The World Council of Churches edged closer to Roman Catholicism last month. But the WCC’s Fourth Assembly got embarrassingly sandwiched between a pair of papal pronouncements that stalled doctrinal detente.
Five days before the assembly opened in the tradition-filled university town of Uppsala, Sweden, Pope Paul recited a few traditions of his own. Besides ecumenical beliefs, his “Credo” reaffirmed papal infallibility, transubstantiation, and the immaculate conception and assumption of the Virgin Mary. Paul’s version of ecumenism was the hope that “Christians who are not yet in full communion of the one and only church will one day be returned in one flock with only one shepherd.”
Then nine days after Uppsala closed, Paul produced his long, long awaited decision on birth control. It was a thumping endorsement of traditional bans (see page 41).
Uppsala advocated family planning, though it recognized Eastern Orthodox objections to artificial methods.
If the World Council spoke with difficulty on birth control, it said nothing at all of the momentous liberal changes in Czechoslovakia, or of the ominous response from a Soviet Union fearful its satellites would hurtle completely out of orbit. John Meyendorff, Eastern Orthodox theologian from the United States, said the Orthodox of the Soviet Union and East Europe exercised “a sort of implicit veto power” over mention of freedom of speech and religion in Red lands. A church pronouncement on the delicate Czech situation, however, might have done more harm than good. Washington was equally silent.
Czech churchmen at Uppsala were understandably circumspect. If the liberal evolution succeeds, Czechs may see the Prague-based Christian Peace Conference leaders so prominent in World Council ...1
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