International journalists CHARLES W. BELL AND BARRY JAMES. Their survey covers the present situation of the Catholic Church as seen by the world at large. Next week the writers will examine Vatican finances and the true nature of its wealth.
The Pilgrim Church
Pope Gregory VII forced a contrite King Henry IV to stand barefoot in the snow in 1077. to beg for recognition as a good Catholic.
Pope Leo XII forbade Catholic-5 to receive smallpox vaccinations in the early 19th century and thousands of obedient believers died,
Pope Alexander VI drew a line dividing the colonial possessions of Spain and Portugal in 1494, and both nations obeyed his ruling — the last great binding international decision by the Papacy.
Such was once the power of Popes.
Pope Paul VI finds himself today in a dramatically different position. ensnared in crises certain to outlive him and perhaps more dangerous and complex than any threats by Kings and warriors. He heads a Church in transirtion. •
Roman Catholicism has eurvived, even flourished, through a dozen ages of doubt, rebellion. indifference, persecution and change: Now it is under unparalleled pressures of growth and adaptation.
No religious community on earth can match it in size and diversity. It claims The allegiance of 633 million soul:— one of every six people in the world. and its wealth is so immense that not even the Pope can count it.
But in the 70's this religious organisation, a pulsing, living presence and power for 20 centuries, is in ferment. The causes are as diverse as the form and figures making up Catholicism. shaped and brought into being by a phenomenon called the Second Vatican Council. or Vatican II.
No part of the Church has remained untouched by Vatican II. convened by Pope John XXIII in 1962. "The present time," Pope Paul told one group of pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Basilica, "is a time of tempest and transition. There are agitations. tensions, novelties, changes . . ."
Put into the language of the Space Age. Pope John fired the Church of Rome into a revolutionary orbit and left Pope Paul the riekier task of keeping it on course.
This is one of the greatest religious developments of the 20th century, and it began just over 10 years ago when Pope John opened the 21st Ecumenical Council.
On the day VaticanII began — October 11. 1962 it rained until 10.50 a.m., ten minutes before a grand procession by Pope John and 2,540 cardinals, bishops, priests and monks made its way through St. Peter's Square.
Then the sun broke through the low-hanging clouds over Rome and the churchmen walked in colums of three into the larva
est Christian church in the world — and into history.
The churchmen and 21 nonCatholic observers, but no women — they came later satin two great grandstands lining the central aisle of St. Peter's Basilica and heard Pope John describe their meetings as "the most moving and solemn spectacle offered to the world of angels and men."
It was called Vatican II because it was the second held at the Vatican; it actually was the 21st such assembly in the history of the Church dating back to the year 325 in Nioea.
The previous 20 councils were called to deal with specific problems cited by Popes when they summoned churchmen. But Pope John called churchmen to Rome without limiting the scope of their deliberations.
It was a decision which not only blew open the Church's doors, but shook its foundations as well. When Vatican II ended 1.362 days after its splendid and c6lourful opening, forces for reform and modernisation of the Church had been set in motion far beyond what Pope John might have expected. The Church today is struggling with those forces, and therein lies its challenge and its crisis.
A leading Christian scholar said: 'I think there have been more serious crises, for example. in the time of St. Augustine, the time of Pope Gregory VII and certainly the time of the Reformation."
The early years of Christianity were marked by great splits and heresies. One of them, Arianism, which contended Christ was inferior to God, was numerically stronger than Catholicism itself. and much of St. Augustine's energy was devoted to combating it.
Swiss theologian Hans Kung says the Church survived a far worse crisis than the present one less than 20 years ago.
"I found the situation more serious towards the end of the pontificate of Pius XII." Rung said. "This was the time when the Catholic Church was considered as equally totalitarian as the Communist system. It is a fact that we have more trouble today, but we certainly have more freedom."
The first Vatican 11 reform came on November 13. 1962 and by the standards of things to come, it did not mean nmeh. In it. the name of Joseph was inserted, in the list of saints which priests recite during Mass, giving him the same status as Mary and the 12 Apostles.
Since then, reforms have come so fast that older Catholics are baffled and, in some cases, angry at what they call a betrayal of their faith. Meanwhile Radicals agitate for even more change.
A religious Rip Van Winkle. hearing and reading the new prayers, hymns and responses of modern Catholicism would by stunned. Gone is the strict adberance to Mass in the Latin language: It has been replaced by modern tongues ranging from Arabic to Zulu. And a legion of suspect saints are downgraded -among them Christopher, Valentine, Nicholas and George.
The ban against eating meat on Friday has gone.
Pope Paul VI. alter his accession in 1963, became the first Pope in modern times to go willingly to other countries, travelling from New York to Samoa and conferring with leaders of tither religions and even the President of the Soviet Union.
For all his reformist zeal, however. Pope Paul has not budged on dogma. or on two of the most inflammable issues of the modern Church — birth control and the celibacy of priests.
