Robert McAfee Brown, professor of Religion at Stanford, said last night that "the calling of the Ecumenical Council gaves the Catholic Church an opportunity to put itself unequivically on record for religious liberty. The non-Catholic world eagerly waits for this avowal and will be greatly disturbed if it does not come."
In the third of four William Belden Noble Lectures, Brown described for an audience of 200 in Memorial Church the dilemma of the Catholic Church as it tries to alter its negative conception of religious freedom. "In the past," Brown said, "toleration has served as an expedient in areas where persecution was impractical."
"The only way to a positive foundation for religious liberty," Brown insisted, "is through conceiving it as a necessary consequence of faith. Since God does not deal coercively with his children, his children cannot deal coercively with each other."
Brown voiced his greater concern for the Catholic than the Protestant struggle toward tolerance and dealt specifically with the faltering progress of the Vatican Council's religious liberty resolution. Blocked in three previous sessions, the resolution is up this year for its fourth and last try.