by Christopher Howse THE BISHOPS of England and Wales, meeting this week in formal conference at Westminster, prepared to launch a campaign of education on sexual morality, including the questions ra7ised by Mrs Gillick's court case on contraception for the under 16s.
Cardinal Hume was expected during the confidential meeting of the English and Welsh hierarchy to distinguish between the moral issues and the court action of Mrs. Gillick.
It is understood that, without wanting to undermine Mrs Gillick's case, Cardinal Hume would have preferred her to consult the bishops earlier in her campaign. But she had in fact written to the Cardinal in 1980 and 1981, without attracting the bishop's attention.
Cardinal Hume met Mrs Gillick for three quarters of an hour on Monday before the bishops' meeting. She also talked with the bishops' conference general secretary, Mgr Vincent Nichols.
Last Thursday, Mrs Gillick met the Pro-Nuncio, Archbishop Bruno Heim who is responsible for keeping Rome in touch with moral issues.
There is a feeling that Mrs Gillick has not won as much support from those involved in the machinery of the Bishops' Conference as she might, because she is not familiar enough with its workings. In short, however good her intentions, she has put some people's backs up.
At the same time, publication of a report by the Social Welfare, Department of contraception and parents' rights to consent to treatment of their children has been held up so that it may be considered by the whole Bishops' Conference. It was to have been published before Easter.
The two other main issues on the bishops' minds thii week were Northern Ireland and Christian Unity.
The bishops were to be invited to consider how an atmosphere could be built up favourable to the success of a political initiative on the Northern Ireland question. Since the Forum report was due -to be published yesterday, the bishops were anxious to make it clear that no one political initiative was being adopted by them. In fact they did not have access to the Forum report until the end of their conference.
The bishops' discussion took its cue from the ideas which Cardinal Hume outlined in his St Patrick's Day sermon in Westminster Cathedral and his speech last Thursday in Dublin. They were also keen to further informal links between the hierarchies of England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
On the unity front, the bishops turned away from the question of membership of the British Council of Churches. That issue has died in the light of proposals from the BCC itself which open it up to a complete change of structure, if this is thought more favourable to the advance of church unity.
Cardinal Hume in Dublin — page 3.