Text of Archbishop’s Remarks Denouncing Draft on Church in the Modern World

This is an English translation of the speech by Archbishop John C. Heenan of Westminster, England, at the general session of the ecumenical council on Oct. 22 on the schema of the Church in the modern world.

It would be most ungracious if we were not to praise the efforts of the commission which has produced the document we are now considering. There can be no doubt that the council Fathers concerned and their advisers have worked hard and have done their best. It is nevertheless quite obvious that the document they have presented to us is unworthy of a general council of the Church.

If we are to speak at all about the Church in the world of today we must do so in clear, unmistakable and down-to-earth terms. For some years not only the faithful but non-Catholics and even unbelievers have been awaiting from this council wise advice on many grave problems. The Holy See itself has suggested that the Second Vatican Council will make some attempt to solve the complex social problems of our day. The document now before us will therefore be studied with eager hope.

What sort of judgment, venerable brothers, do you think the world will pass on this treatise? On some questions, as we know, it is better to say too little than too much. On the subject of world problems, however, it would have been much better to say nothing than produce a set of platitudes. I would like you to call to mind the number of sittings we had when the question of the sources of Revelation was so fiercely debated. The theologians, of course, rightly regarded this as a highly important topic. But to the citizens of the wide world, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, a debate of this kind seems like wasting time and beating the air. Having spent such a long time on theological niceties this council will become a laughing-stock in the eyes of the world if it now rushes breathlessly through a debate on world hunger, nuclear war and family life. People will ask ironically and with good reason what do we really mean when we call this a pastoral council?

I must speak plainly. This document is going to dash the hopes of everyone who has been awaiting it. Its authors do not seem to realize even to whom the message should be directed. Here is an example of their way of writing: “Christians,” they say, “are ready to engage in a dialogue with all men of good will.” But surely this is a pointless thing to say. Christians should be ready to conduct a dialogue with anyone whether or not he is a man of good will. The whole treatise reads more like a sermon than a document of a council. Continue reading

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Leading Prelate Denounces Draft on Church in Modern World, Seeks Major Delay

107th General Congregation
October 22, 1964

Mild criticism but general acceptance of schema 13 on the Church in the modern world as a basis for discussion came to an abrupt end during the council’s 107th general meeting.

In a violent attack couched in some of the strongest language the Fathers have heard to date, Britain’s ranking prelate denounced the schema as a “dangerous … set of platitudes … unworthy of a council.” He asked that the next session be postponed for perhaps four years until it is reworked.

“Having spent such a long time on theological niceties, this council will become a laughing stock in the eyes of the world if it now rushes breathlessly through a debate on world hunger, nuclear war and family life,” Archbishop John C. Heenan of Westminster said. “People will ask, ironically and with good reason, what do we really mean when we call this a pastoral council?”

He also had harsh words for some of the council’s experts, or periti. In what seemed to be a reference to recent widely publicized arguments on birth control, many of them coming from England, the Archbishop said: “The Church of God has suffered a great deal from the writings and speeches of some of the periti.

“These few specialists care nothing for the ordinary teaching authority of bishops — nor, I regret to say, for that of the pope.”

In rejecting the text, he recommended it be given to a new commission including married couples, doctors, economists and scientists, as well as priests with long pastoral experience.

“Then after three or four years let the fourth and final session of the council be convened to discuss all these social problems,” he said. Continue reading

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Draft on Lay Apostolate Faces Difficult Rewrite

The draft on the lay apostolate, which underwent five days of sharp debate, has gone back to the Second Vatican Council’s commission on the lay apostolate for complete revision.

The 64 speeches by council Fathers left not a single section of the draft untouched by criticism, some of it slashing.

Despite the great number of suggestions, the total rewriting indicated by the debate will be a difficult task for the commission. This stems in part from the fact that the work must be done by the same people who prepared the three major drafts on the lay apostolate to date. There is the added difficulty that much of the body of its original material has been eviscerated and given to other commissions.

Most notable of these was the original schema’s section on the layman in the temporal order. This section was taken over entirely by the commission for schema 13 on the Church in the modern world.

The Commission on the Lay Apostolate is already at work, reassessing the wreckage left after five days of almost continuous attack. Five subcommissions are assessing the speeches on the council floor to determine how to meet the criticisms and make use of the many constructive suggestions. Continue reading

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Today’s Theme: How Should the Church Speak to the Modern World?

