Vatican Council liberals flexed their muscles in a lopsided preliminary vote on religious liberty, just one week after Pope Paul opened the 1965 session by announcing a new “synod” of bishops that could counterbalance bureaucratic conservatism.

Final wording of the stand on liberty and implementation of the synod depend on Paul, a soul who has been called reticent, hesitant, and enigmatic in the midst of liberal-conservative battles.

The reformers took heart not only from the synod plan but also from the pontiff’s pleas for world peace and his extraordinary plan to visit the U. N. (see the opposite page). Traditionalists were reassured by Paul’s pre-council statements urging caution, his stinging rebuke of Communism, and the encyclical on the eve of the council’s opening that affirmed transubstantiation and other eucharistic traditions.

In the months after a liberty vote was canceled at the last session, 218 proposed changes were considered, but the sides were virtually unchanged. Spain’s Cardinal y Castro asserted, “… only the Catholic Church has the right to preach the Gospel. Proselytism … must be repressed not only by the church, but also by the state.…”

The moment of high drama belonged to the other side, in the person of durable little Josef Cardinal Beran, who suffered the denial of religious liberty by both Nazis and Communists. He said Catholicism in Czechoslovakia “seems to be expiating past faults and sins committed against freedom of conscience,” such as the torch execution of John Huss.

The vote of 1,997 to 224 reportedly came after the Pope interceded to end the repetitive debate and get a statement prior to his U. N. trip. The carefully couched motion made the draft “a basis for the definitive declaration,” subject to amendment but not major revision. The rewriting will be done by the largely liberal corps of Augustin Cardinal Bea.

The editor of the Catholic World had carped that the draft “brings us up to date with Roger Williams”; but once the vote was taken, liberals beamed with praise.

Among Protestant observers, Methodist William R. Cannon said conservatives cannot alter the basic principles, but he foresees some “conscientious objection.” Congregationalist Douglas Horton said, “Now we know that the strength of the negative forces is minimal”—the “guesswork” is over. C. Stanley Lowell of Americans United said “the Protestant Reformation has succeeded”: Rome, which failed to restore Christian unity with persecution, will now “recognize and deal with what could not be destroyed.”

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The new synod of bishops becomes the liberals’ hope for a wedge into church policy councils.

In his keynote address to the council, the Pope said he would convene the synod “according to the needs of the church … for consultation and collaboration.… And in a special way it can be of use in the day-to-day work of the Roman Curia.…”

Last year’s church constitution endorsed in principle this collegiality of bishops in ruling the church with the Pope. It appears that the conservative Curia will remain independent from the synod, answerable only to the Pope and still able to act in his name. The Pope, who was a Curia official for three decades, will determine the synod’s real power and ideology. He will pass on the election of all members, name up to 15 per cent of them himself, and decide how often the synod meets and what it discusses.

But the synod will be “permanent” and roughly representative of the more than fifty national conferences. This is in marked contrast to the gerrymandered College of Cardinals and heavily Italian Curia.

Paul has yet to begin reform of the Curia itself, which he promised two years ago.

The tone of the Pope’s third encyclical, Mysterium Fidei (Mystery of Faith), was widely interpreted as a hint of conservatism to come. In it Paul reaffirmed that in the Mass, bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Christ, although they appear unchanged to the senses. Protestants hold varying views of the meaning of the elements but deny transubstantiation. The Pope also said public Mass should not be emphasized to the disparagement of Mass celebrated by priests in private.

A sharp exchange between the Italian press and the Netherlands’ liberal Bernard Cardinal Alfrink after the encyclical showed the potential for Catholic discord. Transubstantiation has cost the church some intellectual believers, and liberals have talked recently about “transignification,” that is, change in the elements’ significance, not substance.

Paul’s encyclical said that he did not want to deny investigation but that such opinions involve “grave dangers.” The Pope has been careful to balance the two sides of academic freedom in his typical “but … and” style. He told a recent Thomistic Congress that the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, backbone of traditional college thought, should not discourage further research by theologians and philosophers. The saint is “not to be considered as an exclusive exponent of God’s truths,” he said.

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With the religious liberty discussion ended for the time being, the bishops have turned to other items. First in line was debate on the wide-ranging “Church in the Modern World” document, which drew immediate criticism on style. A spokesman for twenty Italian bishops said the much-belabored document was pedestrian, and he called for a forthright stand on birth control.

As this debate continued, voting began on final versions of other schemata. First ballots showed overwhelming approval of the new draft on revelation. Last in line for voting is the statement on non-Christian religions. On this issue, insiders report Paul has bowed to conservative and Arab pressures by watering down the key section on the traditional “deicide” belief concerning Jewish guilt in Christ’s death.

