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WORLD : U.S. Bishops Urge Wider Freedom

From Times staff and wire service reports

Pope John Paul II encouraged U.S. Roman Catholic bishops today to proclaim church teaching even if it is unpopular. They responded that authoritarianism does not convince Americans.

The views were voiced at the start of a special four-day conference of 35 American bishops the pontiff summoned to Rome.

Responding to the Pope, Archbishop John L. May of St. Louis, president of the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said “Authoritarianism is suspect in any area of learning or culture in America. Individual freedom is prized supremely. Religious doctrine and moral teaching are widely judged by these criteria.

“Therefore, to assert that there is a church teaching with authority binding . . . for eternity is truly a sign of contradiction to many Americans who consider the divine right of bishops as outmoded as the divine right of kings,” he said. “Accordingly, bishops live and work constantly in this atmosphere.”

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