Newspapers across Canada reported Pope John Paul’s firm rejection of demands to relax Church rules on sexual morality on his visit to the Netherlands.
Speaking to students at Amersfoort, Holland, on May 14, he asked students: “Would it be realistic to imagine a Jesus who is indulgent on marital love, abortion, sexual relations before or outside marriage or homosexual relations?” He added: “It would certainly be easier to mouth generalities.” But he said, “The early Christians who were taught by those who had known Jesus personally were certainly not permissive.” Continued the Pope: “The Church’s teaching on marital love, abortion, sexual relations before or outside marriage, or homosexual relations, remain the standard for all time.”
Dutch opposition to traditional Church teaching was expressed most vividly and luridly by thousands of young rockers, bikers, drug addicts, homosexuals and punks doing battle with police, attempting to throw rocks, firecrackers, bottles and smoke bombs at the papal entourage in Utrecht on May 12. (Earlier, posters in Amsterdam had offered a reward for the Pope’s assassination.) Opponents of the Church’s rejection of contraceptives released helium-filled condoms in the air. Others made obscene gestures or exposed themselves obscenely. Homosexuals and lesbians dressed up as priests and nuns.
The outburst could never have taken place except for the prevailing climate of hostility toward traditional Church teaching in areas of faith and morals among middle class Dutch Catholics. As Dutch Cardinal Adrian Simonis put it, this hostility does not simply reflect “two sides” or two faces of Catholicism in the Netherlands, as some would have it. Rather, it represents a confrontation between two kinds of Christianity – believing Christians and secularized Christians.
Dutch dissenters have demanded changes in doctrine and moral teaching for years. Many have stopped waiting, and have adopted the new “morality” and ceased attending Church and practicing their faith. Others, including a good number of clergy, nuns and Church “professionals” (teachers, diocesan and Catholic media staff, pastoral assistants, etc.) disagree with Church teaching but stay in the Church, believing it only a matter of time before the Church will “come to terms” with current sexual behaviour. However, they have been infuriated by the appointment of bishops whose orthodox views directly contradict this perceived shift to compromise and adaptation of faith to secular morality.
Three days before the Pope’s arrival, Catholic dissenters representing more than 100 groups organized a major anti-papal, anti-Rome demonstration in The Hague. This received “respectability” from dissenting theologians such as former Professor Schillebeeckx. Among the demands advocated were the recognition of homosexuality as a legitimate form of love, the right of active homosexuals to receive the sacraments, and the acceptance by the Church of trial marriages and common-law marriages. (Over 50 per cent of new Dutch “marriages” are now common law, registered neither by the Church nor City Hall.)
At one of the meetings with the Pope a woman delegate demanded that the Church endorse unmarried people living together, accept divorced people remarried outside the Church, active homosexuals, married priests and woman priests. (In the eyes of the Church, all these requests are contrary to doctrine, with the exception of married priests which is not a matter of doctrine but Church discipline.)
Dissent is not restricted to Holland but is reflected in many other countries, including Canada. Reporting on the Dutch events Ray Kerrison of The New York Post (May 16) wrote,
The Pope’s problem is easy to see. He is an affront to governments that oppress, a thorn in the conscience of the self-indulgent, a roadblock among his own who seek the permissive way, and a relentless advocate for the poor, the dispossessed, the abandoned, and the hungry.
You go around the world preaching a gospel like that and pretty soon someone will want to lynch you. Hello Holland.
Kerrison went on to say:
Pope-bashing is in. I’m surprised it took so long…Today it seems that legions don’t like what John Paul is saying…they are writing books to defy him, mounting pulpits to set him straight…taking to the streets to assail him…John Paul makes life uncomfortable for too many people…so the critics, including his own house theologians, are coming at him from all sides. But despite them, John Paul probably is still the single greatest moral force at work in the world today.
In Canada the Globe and Mail dismissed the Pope’s precepts. They are unlikely, the paper stated “to be chiseled on the stone of eternity.” (May 16 editorial) “On the rock of ages.” The editorialist concluded:
If the hammering (on the Church door) stops, it will be because the door has been opened or because they (the dissenters) have gone away.
In the latter case, of course, the door would have stayed closed. As Pope John Paul says it will.
Presbyterians condemn embryo experiments, surrogate motherhood
The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland wants all experiments with human embryos stopped, and has condemned surrogate motherhood as demeaning. The Church’s Board of Social Responsibility also said that infertility treatment should be confined to married couples.
The January 1985 stand rejected the British government’s Warnock Committee Report for advocating practices which are based on an understanding of the status of the unborn baby which denies it essential humanity.
“No human being at any stage of his or her development may be treated in a way that violates his/her distinctively human nature and status, or subjects them to being a means to an end, even where the end is the greater health and happiness of other beings.”
Anglicans reject embryo experimentation
In November 1984 a majority of the Church of England’s Board for Social Responsibility endorsed the Warnock Report recommendations that research, under license, be permitted on embryos up to 14 days old. But it also backed the prohibition of creating embryos specifically for research (Universe, November 16). Anglicans for Life pointed out that nobody who believes in the incarnation of the Son of God accepts the supposed right to abortion or allow the use of embryonic human beings to means to an end. In February 1985, the church’s General Synod rejected the Warnock proposal that embryo experiments be permitted. (Life News, Spring/Summer 1985)
U.K. defeats anti-experimentation bill
After three years of intensive lobbying and three months of parliamentary maneuvering (see Interim, April, 1985), the British House of Commons defeated a private member’s bill to prohibit research on live human embryos. Opponents of the bill support medical scientists who demand complete freedom to conduct experiments in genetic engineering (and, of course, the required financing out of taxpayers’ pockets).
The scientists may still not get their wish because the Government will eventually introduce its own law. It remained formally uncommitted in the battle between the pro-life and the pro-abortion groups.