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If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at and I have a Facebook page.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pontificate of John Paul II

by Ray Grosswith, M.A., M.Div

I share in the world's sorrow as we mourn the loss of John Paul II. Because of my extensive writing during his papacy, I have naturally been asked by reporters to analyze the past 26 years.

Regretably, I never had an opportunity to sit down and chat with the late pontiff. If I had the honor, I have no doubt I would have found him to to be personable. Yet, at the same time, I am sure he would not have been pleased with my activities in the reform movement. Nevertheless, I wish the opportunity had presented itself for me to explain to him that the work I do is based upon the inclusive ministries modeled by Jesus. Sadly, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, under the pontificate of John Paul II, overturned many of the reform initiatives of Vatican II.

During this period of mourning, I wish with all my heart that I could give John Paul II a glowing review of his past 26 years as pope. However, if I am to give an honest assessment, I must list both the positives and negatives as follows:

There are areas where John Paul II has done extraordinarily well, and there are areas where he unfortunately turned the clock back to an earlier period.


John Paul II has consistently been a champion of the cause for world peace. When all is said and done, historians will give him much credit for improved Jewish-Catholic relations and for his role in the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. Although I have been critical of many of the pontiff's administrative policies, it has been difficult for me to become angry with him, for my Judeo-Christian roots serve as a reminder of the role he played as a young priest in the Polish underground during the period of Nazi occupation. (Many Jews today can attribute their lives to the heroic actions of John Paul II in World War II Poland.)


Sadly, John Paul II turned the clock back in terms of his treatment of women in the Church. Although he stopped short of declaring infallibly that women cannot be ordained, he nevertheless stated that this is a closed issue and that Catholics are not to discuss it. He would simply not listen to reason on this issue, even when history and theology were used as tools for discussion.

I am personally very upset that John Paul II would not discuss the issue of optional celibacy. Although married priests were a tradition in the Roman Catholic Church through the year 1139, John Paul II felt it was necessary to keep the policy of mandatory celibacy in place. This has placed the Eucharist in jeopardy, because there are simply not enough celibate clergy available to celebrate Mass for the increasing multitudes of Roman Catholics. (The current ratio is one priest per 3,500 Catholics throughout the world. Optional celibacy would solve this problem.)In conjunction with the celibacy issue, John Paul II was ruthless in his treatment of priests who entered into marriage. Not only were they stripped of their canonical ministries, but they were not allowed to participate in any parish lay ministries as well. Sadly, many married priests were also stripped of their pensions and were asked to move out of their dioceses. Consequently, our pontiff has made married priests feel as though they are common criminals, when in fact was all they did was follow their call to God-given relationships with their wives.

It was very disturbing for me to have John Paul II treat gays and lesbians as outcasts during his pontificate. Rather than exploring the sexual abuse crisis in an honest way, he chose to put the blame on homosexuality. Sadly, many in the gay and lesbian communities now feel ostracized by the Roman Catholic Church.


Although John Paul II was a champion of human rights throughout his pontificate, this justice unfortunately did not translate to increased roles for Catholic women, the acceptance of gay and lesbians, or discussion of the issue of optional celibacy for priests. The next pope will need to address these issues and work toward a church that is more inclusive.


1.) He gets an 'A' for his work toward world peace.

2.) He gets an 'A' for his work on Jewish-Catholic relations.

3.) He gets a 'B' for his relationship with cardinals and bishops.

4.) He gets a 'B' for his work on ecumenism.

5.) He gets a 'B-' for his relationship with the clergy (priests, deacons).

6.) He gets a 'B-' for his encyclicals.

7.) He gets a 'C' for his approach to liturgy.

8.) He gets a 'D' for his treatment/understanding of women.

9.) He gets a 'D' for his approachh to the modern world.

10.) He gets a 'D' for his work toward inclusivity in the church.

11.) He gets an 'E' for his treatment of gays and lesbians.

12.) He gets an 'E' for his treatment of priests who entered into marriage.

13.) He gets an 'E' for his understanding, or lack thereof, of the current ministry needs of the church.

By my calculations, the above makes John Paul II an average ('C') pope.

By all accounts, John Paul II was a very good man. I therefore have no doubt that the angels in heaven welcomed him with open arms. I simply pray that the next pontiff will return to the reform initiatives that were carefully crafted during the many sessions of Vatican II.


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