The Catholic Church, Post-John Paul II

The Church Needs a Saint
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
April 3 2005 5:53 PM

The Catholic Church, Post-John Paul II

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Mike,

The "conservative" Catholics that you ask about certainly want a successor who affirms the legacy of John Paul II. No one expects the successor to have the charisma or media presence of our deceased Holy Father. What's important to them is the pope's commitment to the basic themes of JPII's papacy, which I would list as order, orthodoxy, and evangelism.

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There might be better words to describe the legacy, but I think these terms represent the church that JPII tried to set in order after the post-Vatican II confusion, the return to fundamental teaching represented by the encyclicals and the new catechism, and energy JPII infused into the church by his travel and message.

I also noticed how the news coverage changed quickly after his death yesterday. Most of the coverage, with the exception of CNN, had been quite respectful and accurate in their coverage. By late yesterday afternoon, the naysayers were everywhere and Chris Matthews was doing his usual rant. Overall, however, I commend the TV media for their treatment of his final hours and death. On Friday and Saturday morning, MSNBC offered commentary that rivaled Fox for its willingness to accept JPII on his own terms, with a minimum of pre-postmortem. Regardless of any media missteps, the American public is getting a crash course on the Catholic Church, and that is good.

I am uncomfortable with prognostication. I know it is natural at a moment like this, two weeks from a conclave, to speculate on the choice. I really believe, as I am sure you do, that this choice will be guided by the Holy Spirit. Because of that I would not be surprised by any choice, since I don't think it will result from a purely political process or calculation. When it is announced, there will be those on either side calling it a victory for "conservatives" or "liberals." But we really don't know what kind of pope any of these cardinals would be until he takes office and bears that responsibility. I have no doubt this man will undergo a transformation as he assumes the chair of St. Peter.

One last point on your first question. There are many ways a pontiff can take control. He doesn't have to do it in the style of JPII. He can do it quietly through the power of his sanctity and love for the church. The church doesn't need its pope to be a philosopher. The church needs saints above all. I hope that the next pope is a saint.

Deal W. Hudson

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