Religion: Dutch Defeat

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Bishops back Vatican line

For each of the 15 days of deliberations, a white-robed Pope John Paul II sat Sphinxlike, jotting down notes but never saying a word. Or so went the official version of the extraordinary synod of Dutch bishops at the Vatican, an account intended to play down the Pope's role. But as the synod ended last week the truth leaked out. John Paul had spoken often and, it was obvious, decisively, to persuade the bishops to enforce Vatican policy in their rebellious land.

At the closing Mass in the Sistine Chapel, John Paul said he took satisfaction in the bishops' "clearer awareness" of the universal church. Translation: the Vatican had won on each of its eight major complaints. The handling of priestly celibacy was typical. Though Rome closed the question long ago, two liberal Dutch bishops have permitted open discussion of allowing married priests, and another bishop has said publicly that he would welcome such a change. In one of the more dramatic moments around the synod table, archtraditionalist Silvio Cardinal Oddi of the Vatican pointed a finger at each bishop in turn and demanded: "Do you believe in priestly celibacy?" Each said yes. But when liberals later told the press of this new united front, Bishop Johannes Möller of Groningen admitted, "There will be problems in Holland, where a majority of priests and laymen are against the rule."

The bishops will also have problems back home selling the outcome of the seven other disputes:

> The bishops agreed to eventually remove married ex-priests from seminary faculties, as John Paul insists. Four years ago, the Vatican had agreed to let ex-priests already employed be retained but no new ones hired.

> The bishops said they would forbid laymen and -women to perform certain priestly functions, including baptizing children (except in emergencies). Because of the wide opposition to celibacy in Holland and a worsening shortage of priests, there are now some 280 full-time "pastoral cooperators" performing such tasks.

> The bishops agreed to a new catechetical decree to go along with the controversial Dutch Catechism, an adult study guide that the Vatican opposed after its publication in 1966 as being too free in interpreting church tenets.

> The bishops bowed to papal insistence on a more stringent policy concerning mixed marriages. It has become common for mixed couples to wed in Protestant churches, or in a Catholic church with the Protestant spouse taking Communion.

> The bishops will crack down on the growing practice of allowing Dutch Catholics to receive Protestant Communion and vice versa, and will frown on other ecumenical excesses.

> Parishes will no longer be allowed to tamper with the text of the Mass.

> The bishops will also seek to revive the practice, nearly extinct in Holland, of individual confession.

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