The world's 1 billion Roman Catholics revere Pope John Paul II as a great spiritual leader and champion of the poor and oppressed. But critics say the pontiff has turned the papacy into an absolute monarchy within the church at the expense of the bishops as well as other clergy and lay people. They also consider him too rigid on “hot-button” social issues like the church's ban on artificial birth control and the ordination of women. But others applaud the pope for imposing much-needed order on an institution they say was drifting. In addition, they argue, John Paul was right not to change church doctrine just to appease public opinion or satify the desires of a few liberal Catholics. Now, however, with John Paul in poor health, the permanency of his legacy remains uncertain.