The intellectual climate in the West since the age o f revolution has often been hostile to the papacy, which has been constrained to demonstrate its legitimacy and relevance. The pontificate o f John Paul II reflects the accommodation and confrontation o f the papacy with developments from the onset o f the French Revolution to the end o f the cold war. Like his predecessors over the past tw o centuries, the present pope has espoused traditionalist views on certain matters, while seeking accommodation on others. John Paul II inherited the difficulties confronted by Pope Paul VI, who sought to implement the reforms o f the second Vatican council, while restraining those who pressed for ‘excessive’ innovations. During an audience o f December 1968, an anguished Pope Paul criticized Catholics who rejected his v ia m ed ia . Departing from his prepared text, Paul preached that the effort to dress the church message in modern garb did not entail abandoning basic doctrines. The pontiff warned that the refusal to accept papal pronouncements would provoke a crisis o f authority.1