Pope Paul VI, in an epochal 8,000-mile peace mission, thrust the Roman Catholic Church back into the global mainstream this month. His fourteen-hour visit to New York was the most dramatic intervention in world affairs by a pontiff since Pope Pius IX excoriated liberalism with his Syllabus of Errors more than a century ago.
This time the papal word was largely affirmative and guarded. “Will the world,” he asked the twentieth General Assembly of the United Nations, “ever succeed in changing that selfish and bellicose mentality which, up to now, has woven so much of its history?”
“It is hard to foresee. But it is easy to affirm that it is towards that new history, a peaceful and truly human history, as promised by God to men of good will, that we must resolutely set out. The roads are already well marked out for you, and the first is that of disarmament.”
The slender, sixty-eight-year-old pontiff coined a new rallying cry for peacemakers during his thirty-two-minute speech:
“No more war! War never again!”
The carefully executed events of October 4, which cast a virtual daylong spell over news media, built prestige for both the United Nations and Roman Catholicism. What these events meant for Christendom as a whole will not be clear for a long time.
Whatever the long-range impact, Pope Paul chose to avoid summit-type ecumenical confrontations during his visit. The closest he got to a genuine, top-level interfaith encounter was at Holy Family Church, where he stayed for twelve minutes. It was an ecumenical enclave of sorts, built around contingents of about forty each from the Protestant and Orthodox Church Center for the U. N., the Jewish Center for the U. N., and the Catholic U. N. groups. The Pope exchanged pleasantries with the crowd and accepted an illuminated scroll with the swords-plowshares inscription from Isaiah 2. He reiterated the dominant peace theme and encouraged his hearers to “work even more strenuously for the cause of peace—a peace based on the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all men.” Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish representatives were seated in an area adjacent to the sanctuary proper, a spokesman explaining the arrangement as a deference to Orthodox Jews who for doctrinal reasons preferred not to sit in the sanctuary.
Somewhat paradoxically, Paul VI was propelling the church into the international limelight at a time when some observers thought they saw his papal authority waning. Even the Pope himself played down his role in the U.N. speech:
“He who addresses you has no temporal power, nor any ambition to compete with you. In fact, we have nothing to ask for, no question to raise; we have at most a desire to express and a permission to request: namely, that of serving you in so far as we can, with disinterest, with humility, and love.”
To most it was apparent that Pope Paul aimed to avoid a display or promotion of Roman Catholic distinctives. Except for a reference to the “Queen of Peace” in farewell remarks at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, Mary was kept out of the picture. One reference was made to the Pope as the “vicar of Christ,” in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where decades of decorum were broken with shouts, whistles, and applause. There were no special embellishments over his person, no thrones, and no crowns.
On television, Bishop Fulton Sheen aroused hostility with a humorous quip on the papal plane having become airborne: “Our father, who art in heaven.”
The Pope’s U. N. speech was so general that it was received with disappointment in some quarters. He made no electrifying proposals, offered no grand schemes, held out no specific alternative to the war-weary world. Yet many echoed President Johnson’s suggestion that the papal visit may turn out to be “just what the world needs to get us thinking of how to achieve peace.” Others viewed the Johnson observation as an invitation to keep the Pope in the forefront of the political scene.
The only two real surprises in the U. N. speech were the Pope’s request that the world body not encourage “artificial” birth control and his indirect but quite plain plea in behalf of U. N. membership for Communist China.
By contrast, Pope Paul sidestepped any endorsement of several religious liberty measures now before the U. N.
From the religious standpoint, the Pope’s plea for personal conversion was especially significant (see editorial, page 25). Also noteworthy was the somewhat obscure reference, complicated by the use of the papal “we,” to his feeling that the trip was a fulfillment of a divine mandate:
“We appreciate the good fortune of this moment, however brief, which fulfills a desire nourished in our heart for nearly twenty centuries.… We here celebrate the epilogue of a wearying pilgrimage in search of a conversation with the entire world, ever since the command was given to us: Go and bring the glad tidings to all peoples. Now, you here represent all peoples.”
For New Yorkers suffering from a water shortage, a newspaper strike, and, for only the fifteenth year in the last fifty, having to do without a World Series in town, the Pope was a welcome subject to cheer about. The pontiff got a relatively “cool” reception, police having advised people to stay home and the weather having further encouraged indoor TV viewing. A cold snap, the first of autumn, had blown in during the night. Temperatures plummeted down near the freezing mark. A raw wind whipped the city, prompting the Pope to abandon an open-top Lincoln Continental modified with elevated seat. He made his rounds with another Lincoln, this one from the White House fleet with only the special benefit of a glass roof.
