AHODIST theologian has praised the sincerity and immense effort put into the Second Vatican Council and criticised the "false images" of it foisted on the public by clerical and lay reporters.
Dr. Albert C. Outler, professor of theology at Southern Methodist University, has charged that rereporters have described the council's deliberations as a "sort of ecclesiastical horse opera — with good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, dopes and sparklers, a 'Gunsmokc' in StPeter's".
As a result. he said in a speech last week at the meeting of the American Historical Association, many people are now convinced that:the council "has finally bogged down, sabotaged by those villains in the Roman Curia".
These same people think, he continued, "that the will of the majority of the bishops is being thwarted—and may finally be defeated—by the Holy Office; that Pope Paul has turned out to be a Hamlet-like creature. weakly halting before two unwelcome options: To be or not to he a strong Pope."
Dr. Clutter, who is a permanent observer at the ecumenical council, said that in looking upon the Pope he "got the impression not of Hamlet but of a Lincolnone who favours reforms within the Church but is unwilling to impose them".
He said that in the council's first session the late Pope John XXIII had rescued the bishops from a crisis "by a unilateral papal action. I have a notion that Pope Paul would have let the bishops stew in their collegial juices a little longer." he added. "This at least is what he seems to be doing now."
Dr. Outler said reform actually has begun in the Church chiefly as a result of the council's meetings, but he warned that the council is "an incredibly complicated phenomenon, a veritable quicksilver subject for reliable assessment. There is still danger that the whole enterprise may be aborted," he declared.
He noted, however, that the changes already made are greater than could have been anticipated five years ago. The American Catholic Hierarchy -has moved, if not 180 degrees, something better than 60 degrees in its position on the issues involved," he stated.
"Here, then," Dr. Outler continued, "is the council's dilemma: if it hurries, its results are almost certain to be inferior; if it takes the necessary time to ventilate an issue and to revise the schemata often enough, it is scolded for bogging down.
"This is why it seems important to insist that the basic significance in Vatican H is that it is a massive experiment in self-examination and age/onto/nen t