“Priestly celibacy is but a tree which hides the forest of other questions facing the Synod of Bishops.” That, at least, was the running evaluation of Archbishop Roger Etchegaray of Marseilles, France, only a couple of days after the third General Synod of Catholic Bishops tried to refocus its attention on some of these other problems.
For many of the 210 delegates from around the world, however, the job of retraining the eyes was not easy. The trees kept looming up so that it was a bit difficult to make out the forest.
About halfway through the month-long meeting in Vatican City, there indeed appeared to be a formidable body of opinion—though by no means a majority feeling—that in many parts of the world priestly celibacy is undeniably one of the root problems facing the Catholic Church. Yet it became quite apparent to observers from most of Europe’s major newspapers and a handful of American publications that the best the bishops could hope for at this time was a better vantage point than they had had before the synod.
To the outsider, the church seemed in need of some major decisions. Spanish and Italian delegates put strong emphasis on proclaiming the evangelical counsels of the church. It takes too much time, they say, to administer the sacraments to the faithful; not enough time is devoted to preaching. Most Latin Americans echoed this concern, but from a different stance. They don’t have enough priestly manpower to administer the sacraments, let alone preach the Word.
Although there was no evidence that any of the bishops mentioned the fact (much of the discussion is lost because newsmen are excluded and the briefings are necessarily scant), it is known there is considerable concern over the impressive inroads that Protestants, particularly Pentecostals, have made in the last five years in the Latin American countries. A shortage of manpower doesn’t help to keep the loosely knit flock together.
Latin America, once a bastion of the most conservative Catholic fidelity, now gives the appearance of becoming the most progressive, at least in the matter of ordaining married men into the priesthood.
Many Latin bishops and priests would welcome help. This points fairly strongly toward redistributing the church’s 351,000 priests, admitting married men to the priesthood, accelerating the permanent deacon program (which allows a man to be married), or permitting laymen to have a bigger role in the ministry of the church.
In regard to the priest-and-politics issue looming in Latin America, American bishops and delegates from a number of other conferences seemed to think strongly that priests might do well to groom laymen for the political foray instead of injecting themselves directly into it. John Cardinal Dearden of Detroit, until the middle of next month president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that for a priest to enter politics brings division in the church and in the political jurisdiction and invites rupturing questions about the church itself.
When newsmen asked him how he thought the church should go about helping to bring justice to the world, he cited Pakistan as an example: “I don’t believe we should tell that government it should do this or that. What concerns me is that I saw millions of people suffering and starving over there. That is the question the church should address itself to.”
Some delegates went further: Get things in order with the church first, and then go out and preach justice in the world.
Archbishop Teopisto Alberto of the Philippines set the tone for this when he gave the opening summary of the synod paper titled “Justice in the World,” first delivered in rough form last March. His first salvo concerned church property. Is it always administered “as the patrimony of the poor”? he asked. “Does it not rather at times result in an accumulation of wealth that causes identification of the church with the rich and the powerful, while reducing her credibility when she does speak out against injustice and promote justice?”
And what about the wages the church pays those who work fulltime for it? He said the church in many areas has been notoriously laggard in offering religious workers fair compensation, good working conditions, and a voice in things that concern them. To preach justice along these lines while perpetuating the same ills within the church gives preaching a hollow ring, he said.
What, then, about preaching freedom of speech in the world and then stifling those who speak out within the church? he asked. And what about the judicial processes, or lack of them, within the church? This, he said, is the place to begin the march against injustice.
Marseilles’s Etchegaray might have been seeing something many of the other delegates didn’t, but there can be little doubt that the Catholic Church needs to take a much longer look at the wellbeing of the priesthood.
While some of the priests may have led the church into the woods in the first place, Pope Paul and the bishops still need these men to lead the church out.
Nobody Was Teed Off
The ecumenical movement is up to par in Gloversville, New York, where an “Ecumenical Open” golf tournament for clergymen of all faiths has been in operation for the past five years.
The annual one-day tournament at the nine-hole Holiday Golf Club recently drew fifty-eight swinging clerics—some from as far as Ohio—to the upstate links. The tourney was begun in 1967 by links owner Scott Marozan in gratitude for the visits and prayers he received from area ministers when he was hospitalized after a stroke.
This year’s tournament was won by Eastern Baptist seminarian James M. Dunn; winners walked off with $1,800 in prizes. But the big prize, according to the Reverend William Jillisky, editor of the Catholic weekly of the Albany Diocese and a participant, was ecumenical understanding: “Pastors who golf together, pray together, and live in community together … make ecumenism come alive.… These putting pastors … smoothed over a lot of rough spots.”
Some of the tournament “rules”: no theological debate for gospel swingers; no blessing themselves before a putt; no preaching to one another on how to improve their swing. Further, they were not even to whisper “darn” when they missed the ball or hooked it into the woods.