At least two bomb threats were reported, but both seemed to be the work of cranks. The only outright hostility evident was the picketing of a Roman Catholic group seeking the ouster of James Francis Cardinal McIntyre because of his conservative stand on racial issues.
Evangelicals, who tend to regard any action of the Pope as a power play or publicity quest, were respectfully silent. One small band of evangelicals, however, seized the opportunity for a quiet evangelistic effort. Outside Yankee Stadium, where Paul VI celebrated a mass for peace before 90,000, young men distributed copies of a tract by Dr. George Wells Arms, “I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” asserting that the universal church of the Apostles’ Creed is composed only of those who have received Christ as Saviour.
The Pope’s call on President Johnson at the Waldorf Towers, climaxed with a private discussion lasting forty-six minutes, was reported to be a general discussion of world affairs.
As if to perpetuate the success of the trip, rumors began spreading that the Pope is considering a round-the-world tour, including a more extended U. S. visit, that could take as much as three months out of the coming year.
A Negro Bishop
The Very Reverend Harold R. Perry is the first acknowledged American Negro to be a Roman Catholic bishop.
Perry, 49, a native of Louisiana, was appointed auxiliary bishop of New Orleans on the eve of the Pope’s trip to New York. He said: “I am the first Negro bishop. The others did not consider themselves Negro.” He referred to the Most Reverend James Augustine Healy, a mulatto who was bishop of Portland. Maine, in the late nineteenth century.
The new bishop said there were 164 Negro priests and 800,000 Negro laymen in the United States.
The Pilot Was Presbyterian
Pope Paul’s pilot on the flight from New York to Rome was TWA’s George C. Duvall, 56, a Presbyterian and board member of the Chicago Bible Society.
The men had met earlier this year when Duvall gave the Pope a copy of The 500th Anniversary Pictorial Census of the Gutenberg Bible, which he had helped prepare.
Meanwhile, In Rome …
The Pope’s visit to the United Nations overshadowed an important debate at the Vatican Council about secular affairs. At times it sounded like a group of Protestants arguing about political pronouncements by the National Council of Churches.
At issue was “The Church in the Modern World,” Schema Number 13, which could prove unlucky to a rather smooth-running council. Already the need for textual revision forced a one-week recess in floor action in mid-October.
A bishop writing in America capsulized one major viewpoint on Schema 13 thus:
“If we hold the Church is a divine, supernatural society, then she should stick to preaching the gospel. Moreover, she has no competence beyond this. The text will get the Church criticized for being a busybody.”
One problem is Schema 13’s range. It encompasses five categories of human problems: marriage and the family, the advancement of culture, economic and social life, politics, and the “community of nations.”
Another problem is that it is written for all men, not just Catholics. This has produced a watered-down stand, in the view of Vienna’s Francis Cardinal Koenig: “Because of the desire to address also non-believers, there is danger of some reduction in truth.” Even though the schema is a secular statement, he said, it should include topics the current text has evaded, such as “sin, the truth of the cross, the need for penitence, and hope of resurrection with Christ.”
Similar criticism was made by a key Protestant observer, the World Council of Churches’ Lukas Vischer. He said the schema’s stress on solidarity with the world shows a temptation that Protestants also face: to neglect the Bible’s teachings on God’s judgment of the world.
“The Gospel not only brings reconciliation of the world with God; it brings division between men. The Gospel teaches liberation from sin, but it does not make the struggle with sin less real on that account,” Vischer said.
A statement is definitely forthcoming, since 98 per cent of the 2,222 bishops have voted that a decree based on the present draft be adopted. At first, the schema was scheduled to be issued without debate as an encyclical from the council expressing “the sense of the house,” similar to documents from World Council of Churches assemblies.
Among the many criticisms of the phrasing of the text, one highlighted the problems of catholicity. Josyf Cardinal Slipyi, exiled Ukranian Rite archbishop, said the schema “uses mostly the terminology of the West and reflects too much the western mentality. The world includes Eastern Europe and the East as well as the West.…”
Among other things, the bishops were trying to decide what Schema 13’s approach to atheists should be. A surprising appeal for a hard line came from Father Pedro Arrupe, leader of the Jesuits. With an evangelistic tone, he pointed out that Catholics now constitute 16 per cent of the world’s population, whereas a few years ago they were 18 per cent.
But French Archbishop Francois Marty said: “The faithful are rubbing shoulders with atheists almost continuously in their day-to-day life.… Our texts sound more like a condemnation and open no doors to honest dialogue with atheists.…” In another reflection of liberalizing attitudes, there were kind words for the work of renowned atheist Sigmund Freud. Sergio Mendez Arceo, speaking for ten Mexican bishops, compared Freud’s work to that of Copernicus and said psychoanalysis should have a place in Schema 13.
