John Paul the Modernizer

The death of Pope John Paul II was not unexpected, and his immense influence on the modern world will be judged and commented on by everybody who thinks that he has something to say. Before explaining one of the less known aspects of his teaching, it should be emphasized that one of the comments that is now being heard repeatedly is based either on stupidity or on a lack of understanding of what the Catholic Church is about: the charge that the Pope was and is “conservative” is nonsense.

John Paul II was undoubtedly conservative when he commented on Catholic dogma, but the institution of the Catholic Church is based on the Ten Commandments and dogmas which cannot be changed. Being truthful and faithful to what is the bedrock of Church teaching cannot be deemed conservative.

In reality, John Paul II was called “conservative” because he was against abortion and some other progressive ideas. But if you want a Pope who is for abortion, then you want a different Church. Some things, some values that constitute both the faith and membership in the Catholic Church, are neither conservative nor liberal or progressive; they are fundamental, inevitable and immutable.

John Paul II had a specific task that he implemented during his nearly 27-year papacy: following through on the changes in the teaching and behavior of the Catholic Church that were started by the Second Vatican Council over forty years ago. Before then, the Catholic Church had lost almost two centuries (XVIII and XIX) because it refused to accept that the world had changed, that social and economic issues are among the most important, that modernity happened.