Page 1, 3rd December 1965

3rd December 1965
Page 1
Page 1, 3rd December 1965 — POPE QUERIES TEXT

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People: Paul, Leger
Locations: Montreal, Rome


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From Our Special Correspondent in Rome

THE final text of Schema 13 — the Vatican Council's decree on the Church in the Modern World — which will be put before the Council Fathers for voting tomorrow, has just been completed after a week filled with tension and speculation about the formulation of its passage on birth control.

The latest indications are that the text is far better than many had hoped and represents the fruit of a significant final stage in the rapidlymaturing dialogue which has taken place between Pope Paul and the Commissions dealing with some of the more important Conciliar documents.

The new text, it is understood, prohibits the use of media illicita contra vitam (illicit Means against life) by parents in determining the number of their children.

This phrase, while ostensibly a compromise between the wishes expressed by the Pope and the reaction of the Commission, is, in the opinion of many theologians, a very open phrase which is far less likely to affect the work of the special Papal Commission on birth control than an un

adorned restatement of the norms laid down by Pius XI's Cacti Connubii might have done.

Equally important at this phrase, moral theologians feel, is the nature and substance of the amendment on this passage which were rejected by the Commission as running contrary to the spirit of the document.

Several of these, it is understood, asked for a reaffirmation of the distinction between the primary and secondary ends of marriage and emphasis on the natural law justification for the prohibition of contraception as intrinsically evil.


The new phrasing, some Council experts feel, is so open that it may be misinterpreted in post Conciliar teaching. With this in mind, an unprecedented decision is being taken to publish not only the full text of the document but also the amendments, together with the reasons given for their rejection or acceptance by the Commission.

This, it is felt, will help to remove any ambiguity, and in some quarters is being taken as an indication that the distinction between the primary and secondary ends of marriage, while not being ignored, has been transcended in some ways by the personalist idea of the community of marriage which finds strong expression in the document.

The final text was agreed on only after a considerable amount of discussion between Pope Paul and the Conciliar Commission which started when a letter was received from Cardinal Cicognani, in the name of the Pope, asking that there should be more stress on Pope Pius XI's encyclical Casti Connubil and that the norms on contraception in this document should find a more explicit place in the schema.

The letter provoked an immediate reaction among the members of the Commission, among whom Cardinal Leger, Archbishop of Montreal, was one of the most forceful speakers.

They objected to the proposed amendment on the grounds that it might prejudice

the work of the special Papal commission, that, as expressed, it ran counter to the spirit of the document, and that it was confirmed practice in the drafting of Conciliar documents to keep all references to previous Papal pronouncements in the footnotes and not to quote extracts from them in the text itself.

REFORMABELITY VOTE The initial reaction of the Commission to Pope Paul's letter—which was echoed in the reaction of a number of lay auditors who subsequently went to the Pope to express their own views on the matter —was, it is felt, strengthened by one fact which is not generally known but of which most of the members of the Commission were aware.

This is that at a recent meeting of the special Papal Commission studying t h e problem of contraception and birth control, a considerable majority of the members—it is reported to be as high as two-thirds — voted for the reformabilifas (reformability) of the Church's teaching. The necessary impreciseness of the word reformabilitas has not prevented theologians from pointing out the psychological significance of the vote, although it is obviously devoid of any juridical importance.

The Commision's response to the Papal request took the form of a letter to Pope Paul asking for clarification. Was his letter a suggestion and could it be treated as such or was it obligatory?

Pope Paul then replied in a second letter saying that it was obligatory but that the choice of words to be inserted in the document would be left with the Commission itself.

The members of the Cornmission were divided on the tone of this letter: some of them, including Cardinal Leger, thought that it was stronger in tone, others that it was more gentle.

The final text, however, was practically, if not completely, unanimously agreed to by the members of the Commission and— more importantly — by the Pope himself. This, it is argued, is enough to forestall alarmist ideas that the text may be changed yet again before it is promulgated.

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