Page 6, 20th September 1963

20th September 1963
Page 6
Page 6, 20th September 1963 — THE DEBATE ON ' THE CHURCH'

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THE schema De Eeelesia was taken up at the 31st General Congregation, on Saturday, December 1. Cardi

nal Frings of Cologne was in the chair as President. After

Mass celebrated by Archbishop Grimshaw of Birmingham, the Secretary General made an announcement of great interest to all present. He reported that the Holy Father's health had materially improved and that he hoped to give his blessing from the window in his apartment and recite the Angelus with those assembled in St. Peter's Square. This news provoked loud applause.

At 10.45 a.m., as soon as the voting on the schema UI unum .mint had been completed, Cardinal Ottaviani, chairman of the Theological Commis sion which had prepared the schema on the Church, took

over the microphone to explain the project.

In his introductory talk, the cardinal again took an approach that had proved annoying to the opposition twice previously. While he appeared jovial and spoke pleasantly, he stressed the fact that the schema represented the work of some 70 learned and skilled theologians, and that it had the approbation of the Holy Father. Nevertheless it was submitted for the Council's examination and possible amendment. Asserting that it was both pastoral and biblical in its approach, he stated that great effort had been made to avoid even the appearance of scholastic formulations.

He stated clearly that the sections treating of ecumenism, the laity, and the religious were considered solely from a theological point of view.

Hardly had the relator's last words echoed through the hall when Cardinal Lienart took the microphone. After a few generous words for the labour involved in the schema, he said he was glad to see that the Church was treated here as the Mystical Body of Christ, which it was, solely and essentially. But he felt that the schema failed to stress the conclusion implicit in this fact—that the Church was therefore a Mystery.

As evidence of this failure, he cited article 7, in which the Mystical Body was made to appear co-extensive with the "Roman Church". Actually the Mystical Body and therefore the Church was much greater, and truly included—as every Catholic schoolboy knew —the souls in purgatory as well as the saints in heaven. What was more, could anyone really deny that those separated from the Church, but who possessed the faith, the sacraments, and remained in a state of grace were not actually members of the Mystical Body and therefore the Church? It was obvious then that a too juridical spirit animated the construction of this schema.

Cardinal Koenig of Vienna called for an abbreviation of the total schema. He then asked that instead of speaking of the Church's rights, more should be said about its duties, its obligation to preach and bring the Gospel to the whole of mankind so that modern man could realize that humanity, and not merely individual men, had been redeemed by Christ and could partake of His divine life. He noted the absence of any mention of freedom of conscience.

`On parade'

In these sentiments, he was echoed by Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis who insisted that the Church, by summoning the Council, was on parade before the world. The American cardinal made three particular points: (1) The holiness of the Church was not sufficiently emphasized in the schema; (2) The guardianship of the deposit of the faith was not the responsibility of the magicterium alone: all ranks in the Church shared in this in varying degrees; (3) As for the relations between Church and state, the schema should contain a clear statement about liberty of conscience. It should reflect the recent accomplishments in the field of ecclesiology and describe the Church in the light of these new, inspiring insights.

The speech by Bishop De Smedt of Bruges, Belgium, a member of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, caused considerable comment, both within and without the Council, as did his intervention earlier in the debate on the sources of revelation. He said that while progress in theological thought about the nature of the Church in recent years was echoed to a certain extent in the schema, its presentation of the Church was faulty. He outlined three essential points:

(I) All species of "triumphalism" should be avoided in speaking of the Church. By that he meant the pompous and romantic style constantly used in L'O.rservalore Romano and in the documents emanating from the Roman Curia. Thus the schema employed this style in speaking of the Church Militant, lining up its members as if in battle array. This approach had little if any relation to the sheepfold of which Christ spoke, nor did it reflect actuality, for today the Church was both persecuted and divided.

(2) The "clericalism" of the schema was equally offensive. The Church was not a pyramid of people, priests, and pope. The Church was essentially the People of God, and in them were to be found the rights and obligations of the Mystical Body. The hierarchy was much more a ministry or service, than a governing body. It was a particular continuation of Christ who came "not to be served, but to serve". Its function was to extend Christ by preaching the Word, and by offering His sanctifying grace to all mankind, the very opposite of any "hierarcholatria".

