Those Who Stood Up to the Nazis Have Much to Teach About an Ill Child

Integrity and fortitude are among the key components in the growing international controversy of Charlie Gard's life

by Fr. George Rutler | Updated 16 Jul 2017 at 9:09 PM

In the 19th century, poet Adam Mickiewicz dramatized the theme of his suffering Poland as the “Christ of Nations” — and, in an image used by many others, Poland was crucified in the 20th century between the two thieves of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.

It was not the West’s proudest moment when President Roosevelt complained to Stalin at the Yalta Conference that “Poland has been a source of trouble for over 500 years.” Pope John Paul II lamented Yalta in the encyclical Centesimus Annus. That will resonate in the annals of papal teaching more than recent magisterial concerns about the responsible use of air conditioning and the like.

On July 6 in Warsaw, President Donald Trump spoke of a culture with which a generation of millennials have been unfamiliar: "Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are."

Comfortable journalists, for whom the "Christ of Nations" is an enigma, described it as "a tiny speech, a perfunctory racist speech," "xenophobic" and "a catalogue of effrontery," and a comparison was made with Mussolini. Solzhenitsyn once was pilloried for similar themes, and Ronald Reagan was advised by his chief of staff and national security adviser not to tell Mr. Gorbachev to take down the Berlin Wall.

The Warsaw speech mentioned three priests: Copernicus, John Paul II, and Michael Kozal. The latter was the bishop of Wloclawek who was martyred by the Nazis in Dachau along with 220 of his priests in 1943.

Among the irritations in the Warsaw speech were these words: "We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives." As that was being said, the parents of a gravely ill child, Charlie Gard, in London were tussling with government officials, who did not want to release their infant to them.

Related: The Charlie Gard Case: What It Means for the Sanctity of Life

A Polish philosopher, Zbigniew Stawrowski, has written: "The fundamental cleavage is not the West vs. Islam or the West vs. the rest, but within the West itself: between those who recognize the values of Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman culture and those who use terms like "democracy," "values," "rights," but pervert the latter. So it means democracy of the elites, values of secularism, rights to kill Charlie Gard, marriage that has nothing to do with sex, sex that … is a "private" matter to be funded by the confiscatory state and your duty to support this incoherence…"

The Polish king Jan III Sobieski rescued Christian civilization at the gates of Vienna in 1683. That was one of the "troubles" that Poland has caused in the past 500 years. We survive because of such behavior.

Fr. George William Rutler is a Catholic priest and the pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Manhattan. This article originally appeared in his parish church bulletin and is used by permission.

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