What about the Pope?
The blog universe has been overrun in recent days due to the Pope's passing. It seemed people needed something equally controversial to run to after the whole Terri Shiavo mess. And it wasn't all respectful, as there was plenty of backlash from the anti-religious folks. But for now, it seems the media frenzy is starting to fade. At least until the white smoke is seen at the Vatican, signifying that the Cardinals have picked the next guy.
Conspiracy theorists, such as Dan Brown, like to convince impressionable people that the Catholic Church is corrupt in a highly organized way. Some Protestants regard the Catholic Church as a cult that we need to rescue people from. But most people just figure that we're all the same, that Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, and everyone else should just ignore their differences and celebrate humanity.
The truth is that we do have differences that will not go away, although faithful Protestants and Catholics agree on most of the essentials: Jesus is God, Jesus is eternal, Jesus is the only way to salvation, the Bible is God's word, etc. However, the Papacy reveals the biggest difference: Authority.
Is God's written Word the full authority of His revelation? Or does a man also have the authority to speak for God, adding to, and possibly changing, what the written Word says? Catholics believe that the Pope has such authority.
Pope John Paul II was a good man. He had startling integrity. Never once did he compromise to be politically correct. He stood for the dignity of human life in an era where that is frowned upon, constantly challenging world leaders of every political color. And he had tremendous impact. He was centrally responsible for the freedom of Eastern Europe and the fall of Communism. He garnered respect even from people who didn't agree with him.
There is a good possibility that the next one picked won't have as much backbone or compassion. The next Pope may decide to "re-interpret" what the Word says about sexuality, life, or even Jesus. If that happens, we need to stand firm as Protestants on what the Reformers called sola scriptura, that Scripture alone is our authority.
In the meantime, we need to pray that the Cardinals pick another man of integrity.