The administrative committee of the U.S. Catholic bishops has rejected a proposed statement of qualified support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
The proposal was rejected in a closed door session of the 48-member administrative committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Under consideration was a statement to have been issued by a subcommittee of the hierachy that would have separated support for ERA for support for abortion, a link made by many opponents of ERA.
Archbishops John R. Roach of St. Paul said the administrative committee had refused the subcommittee permission to make the statement because of a "difference of legal opinion on the consequences of ERA with regard to family life and abortion."
While rejecting the proposed action on ERA, the committee issued a statement "reaffirming our support for women's "reaffirming our support for women's rights and our determination to contunue to work for them."
In his first report as president of the American Catholic hierachy, Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco called on his fellow prelates to reaffirm the 10-year-old papal encyclical that bans methods of birth control.
He acknowledged that "dissension and sometimes painful and strident controversy have attended encyclical's reaffirmation of the ageless moral teaching of the church."
The crux of teh controversy over the encyclical is a passage that states thot "each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life."
A Gallup Poll released last month indicated that 73 percent of the American Catholic population and 83 percent of college-educated Catholics disagreed with the church's teaching on birth control.
In other actions, the bishops endorsed a comprehensive, long-range "Plan of Pastoral Action for Family Ministry," aimed at strengthening family life.
The plan summons the church to "promote sound laws and better public policies pertaining to marriage and family life" and urges "full use of the communications media . . . to promote support for favorable public policy as well as to publicize this plan of pastoral action."
The plan envisions the recruitment of lay persons as "family life ministers," suggesting such roles as "married couples ministering to engaged or young people interested in marriage; parents with longer experience helping newer parents . . . the widowed or persons with a particular difficulty ministering to others in similar life circumstances."
The only reference in the 17-page document to the highly sensitive question of divorce, which is estimated to affect 6 million Catholics, was a suggested parish-level "Ministry for 'Hurting' Families." The proposal called for "specialized counseling and a ministry of reconciliaton" for problems of divorce as well as "such complex issues as poverty, aging alcoholism, drug abuse and homosexuality."
In their meeting, which a spokesman for the hierarchy said was "characterized by a noticeable lack of controversy," the bishops also approved a number of proposed actions as follow-ups of the widely publicized Call to Action conference 18 months ago.
Most of the proposals dealt with actions designed to promote social justice, including a national pastoral letter on racism, due in 1979.
The bishops declined to endorse a proposed statement on southern Africa which, among other things, urged the United States government and the American people to back "meaningful pressures" promoting social change there.
Specifically, the statement, which the bishops said they turned down because the situation in that part of the world is "in flux," urged the U.S. government to "restrict and discourage U.S. business and investment in South Africa, Namibia and Rhodesia."