Like everyone else, I'm going to jot down a few things that passed through my head after John Paul II's passing.
I was born in 1975, and my earliest memories are from when I was 3. For long as I've known what a Pope is, The Pope has been one guy from Poland. Which, historically speaking, is pretty well unheard of. JP2 was a bit of stability all through my life. If something screwed up went down, you bet the man with the Hat and the Rod would have something to say about it.
I suppose that as an atheist, passing judgement on the Pontiff's life would be like having a Mormon on a wine tasting panel, but I'm going to give it a whack anyway. JP2 has always been vilified in the press for being both anti-abortion and anti-birth control. Having passed from idiot teenaged liberal into middle aged libertarian-conservative, I really have to respect him on both counts. Since I've spent the last 5 years of my life running video game stores, I can sympathize with parents who want to snuff out their offspring. But doing it before the kid has a chance to run away seems unsporting. And telling people to only have sex for procreation is the very definition of plowing the sea in the post-pill era. But he stuck to his guns despite the tide of the culture and it's hard not to admire him for that.
I'm also amused by people who complain that the Pope didn't take the Church in a more modern direction. What kind of religion is it that lets the congregation do the preaching? As I understand it, the Pope's the one with the Almighty's beeper number. Who are the rest of us to bitch about the message he's passing on?
His work in opposing communism in Poland also gets a big thumbs up, both before and after he put on the hat. Openly working in and leading an organization that presents itself as superior to The People and The Party took big fat hairy ones in an era when people the State found inconvenient ended up shot dead in a ditch.
However… You cannot speak for Good without opposing Evil. You cannot oppose Evil while allowing it to exist in your midst. You cannot oppose Evil if you act to prevent people from hunting down Evil. I'm a fan of forgiveness, but I cannot forgive the Pointiff for permitting pedophiles to continue to serve in the church, and to assist them in fleeing prosecution. I also find it hard to excuse his dogmatic opposition to the wars waged against the Taleban and the Baathists in Iraq. Qui desiderat pacem praeparat bellum. I thought these guys knew Latin?
Anyway, despite my misgivings, I will miss the old dude. I believe he left the world a better place than he found it, and the teeming millions loved him for it. You really can't ask for more out of life.