Page 6, 13th September 1963

13th September 1963
Page 6
Page 9
Page 6, 13th September 1963 — LETTERS FROM VATICAN CITY

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In the first session of Vatican II, the crux of the differences between the conservative and progressive Fathers emerged most clearly with the debate on the Schema De Fontibus, the sources of revelation. The story is told in this third extract from the book "Letters from Vatican City" by Xavier Rynne ( Faber & Faber, 30s.), which the Catholic Herald is serialising in the last five weeks before the Council's second session.


THE Council now embarked 1 on the discussion of the fateful schema, De Revelatione, prepared by the Preparatory Theological Commission under Cardinal Ottaviani and personally presented by him as head of the corresponding conciliar Commission. The schema consisted of five Chapters, divided into 29 numbered Articles.

from the very first the opposite sides in the Church were locked in heated debate, for this was one of the most important issues before the Council—basic, in a sense, to all else. Recent years have witnessed a swing by many Catholic theologians away from the view largely favoured since the Council of Trent that the Bible and tradition are two separate, virtually independent sources of divine revelation. They have returned to the older position wherein scripture and tradition must not he thought of as completely independent of each other but as constituting a whole—two modes, the written and unwritten, by which the Word of God comes down to us within the framework of the Church.

As Father Yves Congas, 0.P., a spokesman for the new outlook, puts it : "There is not a single dogma which the Church holds by Scripture alone, not a single dogma which the Church holds by tradition alone. Obviously this view is also much closer to the traditional Protestant thesis of 'the Bible and the Bible alone'." The new tendency was ignored by the Theological Commission when working on its draft.

The debate was opened on Wednesday, November 14, with some admonitory remarks by Cardinal Ottaviani.

"As regards the 'pastoral tone'," he said, "might I remind you that the foundation of all pastoral theology is pro_ vided by safe doctrine. The fact that this schema deals primarily with doctrine renders it likewise pastoral.

"Regarding the complaint that it has not been inspired by the so-called New Theology, might I remark that our teaching is traditional and will and must ever remain the same."

Cardinal Lit nart rose at once to lead the opposition. "This schema," he said, "does not please me. It is not adequate to the matter it purports to deal with. namely Scripture and tradition.

"There are not and never have been two sources of revelation. There is only one fount of revelation—the Word of God. the good news anounced by the prophets and revealed by Christ. The Word of God is the unique source of revelation.

"This schema is a cold and scholastic formula, while revelation is a supreme gift of God—God speak ing directly to us. We should he thinking more along the lines of our separated brothers who have such a love and veneration for the Word of God. Our duty now is to cultivate the faith of our people and cease to condemn. Hence I propose this schema be entirely refashioned."

Head on

As at the opening session, the French Cardinal was replaced by Cardinal Frings of Cologne, like his colleague a

scripture scholar. In a milder tone he announced his non plae't, and then tackled the Ottaviani proposition head on,

"The primary purpose of a Council is to provide for the pastoral needs of the day," he said, "to teach the truth, to stimulate its preaching in such wise that it will be received. At the first Vatican Council complaints were raised against the professional tone of the schemata, particularly those proposed by Cardinal Franzelin. Here that approach is even further exaggerated. But what is even worse than the manner of presentation is the doctrine itself.

"Why speak of two sources of revelation? This is not traditional. Neither the fathers, nor the scholastic theologians nor St. Thomas himself, nor the previous Councils knew anything about this way of explaining our teaching. It is not traditional and only in recent centuries, as a result of a false historicism, have certain theologians tried to explain the matter thus."

The Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Siri, admitted the justice of many of the criticisms levelled at the schema. However, he pointed out the connection between the condemnations proposed and the consequences of the heresy of Modernism, condemned in 1908 by Pope Pius X.

He felt it still necessary to justify that condemnatory action, as did a majority of Italian bishops. By discussing the interpretation of the Scriptures," he said, "there is hope of arriving at a clearer expression of the faith. Hence let us discuss the schema before us."

