Council Fathers Have Reservations About Liturgy Document

47th General Congregation
October 14, 1963

The Fathers of Vatican Council II in a seeming about-face refused to accept the amended second chapter of the document on the public worship of the Church.

Nineteen amendments to the second chapter of the liturgy schema had been passed by overwhelming votes the previous week. Then the Fathers voted on the chapter as a whole on Oct. 14. Of 2,242 Fathers present, 1,417 voted for the chapter, 36 voted against, and 781 voted for it but with reservations.

The seeming contradiction in the assembly’s action was explained by two factors: First, the chapter involved more than the topics dealt with in the successful balloting on the amendments. Second, a tally on a chapter as a whole allows for casting votes not only for or against, but also votes for but with reservations. Votes on simple amendments must be either yes or no, and reservations are not provided for. The great number of reservations explains the failure of the chapter as a whole to win passage.

The defeat of the text was explained by some bishops by the fact that in dealing with concelebration of the Mass ‑‑ the offering of the Holy Eucharist by two or more priests jointly at the same altar ‑‑ the chapter stated that permission for concelebration could be granted by “the Ordinary.” Such wording, these Fathers said, would allow permission to be granted not only by the diocesan bishop ‑‑ the Ordinary of the place ‑‑ but also certain other churchmen, such as abbots, who also enjoy “ordinary” jurisdiction over their communities. These Fathers indicated that the vote might have been different had the chapter restricted permission for concelebration to the “Ordinary of the place.”

The 781 Fathers who voted “with reservations” were required by the regulations to append to their vote a note explaining their reasons. The liturgical commission must now evaluate and coordinate the observations of the Fathers who voted “with reservations” and then submit these to the assembly at a later date for another vote.

A change in the seating arrangements of the council Fathers was first noted at this assembly. Patriarchs had been previously assigned places in the first row of the section reserved for archbishops. Now they have a special place in the council hall directly opposite the seats reserved for the cardinals. This was obviously a recognition of the claim of the patriarchs ‑‑ chiefly Eastern rite prelates ‑‑ that they enjoy right of precedence equal if not superior to cardinals.

The first of the day’s speakers was Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne, who declared that “it would be false to deny the existence of the concept [of the collegiality of the bishops], in the same way that it would be erroneous to maintain that the primacy of the Roman pontiff is not found in early tradition because it does not appear with the exactness of expression which is found in the First Vatican Council.”

The Cardinal supported his contention that the collegiality of the bishops can be found expressed in the primitive tradition of the Church by quoting St. Cyprian, who remarked that the episcopate is one, and in it each individual has his part.

Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis made a point by which he hoped to reduce a number of useless speeches caused by confusion over what he saw to be the real point at issue.

“There are two questions involved in both topics presently on the floor,” he said, “namely the speculative or dogmatic aspects and the practical. We are treating here only of the dogmatic question of the essential constitution of the Church. Just how this is to be translated into practice will be discussed in the schema on bishops and the government of dioceses.

“Similarly, the discussion on the diaconate is only whether it is to be restored, is necessary and is useful. The difficulties which may arise, with or without marriage, should be left to their own proper time in later discussions.”

Archbishop Pietro Parente, Assessor of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office ‑‑ speaking too rapidly to be understood, some complained, because he was trying to cover too much ground in the allotted 10 minutes ‑‑ said: “It is quite true to say that all the Apostles are with Peter, the foundation of the Church, provided this does not mean that the other Apostles are equal to Peter.”

Retired Bishop Vincenzo Jacono of Nicastro, Italy; Coadjutor Bishop Fortunato Coutinho of Belgaum, India; Bishop Joseph Hoeffner of Nunster, and Bishop Armando Fares of Catanzaro, Italy, all touched on points that had been treated earlier. Bishop Jacono said that the college of bishops is infallible only when it functions with and under the pope. Bishop Coutinho made almost the identical point. Bishop Hoeffner urged that a distinction be made between the powers and functions of the episcopate. Bishop Fares held that the term “collegiate” in this connotation should not be used in a juridical sense.

Several Fathers asked for greater emphasis on one point or another. Bishop Henri Vion of Poitiers urged that, because of the pastoral intent of the schema, the council should extol the figure of the Good Shepherd. Another Frenchman, Bishop Jean Sauvage of Annecy, urged treatment in the text also of the question of the apostolic succession.

Archbishop Josef Schneider of Bamberg, Germany, insisted that in the second chapter of the first part of the schema on the Church, Articles 11 (the preface), 12 (on Christ’s instituting the apostolic college), and 13 (on bishops as the successors of the Apostles) should be amended to be made more complete.

Bishop Patrick Cleary, S.S.C., exiled Ordinary of Nancheng, China, objected to that part of the schema, which says that the pope should be given hearing “even when he does not speak ex cathedra.”

Said Bishop Cleary: “Although it is highly improbable that such a declaration would be erroneous, still the possibility cannot be excluded absolutely. To impose an absolute obligation of assent in such cases appears unreasonable.”

Coadjutor Archbishop Segundo Garcia of Oviedo, Spain, rose at this stage of the discussion to state bluntly: It is not sufficiently proven that the bishops are the successors of the Apostles. It does not seem possible to prove that the 12, as the 12, had jurisdiction. In any case, this whole question seems to be one which is highly controversial and really should not be discussed in the council.

Bishop Luigi Carli of Segni, Italy, rose finally on this issue to say that “whatever may have been the opinions of former theologians, it is the responsibility of this council to decide whether or not the time is right for the Roman pontiff to make the collegiality of the bishops an official doctrine of the Church.”

Among the few who spoke on the permanent diaconate it seemed generally accepted that it should be restored.

The only question now appeared to be whether such deacons should be celibate or free to marry.

Archbishop Custodio Alvim Pereira of Lourenco Marques, Mozambique, repeated alleged difficulties of a married diaconate, which had already been heard in the council. He urged that celibacy be required. Bishop Petar Cule of Mostar, Yugoslavia, repeated the same argument with the same recommendation. Bishop Giuseppe Carraro of Verona, Italy, and Archbishop Paul Zoungrana of Ouagadougou, Upper Volta, both also argued for enforcement of celibacy for a permanent diaconate.

Bishop Jorge Kemerer of Posadas, Argentina, speaking in the name of 25 bishops of Latin America, declared: “Restoration of the diaconate will be a great boon for many parts of the Church provided it is accompanied by the obligation of celibacy. … The diaconate as a permanent rank may not be necessary throughout the entire Church. But it seems to be an indispensable need for some localities.”

Auxiliary Bishop Marijan Oblak of Zadar, Yugoslavia, took the floor to assert that the schema does not devote enough attention to the priesthood ‑‑ a charge that other prelates had made in earlier council deliberations.

At the U.S. bishops’ press panel following the council meeting, Father Frederick McManus of The Catholic University of America, a council expert, said that the defeat of the second chapter of the liturgy schema was not to be interpreted as a retreat from the vernacular.

He reminded reporters that when this particular question was brought up for a vote it had received an overwhelming vote of approval.

Father John F. Long, S.J., of New York, staff member of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and an authority on Eastern Rites, said that the new assignment of seats to patriarchs was made to stress the fact that the council is not for the western Church alone. “It is a gesture,” he said, “to indicate that the ancient patriarchates have their proper place in the Church.”

Another purpose of the new seating arrangement, Father Long continued, “is a sign to those who are not in communion with Rome that, when the day of reconciliation comes, they are not going to be absorbed. It will show that the promises that have been made about keeping their local systems of government, their local liturgical life and their proper theological development are not just empty promises. In a symbolic way, the council is moving toward showing that these promises have substance.”

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