Future of the Papacy

February 26, 1999 • Volume 9, Issue 8
Should the next pope be more flexible on social issues?
By David Masci


Pope John Paul II during his visit to the United States in 1987. (Photo Credit: Apostolic Nunciature, Washington, D.C.)
Pope John Paul II during his visit to the United States in 1987. (Photo Credit: Apostolic Nunciature, Washington, D.C.)

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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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May 29, 2020  Christians in the Mideast
Sep. 28, 2018  Christianity in America
Jun. 23, 2017  Future of the Christian Right
Jun. 07, 2013  Future of the Catholic Church
Jan. 2011  Crisis in the Catholic Church
Sep. 21, 2007  Rise of Megachurches
Sep. 14, 2001  Evangelical Christians
Feb. 26, 1999  Future of the Papacy
Dec. 11, 1998  Searching for Jesus
Jul. 22, 1988  The Revival of Religion in America
Dec. 02, 1983  Christmas Customs and Origins
Jun. 10, 1983  Martin Luther After 500 Years
Aug. 08, 1975  Year of Religion
Jul. 26, 1972  Fundamentalist Revival
Jan. 04, 1967  Religion in Upheaval
Aug. 03, 1966  Religious Rivalries in South Viet Nam
Nov. 11, 1964  Church Tax Exemption
Aug. 05, 1964  Catholic Schools
Oct. 14, 1963  Churches and Social Action
Jun. 19, 1963  Vatican Policy in a Revolutionary World
Jan. 05, 1962  Rome and Christian Unity
Mar. 26, 1958  Church-Related Education
Dec. 18, 1957  Church Consolidation
Jun. 05, 1957  Evangelism in America
Jun. 23, 1955  Religious Boom
Aug. 13, 1952  Church Unity in America
Feb. 12, 1947  Relations with the Vatican
Dec. 21, 1923  The New Schism in the Church and the Immaculate Conception
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