Even the secular world against which he stood recognized his greatness. But what was it that was so special about John Paul II, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church? What set him apart, and above, all the secular leaders of his time?
At 84, he was old, stooped, suffered from Parkinson??¢â???¬â???¢s and slurred his words. He was decried by our media and cultural elites as a moral reactionary who failed to bring his Church into the 20th, let alone the 21st century.
Yet, even as the editorial writers fulminated and the dissident clergy fumed, the Holy Father drew the young in the tens of millions. The great politicians of his time came and went, most of them long forgotten, save Ronald Reagan, who was so much like this Pope in his humor, serenity, convictions and charisma. Yet, this Pope endured into his ninth decade as the most revered and beloved figure on earth. The world??¢â???¬â???¢s reaction to his death testifies to it.
But wherein did his greatness lie?
What set John Paul apart from the other leaders of his time was his goodness, his holiness, his sanctity, his moral courage in defending the truths of the Church and his uncompromising refusal to alter moral truth to accommodate the spirit of an immoral age. His charisma, like that of Mother Teresa, came of the fact that he was a Man of God, not a man of this world. He became popular by endlessly testifying to the unpopular truths of Jesus Christ.
What those most disappointed with John Paul??¢â???¬â???¢s failure to conform church doctrine to modernist views on contraception, abortion, stem cell research and homosexuality fail to understand is that it was because the Pope defied the spirit of the age that he was great. He believed in moral absolutes in a world of moral relativism and nihilism. He was a beacon of light in a darkening age, a beacon of truth in a moral wilderness.
He died in the 40th year following the close of Vatican II, the church council called by his predecessor John XXIII. And by the time John Paul II died, all the fashionable and trendy clerics of that time, from Hans Kung to the ??¢â???¬?????Are-You-Running-With-Me-Jesus???¢â???¬ clergy, who had demanded that church teaching be changed, were long since gone and long since forgotten
??¢â???¬?????How many divisions does the Pope have???¢â???¬ Stalin cynically asked. But it was this Polish Pope without an army who would inspire Solidarity and the Catholic peoples of Eastern Europe to stand up to Stalin??¢â???¬â???¢s empire and bring it down peacefully in 1989.
??¢â???¬?????We??¢â???¬â???¢re more popular than Jesus now!??¢â???¬ John Lennon exclaimed back then. Where are the Beatles now? ??¢â???¬?????Is God Dead???¢â???¬ Time famously asked in the 1960s. Now people ask, ??¢â???¬?????Is AOLTimeWarner dead???¢â???¬
But if John Paul II achieved greatness as a man, a leader, a Pope, the same cannot be said of the Church he led.
Here in America, there has been a dramatic contraction in the numbers of nuns, priests, churches and parish schools since Vatican II. The Church in America has been horribly scarred by the ugliest scandal in its history, the abuse of thousands of altar boys and Catholic children by pedophile and homosexual priests, who crept into the seminaries and were not ruthlessly purged when their predations were discovered.
Moreover, there has been a widespread loss of faith and belief in the traditional teachings of the Church. On birth control, divorce, sexual morality, abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, millions of Catholics now embrace Hollywood values and the culture of death over Catholic teaching and tradition. Indeed, it was because John Paul II would not yield on any issue that the ??¢â???¬?????Cafeteria Catholics??¢â???¬ still cannot concede his greatness. Understandably, for John Paul??¢â???¬â???¢s goodness and greatness are in absolute correlation to his defiance of the agenda they demanded of him.
Today, we are told a new Pope must reconcile Catholic teaching to the views of American Catholics. But the proposition is demonstrably absurd.
All the churches that have drunk the cool aid of modernity are shriveling up and dying. Beginning with the Lambeth Conference in 1931, which approved of artificial contraception, the Episcopal Church acceded to the spirit of the age. Today, that church has women priests and bishops, homosexual bishops living with male lovers, and sanctions gay marriages. Meanwhile, many of it most devout priests are defecting to the Rome of John Paul II, while its most devoted faithful are splitting away.
While the mainstream Protestant Churches are shrinking, the more orthodox and militant churches that make demands upon their flocks, to live by Christian truths, are attracting converts and growing in influence.
It was the philosophy of John Paul II that he would do all he could to defend and advance the truths Christ came to earth and died to teach the world. After that, it was up to the Holy Ghost. Now that God has called his good and faithful servant home after sixty years of labor in his vineyards, it is up to the Holy Ghost now.