By now the heavy artillery was ready. In quick succession, the Cardinals of Montreal, Vienna, Utrecht and Malines rose to demolish the Ottaviani thesis. The Canadian cardinal, Paul Emile Leger, not only proposed the scrapping of the document, but went on to make a plea for freedom and tolerance within the world of Catholic scholarship, defending biblical scholars in particular who are opening up new paths of investigation.

Though he began his career as a Sulpician, under the tutelage of the old-guard French Canadian hierarchy, and served his Roman apprenticeship as Rector of the Canadian College in the Eternal City, Leger has undergone an interior revolution. He is now a staunch advocate of that interior reform of the Church that aims at getting back to the fundamental roots, and would restore Catholicism today as a mystery-conscious, apostolic-minded, yet tolerant institution. along the lines of the primitive Church.

Striking a practical note, the recently created Cardinal of Belgium, Leo Joseph Suenens, expressed his fears that in view of all the talking, Vatican Council 11 threatened to outlast the 18 years of the Council of Trent.

He announced that he was against the schema because it was a botched-up job which had no relevance to the problems of the hour. He proposed a new method of procedure, in the hopes of getting the Council to act in a more parliamen tary way. His suggestion was interesting in view of subsequent developments and seemed to prove to those benefiting from second-sight that he was perhaps closer to the throne than had formerly been suspected.

Trained at Louvain, long a professor of moral theology there, and since 1945 Archbishop of Malines, he had written a book on conjugal love which had caused a mild sensation in Catholic theological circles. His intervention marked a kind of turningpoint in the debate.

It was Cardinal Bea, 82 years old, feeble-looking, but patently rejuvenated in mind and heart who, with beguiling candour, laid the facts straight on the line. He began by graciously praising the work put into the schema, but informed its authors that they had evidently been marching in the wrong direction.

Their end result "did not agree with the purpose set down by the Holy Father in summoning the Council. What then did the pope have in mind?" he asked.

If ever there was a moment when someone should have shouted "Attenzioner to the opposition, this was it. The pope, said Cardinal Bea, had in mind "that the faith of the Church be presented in all its integrity and purity, but in such manner that it will be received today with benevolence. For we are shepherds."

There was no need now for patristic or theological argument, he continued. "What our times demand is a pastoral approach, demonstrating the love and kindness that flow from our religion." This schema was totally lacking in the pastoral spirit. If a schema like this were to be called pastoral, then the same thing could be said of every theological textbook.

"It represents the work of a theological school." he said, "not what the better theologians today think." He pointed out the many references in the schema to the scripture scholars; yet there was only one favourable mention—all the rest were held suspect.

It was not the Council's business, he said, to do the work of exegetes; to solve problems of inspiration, authorship, or inerrancy. "We must do an ecumenical job." The schema must be radically redone, he concluded, to render it shorter, clearer, and more pastoral.


The Melchite Patriarch of Antioch, Maximos IV Saigh, concluded the arguments by making a fairly long statement in French : "What we expect is a peaceful and positive message. worthy of the attention of our separated brethren. The spirit of this schema is once again the spirit of the Counter-reformation....

"Since Vatican Council I only a partial and incomplete picture of the Church has been presented. The prerogatives of the Visible Head have been put in evidence in such an isolated way that the rest of the body of the Church seems dwarfish in comparison.

"We must re-establish the true proportions between the body and its head and thus give a truer and more complete picture. I ask once again that the schema on the Church and the hierarchy be submitted as soon as possible, Everything depends on that schema, because then we can take up pastoral and social questions. All of us await that moment." At the conclusion of the patriarch's speech. as if in fulfilment of his wish, an official announcement was made that the very schema he was pleading for, De Erelesia, would be distributed to the fathers at the end of the week or the beginning of the next.

Shortly before the end, however, the results were announced of the voting on the liturgy schema as a whole, which took place before the discussions began.

