The Pope's Successor May Disappoint Church Critics

Dr. William Donohue
Those who are banking on the next pope to be someone who will undo much of the work of Pope John Paul II are in for a grand disappointment. There are two good reasons why major changes will not be made: a) John Paul II has appointed over 95 percent of the cardinals who will vote on the next pope, and b) issues such as abortion and gay marriage are defined by scripture and tradition, and thus will never change.

Now it is likely that the next pope will have a new style and will seek to carve his own place in Church history. Perhaps he might entertain some changes in such Church disciplines as the celibacy requirement, or seek to expand the role of deacons. But the kinds of changes that many Church dissidents desire are not going to happen.

What will prove to be as interesting to watch as what the next pope does is what the critics of John Paul II decide to do once they realize that they’ve lost again. Will they quit and join another religion, or will they park themselves in the Catholic Church and continue pressing for transformation of Church teachings? If they really respect diversity, they will join a religion that gives them what they want. There is no shortage of such relevant religions, though none of them are posting the membership gains of the Catholic Church.

Most Catholics loved John Paul II, and someday he is likely to be known as John Paul the Great. He will be only the third pope in history to hold this honorific title. But even he couldn't please everyone, and what’s comforting to know is that he really didn't try.

William A. Donohue is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. The publisher of the Catholic League journal, "Catalyst," Donohue is also an adjunct scholar at The Heritage Foundation. He is the author of three books: "The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union," "The New Freedom: Individualism and Collectivism in the Social Lives of Americans," which was written while he was a Bradley Resident Scholar at The Heritage Foundation; and "Twilight of Liberty: The Legacy of the ACLU." Winner of several teaching awards, and many awards from the Catholic community, Bill has appeared on thousands of television and radio shows speaking on civil liberties and social issues. He was also voted one of the top 100 Catholics of the 20th century in a survey of Catholics conducted by the Internet site, Daily Catholic. Donohue also serves on the board of advisors of the Washington Legal Foundation, the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, the Educational Freedom Foundation, the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, Catholics United for the Faith, the Jewish Action Alliance, Ave Maria Institute, the Christian Film & Television Commission and Project Moses. In addition, he is a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Catholic War Veterans. In 1980, Bill was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University.