(3) Finally, in place of a juridical concept, the Church should be placed before the world as the Mother of mankind, for we were all reborn through her maternal action. Thus all mankind, as her sons, were brothers, both those within the family and those outside. "Reread pages 15 and 16 of this document," he said, "and see to what misconceptions this legalistic spirit can give rise. No mother ever spoke thus."

Addressing the Council, once more, in the name of the bishops from the Congo, Bishop Van Cauwelaert stated that he and his colleagues had been disappointed by the schema. Expecting a joyful announcement of the good news that was the Church, they found themselves faced instead with a rather trite, juridical document. The Church was here described as a static entity, whereas it was a living body with an eschatological destiny. It was useless to proclaim the Catholic Church as the true Church of Christ, if it did not immediately present the face and spirit of Christ to the world.

What was wanted was a return to the Church of Jerusalem — one heart, one mind in poverty and charity. The people of Africa were searching for a new manner of living together as a community —a new, solid, holy way of Life. The Church could actually offer this to them. but certainly not as here represented.

Winding up the day's debate, Bishop Carli of Segni, Italy, who was considered by many As one of Cardinal Ottaviani's principal spokesmen, complained somewhat bitterly of the critical approach that many fathers had adopted toward this schema as well as the schema on Revelation. "We are dealing here with an internal matter regarding the Church," he said, "yet so many insist that we say nothing about those of our doctrines that could possibly offend Protestants. Thus it seems as though we cannot speak of the Blessed Virgin Mary. nor may we talk of the Church Militant. We dare not mention Communism. We can hardly mention ecumenism, and we will be outlawed if we bring up justice or chastity. Thus the Council is slowly petering out before a series of taboos."

He was stopped by the President, and then hurriedly added his placer in favour of the schema as such. With applause for the presiding officer's intervention, the Council fathers joyfully departed.


The morning's discussion on Monday. December 3, in the 32nd General Congregation with Cardinal Ruffini presiding. brought Cardinals Spellman, Siri, McIntyre, Gracias, Leger and Doepfner to the microphone.

The first three had no particularly new light to shed on the subject under consideration, being out of touch with the newer theological thought appearing in central and northern Europe. Cardinal McIntyre did mention one obvious oversight. however, the failure to deal with the problem of infants who died without baptism.

Cardinal Gracias, on the other hand, spoke of the schema as offending against the true hospitality that ought to he the mark of the Church, and the bishops who pledge themselves to be "hospitable" in their consecration. He insisted that the missionary activity of the Church, particularly in a land such as his own, needed new orientation which could only come from a fundamental renewal of thinking in accordance with the will of the majority.

He pointed out that Christians were prepared "to go so far as to shed their blood" for the faith was true enough, but insisted that it was not necessary to say things offensive or provoking to non-Christians, in the newer nations. Why say this then, when we were now aware that there were various ways of announcing the truth of the Gospel? He likewise suggested that more attention be paid to oriental philosophers, since the pagans were increasing rapidly in the Far East, and it was only by considering their true mentality that the Church could properly be preached to them.

For Cardinal Leger of Montreal, the schema "De Ecclesia" was the card°, or hinge. of Vatican Council II. The two months of discussion thus far had at least one great benefit, he contended. They proved conclusively how correct Pope John had been in calling for a renewal of the Church through the Council.

Cardinal Doepfner of Munich likewise said that the present schema was of paramount importance both to the Council and to• the Church. Hence be proposed a radical change in its structure that would bring out better the fundamental notion of the Church as the People of God, with pope, bishops and laity as coordinate members thereof.

Of the speakers that followed, Archbishop Marty of Rheims gave the clearest exposition of the Church as a Mystery. The bonds which united it were primarily of a spiritual nature, he said. Its nature as an institution, its hierarchy, its social aspects were definable. ultimately, only in terms of this Mystery. the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ extended in the world for the salvation of mankind.

The Church was the direct intervention of God in the affairs of the world, the chosen instrument by which He intended to redeem all mankind. And its principal function — that of both hierarchy and laity—was to bring knowledge of salvation and the means of achieving it to everyone on this earth. Hence to identify the Church too closely with its juridical or administrative aspects was to misrepresent it or lower it to the level of some earthly association.

