The Second Vatican Council moved toward adjournment this month with religious liberty the most far-reaching issue still to be resolved.

On the eve of final voting on the religious liberty declaration, Belgian Bishop Emile de Smedt announced on behalf of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity that an important new amendment had been introduced. It asserts that all men have the “sacred duty to profess and embrace the Catholic faith insofar as they are able to know it.”

The bishop said there had been no change in the portion of the text upholding the basic contention that all men have the right to believe and worship according to their consciences. He declared, however, that “in keeping with the wishes of many fathers, special care had been taken to declare explicitly that the right to religious liberty does not free either the individual or society from its moral duties toward the true religion.”

That brought groans of disappointment from champions of religious liberty throughout the world who were looking for a clear-cut affirmation. Dr. Stanley I. Stuber, American Baptist guest at the council, charged that the change “takes away freedom of conscience.”

Several other passages in the proposed declaration also came under fire. One said that states should not oblige children to attend schools where anti-religious subject matter is taught. Another warned against state school systems that exclude religious training. Associate Director C. Stanley Lowell of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, just back from Rome, told a rally in Washington’s Constitution Hall that the declaration “specifically exempts all existing concordats between the Vatican and Catholic countries.” He said it falls considerably short of the proposed U. N. Declaration of Human Rights.

Loopholes notwithstanding, the Vatican declaration states as the Catholic position that no person or group can be coerced in matters of religious practice. It says that full religious liberty must be guaranteed to all religious groups in both private and public exercise of their religion, and that it is the function of the state to guarantee these freedoms.

According to Baptist reporter W. Barry Garrett, “the changes in the text consist largely in the addition of a section designed to win the votes of traditionalist bishops who have been reluctant to favor the new position of the Catholic Church.”

The amended declaration went through the council despite 543 conditional “yes” votes, an unusually high number. There were 1,539 unqualified “yes” votes and 65 “no.”

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There was still opportunity for changes, but these were supposed to be restricted to minor alterations with no bearing on substance or intent.

Evangelicals had reason to lament the Roman Catholic definition of religious liberty, but many found much to agree with in what the council was preparing to say on Scripture. First reports indicated that the schema on divine revelation, as approved by an overwhelming vote, said quite explicitly that God, for the salvation of men, has written down the truth without any error. The question of the relative importance of Scripture and tradition was said to have been left open. Rules for biblical research were liberalized.

At a special ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica last month, Pope Paul VI promulgated four decrees and a much-discussed declaration on the church’s relations with other religions. The declaration includes an official Vatican position that Jews are not regarded as collectively guilty of the crucifixion of Christ.

One of the decrees involved prospects of a drastic overhaul of the Roman Curia, the church’s central administration, regarded as ultra-conservative. Another with obvious implications for the United States calls for public subsidies to be “paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.” The others had to do with updating monastic life and the process by which men become priests.

Protestant Panorama

Methodism’s supreme court, the Judicial Council, put off for the third time in a year a decision on where ultimate authority lies for regional integration. The council will meet again in December.

The Burma Baptist Convention marked its 100th anniversary at a service of consecration attended by some 4,500. Speakers stressed what Christians can do in a country where Christian schools have been nationalized and where new missionaries are not being admitted.

Trustees of Davidson (North Carolina) College, a Presbyterian school, eliminated a faculty oath that had restricted full faculty tenure to Protestants.

Australia’s two Lutheran churches, which split some 120 years ago, will be reunited. The United Evangelical Lutheran Church gave unanimous approval to a consolidation plan with the Evangelical Church of Australia.


Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, titular head of the world’s 140,000,000 Eastern Orthodox, was reported to be planning a trip to Rome to confer a second time with Pope Paul VI. Their meeting in Jerusalem nearly two years ago was the first face-to-face encounter between a Roman pope and an Orthodox ecumenical patriarch since 1439.

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Religious bloc voting is often important in big cities like New York, where one-third of the electorate is Jewish and an even bigger slice is nominally Roman Catholic. But, despite religious bickering in the campaign (see “Fusion and Feuds,” News, November 5 issue), religious blocs did not materialize in the New York mayoralty race. Fusion candidate John Lindsay, an Episcopalian, won over Democratic Abraham Beame, who is Jewish, and conservative William Buckley, a Roman Catholic.

The Right Rev. Horace W. B. Donegan, Episcopal bishop of New York, says his support of civil rights caused many to welsh on pledges toward completion of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. One man cut a $600,000 gift out of his will.

President Johnson signed a bill to establish a national memorial honoring Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island. Williams, a Baptist, was founder of the state and a noted champion of religious liberty.

A group of members of the First Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, initiated court action last month to reverse a decision by the church to admit two Nigerian students to membership. The group’s court petition asserts that admission of the pair violated the church constitution.

Thanks For $3 Billion

Each year, the National Council of Churches gets out a report on church contributions in time for Thanksgiving. This time, the churches of America and Canada have at least $3,101,639,604 to be thankful for.

The total is really much more than that. Only forty-one American and six Canadian denominations gave the NCC figures. Among the holdouts were key NCC members—the big Negro denominations and Orthodox communions. Many small evangelical groups outside the NCC also kept their finances to themselves.

All categories of giving in the NCC report were up for 1964. One help was inclusion of gifts from wills for the first time. Foreign missions contributions were up 8.56 per cent.

A survey designed to determine the quality, variety, and extent of religious programming by the nation’s television stations is being conducted by the National Association of Broadcasters. Results will be published in a book, says the NAB’s Television Information Office.


Dr. Albert C. Winn was chosen president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is now professor of doctrinal theology at the seminary.

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Dr. Cyril D. Garrett was appointed professor of Christian education at California Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been executive vice-president and dean of Eastern Baptist College.

Dr. George W. Forell, professor of Protestant theology at the University of Iowa, was named acting director of the university’s school of religion.

Dr. David Hyatt was named executive vice-president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Paul G. Elbrecht was elected president of Alabama Lutheran Academy and College.

Dr. Joel Nederhood was appointed radio minister of the Christian Reformed Church, succeeding the late Peter H. Eldersveld.

J. Elliott Stedelbauer was elected chairman of the Christian Business Men’s Committee International.

Dr. G. Barrett Rich III, a Presbyterian clergyman and program director of the Protestant-Orthodox Center at the New York World’s Fair, was named chaplain of the Protestant Chapel at John F. Kennedy International Airport.


J. MARCELLUS KIK, 61, associate editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY for its first three years; in Philadelphia, of cancer (see the editorial on page 32).

BRAVID W. HARRIS, 69, retired Episcopal bishop of Liberia; killed instantly when his car ran off a highway near Fredericksburg, Virginia.

FERDINAND SIGG, 63, Methodist bishop of eight European countries, Algeria, and Tunisia; in Zurich, Switzerland.

RAY FOOTE PURDY, 67, board chairman of Moral Re-Armament in the United States; in Atlanta.

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