This was the crunch question posed by the Holland visit. The Dutch are not yet ready to cry "uncle." The pope is not going to budge. So the irresistible force met the irremovable obstacle, and Polish determination encountered Dutch stubbornness.
Simonis admitted the difficulties when he said that implementing the synod "is taking longer than we expected."The reason? "Reality teaches us that, measured in human terms, the Holy Spirit does not always work at the same time and in the same way among the shepherds and large sections of the flock."
The conflict would be resolved in the pope's sense if, somehow, priestly vocations emerged. But exaltations and speeches are not likely to produce that result in the near future.
There is wild talk of importing German or Polish priests from across the borders of Holland, or even for calling upon Opus Dei to provide the manpower. The Dutch have had in their history enough experience of Spanish and German occupation to doom any such idea from the outset.
So where do we go from here? The pope has committed himself, used the ultimate deterrent, and the situation remains unchanged. Some Vatican observers say that the pope tried too hard and that he has discredited the papacy by expecting too much of it and exposing it to rebuff.
The alternative is to say the Dutch are merely incorrigible. Take your pick of explanations. What seems certain is that the psychodrama of the Dutch church, far from being a little local affair, concerns all Catholics.
It involves two contrasting views of the church, of the role of the laity in the church and of the interpretation of Vatican II. If that is so, then the pontificate has reached its turning point. □
( March 14, 1986) Representatives of the Brazilian Bishops are meeting in the Vatican March 12-15. The meeting has been presented in an optimistic light. The Brazilians requested it.