Religion: Catholic Freedom v. Authority

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COVER STORY JULY 29, 1968, may prove to be a major landmark in the long history of the Roman Catholic Church—as significant, perhaps, as the moment when Martin Luther decided to post his theses on indulgences at Wittenberg Castle Church. On that day last summer, Pope Paul VI promulgated his seventh encyclical, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), which condemned all methods of contraception as against God's natural law. Since it reflected the views of a distinct minority of Catholic theologians and moralists, the encyclical created an unprecedented storm of protest and dissent within the church. Millions of laymen, priests and even bishops made it clear that they simply could not accept, without qualification, the teaching of Humanae Vitae. At the same time, many contended that their dissent in no way affected their standing as Catholics. By so doing, they raised much larger and more troubling questions about the rights of freedom v. authority in Catholicism—and the limitations on the Pope's right to speak as teacher for the church.

It would be too much to hope—or fear —that the church is on the verge of a second Reformation. There is little question, however, that it is suffering from an internal rebellion of critical proportions. Priest-Sociologist Andrew Greeley of Chicago, in a recent column for U.S. diocesan newspapers, quoted a bishop as saying that there are two Catholicisms—an "official church" belonging to the Pope and hierarchy, and an undefined "free church," which is attracting a growing number of laymen and priests. Similarly, Paulist Father

Thomas Stransky, an official of Rome's Secretariat for Christian Unity, suggests that the church is suffering from a "silent schism" of rebels who are remaining Catholic in name but are "hanging loose" from the institutional church.

Corrosive Criticism. No man is more aware of this dissension than Pope Paul VI, who issues new warnings almost daily against imprudence, rebellion, disobedience and the dangers of heresy. Last week he cautioned Catholics against tampering with "indispensable structures of the church" and partaking in intercommunion services with Protestants. "A spirit of corrosive criticism has become fashionable in certain sectors of Catholic life," he told an audience at Castel Gandolfo last September in a typical peroration. "Some want to go beyond what the solemn assemblies of the church have authorized, envisaging not only reforms but upheavals, which they think they themselves can authorize and which they consider all the more clever the less they are faithful to tradition. Where is the consistency and dignity which belong to true Christians? Where is love for the church?"

Paul is not the only Catholic bishop to be worried by this restlessness and turmoil. A dramatic illustration of the hierarchy's concern—and of some of the reasons for it—took place last week in Washington. At their regular semiannual conference, the 235 Catholic bishops of the U.S. found themselves the target of a bizarre series of demonstrations by dissident priests and laymen. On the day before the bishops met, 3,500 laymen rallied at the Mayflower hotel in support of 41 local priests who had been disciplined by Patrick Cardinal O'Boyle for criticizing Humanae Vitae. The keynote speaker was one of the

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