American Catholic bishops and foreign policy - Vietnam and Latin America
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The thesis considers the dialectic of "institution" (the Catholic Church) and "ideology" (the Church's teaching on justice and peace), and the response by the American Catholic Bishops to foreign policy issues (Vietnam and Latin America) involving them in this dialectic, as leaders in the institution and as those principally responsible for preaching the gospel of justice and peace. The first section traces the evolution of the structure of ecclesiastical government, in which episcopal authority was subordinate to the papal primacy, and its domestication of the prophetic-millenarjpian challenge (social and religious reform) in the interests of preserving the structure and the political power of the papacy (Chapter 1). The aggiornamento of Vatican II has heralded a change in structure - episcopal collegiality - and the establishment of social prophecy as the Church's mission in the world, but this calls in question the present character of the institution and its forms of authority. The second section considers themes from American catholic Church history which exemplify the tension - the reconciliation of the Church with the American way of life (chapter 1), the constricting influence of hierarchical autocracy on social criticism (Chapter 2), the formation of structures for episcopal collegiality and for the work of justice and peace (Chapter 3), the prophet of social criticism within the institution (Chapter 4). The third section considers the response of the American bishops to the war in Vietnam-— from support of government policy (Chapter 1), to an attitude of questioning, under the influence of Vatican II (Chapter 2), but without lasting effect on the tradition of acquiescence (Chapter 3). The only episcopal debate on the war at last establishes it as a moral issue and a collegial resolution is passed calling for its ending, as a moral . imperative (chapter 4). The number of individual episcopal voices critical of the government's policy increases, but the most powerful voice is "diplomatically" silent(Chapter 5). The fourth section considers the response of the U.S. bishops to the situation of the church in Latin America. The initial formation of collegial structures is directed to the institutional interests of the church in Latin America and in opposition to the danger of Communism (Chapterl). The movements of social change and revolution in the countries of Latin America and the experience of Vatican/ Vatican II's aggiornamento provide the background to Medellin, 1968, at which the Latin American bishops commit themselves to a mission of prophetic social criticism. The initial response of the U.S. bishops is evasive and lacking in awareness of a responsibility for the promotion of justice and peace (Chapter 2). The fifth section records the response to the Vietnam War in one diocese of the United States, by the diocesan priests' senate and a non-territorial parish. Here we see the consequence of accommodating the Church to the demands of social acceptance - the voice of criticism emerges only from within an experience of the inadequacy of present institutional forms.