AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
The not-so-surprising news out of China this past week from the annual meeting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is that Chinese communists have strongly reaffirmed their Marxist worldview. In the CCP’s telling, the path to national renewal (and happiness for the Chinese people) does not involve individuals making free choices but is instead dependent on the Chinese Communist party having the leading role in organizing the material forces of society and implementing socialism.
This Marxist conception of what determines an individual’s happiness as well as their relationship to a community—historical materialism—was the exact same conception of the individual held by the Communist parties of the former Soviet Union and the other captive nations of Europe.
As we mark the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty-two years ago this week, it’s worth remembering that the long Cold War struggle with Soviet communism was ultimately waged over the question of which conception of man would ultimately prevail. In Poland and elsewhere in Europe, the victory over communism was ultimately won in the human heart and mind with millions of individuals making a very deliberate choice. Long conversations I had years ago with a former agent of the communist secret police shed some light on what I mean.
His story begins in a semi-dark room on an early October afternoon in 1982. Candlelight illuminated a Renaissance-style hall at the back of a parish church. An open Bible lay on the table.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Ten university students sitting in a circle had silently participated in a prayer led by a priest two decades their elder.
“There is only one way,” the priest began.
Suddenly the only door to the room opened. A moment later a tall man with dark spectacles and dressed as a mailman entered, turned to the priest, and said, “Father, three letters, a package, and a magazine will arrive later. Please confirm that I delivered this correspondence.”
It was a coded message, which both the priest and the mailman understood. For at that very moment, three secret agents were observing the front gate of the church. The secret police had installed a listening device in the priest’s private apartment. The secret police had also recruited an agent to spy on the student group.
The man posing as a mailman was a senior officer of the Polish Communist secret police. He was warning the priest of a threat.
It was not surprising why the secret police wanted to know what the priest was doing. After all, the students revered and trusted the priest. With his homilies and catechesis, the priest had attracted thousands in the city and adjacent regions. His cordial and companionable personality was a magnet.
In his presence, students and others found an atmosphere for unconstrained sharing of thoughts and questions. It was not another socialist narcissistic group that was often to be found in the university setting. Compared to the aggressive and militant atheism that was constantly pushed at the University, the students were fascinated when they heard the priest explain that man–a human person–is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself.
Unlike what the Communists said about the world, this Catholic priest was saying that the life of a person who made himself or herself a sincere gift to others was the answer to the fundamental question that the Communist system cannot answer.
The response to the priest’s Christian witness was overwhelming and decisive. The students organized fellowships that included spiritual formation hours based on meticulous Bible studies.
Little by little, the crucial goal of the Communist system—atheization—was being reversed in that corner of Poland, and throughout the nation.
The social implications were startling. A report by the regional Communist Party’s Department for Youth Affairs on the progress of ideology observed that the crime rate had dropped sharply and alcoholism among youth almost disappeared. Moreover, the addiction to narcotics no longer existed and the volunteers-based care for the sick and needy was flourishing.
The network of the Catholic student fellowships weakened the youth-oriented socialist propaganda and decreased the membership rate of nearly every pro-regime organization. Many married students succeeded in building similar Bible-study and fellowships for couples, which added to a growing national renewal movement.
The Communist Party ideologues were panicked. They became increasingly anxious that the model of the New Socialist Man —the main proposition of communism—was losing to the morally renewed, believing individual.
The ideologues were right, and their fear of losing influence on the youth motivated the Party to undertake a new offensive against Catholic priests admired by students.
This assault included the infiltration of the students’ fellowships with secret police informers and provocateurs, defamation with false accusations of theft and pedophilia, beatings by anonymous thugs, destruction of property including firebombing homes and churches, and even murder. The Party ordered the installation of listening devices at priests’ apartments and churches.
A few days before the secret policeman disguised as a mailman warned the informal university chaplain, the Interior Ministry had promoted him to supervise the barbaric anti-clerical campaign.
“There is only one way.”
The secret police agent heard the priest say those words to the students that afternoon. They echoed the words of another priest with whom the agent had spoken a short time before.
During the sacrament of confession, the secret police agent had asked the other priest, “Should I cease to be a policeman?”
The agent did not mention that he meant the “secret police” because he did not want to terrify the priest.
The priest responded, “Remember, only one way leads to God. Christ knows, ask Him.”
So after reading Luke’s gospel that he took from the storage of high-risk objects, the senior secret police officer found the answer.
With the help of a trusted aide, he quietly returned the regime-prohibited religious literature, including Holy Scripture, to the priests who were targeted.
This agent was very well placed to make a difference. After nearly twenty years in the secret police force, he was now one of the highest-ranking officers at the Department that targeted Catholic priests.
The secret officer also knew how much of an influence the distribution of the Bible was having. His Department reported that almost one hundred missionary organizations had smuggled tens of thousands of banned books into Poland. He estimated that the illegal import of the Bibles exceeded 1 million copies in Poland between 1980-82.
At the same time, encouraged by Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church sponsored screenings of the Jesus Film.
The secret police estimated that these screenings attracted about ten to thirty thousand young people and led to the formation of seventy to one hundred Bible-study fellowships per month.
About a week before the secret police officer helped to protect the university priest’s Bible-focused Catechesis effort with a warning against coming persecutions, U.S. lawmakers unanimously adopted a unique Joint Resolution, which President Ronald Reagan then signed, authorizing and requesting the President of the United States to proclaim 1983 as the “Year of the Bible.”
Although the legislation elucidated the American experience with the Bible, many of its observations also accurately described the situation then unfolding in Poland.
In recognizing that “the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and societies,” the American lawmakers were also unknowingly describing the deep moral transformation of Communist society that was taking place thanks to the renewal in Poland of the “knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture.”
After the Communist system finally collapsed a few years later, a former secret policeman had no doubt about the formative influence that the Bible had had on the nation, which encouraged a person to make himself a sincere gift to others.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian and researcher.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
As we prepare for what promises to be a pivotal year for America, we're asking you to consider a gift to help fund our journalism and advocacy.
The need for fact-based reporting that offers real solutions and stops the spread of misinformation has never been greater. Now more than ever, journalism and our first amendment rights are under fire. That's why AMAC is passionately working to increase the number of real news articles we deliver WEEKLY, while continuing to strengthen our presence on Capitol Hill.
AMAC Action, a 501 (C)(4), advocates to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, the rule of law, and love of family.
Thank you for putting your faith in AMAC!Donate Now