gathering in Polish cities, particularly in the places visited by the pontiff during his pilgrimages to the native country. Poles prayed for the Pope's health when he fell gravely ill, and now they pray for his soul. They go to churches all around the country, they burn candles under crosses and monuments of the Pope and sing under the famous Krakow window, where he often talked with young people long after official ceremonies ended. Only now can we see how much we love him and how important he was, is and always will be for Poland. This even though Poland is ruled by mostly left-wing, anti-Catholic parties and represented by an ex-communist president famous for mocking the Pope.

One of the main reasons for this visible paradox in Poland is the attitude of the Polish Church. The Church -- which was actively involved in fighting communism and in politics after communism collapsed -- was forced to withdraw from the political scene in the mid-1990s. But it also unfortunately now promotes the economics of the so called of third way: a system between capitalism and socialism. The Polish bishop Piotr Jarecki, member of the Social Council of the Polish Episcopate, put it this way when I interviewed him in December 2001: "Capitalism is very efficient as far as production is concerned but it is not just when we look at the division of produced goods." He adds: "The state should interfere with the economy as it lays in its nature." And when asked which of the systems the church would support -- American-style free economics or the Polish overregulated one, he answers: "The American system differs from the European one. In the former the stress is put on the freedom but the equality of opportunities is not well preserved."

Moreover, Bishop Jarecki believes the Pope's encyclical Centesimus Annus [CA] does not promote capitalism. And yet in CA we find a statement that clearly promotes a system of freedom of choice:

        "If by 'capitalism' is meant an economic system which recognizes the 
        fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property 
        and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as 
        free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer [to the 
        question if capitalism is a better system than socialism] is certainly 
        in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate 
        to speak of a 'business economy', 'market economy' or simply 'free economy.'"

Freedom and equality under law is a condition sine qua non of a just system and history proves that capitalism brings more freedom to people than socialism ever promises. Under capitalism or a free economy those who work more are promoted, and get wealthier; those who are honest shop owners have more clients; those who are better doctors have more patients. Those who do not want to work are poor. The opposite is true in socialism, where those who do not want to work or are dishonest and cheat are better off than the honest ones.

In 1987, during his visit to still-communist Poland, John Paul II celebrated the mass on the Plac Defilad under the symbol of Stalinist oppression -- the Palace of Culture and Science. He said then some very brave words, symbolic words for the Polish nation, which for over 40 years had been ruled by real socialism, the system that promised freedom but offered violence. The Pope repeated the words of Christ: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." He added: "However, when we look at the crucified Jesus Christ we know that His power is not a power of violence but the power of love."

Such is the power of the Church that leaves people free to choose and to err, to be creative or even lazy if they prefer and to be responsive to God. His power shows us that men cannot organize life as socialists would like to, for everyone is free -- even to reject God. The Church teaches us furthermore that charity is nothing if it is obtained at the price of the suffering of some to give to others. Therefore, a state that requires so many to be unemployed so that others -- those working in public administration, for instance -- can be well off, should be called a state of sin.

Since the moment of his death Polish media have been reliving the Pope's speeches and recounting his work. Maybe now his words will be better heard and listened to. The Polish, who suffered the Nazi and then the Communist occupation, will remember him as a great prophet of freedom, responsibility and love -- not only a head of the Roman Catholic Church and a true and honest politician but most of all our loving friend.

Kamila Pajer is a freelance journalist and correspondent from Poland. She is also a contributor and translator for Polish American Foundation for Economic Research and Education.

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