While Bishops Gargitter of Bressanone, Italy, Huyghe of Arras, France, and Hurley of Durban. South Africa, rallied to the thesis favoured by the majority, the Italian Bishops Barbetta and Musto kept hammering away at the line laid down by the Theological Cornmission.

The true difficulty with the schema, said Bishop Rupp of Monaco, putting his finger on the cnix of the matter, was that the authors had not had in view the same purpose or end desired by the pope and the Council. It was not calculated to bring about the reunion of Christians, or an aggiornamento. In fact it was rather scandalous to think that a part of the magisterium could have been capable of indulging in such exaggerations as the excessively juridical aspect of the Church presented by the schema.

Bishop Musto, who followed. almost wept as he pleaded with the fathers not to destroy the Church by changing anything in it. His oratory made many of his hearers wonder why he thought the pope had summoned the Council. Finally, running over time, he was stopped by the President.

`Siege mentality'

The debate continued during the 33rd General Congregation on Tuesday, December 4, under the presidency of Cardinal Caggiano of Buenos Aires.

Cardinal Frings, speaking first in the name of all the German-language bishops, said that the present schema did not represent thinking about the nature of the Church as a whole. but merely a certain theology which did not go hack more than a hundred years. There was nothing in it about what the Greek Fathers had to say on the subject, and very little about what the Latin Fathers had to say either. It would have to be completely rewritten to reflect the true catholicity of the Church's thought.

A much more cautious line was taken by Cardinal Godfrey of Westminster, whose remarks revealed that he was still influenced by the "siege mentality" which had characterized relations between the cornmunions not so long ago.

The situation in England today, he said, was confusing. It was difficult to know what members of the Church of England or the non-conformists believed. It was sometimes said that English Catholics were neither very enthusiastic Catholics nor very sympathetic toward the separated brethren. They were charitable and patient, however. The important thing was not to give the separated brethren any false ideas about concessions with regard to truth. Magna est verilas et praevalehit.

Discarding any such hesitant, fear-laden approach, the Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Cardinal Suenens, came out for a redrafting of the schema on an entirely new basis. As Vatican I was the Council of the Primacy, he suggested, so Vatican 11 should be the Council of the Church of Christ, the light of nations.

He proposed that in keeping with Pope John's suggestion in his inaugural talk, the doctrine on the Church should be considered in two stages: ad infra, or the nature of the Church as the Mystical Body; and ad extra, with respect to its missions "to preach the Gospel to all nations". The latter obviously required a dialogue between the Church and the world today which was looking so desperately to the Church for a solution to its problems.

Hence the Church must offer itself as the answer to: (1) All those questions having to do with the decency and dignity of the human person. This includes the problem of the population-explosion.

(2) Everything having to do with social justice. This includes the sixth commandment (which, for all the books written about it, still lacks a proper orientation), private property, the poor.

(3) The problem of winning the poor for the Church by teaching them to give themselves wholly to Christ in their homes as well as in foreign missions.

(4) The problem of internal peace within nations. and the dangers of war.

The proper treatment of these subjects, he said, "involves us in a triple dialogue: with the faithful, with our separated brethren, and with the world outside the Church. This analysis will be seen to be nothing other than a reconsideration of the opening discourseof Pope John." The discourse of Cardinal Suenens was greeted with long applause by the fathers, so much so that it had to be chocked off by a reminder from the President. Cardinal Caggiano, that such vociferous reactions were forbidden at the Council.

Cardinal Bea spoke in a similar vein, seconding the thoughts of the preceding speakers. Although Cardinals Bacci and Browne attempted to stem the tide by reiterating the scholastic, juridical approach, Archbishop Blanchet of Paris, Bishop Rabbani of Syria, Archbishop Guerry of Cambrai, Bishop Holland of Portsmouth, and Bishop Hengsbach of Essen, in quick succession. spoke out in favour of a radical reworking of the schema.


The intervention of Cardinal Suenens proved to be crucial. At the 34th Congregation on December 5, with Cardinal Alfrink president, Cardinal Ruffini spoke in a conciliatory tone, reminding the fathers that, after all. their disagreements were concerned with the manner of presenting the Church's doctrine, and not with the fundamentals of the faith itself.

