By Desmond Fisher VATICAN CITY THE Second Vatican Council will resume on Monday in a determinedly businesslike atmosphere. The 2,500 Council Fathers are assembling in Rome to face a very heavy agenda, and the general consensus is that this will be the last, or the last but one, Council session at the outside.
Pope Paul's letter to Cardinal Tisserant, who is Senior President of the Council, calls on every Catholic to regard the Council as concerning himself closely.
He suggests that on the forthcoming rogation days—September 23, 25 and 26 — those who can should fast, and all should perform acts of penance and mortification.
The letter adds that "the various questions under study are now reaching the end of discussion, and moving towards the Council's decision". Because of this "the gravity of the Council's actions and decisions increases."
Final arrangements for the session were made on Wednesday at a meeting of the secretariat officials. These will be confirmed today when the 12 Cardinals of the Presidency meet the secretariat in a joint session.
The agenda will probably start with a debate on the text De Ecclesia, dealing with the nature,
role and organisation of the Church. Discussion on the text
was interrupted clueing November 1963 so that another text on the position of the Blessed Virgin in the Church could be incorporated into it instead of being treated separately.
After discussing the chapter on Mary and another on holiness and man's ties! glory in heaven, tre whole schema will be voted on. Abbot Butler of Downside has submitted a text on Mary which has been extensively used in the draft now to come before the Council.
The Schema on the Church was first introduced during the first session and sent back for revision with the hope that it "be considered the central work of the council".
It is generally regarded as the key document before the Council and the one which will be most decisive in determining its success. Council Fathers whatever their views on other matters, agree that there must be a deeper and more widespread understanding of what the Church is and means if it is to fulfil its role of Christianising a world which is becoming increasingly anti -Christie n.
Important matters which the bishops will vote on in this schema are the possibility of married deacons and the pninoiple of collegiality of the bishops, that is, that they share. with the Pope at their head, supreme power. over the Church.
Other texts for the agenda are ecumenism, with its two appendices (on the Jews and religious liberty), divine revelation, the lay apostolate, the Eastern Churches, missions, members of religious orders, priests, matrimony, and Catholic Schools.
The final schema is one of the most important — that on the Church in the modern world in which war and peace, hunger, birth control and other major issues of the day are discussed.
The first three chapters of the sohema on ecumenism will probably be passed quickly but its two last chapters may be hotly discussed. There was obviously substantial opposition at the last session to the proposed inclusion in the ecumenism schema of the chapters on Jews and religious liberty. The chapter on the Jews has been re-written, and much alarm was caused in Vatican circles by the publication last week of the complete new text in the Nen. York Times.
This revealed that in the sentence absolving the Jews from the charge of killing Christ, the word deicide has been omitted, though the substance of the matter has been preserved. Members of the.
Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity are confident that the chapter will have overwhelming support from the bishops. (Sec Page 2).
The first three chapters of the new draft on ecumenism show it to have been greatly strengthened. It lays stress on Catholic blame for Christianity's division and offers a more dynamic exposition of the common ground between the various communions. At the same time it throws new light on the divisive factors, especially in the fields of ethics, scripture and tradition, and the sacraments.
Observers believe that it may open the door for Catholics to worship in common with nonCatholics, and make it possible for the faithful, in lands where the Catholic community is sparse, to receive the sacraments at the hands of Orthodox clergy.
The document treating of marriage has been enthusiastically received as a very positive statement on sexuality. It discusses the whole question of parenthood in the context of love and the desire of the spouses to do their best for their children.
It does not, however, discuss the question tsf contraception, and it is believed that the Pope himself plans to make a statement on this.
It is too early yet to analyse
the general attitude of bishops to the third session. Most of the Council Fathers will not arrive in Rome until the weekend and. significantly, the Romans themselves are not prepared to give art opinion. In itself this is a tacit admission that it is the bishops from outside and not the Curia members who now determine the majority attitude.
But on all sides there seems to he a determination to make the session really productive. The long debates and procedural delaying tactics of previous sessions will be abandoned and the airn will be to get results.
Observers here say this suits the Curialists who feel that the longer the world's bishops remain in Rome the more "progressive" they will become, and the sooner things settle back to normal the better. At the same time. a productive session would appeal to other bishops who want to see the Council reaching practical decisions.
It is probably too early to talk of a synthesis of the two main schools of thought. This will take years. But the atmosphere in Rome suggests that an unspoken working arrangement will be arrived at this session to get through the agenda as quickly and as efficiently as possible.