The outpouring of support from political leaders, religious leaders, and every day citizens all over the world provide a vivid reminder of the influence of JP II. He was a man who worked tirelessly to promote the Word of God, the sanctity of every human life, and mankind's inalienable rights of religious freedom. He was a man who connected with the world's youth as well as Church conservatives. And most importantly, he promoted the teachings of Catholicism in a clear and uncompromising manner.
Today, many in the world's media are speculating on the theology of the next pontiff. MSNBC, for example, stated the following in an article published today:
- "John Paul opposed divorce, birth control and abortion, the ordination of women and the lifting of the celibacy requirement for priests, issues that sharply divided the church."
This statement must be clarified: No pope will ever change the Catholic Church's position regarding divorce. Marriage within the Church as viewed as a Sacramental union blessed by God, which no man can break. The current process of investigating civil divorces to determine whether a Sacramental marriage existed will remain in place until Christ comes again. Likewise, no pope will ever change the Catholic Church's position regarding birth control. The conjugal act must be unitive, and procreative. Putting any artificial barriers in place to block the procreative nature of intercourse is to deny the will of God. It should go without saying that the church will never, ever, no way, no how even consider changing her position regarding abortion. All life is a gift from God, and cannot be destroyed.
On the other hand, the Catholic Church could indeed ordain women and lift the celibacy requirement for priests. Although some may doubt the Scriptural support for a celibate priesthood, it should be noted that the Church began promoting priestly celibacy before the Council of Nicea (325 AD). Similarly, the Church has excluded women from the priesthood for all 2,000 years of her existence. Changing Canon Law, and reversing hundreds of years of tradition, are no small matters.
To conclude, don't expect the new Bishop of Rome to make sweeping changes in an effort to comply with what may be perceived as modern day values. Most of the Church's moral teaching is non-negotiable, and much of the Church's Canon Law is steeped in such tradition that major change is highly unlikely.