A special synod called by Pope John Paul II to weigh the effects of the Second Vatican Council on the Roman Catholic Church appeared to be deeply divided today over whether to publicize the result of the two weeks of debate.
Leading bishops from around the world have been meeting here to discuss all aspects of the life of the church, including liberation theology in Latin America, the theological justification of the collegial role of bishops, the ordination of women and the integration of local culture in church ritual.
"I think the Holy Spirit will have to work overtime along with the synod officials" for the gathering to reach an agreement by this weekend, as scheduled, said the Rev. Diarmuid Martin, a synod spokesman, commenting on the continuing debate about the nature of the final message to the pope and to the church at large and whether it should be made public.
Martin said the synod had determined to put out two documents -- a "message to Catholics of the world" that was being worked out by a committee of five senior prelates, said to be of a conservative bent, and a summation of the sometimes heated debates on what Martin termed the "lights and bright points and shadows" of how the recommendations of the Vatican Council have been applied and received in the past two decades.
Latin American bishops at the synod have been pressing sharply divergent views of liberation theology, with liberals saying it is indispensable for the church and conservatives saying it has had negative results.
Participants have said much of the debate involves the definition of liberation theology, a term that has been used to describe theoretical writings about the church's role in aiding the poor as well as political activism by some priests, nuns and lay people.
As the bishops continued their debates, an American woman staged a mock mass in St. Peter's Basilica to protest the Catholic Church's ban on women priests.
Babi Burke, an outspoken feminist from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was forcibly prevented from completing the mock mass in a small chapel behind the main Bernini altar.
Stating that her effort to celebrate mass "is a frank acknowledgement that there exists a crisis in Catholicism," Burke walked to an altar, kissed it, held up her arms in priestly gesture of welcome, ate a communion wafer and produced a silver chalice full of wine to complete the act of communion.
At that point she was rushed by two Vatican guards, who grabbed her as she swallowed the wine from the chalice and, half dragging, half pushing, hustled her outside the basilica as a handful of journalists, who had been invited to the protest, and curious churchgoers looked on. A Belgian ex-nun, Marie Therese Soumoy, who accompanied Burke, was also hustled out of St. Peter's.
"I celebrate mass to dramatize the plight of all women who want to become priests but cannot because of the church's discrimination," Burke told journalists as she was taken away. According to Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Vals, she was held about an hour, then released without charges.
Burke and Soumoy interrupted a Vatican press conference Saturday to call on the gathered bishops to "end all discrination based on race, social class, or sex."
The two women are associated with a Brussels-based organiztion of religious feminists called the Center for Research and Action, Women and Religion.
Synod spokesman Martin would not disclose details of the general conclusions reached by the synod which today were summed up at a meeting of bishops by Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels. Martin said the debate was not yet over and many synod participants still wanted to ammend the conclusions of the first 10 days of discussion about the sweeping church reforms ushered in by the Second Vatican Council that was called by pope John XXIII and completed, in l965, by his successor, pope Paul VI.
Martin said in a press briefing tonight, "there are differences that have emerged that still must be confronted."