This book is a noteworthy summary of Pope John Paul II's teachings throughout his lifetime, his interventions at Vatican II, his letters, sermons, and encyclicals. It is fairly ideological in the sense that it concentrates on John Paul's ideas only. It does not introduce counter-arguments or what other people have said about the pope's ideas. At times Dulles will mention opposing views, but only for the sake of emphasizing those of John Paul. For example, Dulles mentions Cardinal Leo Suenens at the Synod of Bishops in 1969, who suggested that the pope conduct a wide consultation with the whole episcopate before issuing doctrinal pronouncements. Karol Wojtyla disagreed and maintained the pope's power to consult in less formal ways. In this example and in others, Dulles mentions opposing views, but only for the sake of clarifying the thought of John Paul II.
Also, in regard to disagreements, Dulles quotes John Paul himself speaking about situations or teachings that concern him. For example, John Paul said that "It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the magisterium is totally compatible with being a 'good Catholic' and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere." For the most part, however, the book stays focused on the pope's positive views. When the text speaks of priestly celibacy in chapter 6, for example, Dulles stresses John Paul's argument that the priest is the spouse of the church and that celibacy is for the sake of the kingdom. This is a pattern throughout. The book is arranged according to traditional theological topics such as the Triune God, Christology and Mariology, the Church and evangelization, Office and teaching in the Church, etc. Dulles then searches the writings of John Paul to see what he can categorize under each topic. The book could easily be used as a review of traditional Catholic teaching if one wanted to present basic topics from the pope's point of view. It coincides very well with the PBS television program Frontline episode entitled "Pope John Paul II - The Millennial Pope (2001)." The program gives background on the life of the pope, and also points out some of the seeming contradictions in his thought, such as his very high esteem of the Blessed Virgin, alongside of his opposition to women priests. The Frontline program uses the word "conflicted" to describe some of these ideas, one of them being his views on political involvement by clergy.
The volume of writing and speaking by the pope is indeed impressive. The book lists about one and a half pages of titles of the writings and sermons of John Paul II. Dulles searches all of these to attempt a synthesis of his thought; however he admits in the beginning that "the material vastly exceeds what most students, including the present author, has been able to digest" (p. 2). For what it sets out to do, however, i.e. "to gather up the essentials of his teaching on strictly theological questions," and to set these teachings in a fairly limited space, the book does a good service to its readers. The 2003 edition advertises that it is "Now revised and fully updated." The print is larger, and an index relating to the works of John Paul has been added. Several sentences and paragraphs have been added in various chapters to include the 2003 encyclical on the Eucharist, as well as several other documents surrounding the millennial year.