SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — Catholic bishops from three areas where refugees from Vietnam have settled asked their colleagues Friday to reject a statement calling for establishment of normal diplomatic ties between the United States and its former adversary.
Bishop R. Pierre DuMaine of San Jose, Calif., told his fellow prelates that Vietnamese in his diocese believe the statement is "too naive in trading a very prestigious recognition for the current (Communist) regime in return for vague assurances" of religious liberty.
The Vietnam document and another on "the rights and responsibilities" of Catholic theologians in doctrinal disputes with their bishops are scheduled to be voted on today at the spring meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Decisions on both issues were delayed at the bishops' meeting last fall when the documents were withdrawn for revisions in light of objections from the Vatican to the doctrinal document and from Vietnamese-American Catholics to the Vietnam resolution.
About 300 bishops, including the 35 American archbishops and five cardinals, opened their four-day conference Friday at Seton Hall University. The bishops, after finishing their public business today, plan to spend Sunday in a private "day of recollection" and to meet in executive session Monday.
The document calling on the U.S. government to extend diplomatic recognition to Vietnam generated the most debate Friday. Its authors say it is intended not to express approval of the Communist regime in Vietnam, but to encourage the opening of a dialogue between the two former enemy nations.
Auxiliary Bishop Enrique San Pedro of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joseph Madera of Fresno joined DuMaine in questioning whether it should be approved.
Madera said: "Two-hundred-thousand people who have been in prison (in Vietnam) are still suffering. They are Catholics. They are brothers and sisters. When the American bishops visited Vietnam, they did not visit the prisons of the Catholic people."
Archbishop Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, chief author of the document, said that a bishops' committee did consult with Vietnamese bishops, who support the resolution. Mahony suggested that Vietnamese-Americans who left their native country more than a decade ago are not aware of recent changes since their nation's bloody civil war.