Although it was a hopeless confusion of languages and ambitions from the start, the meeting of Europe’s reformist Roman Catholic priests held at the same time as the official Synod of Bishops in Rome last month was a real slap in the face of the Vatican and the Pope. (A report on the synod will appear in the November 21 issue.) Nothing like the meeting of the European Assembly of Priests had ever happened in the history of the Roman church. But the opportunity for the emergence of a loyal but effective opposition was lost, primarily because of the differing local conditions of the national priests’ delegations, and at least in part because of the poor organization of the priests themselves.

The week-long meeting of the rebel priests, who disclaim such descriptions as “rebel” or “dissident,” ran concurrently with the first week of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, and was the target for ugly pro-Vatican reaction.

The meetings opened on Waldensian (Protestant) Church property, where a group of young Italians calling themselves Traditional Catholics were arrested for throwing a smoke bomb and breaking windows at the church bookstore. As the week progressed, a counter group of “rebels” announced itself. A coalition of various rigidly conservative groups, it took the name Una Voche (One Voice), and its only purpose was to issue denunciations of activities of the priests’ assembly.

Some Una Voche leaders are so conservative in their defense of the Roman church that they are remembered for calling Pope Paul a liberal and accusing him of heresy. The press was not allowed to cover the sessions of Una Voche, and the one newsman who managed to sneak in (he was later thrown out) ...

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