Whatever the purpose of this statement, Cardinal Montini next took the microphone and. to all intents and purposes, confirmed the suspicion that Cardinal Suenens had been speaking for the pope. Montini approved wholeheartedly of the Belgian Cardinal's approach. The Church, he said, was nothing by itself. It was not so much a society founded by Christ, but rather Christ himself using us as his instruments to bring salvation to all mankind.

The Cardinal of Milan went on to say that it was up to the fathers in Council, now, to restate the "mind and will of Christ" by defining the collegiality of the episcopate, by giving a truly ecumenical outlook to the Church, and by insisting that each bishop was "the image of the father and the image of Christ". The less we insisted on the rights of the Church, he said, the more chance we had of being heard, particularly in those parts of the world that were suspicious of the Church as a paternalistic or colonial-minded institution. Hence it was necessary to send this schema back to the Theological Commission and to the Secretariat for Unity so that it might be completely revised.

This was the first time that the Cardinal of Milan had spoken since the opening days of the Council. What made his intervention all the more significant was the fact that, over the weekend, in a letter to his diocese which he faithfully published every week, he was openly critical not only of those members of the Council who refused to follow the newer viewpoint, but he actually laid the blame for the Council's failure to make greater progress on those members of the Curia who had prevented cooperation between the various Commissions during the preparatory phase of the Council.

They were obviously failing to follow the pope's lead. he said, as stated in his opening address. A discreet and prudent man such as the Cardinal of Milan would never have so revealed his true mind in this way, had he not been certain that he was expressing the thoughts of the Holy Father. The question of the pope's health had become crucial during the final two weeks of the Council and rumours were rife. in Vatican circles, that soon after the close of the Council--on December 10, it was said—Pope John would undergo surgery which his physician had been staving off for the past year or so.

However, on Sunday. December 2, Pope John appeared at the open window of his private apartments in the Vatican at noon, and recited the Angelus with the immense crowd in the square below as

was his custom—only this time they were reinforced by batteries of TV cameras— despite the fact that it was cold outside. Thanking the crowd for their solicitude and prayers for his health, he then rather casually informed them that • "the good health. which threatened for a moment to absent itself, is now returning, has actually returned."

On Tuesday evening, the 4th, it was announced that the pontiff would bless the pilgrims from his window at midday on Wednesday instead of holding his usual audience for them and, by way of emphasizing his continued improvement, it was stated that he had received the Cardinal Secretary of State on both Monday and Tuesday.

Deciding to take advantage of the occasion, the fathers of the Council swarmed out of the basilica, on Wednesday, at 11.45, and joined the immense throngs of priests, nuns and laymen patiently waiting for the Holy Father to appear. Precisely at twelve noon, the papal window opened and the pope began to recite the Angelus•. As he finished, the crowd broke into a tremendous roar. accompanied by the tooting of horns and the ringing of bells. The pope quickly signalled for silence. Obviously moved by the tribute, he said : "My sons, Divine Providence is with us. As you see, from one day to the next there is progress. not going down. but in coming up slowly—piano, piano. Sickness, then convalescence. Now we are convalescing. The satisfaction afforded us by this gathering is a reason for rejoicing. It is an augury of the strength and robustness which are coming back to us."

Gesturing majestically, he then continued: "What a spectacle we see before us today — the Church grouped together here in full representation : ecco, its bishops; ecco. its priests; ecco, its Christian people! A whole family here present, the family of Christ!"

Alluding to the fact that the Council was soon to close for a while, the pope then spoke of the pleasure it had afforded him thus far—not merely because of the obvious unity of clergy and people in the Church to which it attested, but because it represented all the races of the whole world, for all peoples everywhere had been redeemed by the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The Pope's health

The 35th Congregation on Thursday, December 6, had Cardinal Tisserant as its President. The discussion was preceded by a statistical resume of the Council's activities, presented by Archbishop Felici, indicating that since the opening day some 1,110 fathers had either spoken or presented their views in writing.

Then Cardinal Lecaro of Bologna, initiating the day's debate, quickly put his stamp of approval on the MontiniSuenens thesis. and spoke eloquently of the Mystery of Christ in the Church of the poor. With an explicit reference to the pope's opening discourse, wherein he had cited the words of St. Peter: "Silver and gold 1 have none". the Cardinal of Bologna exhorted all in the Church to follow Christ truly "Who, though rich, became poor for us". His remarks were received with loud applause.

