April 13, 2016

Recalling a Hero

By Alice von Hildebrand *

How easily do we forget! How easily do heroes who should be our role model for today are classified in historical documents which we file and then fail to turn to for help.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 receiving 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 over looking  that the two headed monster of Nazism and communism there still had 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 and even red hair. Communism was much more subtle and more dangerous: opening people’s eyes to the shocking abyss separating the rich sometime 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 temptation 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 will never 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 “rosy”:  guaranteeing peace, and prosperity.

Very few were those who dared 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 USA. Truman declared publicly “I like old Joe” – should one laugh or weep?

In the spring of 1944, Dietrich von Hildebrand gave a talk in a Catholic college in the Midwest. Thanks to the clarity of vision that God had given him, he mentioned that 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.” Being given her talents, her eloquence, 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, Bella told Bishop 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 U.S. citizens to the horror of communism. She obeyed and, from the early ‘50s until her death in 1969, she crisscrossed the country giving talks to shake her co-citizens and open the Americans’s sleepy eyes to the horror of atheistic  communism.

By doing so Bella, 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: her 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 ABCs of a “democratic” education. One idea, however, is taboo and should be radically ostracized: namely, that there is such thing as truth and objective moral values that should be not only 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 U.S. schools together with the masterpiece of Whittaker Chambers, “Witness”. It is a fearful book but, if probably understood will be the greatest safeguard against the destructive forces which today threaten the very foundation of the USA: a nation under God.

What I am writing on infiltration is not meant to deny that some bishops, some heads of religious orders, some priests have not fallen into the very grave sin of either 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 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 – 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 Cardinal Mindszenty and beg for his help.

Alice von Hildebrand is a lecturer and an author, whose works include: The Privilege of Being a Woman (2002) and The Soul of a Lion: The Life of Dietrich von Hildebrand (2000), a biography of her late husband. She was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory by Pope Francis in 2013.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.