“Only bishops can take part in the deliberations,” Bishop Joseph L. Bernardin, general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, reminded newsmen at the first press briefing. But he noted that NCCB president John Cardinal Dearden had just told the 221 prelates attending their semi-annual meeting in Washington, D.C., that priests and lay people had been brought in at various levels. “The levels of collaboration will expand,” Bernardin predicted.

Taking his cue from the Holy Father, Dearden had urged his colleagues to plunge into new arenas of shared authority, just as Pope Paul at the Rome synod a month earlier (see November 21 issue, page 36) had emphasized “the moral and spiritual value which collegiality must take on in each of us.…”

There were evidences during the five-day conference that many in the U. S. hierarchy intended to take their president’s plea seriously. But there also was a swelling counterpoint of dissent, sometimes rising to a shrill pitch, as an unprecedented number of unofficial Catholic (and some non-Catholic) groups clamoring for a medley of special interests tried to get the bishops’ ear.

Before adjournment, six persons had been arrested, a black Methodist minister and his Black United Front cohorts were turned back (in the nick of time) at the huge door guarding the bishops’ secret meeting, a lone priest successfully held a six-hour sit-in for peace while the bishops talked about celibacy and holy days, and the vice-president of the National Association of Laymen screamed an obscenity at two bishops who were attempting to hear out demands of his group.

The Rev. Patrick J. O’Malley, president of the National Federation of ...

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