Pope Paul VI issued yet another statement last week cautioning the faithful about ultra-reformist tendencies in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
The Pontiff rebuked those who are trying "to attribute to the council every type of novelty, even going so far as to question fundamental doctrines of Catholicism, declaring that truths defined by the church are matters of opinion." The Pope's warning was read with special interest in The Netherlands, where the church is the center of avant-garde thinking within Catholicism. At present, Dutch clerics are involved in theological disputes with Rome over two bestselling books that deal with fundamental church issues.
Out of the Vatican? Slimmer of the pair is The Grave of God, a 178-page volume about the future of the church by Father Robert Adolfs, prior of the Augustinian friars in Eindhoven. Unless the church changes, writes Adolfs, "she has no future. Imperceptibly, she will come more and more to perform functional duties within a social order which is essentially tied to an unchristian ideology. She will gradually dig her own grave, which will at the same time be the grave of God." Adolfs maintains that the church should give up all claims to worldly power, calls on the hierarchy to divest itself of its "Renaissance splendor," and suggests that the Pope shed his regal vestments, quit the Vatican Palace and live in Rome.
Last week, warming to his subject, Adolfs wrote in the New Christian:
"Every time the Pope speaks he reflects the old atmosphere, the old church structures. One can only conclude that the Pope is either a puppet in the hands of conservative Curia cardinals orwhich seems more probablehe is himself a conservative to the backbone."
Although his book received an imprimatur from a Dutch bishop, Adolfs was summoned by the assistant general of the Augustinian order last June to a "brotherly dialogue" at an out-of-the-way hostel for vagrants in Eindhoven. Adolfs was read a two-page assessment of his book by an anonymous reviewer, then instructed to reply to a list of ten complex questions on church teachings. Otherwise, he was warned, "you will be prohibited to write." According to Adolfs, the questions reflected a misreading of his book and were "alien to everything that is alive in the church. In this kind of atmosphere, I would implicate myself by answering them." Adolfs was ordered to have publication of the book stopped immediately; he left the matter to his Dutch publisher, who is now well into the book's third edition and plans to keep the presses rolling anyhow.
Homosexuals & Calvin. The second dispute is much more serious, involving the entire Dutch episcopate and a new 625-page catechism that has been on the bestseller list since it was published last October under the imprimatur of Holland's Bernard Jan Cardinal Alfrink.