An overwhelming majority was registered in favour of the advocates of reform, who had been behind the schema; 2,162

votes for, 46 votes against, and 7 abstentions. It was also a victory for the Liturgical Movement itself, which had inspired its authors throughout. The voting was interpreted by many as a clear sign of the way in which the wind was blowing.

That afternoon and evening the "little councils" of theologians were in a ferment of excitement and optimism. Things seemed to be going in the right direction at last.

Rumour had it that at one of the last meetings of the Cebtral Preparatory Commission, in May or June, Cardinal Leger had spoken out equally sharply in favour of biblical scholars, denouncing the attacks made on the Biblical Institute and deploring the obscurantism of the Lateran University. The African Bishops met to coordinate their efforts to secure the rejection of the schema.

Speaking for the South American Bishops, Cardinal Silva Henriquez of Chile stated that the pastoral aims of the Council should be directed par. ticularly toward the sheep separated from the fold and hence, as the pope indicated. the Council ought to display an ecumenical spirit.

As to the schema, not only did it offend against possible reunion with non-Catholics, but it could not even bring about agreement among Catholics, as was evident in the seminaries and faculties of theology. Its primary error was to set the Church up as a judge who condemns.

The pope wants rather pastors who counsel and demonstrate love for those to whom they are trying to bring the truth. In a theological sense, he insisted that truth was born of the charity of Almighty God, hence, in all charity, the Council should come out with a doctrine that would be clear, amicable, positive, timely and adaptable to modern needs.

His conclusion was : re-do the draft in a much briefer form, and omit all questions of a purely exegetical nature only. "We are pastors, not theologians. We have no time for the disputes of the schools."

The Irish Dominican Cardinal Browne next rose to demonstrate that not all the prelates were pastors, as had been asserted.

In true scholastic form, he went through II points attempting to prove that since the doctrine of "two sources"

[scripture and tradition] formed part of the Church's doctrinal patrimony, it was therefore to be retained, regardless of whether the expression was ancient. St. Thomas, Trent, Vatican Council 1, the encyclicals of Leo XIII, Pius XII, etc., were all in agreement, he maintained.

For Bishop Bengsch of divided Berlin, on the other hand, the schema was bad and could not be improved even by amendments. It contradicted the wishes of the Holy Father by reflecting a spirit of condemnation, rather than one of mercy. It was full of anathemas, censures and suspicions.

The Church was made to appear not as our Mater et Mogister, but solely as our Magistra (mistress). Some of the errors castigated in it were so obscure as to be hardly known ever by theologians. It was a museum-piece, not something alive.

ArchbishopGuery of Cambrai rose to speak in the name of the French episcopate. He desired to remove a certain equivocation that seemed to overshadow the debate. In speak ing of a pastoral approach, there was no room for a loose or inexact statement of doctrine. The word of God must be set before the world in its purity and entirety.

What was wanted actually was a deepening and enlarging of our doctrinal perspective, to include all the advances made by science and discovery in our world of today. This was not asking for a diminution, but an extension, of our doctrinal tenets.

But this should be done with charity, which means choosing the hard way of working selflessly to approach modern man in his needs and anxieties, and not the easy way out by con

demning and negating and rejecting.

The youthful-looking and intense Cardinal Doepfner of Munich, who had evidently determined to bring matters to a head. lie began by challenging the introductory remarks of Cardinal Ottaviani.

"The President of the Theo. logical Commission," he said, "has informed us that in the preparation of this schema, which took two years, there was a general accord on the part of the participating theologians and prelates. Cardinals Frings and Leger, however, have indicated .just the opposite. Hence there is at least some doubt as to this accord and alleged unanimity.

"The regulations under which we operate specify that we can either accept, amend, or reject the schema. My impression is that the Theological Commission was too much under the influence of one school, represented by Lateran University. There was no concern for any other tendencies. As an instance of this intransigence, I cite the fact that a proposal made by the Secretariat for Promoting Unity with a view to collaborating with the Theological Commission, was turned down.

