26 Years Ago in TIME

A decade after the Second Vatican Council and two years before the death of Pope Paul VI, the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH in the U.S. was struggling. Membership was in decline, and debates had broken out over papal authority and the church's ban on birth control.

Theoretically, authority in the church is exercised by the Pope in conjunction with his bishops. Time was when decrees of the Pontiff or the hierarchy on any issue were obediently accepted by Catholic Americans, as if they were the laws of God. No longer. In matters of faith as well as morals, Catholics seem to be...

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