In two letters addressed to Catholics, the Pope reiterated a ban against Catholics using contraceptive devices or allowing priests to marry. The ensuing rebellion still divides Catholicism.
Hut there is a "new morality" in the Church.
The handbook of pre-Vatican II morality is disappearing and now theologians stress the twopart great Commandment of Jesus: Love God and Love your Neighbour.
"Thou shalt not" is a fading injunction. In Austria, children learn a version of the Ten Cornmandments which does not contain the word "No."
Hans Kung has said: "Many people think we have less obligation today to practice our Faith. 1 his is true to a certain extent. because we abolished a lot of secondary obligations. But we take the main obligations much more seriously."
Sin for many Catholics was once associated mainly with sex. Now, from Papal encyclicals to local pulpits. Catholics are asked to consider the newer, subtler sins of injustice and inhumanity and social abuses.
According to Bishop Alexander of Sault St. Marie, Canada ". . . there is an awakening of a new social concern. Things that were winked at before aren't winked at any more." He cites drunken driving and rent extortion as examples. The Pope himself has urged Catholics to persevere in following his 1968 encyclical on birth control. Hurnartae Vitae, but not to drop out of the Church if they cannot.
"Catholics are taking the pill whatever the Pope says," a cardinal said in Rome. "But if they won't follow his teachings, well . . . we can't turn them out of the Church because of Concern about legalised abortion laws is replacing birth control as a burning topic. among Catholics. In several Western countries, the Church is battling — and usually losing — attempts to liberalise abortion laws.
Al a meeting in April 1972. American bishops attacked President Nixon's Commission on Population Growth and the American Futute because it recommended ending legal restrictions on early abortions, "particularly when the child's prospeots for a life of dignity and self-fulfilment are limited."
Pope Paul has said repeatedly that abortion is murder under any and all circumstances. But not all Catholics are ready to agree with this.
Divorce is another problem for Catholics, and here again the Church has absorbed some defeats. Even Italy passed its first divorce bill in late 1970 despite anguished Church opposition and appeals from the Pope against it.
The Church flatly condemns divorce. The most it will do is grant an annulment — a decIaration that the marriage never existed, but some moral theologians are trying to redefine exactly what makes a marriage. Present law is based on consent and sexual consummation and this. the theologians argue, is perhaps not enough. The theologians are not disputing the biblical injunction. "What God has joined, let no man put asunder." They are concerned with making sure the joining was properly done in the first place.
The Vatican Newspaper L'usservatore Romano calls the modern era "the black age of erotic license" and the Pope shares its concern about much of the
music, art, drama and fashion of the world.
For Catholics, he said last year, there remained the danger of eternal damnation. Thus he reminded them that sin might change its name, but hell remained real.
Pope Paul's "No" to artificial means of birth control was given on July 29, 1968, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. It forbade the pill and other man-made devices for preventing pregnancy.
Within days, the reaction reversed the historic saying that a wfiisper from Rome drowns out the roar of the world. Thousands of priests defied the Pope and their own bishops. So did millions of ordinary Catholic men and women. -Recall Paul" stickers appeared on cars. Even many bishops were perplexed — and told the Pope so.
"Humanae Vitae did not create a crisis ia the Church," said Bishop Remi J. De Roo of Victoria. Canada. "it revealed it."
Before the furore died down. the Pope's authority was challenged as never before. "The Church has not had to face anything of its kind for centuries." the Pope himself said before issuing the encyclical.
Catholics often argue about how long the Church has maintained its present teaching on contraception, but the most authoritative statements on the subieet have come only from the last four Popes..
Pius XII said Catholics exercising birth control committed a serious. sin. He upheld this "natural and divine" law in 1951 and John XXIII again upheld it a decade later.
Paul VI could have dodged the issue. But pressures on him, inspired by a new phrase, "population explosion." were too great, expectations 'from Vatican II too high and his own impulse to settle all arguments too strong.
The former Archbishop of Milan had emerged from Vatican II as an exciting successor to John. Two encyclicals — on the Modern World and Man reinforced his standing inside and outside the Church. But he knew that no matter what he did en birth control he would alienate a large segment of Catholic opinion. He chose no change.
It was not 'the last time Pope Paul VI would refuse to redefine or drop a teaching of the Church. Nor was it the last time a storm would wash over him.
Hundreds of priests have married, including One of Pope Paul's chaplains, the son of the Nazi Deputy Fuehrer, Martin Bormann, and the Auxiliary Bishops of St. Paul and Minneapolis. and Lima. Peru.
The defectors are frequently the cream of Catholicism — young, talented, intelligent and dedicated — and while industry can hire newcomers knocking at the door, the Church cannot.
Whether celibacy is really the vital issue oi not it is the one most priests cite when they leave. A detailed study by the Vatican of 8,287 priests' reasons for quitting showed three of every four were motivated by the celibacy issue.