Another great Schema 13 issue is war and peace. Despite praise of peace by Popes John and Paul, there was great difficulty in applying the idea to specifics. Two touchy sections are on conscientious objectors and foreign policy.
One Roman quipped that if the Vatican should explicitly support conscientious objection, the Italian army would disappear overnight. Certainly this civil liberty, generally accepted in America, is anathema to Latin countries where it is not tolerated.
A persistent “peace lobby,” a small group of active laymen, not only wants to keep this statement in the final version but hopes for a condemnation of the policy of “aequilibrium terroris,” the balance of terror or deterrence, which intrinsically includes total war as a threat and a possible effect. In effect, this would condemn the military policy of the United States and the Western alliance in general.
The thrust of the schema on laymen, another floor topic, is reflected in Schema 13. It was revealed that the draft of Schema 13 was submitted to five laymen for their opinion, under strict pledges of secrecy, and that they all endorsed it. Also, the announcement of a third World Congress of Laymen for October of 1967 (previous ones were held in 1951 and 1957) implied that laymen would have a special part in applying the results of Vatican II.
Another little-noticed but significant action was presentation of the schema on the pastoral office of bishops. It not only affirms the principle of collegiality but also calls for reorganization and internationalization of the Curia and Vatican diplomatic corps, both traditionally composed of Italians. Initial approval was lopsided.
Birth Control Bombshell
A remarkable declaration against current Catholic birth control dogma added new urgency to the Vatican debate on marriage doctrines in Schema 13.
The report from thirty-seven top American Catholic scholars, pigeonholed for half a year, says traditional church arguments against contraception are “unconvincing.” A majority of the group declared “contraception is not intrinsically immoral.”
The conventional teachings do not take into account “the findings of physiology, psychology, sociology and demography,” the statement said, “nor do they reveal a sufficient grasp of the complexity and the inherent value of sexuality in human life.” The majority asserted that special family problems “may demand the continuance of sexual communion even if a new pregnancy cannot be responsibly undertaken.”
The minority disagreed but said the evidence against the present stand requires that the issue be kept open for continued study. This seemed a practical approach, with fast-moving scientific developments in anti-ovulant pills and other contraceptive devices to consider.
The special papal commission that just recently received the report has found it impossible to agree on how to advise the Pope. Persistent rumors say the Pope will soon issue his long-awaited birth control decree; Britain’s John Cardinal Heehan expects it before year’s end.
Pope Paul admitted his perplexity in a recent news interview: “We cannot remain silent. But to speak out is a real problem. The Church has not ever over the centuries had to face anything like these problems.”
Although Paul has said he will handle this issue himself, some bishops want to cite contraception in Schema 13. The discussion of marriage in the schema draft has a conservative flavor that upsets liberals like Montreal’s Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger. He said its emphasis on procreation and education of children as basic marriage aims neglects the fact that, above all, marriage is “an intimate community of life and love.”
In related questions, the council discussed whether remarriage should be permitted if a spouse indulges in adultery, if an innocent spouse is abandoned, or if a spouse becomes permanently insane.
The ‘Deicide’ Dilemma
“Deicide” is the key word in controversy about Vatican II’s revised draft on Jewish responsibility in the Crucifixion.
Dr. Abraham Heschel of the Jewish Theological Seminary charged that “not to condemn the demonic canard of deicide … would mean condoning Auschwitz, defiance of the God of Abraham, and an act of paying homage to Satan.”
The vacillating council is criticized if it uses the word and criticized if it doesn’t. Last year’s draft mentioned “deicide” and explicitly rejected the term that has played so large a role in the history of anti-Semitism. But an earlier version, like the newest one, omitted the idea.
Some delegates contend deletion of “deicide” implies denial of Christ’s divinity. Others say inclusion would imply a collective guilt that has no biblical basis.
But the new schema pleased both Catholic liberals and Jewish observers by specifically condemning anti-Semitism for the first time. The draft says no Jew, then or now, is responsible for Christ’s death except those directly active in prosecuting him. Most delegates contend that even these men weren’t guilty of deicide, since they did not know Christ was God.
The document not only discusses Catholic attitudes toward Judaism but states that the church “rejects nothing that is true and holy” in any of the major world religions.
It buries the historic hatchet with Islam, which is cited for its monotheism, reverence for Jesus, honor for Mary, and emphasis on moral life and divine judgment. Buddhism and Hinduism rate less enthusiasm, but Catholics are urged to seek fellowship with all peoples.
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