It seems there is a growing movement that wants to give the title of "the Great" to Pople John Paul II. This is something that has only been done twice before, more than 14 centuries ago. A canon law authority, the Rev. James Conn, noted there is no "code or procedure" to add the title. "It's more of a popular acclamation," said Conn, "It gains strength and credibility each time it's proclaimed."
Pope John Paul the Great?
But even if he can be given the title by "popular acclamation", would it be deserved? The Pope's staunchly conservative views have been noted by more than one person on this site. His adamant refusal to allow condom use, which could help fight against the spread of AIDS is one point in case.
The case could be made that the Pope's refusal to modernize the Catholic Church and to make it more palatable to the 21st century mindset will contribute to its continued decline. Below are some statistics for what happened with American Catholics during the Pope's reign:
1. The number of Catholics increased from 48.7 million to 64.3 million (although the percentage held steady at 23% ).
2. The number of Nuns decreased from 135,225 to 70,194 (-48% )
3. The number of Brothers decreased from 8,625 to 5,434 (-37% )
4. The number of Priests decreased from 58,909 to 43,304 (-26% )
5. The number of Graduate-level seminarians decreased from 5,279 to 3,285 (-38% )
6. Then number of parishes increased from 18,515 to 19,026 (+3% ) but the number of parishes without a resident priest also increased from 702 to 3,157 (+350% )
Of the priests who are currently on the job, there are a large percentage who are at, or past, retirement age. The percentage of American Catholics who attend church once a week or more has declined from 45% to 27%. An increasing number find themselves at odds with Catholic teachings on such things as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc.
The Pope's steadfast adherance to old time religion has no doubt pleased many within the Catholic Church, but it has increasingly alienated itself from the populace at large. If Catholics elect another Pope with the same views as John Paul II, then it may fatally undermine the authority of the Catholic Church in many of the westernized nations, like the US. Future Popes may increasingly find themselves in the position of being publicly admired but privately ignored.
So, should the Catholic Church stick to the same course of action and see its influence continue to dwindle or should it try to revitalize itself by perhaps allowing women priests, or relaxing its ban on contraception, or by any number of other reforms that it could implement?
Source for all statistics: Ann Arbor News