From MICHAEL WILSON in ROME
Pope Paul this week issued a stinging condemnation of people who sought to undermine the unity of the Catholic Church from within through "doctrinal dissension". And he called for obedience to the Apostolic and Hierarchical Authority of the Church.
The condemnation was issued,in the form of an "Apostolic exhortation to the episcopate, to the clergy and to the faithful of the entire world .on reconciliation within the Church."
Reconciliation is one of the two themes Renewal and Reconciliation" on which the Holy Year of 1975 is based.
Recalling historical "unfaithfulness" to the teachings of the Church, Pope Paul stated: "But there appear equally dangerous ... the ferments of infidelity to the Holy Spirit existing here and there in the Church today and unfortunately attempting to undermine her from within.
"The promoters and the victims of this process, who are in fact small in number by comparison with the vast majority of the faithful, claim to remain in the Church, with the same rights and opportunities of expression and action as the rest of the faithful, in order to attack ecclesial unity . . .
"They set themselves up in opposition to the hierarchy . . . They question the duty of obedience to the authority willed by Christ; they put on trial the pastors of the Church .. . In this way they cause bewilderment to the whole community, introducing into it the fruits of dialectical theories alien to the spirit of Christ."
Pope Paul denounced the groups which obscured the sacrarnentality of the Church.
"The process that we have described takes the form of doctrinal dissension, which claims the patronage of theological pluralism and is not infrequently taken to the point of dogmatic relativism, which in various ways breaks up the integrity of faith.
"And even when it is not taken as far as dogmatic relativism, this pluralism is at times regarded as a legitimate theological stand which permits the taking up of positions contrary to the authentic Magistenum of the Roman Pontiff himself and of the hierarchy of' bishops . "We recognise that pluralism of research and thought .. . has a legitimate right of citizenship in the Church . . . Also the inestimable values contributed by pluralism to the sphere of Christian spirituality ... Indeed we admit that a certain theological pluralism Finds its roots in the very Mystery of Christ."
But Paul added: "Nevertheless, the different emphases in the understanding of the same Faith do not prejudice the essential content of that Faith.
"Thus there are built up teachings that do not hold fast to the objectivity of the Faith or are plainly contrary to it. . Furthermore, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that every concession in the matter or identity of faith also involves a lessening of mdtual love?'
Pope Paul deplored this dissension and said: "We try hard to understand this situation and we compare it to the analogous situation in which comtemporary civil society is living . . .
"Unfortunately, the Church too seems to be in some degree experiencing the repercussions of this condition. But . . . the Church ought to preserve her original character as a family unified in the diversity of her members . .
"We call upon alfl to overcome the illicit and dangerous differences and to recognise one another as brethren united by the love of C Paul went on to deplore the emergence
of what I it " Pope Pr t he. called "dissenting institutions or
This was evidently a reference to some of the so-called "base communities" which in recent years have become a growing "fringe phenomenon" of Catholic life in a number of countries, notably the United States, France and Italy. There are at least 20 of them in Rome.
This Papal document said that the "dissenting" communities led to a "polarisation of dissent" by which "all interest is concentrated on the respective groups, in practice autonomous, each one claiming to be giving honour to God." This, he said, 'introduced into the Church the seeds of disintegration."
Pope Paul then ended with an appeal for reconciliation within the Church: "Whoever therefore feels that he is in any way implicated in this state of division, let him return and listen to his own voice irresistibly insisting, even when he is about to pray: "Go and be reconciled with your brother first.' " (Editorial — P.4)