Viviane Hewitt on John Paul's planned new encyclical and the background of dissent that underpins it
VATICAN sources said this week that Pope John Paul It had finished the draft of his new encyclical, the tenth of his pontificate and predicted to be the most severe.
It was suggested that the encyclical, on a whole range of moral issues, would be released this winter, possibly on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The new document, which reports described as a "compendium of the ills of the 1990s", is likely to reinforce the church's view of abortion, contraception, euthanasia, certain fields of bio-ethics, genetic manipulation and homosexuality as sins.
Sources also warned that it was unlikely to "win the general consensus" of approval for the last papal encyclical, Centesimus annus, published in early summer.
The Pope's •principal consultant on the imminent document is believed to have been Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian-born Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who is considered John Paul's foremost advisor on theology.
The team of advisors is also said to have included the controversial Mgr Carlo Caffarra, a morality professor at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
Nearly three years ago, Mgr Caffarra forced a Europe-wide theological rebellion against Rome out into the open when at a conference on moral issues, he described contraception as "murder". His declaration was followed by editorials in some church publications critical of the severe moral guidance under John Paul II. They culminated In the so-called Declaration of Cologne which criticised episcopal nominations and overcentralisation on Rome.