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Pope Tells Bishops Dissent on Doctrine Is Grave Error : Talk Most Significant of His Tour

September 16, 1987|JOHN DART and ROBERT W. STEWART | Times Staff Writers

In a blunt affirmation of Roman Catholic doctrine, Pope John Paul II today told more than 300 American bishops at the historic San Fernando Mission that those who dissent from church teachings on sexual morality, abortion and birth control make a "grave error" if they consider themselves good Catholics.

The Pope began his second day in Los Angeles by flying 20 miles by helicopter from his base at St. Vibiana's Cathedral on Skid Row to the 190-year-old adobe mission in the San Fernando Valley.

In a private meeting, he told the American bishops that "dissent from church doctrine remains what it is, dissent: As such, it may not be proposed or received on an equal footing with the church's authentic teaching."

Response to Bishops' Remarks

In response to remarks by four bishops, including a suggestion by one that an "authoritarian style is counterproductive," the Pope said:

"It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics today do not adhere to the teaching of the church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage.

"Some are reported as not accepting the church's clear position on abortion. It has also been noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the church's moral teachings.

"It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the magisterium is totally compatible with being a good Catholic and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error. . . . "

'Role as Authentic Teachers'

The Pope cautioned the bishops that " . . . We must be especially responsive to our role as authentic teachers of the faith when opinions at variance with the church's teaching are proposed as a basis for pastoral practice."

The Pope's remarks, considered by some to be the most significant theological pronouncement on his 10-day tour of the United States, followed a half-hour prayer service at the mission that began shortly after the pontiff's arrival at 9:10 a.m.

Bishops from throughout the nation, wearing deep pink skull caps and sashes over black cassocks, sat shoulder to shoulder in the mission chapel as the Pope delivered his prayer homily. Later, they adjourned to the nearby Queen of the Angels seminary for the private meeting.

On a nearby street corner, about 100 protesters representing a group known as Women for Change in the Church staged a peaceful demonstration to dramatize their opposition to church doctrine that, among other things, bars the ordination of women as priests.

Receives Serra Concordance

During the prayer service, Los Angeles Archbishop Roger M. Mahony presented the Pope with a Bible concordance, a reference work, that Father Junipero Serra, who established many of California's Franciscan missions, took when he left the island of Majorca for the New World in 1749. (The San Fernando Mission was founded by Fathers Fermin Lasuen and Francisco Dumetz.)

Many California Catholics are promoting Serra for sainthood.

Later, the Pope was to travel to Immaculate Conception School downtown, where he was to meet with the schoolchildren and First Lady Nancy Reagan. He is scheduled to deliver Mass tonight at Dodger Stadium to a crowd that may reach 60,000.

Police reported today that the Pope's visit to the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese has reduced crime. In a city that logs an average of two murders a day, there were no reported killings Tuesday, and police responded to only 3,860 calls for help, compared to 4,725 on Monday, an official said.

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