Roman Catholic theologians like the phrase “unity in diversity” to signify their singleness of faith and diversity of opinion. But as scheduled adjournment drew nigh, the emphasis in Vatican Council II appeared to be on the diversity.

True, the council had begun discussion of a schema on ecumenism. The introduction to the schema, which has five chapters, including a declaration on religious liberty, affirms that “the Unity of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit is the principle and the supreme model of the mystery of the unity of the Church.”

Other recent developments in council sessions and at conferences behind the scenes, however, tended to divert attention from the church’s proposed expression of joy over the spread of ecumenism.

For one thing, the doctrine of infallibility—admittedly a major stumbling block in the path to reunion with the “separated brethren”—had been dropped squarely into the midst of a council discussion, with almost complete irrelevancy, in the opinion of some theologians.

For another, a German cardinal had directed a pointed attack at the procedures of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, citadel of conservatism in the Roman Curia, and had evoked an even more barbed defense from the cardinal-secretary of the Holy Office.

There had been other outright demands for “decentralization” of the church’s administrative power, and so much acerbity had been displayed that a cardinal had spoken sadly of the need to “tolerate no shadow of division.”

Four American cardinals divided evenly on the question of juridical or legally binding powers for national conferences of bishops. Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, had returned to the United States and took no part in the debate.

The ...

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