106th General Congregation
October 21, 1964

Should the Church speak to the world more from its treasury of Divine Revelation or should it depend more on rational arguments in helping the world to understand itself?

This was the central point of debate at the council’s 106th general meeting. Eleven Fathers asked the council to accept schema 13 on the Church in the modern world as a basis for discussion. Only one speaker asked for its rejection.

Augustin Cardinal Bea, president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, said he wanted a more Scriptural foundation for the schema, observing that the text is addressed primarily to believers. He called for a declaration of the universal dominion of Christ over all created things and an expression of man’s twofold life, natural and supernatural.

Following the lead given by Albert Cardinal Meyer of Chicago in his address the previous day, Maronite-rite Patriarch Paul Pierre Meouchi of Antioch said he wanted a clearer theological foundation for the text based on the notion that the world itself is the proper object of salvation.

Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Cracow, Poland, on the other hand, said he felt that the draft stated sufficiently the Church’s treasury from Scripture and tradition. He asked rather that it speak not only from authority, but give clear and intelligent arguments from natural law and reason, leading the world to discover its own answers. Continue reading

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Proposal on Church in the Modern World Advances

105th General Congregation
October 20, 1964

In an attempt to understand the modern world and to interpret the Church’s message to that world, the council Fathers began discussion of one of the most talked-about and long-awaited schemas on its agenda.

Eight cardinals took the floor and all but one expressed general satisfaction with the text of schema 13 on the Church in the modern world. They asked the council to accept it as a basis for discussion.

Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York hailed it as “representing the basic hopes of the Second Vatican Council” and asked that in recommending changes, council Fathers take care not to weaken but rather to strengthen the text and improve its clarity.

Both Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich, Germany, and Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna, Italy, cautioned against speed in deliberations. The latter observed that “perhaps there is not even time enough left in this session — especially if there is going to be a fourth session next year.”

Saying he was unhappy with the impression given by the text that the Church “fears contagion from associating with the world,” Albert Cardinal Meyer of Chicago called for a deeper understanding of the role of the world in the plan of salvation. He cited Scripture and tradition to support his contention that the world itself, and not only the soul of man, is the proper object of Redemption. Continue reading

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More Debate on Eastern Churches; Council Approves Chapter on Church’s Nature, Wants Revisions on Priesthood Draft

104th General Congregation
October 19, 1964

The council Fathers gave overwhelming approval at their 104th meeting to chapter seven of the schema on the nature of the Church, which concerns the Christian vocation to the happiness of heaven.

They also voted to send the proposition on the priesthood back to commission for revision.

In continuing debate on the Eastern churches, several Fathers reacted to strong criticism at the previous meeting of the schema’s treatment of patriarchs. In the name of the Patriarchal Conference of the Chaldean Rite, Bishop Raphael Bidavvid of Amadiya, Iraq, said that the present document is “entirely satisfactory, combining pastoral solicitude with an ecumenical spirit.” He said the section on patriarchs is especially gratifying since it sets forth their dignity “as truth, justice and ecumenism demand.”

Armenian-rite Bishop Raphael Bayan of Alexandria, Egypt, called the patriarchates an anachronism and asked that they be eliminated, though with the provision that their synods and system of government be honored. Continue reading

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Father McManus Discusses Instruction on Liturgy 

The striking new changes in the Mass made by the instruction of the Vatican Liturgy Commission aim at stressing the community nature of Christian worship and taking full advantage of the liturgy’s educational or formative possibilities.

The new changes, which go into effect March 7, 1965, the first Sunday of Lent, must be regarded as a preliminary step in the overall liturgical reform decreed last December by the Second Vatican Council.

In the Constitution on the Liturgy the council gave broad mandates for reforms to be worked out in detail by a commission drawn from all over the world. Early this year, Pope Paul VI set up the commission with the major task of revising the official missal, ritual, breviary and so forth. Although complete reform is expected to take several years, the Vatican Liturgy Commission has prepared an interim instruction concerning the Mass and other services. It was made public Oct. 16 by the Congregation of Rites, the Vatican agency which has dealt with liturgical matters since the 16th century.

Unlike the changes of liturgical texts into various languages, which are questions entrusted by the council to the bishops of each country, the new instruction is obligatory throughout the Latin rites of the Church by the expressed direction of Pope Paul.  Continue reading

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