"The schema which we would like to propose has been drawn up by theologians of various tendencies and is quite different in spirit from the one before us."

This speech was greeted with considerable applause, and caused consternation in the opposing camp.

`Two sources'

Bishop Schmitt of Metz, France, a scriptural scholar in his own right, led off episcopal comment by referring to the question of "two sources" brought up by Cardinal Browne. Trent had deliberately rejected the use of the terms "poplin? . . . poplin," with reference to scripture and tradition, because this would have implied the sanctioning of a school of thought which was not traditional or in accord with the best tradition:

"All revelation consists in the person of Christ," he asserted. "for He is its author, the Word of God. His whole life. death and resurrection reveal Him to us. Let us not reduce Christian revelation and Christianity itself to a kind of ideology. It is the whole means (economy) of salvation, and not something purely intellectual."

In apparent good humour Cardinal Ottaviani next took the floor. He proposed, he said, to answer the observations made by Cardinal Doepfner which, though obviously not intended maliciously, nevertheless sprang from misinformation.

"It is not true that this schema was made in my name," he said. "In the Commission those matters in the schema that were the subject of discussion or disagreement were put to a vote. It was normal for the opinion of the minority then to be excluded. The members of this Commission came from various countries. from different universities. It is not true that only one opinion or one school of thought was represented."

After claiming that members of the Biblical Institute had been invited to sit on the Commission, he concluded by repeating that the rules did not provide for the rejection, but merely the discussion of the schema.

This last assertion was immediately and successfully challenged from the floor. An appeal was made to the President to read the Regulations; it was thereupon settled once and for all that schemata could be discussed, amended or rejected.

Meanwhile, a member of the Theological Commission whose opinions had not been

received by the cardinal disagreed with him about the presence tit Institute on the c of Colnmission.

Even in the preparatory stages of the Council, it became generally known, opponents were skilfully manoeuvered out of their places at Commission meetings, threatened with reprisals, and votes taken when they were absent.

Bishop Charue of Namur, Belgium, put his finger on the real difficulty with the Ottaviani approach. Calling attention to the fact that all the Belgians and French bishops were against the schema, he attacked the necessity of going over the condemnation of Modernism. There are other errors, he insisted, that are just as dangerous.

"It is not up to the Council to do the work of the Holy Oflice, or of theologians," he said, "but it is up to the Council not to set the stage for another Galileoincident ! Our Council should imitate that of Jerusalem, and not put unbearable burdens on those outside the Church or the faith. The fact that the Church can use men of diverse opinions and attitudes gives us hope for the future."

The discourse of Israel's Bishop Hakim threw light on the eastern approach to tradition. "The authors of this schema have monopolized the universal faith for the benefit of their own personal theologizing," he said. "With us the liturgy is the chief means of instruction in the faith through its symbolism. Instruction is never separated from scripture or the fathers.

"The schema does violence to our conception of the faith, by separating things which ought not to be separated. It is perhaps a good example of what the scholastic approach leads to, but it certainly cannot he considered as exhausting the Gospel message, which cannot be confined within any one conceptual system.

"it should speak of man as the image of God, of the mystery of redemption, of Christ's death and resurrection. Instead of all this, it speaks only of satisfaction for sin, as if this were the main consideration behind the mystery of man's redemption."


The speech of Bishop De Smedt of Bruges, on behalf of the Secretariat for Promoting Unity, gave the Fathers the feeling that they were listening to the words of Pope John.

He began by remarking that there had been much discussion of ecumenism or the ecumenical spirit with reference to the subject under debate, some arguing that the schema reflected a proper ecumenical concern, others that it did not.

What then was an authentic ecumenical outlook? Speaking as a member of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, which had been created by the Holy Father expressly for the purpose of aiding the fathers in the ecumenical aspect of their work. he would attempt to define what an ecumenically orientated document ought to be.

