Strife often seems a way of life for Protestants. But lately they’ve been on unaccustomed sidelines watching America’s Roman Catholics wrestle with new furies unleashed by Vatican Council II.

The council stirred up the present ferment in several ways. Liberals have a new boldness in challenging the church establishment. Conservatives claim the same freedom to lament the council’s effects. And the liberal spirit has opened up discussions in private and a thorough airing of them in public.

Consider these strange results in recent weeks:

• The nation’s first university teachers’ strike occurred not at bombastic Berkeley but at St. John’s University in New York City, largest Catholic college in America (13, 000 students at two campuses). The strike was not just a labor dispute over mass faculty firings but a revolt against the whole design of Catholic higher education.

• A decade after John Courtney Murray was muffled in private for ecumenical wandering, Ave Maria, a weekly of the Congregation of Holy Cross, published eleven hard-hitting case histories of latter-day “silenced priests.” Most were reassigned or restricted because of pacifist and civil rights activities.

• In the most celebrated silencing, Daniel Berrigan, a pacifist Jesuit, was subtly sent to South America for three months of journalistic penance on the eve of a big pacifist meeting, and after David Miller, one of his proteges, started the draft-card burning craze. The Berrigan case inspired an unprecedented uproar, with heated diatribes, newspaper ads, and pickets at Cardinal Spellman’s office.

• Another silenced priest broke his silence and announced resurgence of the Catholic Traditionalist Movement he founded. The Rev. Gommar A. DePauw became the new spokesman for Catholic fundamentalists who oppose the “Protestantizing” of the church after Vatican II, and managed to draw three cardinals into an international dispute over who was responsible for his revolt to the right.

Then there were a bishop and priest trading verbal blows during the strike by California grape-pickers and perennial conscientious objection on subjects like birth control. (A high French churchman flatly rejected church teaching in a recent Paris radio program.)

In Mendoza, Argentina, twenty-seven progressive priests have quit diocesan offices, and a spokesman says they won’t return until Archbishop Alfonso Buteler, 75, implements Vatican II reforms.

The St. John’s fuss had been in the making since March, but for some reason the administration brusquely dumped 31 of its 510 teachers in mid-semester. Ten of those fired during the Christmas holiday were later allowed to teach through June.

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In retaliation, the United Federation of College Teachers, whose local chapter is headed by the ousted Rev. Peter O’Reilly, called a strike of the non-fired teachers. Some students also boycotted classes in sympathy when the vacation period ended last month. The two sides varied widely on how many people stayed away.

The school executives have been remarkably uncommunicative through the furor, but apparently they considered some of the teachers incompetent and others guilty of insubordination and unprofessional conduct. Teachers had been seeking fixed tenure, union recognition, higher salaries, and a role in running the university.

Despite some recent concessions to these complaints, the university is under investigation by the American Association of University Professors (which could censure the school) and the city labor department. The National Labor Relations Board refused to get involved because St. John’s is a non commercial employer.

Most of the dismissed teachers are laymen, although one is Msgr. John G. Clancy, formerly of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

One of the loudest dissidents is a former philosophy professor, Dr. Rosemary Latter, who was once demoted for criticizing Thomas Aquinas, for centuries the honorary clean of Catholic colleges. She contends that “the Catholic Church, or any other church, ought not to operate a university,” because it seeks to propagate dogma. She sees this as the wave of the future for Catholic colleges and points out that most Protestant ones have already made the break. O’Reilly, less extreme, regrets that the church often reduces universities to “indoctrination centers.”

While intellectual liberals seek no-holds-barred education, conservatives are also vocal. DePauw’s group is the most tangible expression of grass-roots discontent over church changes, particularly over what he calls “hootenanny liturgy,” “ecumania,” services attended by both Catholics and Protestants, and “indifferentism”—the idea that Protestant-Catholic differences aren’t significant. He supports the Vatican II documents but says they have been distorted by liberal Catholic journalists and theologians.

Although DePauw is the only priest in the movement, he claims support from thirty bishops and a top Vatican official (unnamed) as well as a vast majority of Catholic laymen.

When he announced plans to open a New York office last month, the 47-year-old Belgian said Cardinal Ottaviani, leader of arch-conservatives at Vatican II, had arranged to transfer him from the jurisdiction of Baltimore’s Cardinal Shehan to that of an Italian bishop. That bishop said Cardinal Spellman had asked help for DePauw. Spellman denied this and said he doesn’t want the Catholic Traditionalist Movement in New York. Meanwhile, Shehan’s office said it has no word of any transfer.

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A previous DePauw-Shehan struggle is one of Ave Maria’s eleven cases. Several other disputes involve agitation against Los Angeles’s James Francis Cardinal McIntyre for conservative racial policies. Other cases affected priests active in civil rights in Cambridge, Maryland; Selma, Alabama; Albany, New York; and Milwaukee (see November 5, 1965, issue, page 56).

But Daniel Berrigan overshadows them all. The publicity is natural, with the interest in Viet Nam issues and Berrigan’s visibility as one of the handful of Catholic pacifists. Also, his equally pacifist brother Philip had been moved from a seminary post to a city parish last April and told to keep quiet about Viet Nam.

When the Lutheran co-chairman of Clergy Concerned About Viet Nam, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, revealed that Berrigan had been told to quit the organization, Berrigan was discovered at Georgetown University preparing for a three-month assignment in Latin America for Jesuit Missions magazine, of which he is associate editor, and unwilling to say anything. The hurricane of commentary and the unprecedented picketing of Spellman followed. The Rev. Robert W. Gleason of Fordham University said bitterly. “The real issue in this vicious, totalitarian act is: Is it still possible for a committed Christian to remain in the Roman Catholic Church?”

