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 ...1
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