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 ...

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