From Alan McElwain in Rome
ROME, Monday TN an "action at last" atmos
phere, Pope Paul's special Birth Control Commission opened a vital plenary session in Rome today. Presiding is Cardinal Heenan.
Fifty members of the original 57-member commission are at the present session. In a few days, they will be joined by the 16 Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, and two other experts the Pope added to the Commission last March.
Cardinal Ottaviani, controversial head of the Vatican Doctrinal Congregation, is head of this group. Acting as a "pilot" body, it will go over the original Commission's work of the last two years and then submit a report upon which Pope Paul can finally act. It will then be a question of how long the Pope requires to decide upon the solemn form of his declaration to the world.
The Commission has been given until the end of this month to complete its work. It was originally set up by Pope Paul on June 24, 1964, to study and report to him on artificial contraceptive devices — long banned by the church—population, and all aspects of 20th century family life.
There is still disagreement among the theologians, psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, family planning experts, medical specialists and others on specific details, as there has been since the Commission first got down to business in 1964.
There is, however, no deadlock over what can actually be reported to the Pope, and no new difficulties have arisen to further complicate the present session.
Appeal by 500
No one on the Commission will speculate, publicly at any rate, on what definite line Pope Paul will take, nor on when he is likely to make his pronouncement. He has, however, urged the Commission more than once to complete its deliberations and is therefore not likely to delay his own action for too long.
Meantime the birth control appeal addressed to the Pope and the Archbishops by 500 Catholic lay people from 18 different countries is being "thoroughly studied like other similar documents", Vatican sources said this week.
[Full report, page 3]