While the Pope was traveling in Western Europe, I was traveling in Western Canada – the security was not quite as tight! I was moving even faster than the Holy Father so I could follow his ”progress” in different local newspapers.

The style of reporting was, of course, a little varied but there was a common denominator – the use of such adjectives as “conservative,” “traditionalist,” “unyielding,” etc. And, of course, the word ”Polish” was often added – as if to suggest that a pope of another more up-to-date nationality (Canadian or American, for instance) would bow down to the pressures of modern society and declare that the “traditionalist,” “conservative,” “unyielding” teaching of the Catholic Church on basic moral questions was now obsolete and would be changed officially as soon as the pope got back to Rome.

On the rock of ages

But, all of the articles I read on the Pope’s tour of the Netherlands, I think an editorial in The Globe and Mail (May 16) was the most spineless and illogical. It also completely lacked a sense of history. Under the title of “On the rock of ages,” the writer seemed to by saying that, while there are really no eternal verities – all is change, revolution, upheaval, etc. – it would be nice if there were a few anchors to hold on to. But there are none and the Pope should change the teaching of his Church which is based on century-old traditions.

To quote just one example, the editorialist states, “The Pope maintained that the Church’s opposition to promiscuity, homosexuality, birth control and abortion is fixed forever, and forever is a very long time.” What the writer is really saying is that morality should by decided by vote.

Down the slippery slope

Let’s take one example from history. In 1908, the Lambeth Conference of the Bishops of the Church of England denounced “the use of all artificial means of restrictions of the family.  In 1930, the Conference declared that, “where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood – the primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse.” But if there was morally-sound reasoning for avoiding abstinence, “the Conference agrees that other methods be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles.”

At the Conference of 1958, a resolution was passed, stating that the responsibility for the number of children was laid on the conscience of the parents. Ten years later, in 1968, the Conference considered a Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae, and disagreed with the Pope (Paul VI).

In 1973, the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of England supported the Humanist campaign for a free family planning service for all, irrespective of marital status and regardless of age.

The following year, in 1974, the British Department of Health issued a memorandum of guidance to doctors. This states, “Parents of a child are not to be contacted – regarding the provision of contraceptives – without the child’s permission.”

I mention these facts of recent history to show what happens when there is no strong voice to defend traditional morals. The Church of England had obviously kept in step with the deteriorating morals of English society and had voted accordingly. That is far from spiritual leadership!

An excellent letter

In reply to the sad editorial to which I have referred, a gentleman named David H. Martin wrote to The Globe and Mail which succinctly summed up the situation.

Here is what the Globe printed (May 27) in their Letters to the Editor column. “If the Church, in her first centuries, had followed your prescription for institutional success – consulting opinion polls and striving anxiously to read the sociological currents of the times, instead of humbly following her Master, she would not have confronted the Roman world but adapted to it and would today, no doubt, be a footnote in history, a strange sect known only to antiquarians.”

Man’s search for meaning

The Viennese psychiatrist, Victor Frankel, survivor of a Nazi concentration camp and author of the much-read book, Man’s Search for Meaning, once observed that, “man has an infinite capacity for deceiving himself.” He/she sure has!

And that is why the world needs John Paul II, who has the courage and tenacity to withstand the winds and waves in which we live, move and have our being. We need this man of rock-like quality who, when all the verbal brickbats have bounced off him, can stand before the “ranting of the mindless mob” (a quote from The Globe and Mail) and calmly but firmly restate the traditional position of his Church on basic morals: this is the way that it has been; this is the way it is; this is the way it will be. Long may he reign!