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For U.S. Catholics, a greater bind lies ahead.

Whether the result of providence or some other force, Roman Catholic Church leadership during the last half century has been in step with successive U.S. government administrations.

Until now.

Go back to the quiet and conservative 1950s, when a frail Pius XII sat in Rome and the conservative Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoyed Washington.

Their terms were followed in the 1960s by the more provocative and progressive leadership of the two Johns: John XXIII and John F. Kennedy. If those men's styles made history, their innovations took shape in the late 1960s under two other progressives, Paul VI and Lyndon B. Johnson.

But the chaotic and hopeful 1960s spawned the uncertain and transitional 1970s. Paul VI seemed to ossify in the wake of Humanae Vitae and advancing age. Balance became crucial to that pope. And so, too, did it become the norm with the presidency of moderate Democrat Jimmy Carter.

The 1980s changed all that. Both in Rome and in Washington, the new decade was ushered in with hard moves to the right. A Polish pope, John Paul II, seemed to set out to undo the 1960s and the reforms of the Vatican Council. In Washington, a Hollywood actor seemed similarly intent on denying the political innovations of two decades back. The Catholic ecclesial and the U.S. (Reagan/Bush) political right characterized the 1980s.

Only now, in January 1993, for the first time in nearly five decades, does a Rome/Washington leadership divergence appear imminent. Rome remains on its rightist course while Washington appears ready to move to the left -- how far and for how long remains to be seen.

Social movements do make a difference They do much to set the mood, define priorities. So what will this divergence mean? Two quick thoughts come to mind. One, democracies seem to have an easier time staying with the people, reforming themselves, than do monarchies. Two, the psychic/spiritual strain many U.S. Catholics have felt in recent years is only likely to increase s they feel torn between their U.S. and Roman Catholic impulses. Church drift may be further exacerbated.

Looking at the 1990s, and assuming no other unexpected changes, many U.S. Catholics will find themselves in an increasingly greater bind, caught between their democratic instincts and fide]ity to their Catholic roots. It is a painful prospect. Required will be understanding Catholic leaders, capable of healing real wounds. That, in turn, will require bold, even brave. episcopal leadership. As the world turns, so, too, do its peoples.
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Title Annotation:President-elect Bill Clinton's liberals vs. Vatican conservatism
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 8, 1993
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