Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

The third astonishing feature of the Schotte report is that although "fidelity to the tradition of the church and the teaching of John Paul II" is presented as the criterion of sound doctrine, what John Paul II's teaching is on the matter is nowhere made clear.

What makes this -- evidently premeditated -- absence of the pope from the discussion even more astonishing is that his own position was discussed and regarded as of vital importance. So the absurd situation was reached in which Cardinal Agostino Casaroli filled the gap by offering "a personal commentary" on the June 11, 1982, U.N. message.

"He did so," the Schotte report explains, "not as an authorized interpreter of the Holy Father's statement, but on the basis of his knowledge of the text and context of that message." So he was not wiser than anyone else. He was placed in the unenviable position of having to "deduce" what papal teaching might be and hedged it with cautious qualifications: "this was doubtless in the thought of the Holy Father," etc.

This seems a rather odd way of doing things. It is as though John Paul set the bishops a difficult riddle, then left them to speculate about what it might mean. No doubt it will be said this was done to leave the bishops free to make up their own minds.

But no such inhibitions were apparent in the Dutch synod. In any case, although the U.S. bishops were not worsted in arguments -- they stated their case well, and the countercase was merely set in parallel against it -- they then returned home to modify their pastoral according to what they had heard in Rome.

So the secret meeting in Rome raised without resolving questions on the morality of nuclear war. But its deeper significance is ecclesiological. What price collegiality now? And how can doctrine develop? □


28
'Spiritual defiance' infuses pope's Poland visit

( July 1, 1983) Just before the papal visit to Poland, Cardinal Józef Glemp gave an interview to an Italian weekly, Il Sabato. He said

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