Religion In Transit
In a one-week blitz crusade of El Paso, Texas, evangelist Richard Hogue and team registered 830 decisions for Christ in the Spiritual Revolution Now (SPIRENO) campaign; 300 converts were baptized at Mt. View Baptist Church … Another SPIRENO crusade at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker, Georgia, netted 810 converted and a total of 1,140 decisions in all. Nightly attendance averaged 2,500.
An evangelistic crusade by Freddie Gage at First Baptist Church in Hobbs, New Mexico, broke two state records—the largest number of baptisms in a single year (307), and the largest Sunday-school attendance (1,577). There were 130 professions of faith.
The October 7 chapel period at Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia, became a seven-hour prayer and praise marathon, a revival similar to ones that have erupted at other Christian colleges in recent months, but said to be the first for the EMC campus.
Hip disc jockey Scott Ross has received the award for the best syndicated rock show in a religious category by the fourth annual Billboard Radio Programming Forum in Chicago; the popular Jesus-music and commentary show is on fifty stations in North and South America.
A regular credit course in major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) has been authorized for the high schools of Ontario. Meanwhile, on Canada’s west coast, British Columbia school trustees turned down a proposal to replace religious exercises with a course on world religions. They also rejected a resolution that would have ended all religious exercises in the province’s schools.
Dallas’s First Presbyterian Church has traded its Sunday-evening worship service for a dinner theater; the first production is an adaptation of My Fair Lady. Writers and dramatists—not preachers—have been society’s real prophets, says pastor Thomas A. Fry, Jr.
The Chicago Noise Pollution Board made pastor Warren Mueller silence the chimes of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ after several complaints. The case, which is still unsettled, could set a bell-ringing precedent. Mueller has history on his side: “How long have church bells been ringing in the world?” he asks.
Fearing that its passage would turn California into a Sodom and Gomorrah, the state’s assembly rejected a bill that would have legalized all sexual conduct between consenting adults.
The revised study of Genesis for the Southern Baptist Broadman Bible Commentary will be written by Clyde T. Francisco, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. The earlier work, by another author, was considered “too liberal” by the SBC.
The Reverend David Mains, pastor of Circle Church, Chicago, has been chosen for an Outstanding Young Men of America award for his preaching and innovative work in the inner-city church.
Sister Pauline Krismanich, I.H.M., secretary-bookkeeper for La Casa community in Montecito, California, is a Jesus freak—of sorts. The personalized license plates on her new Pinto say “4 JESUS.”
Metropolitan Nikodim, head of foreign affairs for the Russian Orthodox Church, is the new president of the Prague-based Christian Peace Conference.
An American Indian has been elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church, reportedly for the first time. Suffragan of the South Dakota diocese is the Reverend Harold S. Jones, 61, of Good Shepherd Mission, Fort Defiance, Arizona.
RUSSELL HORSBURGH, 53, United Church of Canada minister, suspended in 1965 from the ministry following a highly publicized conviction and imprisonment on moral charges, but reinstated in 1971 after an appeals court quashed the conviction; of cancer in Toronto.
CARL HILMER STILLER, 61, general secretary-treasurer since 1966 of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada; in Toronto.
CHARLES L. WARREN, 59, a United Methodist clergyman and executive director of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington, D. C.; of cancer in Washington.
J. Lawrence Burkholder, a Mennonite and former professor in the Department of the Church at Harvard Divinity School, was inaugurated as the tenth president of Goshen (Indiana) College last month … Howard H. Clark, former primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has been named the eighth chancellor of Trinity College, an Anglican theological school in Toronto.
Marvin Smith, 35, the first missionary to represent the Navigators in New Zealand and in Australia, will pioneer a ministry among Ethiopian university students next year.
Johnny Ervin, 103, who every day mows several lawns and bicycles about fifteen miles, denies that physical exercise is the key to his longevity. “Servin’ the Lord and goin’ to church is the secret of my long life. I plan to live as long as the Master lets me, and that’s a long time yet,” says the Texan, who took his sixth wife last Christmas and has fifty-nine children.
World Vision International is constructing a hospital in Cambodia, the organization’s largest project. President W. Stanley Mooneyham said 36 per cent of the country’s medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed since the Indochina war began.
Britain’s Communist party membership has over the past two years decreased by 1,804 and now stands at 28,803. A further decline in local government representation shows that there are now only forty-six councillors throughout the whole country. Though the party is under no restriction in Britain, the Westminster Parliament has had no Communist member for many years.
The Evangelical Church in (West) Germany (EKID) has formed a conservative group called the Conference of the Confessing Movements in Germany as a result of continued controversy between opposing liberal and conservative theological views within German Protestantism. Chief peeves of the new group are “liberal theological traditions” of some German universities and alleged “falsification of the Gospel” by modernists.
A new $616,000 Salvation Army social-service center for the homeless and needy is on the site of founder General William Booth’s birthplace—12 Notintone Place, Nottingham, England.
Confucius is now belittled in China, and his shrines ransacked, according to the National Geographic Society. Stressing the ethical responsibility of individuals, his teachings undermine authoritarian government. Confucianism has virtually been the base for all education in China since 200 B.C.
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