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The second part—often overlooked—was the reason for these changes. The divisions between priest and pew-warmers should narrow because the old idea of the super-pious professional religious and the not-so-pious Joe Catholic was said to be wrong. Put simply: We should all want to be saints.
And maybe we should, but that hasn't been how it's worked out so far in practice. In the '70s the Catholic Church in the U.S. and the rest of the western world experienced a massive fall-off in the percentage of Catholics who attended weekly Mass.
At the same time, tens of thousands of priests decided to hang up their collars and a huge number of nuns decided to call it quits. Those who stayed often discarded their religious garb and innovated with the Mass to the point that it was nearly unrecognizable. This was often justified as being in the mythical "Spirit of Vatican II."
This was the church that Wojtyla inherited—the western part of it, at least—and he muddled through. He forced priests to pull out of partisan politics in part because the agendas that they tended to advance were not too far removed from the Communists that he was railing against. He slowly established a firmer grip on the standards of worship so that most Catholic services nowadays—even the happy clappy ones—are recognizably Catholic. With his writing and preaching, he urged his co-religionists to be more true to their own faith.
God knows, John Paul II had plenty of failings, though, from where I'm sitting, they were usually sins of omission. Many have fingered his lackluster response to the American priest sex scandals. They have a point, but then the episode goes to show why this pope, until the very end, remained the thundering moral voice of the Church.
In a special meeting of the U.S. bishops in April of '02, Wojtyla he let them have it. "The abuse," he said, "which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society. It is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern."