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Pope John Paul II as a Globalist

What Church of Rome will Pope John Paul II leave to his successor?

May 19, 2002

What Church of Rome will Pope John Paul II leave to his successor?

Until the second half of the 19th century, Catholics around the world conferred great status on the number “25.”

According to tradition, St. Peter, the founder of the Roman Catholic Church, served as the Bishop of Rome — and therefore is the first Pope.

From 42 A.D. until his death by crucifixion in 67 A.D., St. Peter was the head of the Catholic Church for exactly 25 years.

Over the ensuing centuries, hundreds of clergymen held the title of “Bishop of Rome.” But, it was not until 1871 that one of them was able to last as long as St. Peter.

In fact, some popes served for mere hours. Early in the 19th century, Pope Pius VI was the only one who came close to reaching St. Peter’s mark.

However, Pius VI died several months before his 25th year. Not surprisingly, some Catholic observers started expecting great things from the pope who could match St. Peter’s feat.

The one who finally managed to reach it was another — and luckier Pius. By the time he died in 1878, Pope Pius IX, had served as pontiff for 32 years.

But, far from matching St. Peter’s many accomplishments, Pius IX presided over a number of events that foreshadowed the Church’s diminishing political authority.

First, the 1861 unification of Italy abolished the Papal States — a 16,000 square mile swath of central Italy.

Less than a decade later, Italian troops stormed Rome and shrank the Pope’s earthly domain even further.

The last action confined Pius IX to the Vatican — a postage stamp-sized state around the Basilica of St. Peter.

Once Pius IX broke St. Peter’s original record, papal longevity stopped being such a big deal. In fact, Pius IX’s successor, Pope Leo XIII, also lasted 25 years — albeit just barely. Pope John Paul II has also reached this coveted mark — on October 16, 2003.

Yet, while reaching the silver jubilee is no longer considered a supernatural accomplishment, many Catholics around the world nonetheless see Pope John Paul II as a “rock” of the Church, who is as strong as St. Peter.

There is no doubt that John Paul II has in many ways been a unique pontiff.

He is the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century. He is from Poland — where he spent much of his time as a priest, bishop and cardinal.

All throughout his Polish career, John Paul II battled Polish communists who wanted to bring the Church to heel. As is obvious by now, he outlasted both Poland’s communists — and their Soviet sponsors.

One can also argue that John Paul II is one of the world’s premier globalists. He has traveled far and wide, and attracted large crowds at every stop.

The pontiff has also advanced the influence of many non-Europeans in the upper ranks of the Vatican’s hierarchy.

He has also spoken out — with great force and clarity — on debt forgiveness for the world’s poorest nations.

Yet, for all his journeys, good deeds and initiatives, this pontiff has not strayed far from his original beliefs.

John Paul II has used a very firm hand to influence key Catholic Church issues. While his positions have upset many Catholics, quite a few have been attracted by John Paul II’s traditionalism.

They admire that he has refused to compromise on such “politically correct” issues as birth control, abortion, homosexuality, the ordination of women — and celibacy for priests.

In the same vein, these stances have caused some Catholics to drift away from the Church. Despite the strength and conviction of his teachings, the Catholic Church under John Paul II is in trouble.

The Vatican refuses to accommodate the realities of the modern world. One can even argue that ideological rigidity has been the underlying cause of the Church’s problems.

For example, John Paul II’s insistence on celibacy — and his blanket refusal to ordain women — has greatly reduced the number of priests.

Parishes in Western Europe are increasingly manned by African and Latin American priests — with whom parishioners often find it difficult to connect.

Moreover, one of the root causes behind the Church’s pedophilia problem in the United States and elsewhere can be attributed to a shortage of priests.

The reason why troubled priests are routinely reassigned — and scandals continually hushed — is because their superiors find it difficult to acquire replacements.

All in all, as John Paul II struggles with his failing health — and the end of his tenure approaches — the Church finds itself in a precarious condition. Catholics in rich countries have long ignored Rome’s rules, which they find inconvenient.

For instance, most European and American Catholics have used contraceptives for decades. Yet, they have so far avoided an outright break with the Vatican.

This may change. In fact, just as Pius IX lost the last vestiges of earthly power for Rome, John Paul II’s hard-line stances may undermine the Church’s spiritual authority.