Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism is a new documentary, airing this month on PBS stations throughout the month of June. I’ve read and watched most of the important books and films that have told and retold this story over the years, because I love and admire Pope John Paul II. He formed and inspired my faith in Jesus Christ like few other people have done for me.
So I was curious to see this new telling, and I was pleased when Our Sunday Visitor asked me to review it.
Here’s a snippet:
[U]nlike many prominent tellings of this story, “Liberating a Continent” at least manages to hint at the crucial ways that Reagan’s vision and John Paul’s were not alike but were in fact at odds. Narrator Caviezel notes that the pope was gravely concerned about new threats to human dignity introduced into Poland by the arrival of Western culture and capitalism, including consumerism and, as one historian of Solidarity interviewed in the film puts it, “separating morality from the economy.” A former prime minister of Poland cites the pope’s warning that “once we discovered freedom, we could get completely lost in that freedom.”
Left mostly unsaid is that these latter threats did indeed materialize powerfully along with the Western-style capitalism Reagan was so intent on bringing to Eastern Europe. (Some would argue they are inseparable from it.) Unfortunately, vast numbers of the Catholic faithful who had chanted “We want God” in Victory Square in 1979 were also quick to welcome the consumerism and exaggerated notions of economic freedom that Reagan championed but that John Paul II warned sternly against. More explicit acknowledgement of this aspect of the story would have rendered this film more honest and more interesting and set it apart still further from similar efforts.
The full review is here.