It was one, in short, which favoured and promoted a conversation (dialogue) between Catholics and non-Catholics.

"For centuries, we Catholics have thought that it war sufficient to explain our doctrine clearly. Non-Catholics thought the same. Both sides explained their own point of view using their own terminology and from their own point of view only; but what Catholics said was not well received by nonCatholics. and vice versa.

"According to this method, no progress was made on the road toward unity, quite the reverse. . . But for several decades now another method has been tried : the ecumenical dialogue.

"What does it involve? It means not being concerned by a preoccupation for truth alone, but also with the way in which it is presented, so that it can be made comprehensible to others. . , . Both sides must strive to explain their faith clearly, objectively, and in a way that is psychologically acceptable and without engaging in controversy.

"It is this new method which should be applied by the Council, according to the wishes of

the Holy Father. If we wish the documents issued by the Council to be intelligible to non-Catholics, a certain number of rules must be observed :

"I. We must understand the doctrines of the Orthodox and Protestants.

"2. We must know what they think (rightly or wrongly) about Catholic teaching.

"3. We must know what they regard as unclear or lacking in Catholic teaching.

"4. Scholastic terminology is not well understood by non Catholics; on the other hand, by using Biblical or patristic terms we can prevent many errors and prejudices,

"5. Expressions must be carefully chosen with regard (Continued on Page 9)

to their effect on non-Catholics.

"6. Judgments must be carefully weighed and account must be taken of the context in which they appear to nonCa thol ics.

"7. Documents must be worded in such a way as to appear convincing to nonCatholics also.

"8. All useless controversy must be avoided.

"9. Errors should be clearly rejected, but without wounding sensibilities."

Mgr. De Smedt then went on to note that, although the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity had been created to help with the preparations for the Council and had offered to collaborate with the Theological Commission, "for reasons which I do not care to judge," the Theological Commission "never wished to do so." The Secretariat also proposed the creation of a mixed subcommission, but this offer too was turned down.

In the judgment of the Secretariat, the present schema had "grave faults from an ecumenical point of view: it would not encourage a dialogue with non-Catholics, or represent progress, but a retreat.... Today a new method has been discovered, thanks to which a precious dialogue has been begun.

"The fruits of this method are apparent to all in the presence of observer-delegates in this council hall. The hour is one of pardon, but also one of great seriousness. If the schema prepared by the Theological Commission is not modified, we shall be responsible for causing Vatican Council II to destroy a great, an immense hope.

"I speak of the hope of those who, like Pope John XXI11, are waiting in prayer and fasting for an important and significant step finally to be made in the direction of fraternal unity, the unity of those for whom Christ Our Lord offered this prayer: (11 unto?? silt." There was loud and continuous applause when the bishop finished.


It was Archbishop Garrone of Toulouse who made the concrete proposal about setting up a mixed commission to prepare a new draft.

Since the schema could not be returned to the commission that had originated it, "it is necessary that the Theological Commission should work in unison with the Secretariat for Unity and with the perili (experts)." This would bring about that unanimity which the whole Council desired.

"The original sin of the Council lay in the defective work of the Preparatory Commissions." observed Archbishop Hurley of South Africa. The proper solution in this case was for the schema to be re-done by a new commission which would be careful to put back in the draft all that was left out by the Theological Commission.

Accordingly, on the next day, Nov. 20 1,23rd (ieneral Congregation), at 10.30 in the morning, the debate was dramatically halted by Secretary General Felici, who announced that a proposal by the Council of Presidents would be put to a vote. Those in favour of halting the discussion of the schema were to vote Placet (yes).

The debate was then resumed at 11 a.m., but at 11.23 it was again halted by the Secretary General, who announced the results of the voting: "Present: 2,209 fathers; 1,368 Placets; 19 invalid votes; and 822 Non placeis. Since a majority of 1,473 votes is required, we shall therefore now take up Chapter I of the schema."

Thus the supporters had won a technical victory, but the fruits were to be denied them.

