Catholic Herald Reporter
CANON Bernard Pawley, the official Anglican observer at the Vatican Council, has strongly defended the action of Pope Paul in upholding the Council Presidency's decision to postpone voting on the religious liberty declaration.
The President's action and the Pope's decision had created an air of dismay and anxiety in the closing stages of the Council's last season. Three Cardinals Ritter, Meyer and Leger had presented a petition signed by 1,400 bishops to the Pope calling for the overruling of the President's decision.
Canon Pawley gave his comment in a reader's letter in last week's Church Times in reply to a report in that paper of a World Council of Churches commentary.
His letter quoted the WCC communique as saying that "there remains, at least for the time being, a great uncertainty as to the official position of the Roman Church in this matter".
"LOADED" His letter continued: "This comment is so loaded as to amount to misinformation, and should be corrected. There is no doubt that much manceuvring and hindrance on the part of the conservative cardinals of the Curia (now clearly fighting a losing battle) resulted io the text of the declaration not being available until four days before the end of the Council.
"The ten presidents (Pope John's nominees, not the four moderators of Pope Paul) decided that there was not time to discuss the text, which had been considerably revised-there being also other business to be attended to. The decision was received with evident dismay.
"The disgruntled majority (headed by the Americans) then appealed to the Pope. The Pope felt unable to over-rule the presidents, no doubt also for the additional reason (which seemed plain to me) that it would do this vital declaration no good if it could be said afterwards that it had been rushed through in the last days without adequate consideration.
FUTILITY "The decision, in my view, was a right one. The episode has only served to show up once again the eventual weakness of the obstructors and the futility of their scheming. The Bishop of Bruges, introducing the new text, was cheered for nearly five minutes.
"The Pope once again, like Quintus Fabius Maximus, cunctando restituit rem. It is now certain that the declaration will be passed with a very large majority at the next session. The World Council of Churches are quite wrong in suggesting that there can be any doubt about that.
"Very much more to the point is the comment of your Special Correspondent, who wrote (Church Times, November 27) that 'after so many centuries of error in this matter it does not seem to us to be of great moment if the declaration of the official conversion of the Roman Church is delayed by a few months'. Of the conversion itself there can be no doubt."