Sixty-nine delegate-observers and fifteen guest observers were registered at the opening of the council. Most significant of these was Metropolitan Emilianos, first Orthodox bishop to be a delegate. Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras sent a telegram to Paul expressing “fervent and prayerful wishes for the happy conclusion of the [council’s] deliberations for the welfare of the Church of Christ.”

The most critical voice was not among the religious observers. It belonged to the Rome correspondent of the Soviet news agency, who sensed “an atmosphere of pessimism, and even of a certain indifference.” He predicted “no sensational decisions” at the council’s fourth session.

Graham: Back On His Feet

Evangelist Billy Graham, who has suffered several serious illnesses in the past ten years, walked out of Mayo Clinic last month after his latest and apparently most painful ordeal. Graham was fifteen pounds lighter but in good spirits, and he looked forward to two weeks of rest and recuperation at his Montreat, North Carolina, home. An offending prostate seemed subdued.

Immediately following his ten-day Denver crusade, Graham entered the clinic for what was to have been a minor operative procedure and a four-day stay. Continued hemorrhaging, however, necessitated a blood transfusion and a second operative procedure five days later. This was further complicated by phlebitis in one arm.

Contrary to a flurry of rumors, there was never any question of malignancy.

Many friends joined in prayer on Graham’s behalf, and the evangelist was deluged with messages from all over the world.

Graham plans to proceed with a scheduled ten-day crusade in Houston, beginning October 15, one week later than originally planned. The meetings will be held in the city’s huge new Astrodome. Graham will preach each evening and Sunday afternoon but has canceled all other activities that were to be part of his Houston visit.

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President Johnson, who telephoned the evangelist three times at the hospital, told a recent White House visitor he plans to visit one of the crusade services.

The Houston Catholic diocese has told its members they may attend the meetings but not “participate actively.”

A Bible For Evangelicals

Evangelical scholars at a recent two-day conference decided yet another Bible translation is needed. Though sobered by reports on how much toil was needed to produce existing translations, the twenty-six participants held that the project is feasible.

The consensus was that no present English version does justice both to the meaning of Scripture and to the requirements of idiomatic modern English. The Revised Standard Version drew praise for clarity but questions on Christology. The New English Bible, while fresh and idiomatic, was judged too often an interpretation rather than a translation. Previous evangelical versions were found lacking in consistency and style. The new version will not be cast in the King James mold, either.

Dr. Burton L. Goddard of Gordon Divinity School will head a group to name the continuing fifteen-man project directorate. The conference was the result of preliminary work by a joint committee drawn from the National Association of Evangelicals and the Christian Reformed Church.

The Rev. Mrs. Edwards

The Episcopal House of Bishops, at its September meeting, told Bishop James A. Pike of California he could not ordain a woman as a deacon. A “deaconess” was all right, but with more limited duties than those of a deacon.

Pike proceeded to ordain as deaconess Phyllis Edwards, 48, a grandmother who has been active in civil rights causes. Pike said that as a minister she was entitled to be addressed as “the reverend.”

That did it, said the Rt. Rev. Francis W. Lickfield, Bishop of Quincy, Illinois, and president of the “high” American Church Union. “Minister” means “clergyman” to most people, he said, and “an Episcopal deaconess is not an Episcopal clergyman.”

Said Pike in reply, “The Rev. Mrs. Edwards is a minister, a member of the fourth order of the Ministry.” He added that the Roman Catholic Church also has women as ministers.

High And Low

Officials at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary estimate that insurance policies will cover three-fourths of the heavy property damage caused by Hurricane Betsy. Contrary to early reports minimizing the effects of the hurricane, damage estimates now run to two million dollars.

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Class time was drastically curtailed to enable seminary personnel to help in emergency relief work in the community.

The seminary’s 160 buildings have been hit high and low. The hurricane caused extensive roof damage and lower floors were flooded. Two years ago, the seminary had to shore up the foundations of its buildings because of extensive termite damage.

Missionary In The Middle

Neutrality is not enough for the Indonesian goverment. Apparently it wanted missionary Harold Lovestrand, 40, to provide more active support for the central government in its drive to win over inhabitants of West Irian, now part of Indonesia.

There was a separatist uprising recently in the jungle area around Manokwari, where Lovestrand and three others ran a Bible institute for natives sponsored by The Evangelical Alliance Mission.

Lovestrand was taken to Jakarta early last month by the military and put under house arrest. TEAM General Director Vernon Mortenson said that no charges had been filed against the missionary, but that he was considered “too passive” in his support of the central government. The forty TEAM missionaries in West Irian have tried not to get embroiled in the political dispute there, he said.

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