The Secretary General then spoke. making a definite announcement in the name of the Holy Father. This intervention on the part of the pope made it finally and unmistakably clear how he wanted the Council conducted. In the nine months between the adjournment of this first session of Vatican Council II and its second session, opening on September 8, 1963 [now altered to September 29], all the schemata — particularly those discussed in Council—were to be reworked by mixed Commissions and sent to the bishops for their emendations and comment. The fathers were instructed to return these to the Secretariat as soon as

possible. To coordinate the work of the collaborating Commissions, the Holy Father had decided to create a new committee under the presidency of Cardinal Cicognani.

The rest of the debate was simply denouement. The full significance of the papal intervention being comprehended, it was obvious that Pope John had remained on the "pastoral" side of the debate— as he had clearly asserted in his inaugural discourse— throughout the meetings of the Council.

This did not prevent several further statements on the opposite side, such as those by Bp. Compagnone of Anagni, Bp. Hervas y Benet of Ciudad Real, Spain, Bp. Fares of Catanzaro, and Archb. Stella of Aquila, which reiterated the tried and not so true juridic themes. But the rest of the speakers, including Bp. Philhin of Down (one of the three Irish bishops who spoke in the, Council) and Bp. Renard of Versailles, came out clearly for renovation and renewal.

Father Joseph Buckley, the recently-elected General of the Marist Order, with a good Massachusetts accent, then gave a fine discourse on the nature of obedience as it must be conceived in the context of the liberty enjoyed by the lay members of the Church in the world of today, and Bp. Hakim of Israel capped the day's discussion by reiterating the oriental approach.

The final general congregation, the 36th. was held on Friday, December 7, presided over by Cardinal Lienart. After the announcement that Pope John would arrive before midday to speak to the fathers, the President expressed his sentiments of joy and gratitude to all for the work and good spirit demonstrated by the Council.

Cardinal Koenig in the first talk took the opportunity to correct a statement made a few days earlier by Bishop Griffiths, auxiliary of New York, who in his discourse had quoted the Gospel phrase, "Lord, we have laboured the whole night long, and have taken nothing". Said the Cardinal of Vienna: "We have certainly not done everything, but in these two months we have accomplished great things. Within these halls by our exchange of viewpoints we have come to a much greater appreciation of the Church as it is in reality. Despite our differences, we have maintained the charity of Christ, and have prepared ourselves for the presentation to the world of the truth and love of Christ that we daily hope to accomplish in the next session."


Earlier, in a chronicle of the Council in the Paris journal Le Monde, the Auxiliary Bishop of New York had been bracketed with the Bishops of Salamanca and Trois Rivieres (Canada) as among the more outstanding intransigents at the Council, because of his intelligence and extremely juridical outlook.

Cardinal Lefebvre of Bourges then gave a vivid but -kindly discourse on charity as the heart and life of the Church. This was followed by a rambling. semi-hysterical discourse by Bp. Reyes of the Philippines, who insisted on the royal character of the Church's -right, due to the kingship of Christ. Msgr. Isaac Ghattas, Coptic bishop of Thebes, brought the Council back to a balanced consideration of the true union in faith and love that should mark all the Christian Churches, while Bishop Ancel. auxiliary of Lyons, in reiterating the collegiality of the bishops in association with the pope. said there need be no conflict between the juridical and other aspects of the Church, so long as the former were seen as merely an accidental necessity, and not made the principal consideration of ecclesiastical thought anct action. Bishop Silva of Concepcion, Chile, struck a final blow on behalf of Cardinals Ruffini and Browne. The honour of the last word at the first session went to the Benedictine Abbot Butler.

At 11.15 the Holy Father arrived on foot. mounted the platform erected over the Confession of St. Peter and started reciting the Angelus. The fathers applauded his arrival, joined with him joyfully in prayer. and listened avidly as he thanked them for the work they had accomplished in their two months in Council. He indicated his pleasure at the unity and charity displayed,

despite their divergences.. Giving them his blessing, he then descended the platform unassisted. and left the basilica.

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