BY A STAFF REPORTER
CONTROVERSY over the Pope's encyclical on birth control continued unabated this week in spite of the efforts of Church leaders to cool the Si tuation.
On Tuesday a group of laymen announced plans to organise opposition to the Papal ruling. In a letter to the Guardian they said: "We strongly urge clergy not to court suspension by making individual public statements in defiance of their bishop, but instead to send a brief statement of their views to the undersigned Roman Catholic laymen who will see to it that they are published in a suitable form without attribution."
The letter was signed by Professor A. H. Armstrong, Professor of Greek, I.iverpool University; Mr. Ronald Brech, economist and organiser of the "New Pentecost"; Mr. Robert Nowell, editor of Herder Correspondence: Dr. Oliver Pratt, past-president of the Newman Association; Mr, Anthony Spencer, sociologist; Mr. Theo Westow, writer; Mr. Peter Worden, businessman.
The signatories asked for all letters to be sent to them at Flat 10, 4 Stanhope Road, London, N.6.
Two leading theologians, Fr. Peter Harris and Fr. Stephen Hinde, of St. John's Seminary, Wonersh, near Guildford. Surrey, said suspension and the like would not bring peace to the Church; only bitterness and division. "Please God the bishops will accept their responsibility in this matter. Otherwise the (Vatican) Council remains so much paper, and the ecclesia will no longer visibly be the People of God. "The consensus of the Church represented by Vatican If is of immensely greater significance than the Papal encr clical. This latter seems to have rendered nearly incredible the doctrine of collegiality of bishops, especially when we remember that this vital question was withdrawn by the Pope from the discussions of the Council and transferred to a special commission.
"This doctrine of collegiality declares the corporate responsibility of bishops for matters which affect the Church as a whole. And this means, if dialogue means anything at all, that in the first • place the bishops must listen to the reaction of the whole Church to a crisis such as the present one.
"If our bishops are going to fulfil the responsibility they accepted in putting their placets to the decree on the Church, they must without delay represent to the Pope, whether they themselves are of this mind or not, the position of great numbers of people and priests who cannot in conscience accept the Pope's decision as a credible expression of the mind of the Church. This they must do under pain of infidelity to their pastoral office in this country."
were reported to have publicly disagreed with the encyclical in their sermons, Hartlepool, Co. Durham: Fr. P. J. Fitzpatrick told his congregation that in the past he had carefully examined the various reasoned arguments put forward in favour of the standard teaching on birth control and had found them inadequate. "I stand by the advice I gave. I do not retract it or modify it," he said.
Fr. Fitzpatrick appealed for charity. "How tragic it is that the great renewal of life in the Church has been flawed and soured by so much unkindness, even malice at times," he said. "Here, in this moment of crisis, let us resolve to keep back the words that come so easily and that taste so bitter."
Liverpool: Fr. Kevin Maguire, curate at St. Mary's, Highfield Street, said: "If your conscience and common sense suggest that you should use any method of contraception, then you remain free to do so and to remain within the Church."
London: Mgr. Anthony Reynolds of the Precious Blood Church, Borough. launched a week of prayer with the intention that the Pope would think again about his ban on contraceptives.
Burnham, Bucks: The three priests of the Parish of Our Lady of Peace, Fr. David Woodard, Fr, Nicholas Lash, Fr. Patrick McDermott, wrote a joint sermon expressing disappointment at the encyclical.
Coombe Down, Bath: Fr. Graham Langford said that he would not advise a married couple against contraception if they had conscientiously decided that they must in difficult circumstances.
Acomb, York: Fr. John Murphy said he would accept the ruling only to maintain the discipline of the Church. "Personally, I am prepared to subject my own private opinion to the magisterium of the Church. This I do solely for the general discipline of the Church, and it in no way changes my continued sympathy for individual penitents in confession who might reasonably find this problem insurmountable," he said.
Petersfield, Hampshire: Fr. Henry Clarke of St. Laurence Church, said the Pope's ruling Was a "disaster that has put the Church back by years. I was a coward not to speak out about this at Mass on Sunday. But now I have blown my top. I feel relieved in my conscience."
Letters continued to appear from priests in The Times. Fr. Thomas McGoldrick, Chaplain to the University of Liverpool, called on the Pope *c convene immediatel!, a General Council of the Church to discuss the question of con traception.
Fr. Peter de Rosa, VicePrincipal of Corpus Christi College of Religious Education, London, said: "I have a deep, personal regard for Pope Paul as well as a reverence for his office. His recent encyclical, however, is in my view more distressing than Mirari Vos of Gregory XVI in 1832, in which the guarantee of liberty of conscience to all was described as sheer madness."
The Pope was not an illiberal man, Fr. de Rosa continued, but truth for him essentially entailed repetition of statements of his predecessors. "Growth in man's historical self-understanding is, for him, a deplorable relativism."
A Carmelite, Fr. Brocard Sewell, said: "The publication of the encyclical letter Hurnanae Vitae shows, if nothing else, that the Orthodox and other Eastern Churches are fully justified in their mistrust of the papal office as it has developed over the centuries since the Great Schism."
Dom Sebastian Moore, 0.S.B., called the Catholic prohibition on birth control "a piece of reasoning that is odd in the extreme." Another priest, Fr. Richard Incledon, Chaplain to Cambridge University, said he intended to continue to advise people to form their own consciences on the question of contraception.
But Fr. G. H. Duggan of St. Anne's Parish, East London, said that he agreed with The Times' editorial comment that there "may be more support for the Pope's decision among the body of faithful Catholics than has yet become apparent" The surmise was well-founded, he said, "for during the past four years conservative theologians, who are more numerous than one might gather from the newspaper re ports, have acceded to the Pope's request to refrain from public debate on this issue."
Fr. Columba Ryan, 0.P., called for "unimpassioned and quietly argued discussion" among Christians, "backed by prayer and a spirit of respect ,
for those with whom they may disagree; certainly not personal ccuutions neither °remised affirmations of solider itY with authority nor publix movements of protest, neither rhetorical loyalty nor defiant gestures. The rri
atter at issue
is too deeply c..erious for that."
"FEARLESS DEFENCE" Mgr. John Barton, English Consultor to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, said that Rome had frequently won adherents by her fearless defence of the traditional Catholic doctrine. "I have no use for a Church which is not a Church militant, which cannot order battle and fall in line, and march in the same direction," he concluded his letter.
Diocesan authorities appeared to be reluctant to censure priests who criticised the encyclical. Southwark's Vicar-General, Mgr. Hubert Gibney, told one dissident, Fr. Paul Weir of St. Ceiba's, North Cheam, Surrey, that he was barred from hearing confessions or preaching.
But although at least one other priest has discussed his stand with his bishop there are no reports of action against those icieywho have spoken out According to an opinion poll published in the Sunday Times, one in five Catholics in Britain firmly support the Pope's en cyclical. Three in five Catholics using the pill will continue to do so in spite of the ruling and 49 per tent think that those who use contraception should receive absolution, 28 per cent thought they should not and 22 per cent did not know.
Criticism from priests appeared to increase during the week. On Sunday several