That ’70’s Show

A recent Associated Press poll showed that while American Catholics and non-Catholics loved and revered Pope John Paul II, they disagreed with him and want the Church to change.

Yet the poll group was sharply divided as to how change should be effected: 11% wanted the Church to be “groovier,” while 20% said it should be more “fly,” 33% wanted it to be “rad,” 36% thought it should strive to be “totally awesome.”

Noticeably absent from these demands were the results of polls from previous decades which called for the Church to be “hep,” “have a zoot suit with reat pleat,” be “neato” and “23 skiddoo”.

Well, not really.

But they may as well have done so as run a poll that discovered, “Admiration for Pope John Paul II aside, most Americans surveyed — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — would like to see a successor willing to institute far-reaching changes: allowing priests to marry and women to join the priesthood.”

(Yawn.) You just knew they’d do it. And you just knew they’d say, “John Paul opposed those breaks with Church tradition during his 26 years as Pope, and the Vatican is unlikely to move quickly to alter the rules. Yet, many Americans surveyed in an Associated Press poll said it is time for the Roman Catholic Church to embrace the modern era.”

The press has never figured out that the Catholic faith is not the private property of the Pope, or that he cannot remake in his (or our) image and likeness at a whim.

The idea just does not compute that revelation can come to us through the custodian who is not at liberty to alter it as he pleases. The only thing for a museum piece like the Catholic tradition to do is “embrace the modern era.”

The funny thing is: For the pollsters and their respondents, the modern era seems to have gotten stuck.

Some of us have lived 26 years since 1978, while others have simply lived 1978 26 times.

And so the Usual Suspects come out of the woodwork to say the usual stuff about the Pope: Father Network Commentator brushed off his clerics to come out and complain that the Pope’s insistence on celibacy has kept superior genes from entering the gene pool and improving the race. The Catholic Abortion Apologists showed up to say that they can’t understand the mysterious thread that connects John Paul with the poor when he never once told the poor that they should murder their filthy, snot-nosed brats.

The media roundtables of aging geezers from Catholic academe talked about how out of touch with the rising generation John Paul was as they rolled the film clips of World Youth Days assembling such large masses of humanity in one place that the earth’s rotation was thrown off its axis.

It’s beyond me why the media keep bringing out the mummifed scarecrows from the Woodstock Generation. They don’t drag out the grinning political corpse of George McGovern to lobby for the New Direction of the Democratic Party at every convention. But they still think 1970s dissenters have something terribly important to say in 2005.

If they want to know the real future of the Church, they’d be smarter to interview my 16-year-old, Matthew, who wept real — not crocodile — tears when John Paul died and who will be there with bells on to greet our next Holy Father at World Youth Day in Cologne.

That is, if they can reach Matthew. He’s awfully busy with Youth for Life and learning the Catholic faith which, as Chesterton said, frees a person from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

Mark Shea is Senior Content Editor for