A wonderful interview with a great writer from Catholic World Report, and I already ordered the book, and suggest you do also.
An excerpt from the interview.
Dr. Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College (Pennsylvania) and the author of several best-selling books, including Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century; God and Ronald Reagan; God and George W. Bush; God and Hillary Clinton; The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives.
Dr. Kengor is widely recognized for his scholarly work about the American presidency, the Cold War, and the history of communism. His most recent book is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century (ISI Books, 2017), which chronicles in great detail the largely untold story of the friendship of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, and how they worked together to fight the great evil of the twentieth century: Soviet communism.
Dr. Kengor recently corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about his new book.
CWR:The title and subtitle don’t indicate it, but your book is many ways about a Marian apparition. In fact, it begins with an important event that took place 100 years ago. What was it? And why is it so central to your account of Pope John Paul II and President Reagan and their fight against Communism?
Dr. Paul Kengor: Mary is central. In fact, to that end, I have a confession to make. This began as a book about Ronald Reagan and John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev. When it was about those three men, with Mary central to the story, my personal-secret working title for the book was “Three Men and a Lady.” I eventually removed Gorbachev as the third man, though he’s still very much a major player. But the Lady, however, always remained—a hovering presence. And yes, she’s the Blessed Mother—or, even more pointedly, she’s Our Lady of Fatima.
I start the book with a dramatic opening: May 13, 1981. It was on that date that Pope John Paul II was shot. Of course, it was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima, dating back to the first Marian apparition in Fatima on May 13, 1917. John Paul II immediately was struck by the irony of those two dates. “Two thirteenths of May!” he said. He would come to see a direct connection, especially once he requested to see and then read the Third Secret of Fatima on July 18, 1981 when recovering in Gemelli Clinic from the shooting. As Father Dziwisz would later put it, “When he was finished [reading the Third Secret], all his remaining doubts were gone.” In Sister Lúcia’s vision, “he recognized his own destiny.” He became convinced that his life had been spared thanks to the intervention of Our Lady.
So, I start the story with May 13, 1981, and thus inevitably must next go back in time to May 13, 1917. The latter is my prologue and the former is chapter one of a 38-chapter book.
Mary’s presence in this story will not surprise Catholics and John Paul II aficionados, but it will surprise non-Catholics and Ronald Reagan aficionados. And all readers, Catholics and non-Catholics, will be a little shocked at the Reagan interest in not only Mary generally but Fatima specifically. I was certainly fascinated by it, and it’s something that I completely missed in Reagan’s faith story when I wrote God and Ronald Reagan in 2004, which was a year before I came into the Catholic Church.
CWR: You’ve studied and written about Communism for your entire career. How would you summarize the effect of Marxism and Communism on the 20th century?
Dr. Kengor: One word: Deadly. Over 100 million dead victims in the 20th century alone. Actually, the true numbers are closer to 140 million. That’s more than double the combined death tolls of World War I and II. And the total dead are a tiny number compared to the countless more who suffered persecutions and even tortures without death. Some were bloodied and others weren’t. Some, like Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary, ended up (in the description of Fulton Sheen) as “dry martyrs.” And some, like Pope Pius XII, had their character assassinated rather than their body, with Moscow smearing Pius with the hideous, slanderous label “Hitler’s Pope.” I spend about a hundred pages in the book chronicling those “persecutions and errors.” They form part two of the book. It’s quite sickening to revisit all of that pain, but it must be done in order to grasp the evil that John Paul II and Reagan passionately knew had to be defeated.
All of those crimes and “errors” were, of course, predicted by a Lady from Fatima. And all of them signaled how and why the Soviet empire truly was what Ronald Reagan described it as: an Evil Empire.