These are excerpts from addresses by four U.S. Roman Catholic bishops and Pope John Paul II's response on Wednesday in Los Angeles:
Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago:
It is . . . important to know that many Americans, given the freedom they have enjoyed for more than two centuries, almost instinctively react negatively when they are told that they must do something, even though in their hearts they may know they should do it. As a result, the impression is sometimes given that there is a certain rebelliousness in many American Catholics, that they want to "go it alone. . . ."
The practical question that must be addressed today . . . is how to maintain our unity while affirming the diversity in the local realizations of the church; how to discern a proper balance between freedom and order. . . .
We must be able to speak with one another in complete candor, without fear. This applies to our exchanges with the Holy See as well as among ourselves as bishops. . . .
In such a mutual exchange--conducted with objectivity, honesty, and openness--we can discern what will truly enhance the church's unity and what will weaken or destroy it. . . .
Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco:
We accept the great transcendent moral imperatives of the Gospel and the church's perennial teaching. We recognize our grave obligation to teach courageously and bear witness to the whole, and not just part, of the Gospel, even in the face of ridicule and opposition. At the same time, we also recognize that we cannot fulfill our task simply by an uncritical application of solutions designed in past ages for problems which have qualitatively changed or which did not exist in the past. . . .
We as pastors are greatly concerned that some particular areas of the church's teaching in both sexual and social morality are at times subjected to negative criticism in our country and sometimes even by Catholics of good will.
Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee:
The faithful are more inclined to look at the intrinsic worth of an argument proposed by the teachers in the church than to accept it on the basis of the authority itself. Since so often that teaching touches areas where many of the faithful have professional competency (from medical-moral issues to complex economic ones, for example), they wish to be able to contribute through their own professional skills to solving the issues. This demands a new kind of collaboration and a wider range of consultation on the part of the teaching office of the church. . . .
Women, in particular, seek to be equal partners in sharing the mission of the church. . . . There are no words to explain so much pain on the part of so many competent women today who feel they are second-class citizens in a church they love. That pain turns easily to anger and is often shared and transmitted to the younger generation of men and women. Women do not want to be treated as stereotypes of sexual inferiority. . . .
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati:
God knows that it is not our intent here today to hold up for universal imitation an "American way" of being a church. We don't want a merely "American" church. We want a Catholic Church to flourish in our country. God also knows that we have plenty of problems and plenty of loose ends to deal with. . . .
And now I am in a position to respond to the original quaestio . . . whether the ministry of the church in the United States is in a state of turmoil and crisis. I answer yes . . . but it is not the turmoil and crisis of death and decay, but of development and of life.
Response by Pope John Paul II:
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 (the official teaching of the church) is totally compatible with being a "good Catholic" and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere. I wish to encourage you in the love of Christ to address this situation courageously in your pastoral ministry, relying on the power of God's truth to attract assent and on the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given both to those who proclaim the message and to those to whom it is addressed.
To accept faith is to give assent to the word of God as transmitted by the church's authentic magisterium. Such assent constitutes the basic attitude of the believer, and is an act of the will as well as of the mind. It would be altogether out of place to try to model this act of religion on attitudes drawn from secular culture.