Pope acts

The next morning, while Cardinal Ruffini was presiding, another dramatic announcement was made. Despite the vote, the pope had ordered the schema withdrawn.

He had decided that the whole matter should be reconsidered by a special commission, on which Cardinals Bea and Ottaviani would serve as joint presidents, with Cardinals Frings, Lienart, and Meyer representing the liberals, Cardinals Browne of Ireland and Ruffini the traditionalists, and Cardinal Lefebvre, of Bourges, the centre.

They were to be assisted by the bishops belonging to the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and the bishops elected to the Theological Commission by the Council, as well as by a number of periti, or official theologians.

The new decree to be drafted in accordance with the aims of the Council was to be short, irenic in tone, and pastoral in approach.

It is bewildering how a man of Cardinal Ottaviant's intelligence could have miscalculated so badly. It seems strange that he did not anticipate that the majority would be for the reforms, which had been advocated in respectable circles for many years now, and were looked upon with favour by the pope.

One supposition was that Ottaviani's closest advisers and informants-Monsignor Parente and the Franciscan Father Ermenegildo Lio, of the Holy Office, and such Americans as Monsignor Joseph Fenton, of Catholic University, and Monsignor Rudolph Bandits, of St. Paul. Minnesota had convinced him that only a handful of extremist German and French prelates really wanted drastic changes in the Church.

Apparently, they and the others who assisted in the preparation of the schema (like the Jesuit Fathers Sebastian Tromp and Franz Htterth, the Dominican Luigi Ciappi, and the Franciscan Carl Balic) could conceive of no other way of presenting Catholic truths than by repeating the tried-and-true formulas of the past and condemning all innovation.

Undoubtedly, the most important single disclosure of this first session was the great strength shown by the advocates of renewal and reform. It had not previously been known just how influential this tendency in the Church really was.

The chief spokesman in the Curia for the new approach was unquestionably Cardinal Bea, whose efforts over the past two years had been and continue to be nothing short of phenomenal. "My whole life has been a preparation for this," he has said.

Another fruitful result of the Council was the interchange of ideas made possible by the concentration of so many learned priests in one place at one time. Most of the bishops rejoiced at this development, and took advantage of free hours between meetings to brush up on issues by inviting periti to lecture before their episcopal conferences.

The Holy Office, unaccustomed to so much uncontrolled theologizing, found this distasteful and alarming. Toward the middle of November, Cardinal Ottaviani asked the pope to request the Jesuit fathers of the Biblical Institute not to give any more lectures before individual groups of bishops, and to order the famous Innsbruck theologian Father Karl Rahner, .S.J., to leave Rome.


When the pope inquired who had asked the Jesuit fathers to lecture, and was told that it had been the bishops themselves, he said he could not be expected to interfere with the legitimate right of bishops to inform themselves regarding the issues before the Council. At the same time, he is said to have shown Ottaviani a testimonial, signed by three cardinals, that praised Father Rahner as an outstanding theologian."

This incident reminded old Roman hands of the disgraceful treatment meted out to Professor Altaner, the famous authority on the fathers of the Church. in 1950, when he was told to leave Rome because of his opposition to the project for defining the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

They likewise recalled the shabby treatment recently accorded the Dominican theologian Father Raimondo Spiazzi, who, during the preparatory phase of the Council, was hold enough to publish a pam phlet discussing possible changes in the attitude toward clerical celibacy.

The mere suggestion of any revision in this regard being frowned upon by the Holy Office as a sure sign of heresy, Father Spiazzi was immediately relieved of his job in the Roman Chancery, transferred from his teaching post, barred from Rome, and sent to Tuscany as provincial.

Eventually, this came to the attention of Pope John, who at once ended Father Spiazzi s exile and • appointed him a member of the Council's Preparatory Commission on the Laity.

ej 1962 by The New Yorker Maga:lac, Inc.

C.) 1962 by Farrar, Straus & Company Inc.

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