I am not much given to commenting on Roman Catholic affairs. Few, if any, religious bodies are so unaware of internal problems that they welcome sidewalk superintendents. It is increasingly clear, however, that the Roman church is convulsed with revolt against authority and faces a tumultuous future in the rest of the twentieth century.
The Pope commands well over a million ecclesiastics—more than 430,000 priests and 600,000 members of religious orders. The controversy now raging over priestly celibacy has left few of these world-flung legions untouched. Half the lay Christians in the world are Roman Catholic. For a vast multitude of these, the controversy over birth control has nurtured unabashed disagreement with the Pope; whatever their theoretical convictions about papal authority may be, their private practice in this area of living implies a forthright rejection of papal directives.
If Protestants, as someone has said, do not know what to do with an infallible pope, Roman Catholics do not know what to do with a fallible one. In the matter of birth control the Pope in no sense presumes to speak infallibly; he gives counsel, rather, as the shepherd of his flock, counsel that the Vatican contends must be obeyed by those desiring a good conscience. But identifying good conscience with papal conformity in an area where the Pope does not speak infallibly, and where many Catholics think he has not spoken wisely, is the point at issue.
Neo-Protestant ecumenism has long dreamed of one World Church to erase the division of the Protestant Reformation and annul the divorce between Eastern and Latin churches. Pursuing Rome much more energetically than evangelical Protestants, the ecumenists included Orthodox churches in the framework ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more