More temperate reactions constitute a serious reconsideration of the role of obedience in the church. Among issues raised: During Rome’s current transition, should a priest obey a Vatican document or an unreconstructed superior if they conflict? Is the hierarchy afraid those involved in social action may step on the toes of well-heeled contributors? How great is the “psychological distance” between a bishop and a slum priest?

Germany: Tax Tremor

West Germany’s Constitutional Court has overthrown a part of the government’s collection of taxes for churches. The court said that a husband who is either an atheist or a member of a church other than the major Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism need not pay the church tax if his wife has no income. The church levy is estimated at $600 million a year, the biggest source of income for the major churches.

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Separation of church and state, made a constitutional principle in Germany in 1919, has not been followed strictly in West Germany. In officially atheistic East Germany the church tax was abandoned years ago.

Scotland: Kirk Secrecy

In Scotland, one popular daily can always be certain of boosting its circulation by a dire warning calculated to alarm the country. One day last month it nudged Rhodesia and Viet Nam off the front page with the headline, “BISHOPSagain:SECRET PLOT.”

Other papers related less emotionally that conversations had been resumed between Presbyterians and Anglicans working toward a United Church in Scotland.

An official joint statement said: “Originally it was anticipated that the full conference would meet again in September 1966, but … it was agreed that, over large areas of doctrine, sufficient agreement had been reached for the full conference to come together in January.” A previous “Bishops Report,” which advocated church union featuring bishops-in-presbytery, had been rejected by the Scottish General Assembly in 1959.

Plot or not, secrecy did surround the meetings, a fact bitterly criticized by some Church of Scotland ministers. One presbytery moderator declared, “If the linen cannot be washed in public, it is not clean.”

Another critic was John Knox’s current successor at historic St. Giles’ Kirk, Dr. Harry Whitley (who was once described by an ecumenically minded colleague as “the greatest single non-theological factor in church disunity”). Commenting on a reported scheme to give the Kirk bishops, Whitley described it as “verging on the arrogant, because it discredits the entire ministry of the Church of Scotland.” Progress was not possible, he averred, until things were “done in the open.”

The Kirk-owned British Weekly scoffed at the suggestion that bishops are to be “foisted” on the Presbyterian establishment, and pointed out existing safeguards against precipitate action.

It seems clear, however, that the emphasis on secrecy has boomeranged. Conference officials were acutely embarrassed that the contents of a “private and confidential document should have got into the possession of a newspaper at whose hands bishops have in the past received rather less than sympathetic treatment.” This document put forward for discussion a scheme that would irrevocably give the Kirk bishops who alone could ordain future ministers.

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Given the Anglican view, the basic question between the two denominations appears to be simple: On what terms will the Scots accept bishops? For better or worse, Scottish reaction has changed very little from that of John Davidson four centuries ago: “Busk [dress] him, busk him as bonnilie as ye can … we see the horns of his mitre.”


Worldly Laymen In Chicago

“God calls all men and women to committed witness and action in all the dimensions of our daily lives. We live in the world, and we are in no way separated from it. We must work out our ministry in the structures of everyday experience, at work and at leisure, in family and neighborhood relationships, as buyers and consumers, and as politically responsible citizens.”

Thus begins a “message” from the mid-January Conference on the Ministry of the Laity in the World, convened in Chicago by the National and Canadian Councils of Churches. A secular citified ideology was evident throughout the meeting, which set forth the “new layman” in his ministry as a man of the world and a secular leader in the Church.

The convention of 450 delegates (85 per cent laymen) was the second of its kind. The first, in Buffalo, New York, in 1952, studied “the Christian and his daily work.”

Diverse views became apparent during voting on the message at the final session. The incident began when a motion was made to change this sentence: “We urge that the churches, without delay, take the necessary steps to make their membership open to all men, regardless of ethnic, racial or economic status.”

The proposed amendment, which did not pass, would have inserted a phrase: “… to make their membership open to all who accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, regardless …”

A spokesman for the Message Committee quickly said that the intent of the sentence was not to point to religious issues but to indicate the Church’s opposition to prejudice. He did not offer a conditioning clause to demonstrate the need for prospective members to agree with church doctrine.

Earlier, Dr. Hans H. Walz, general secretary of the German Kirchentag, a laymen’s movement, expressed the mood of the conference, saying Christian faith and the secular world are partners in a common effort. Christians, he asserted, are “called to understand the nature and change of this society” and must face the ministry of the laity as the ecumenical obligation and promise of our age.

Surveying developments in the Roman Catholic laity, Dr. Martin H. Work, executive director of the National Council of Catholic Men, contended the second Vatican Council made laymen as responsible for the Church’s well-being as clergymen, regardless of their church rank.

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He said the layman is now at the center of the universal church. By virtue of this “first specific legacy” of Vatican II, he said, “laymen must use their knowledge, competence, or outstanding ability” to express their opinions on things that affect the good of the church.

Bishop Stephen F. Bayne, Jr., first vice-president of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, said laymen must discover “what God is doing in the world,” “identify with his purpose,” and serve the world rather than the institutional church.

Focusing on the social consequences of revolutions in education, Dr. Glenn A. Olds, executive dean of the State University of New York, said ministering laymen should resist the deepest “segregation—that of the sacred and secular, idea and action, belief and life.” The current revolution in higher education has turned the traditional values upside down, he suggested. It has inverted the Hebraic-Christian views of life and learning, necessitating a new science of values.

Dr. Richard Fagley, executive secretary of the World Council of Churches’ international affairs commission, further urged Christians to scrap static ideas and become personally involved in the continuing revolution in matters of war and peace. He described tensions between North and South and between East and West.


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