Constitution on the Church ‘Memorable Achievement’

The forthcoming Constitution on the Church will become the most memorable achievement of the Second Vatican Council and will launch a totally new era in Catholic thought.

The constitution has already received the basic approval of the council Fathers through an affirmative vote on the first six chapters, although it will not become official until its promulgation by Pope Paul VI.

The modifications still to be made on the text as a result of the suggestions of the council Fathers will not be substantial and will be designed to perfect the present text rather than change its basic content.

While the new constitution cannot be expected to have an immediate sensational effect in theology, its ultimate result will be revolutionary. Continue reading

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Pope Paul’s Speech At Closing Session

This is a translation of the speech delivered Nov. 21 by Pope Paul VI at the closing session of the ecumenical council’s third session.

Pope Paul VI (CNS photo)

Pope Paul VI (CNS photo)

After two months of intense brotherly effort, we render thanks to God for the happy celebration of this Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, of which we conclude today the third session with this solemn and sacred assembly. Truly indeed, we must offer God the expression of our grateful and rejoicing souls for having granted us the great fortune of being present and, what is more, the fortune of ourselves giving consistency, meaning and fullness to this historic and providential event as humble and happy protagonists. Truly we may regard as spoken for us today the words of the Gospel: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and the ears that hear what you hear” [Matt. 13, 16].

Here is present before us, in the persons of its shepherds followed by their respective flocks, the Holy Church of God, called together by Him through our voice. Here is the Catholic hierarchy on whom it is incumbent to form and guide the holy People of God, gathered together in one place, in one sentiment, with one prayer, one faith, one charity on their lips and in their hearts.

We shall never tire of admiring, nor shall we ever forget this incomparable assembly entirely intent on proclaiming the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, concerned only with re-evoking the blessed words of revelation and penetrating into their true and deep sense.

This is an assembly of men free like none other from self-interest and engaged in giving witness to divine truths; men as we are, weak and fallible, but convinced of being able to pronounce truths that admit neither contradiction nor termination; men who are sons of our own times and our own earth, yet above time and above earth in order to take upon our shoulders the burdens of our brothers and to lead them to spiritual salvation. This we do with a love greater than these same hearts that house it, with a strained effort that might seem foolhardy, but is full of serene trust in its search for the meaning of human life and history to give it value, greatness, beauty, union in Christ, only in Christ Our Lord!

Brethren, the fact that you are here is stupendous. It is stupendous for those who behold us from the outside. Never shall we behold a scene more impressive, more pious, more dramatic or more solemn. Continue reading

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Council Box Score

Here is a box score on Second Vatican Council accomplishments through the first three sessions.

Council acts debated, amended and promulgated:

  • The Constitution on the Liturgy and the Decree on Communications Media, in the second session (1963).
  • The Constitution on the Nature of the Church and Decrees on Ecumenism and the Eastern Churches, in the third session (1964).

Schemata debated, amended, but not voted upon in final form:

  • The Pastoral Duties of Bishops, and the statement on non-Christians, including Jews. This statement is to be an appendix to the Constitution on the Nature of the Church.

Schemata debated and sent back for amendment, but still completely in commission hands:

  • Divine Revelation, Religious, Seminaries, the Church in the Modern World, Christian Education, Lay Apostolate.

Schemata debated and sent back for complete revision:

  • Missions, Priestly Life and Ministry.

Schemata not brought to the floor after being debated and sent back for amending:

  • Religious Liberty.

Schemata transferred from conciliar authority and placed in the hands of the Pope:

  • Matrimony.
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Third Session Closes With Proclamation of Documents on Church, Ecumenism, Eastern Churches

Closing of Council’s Third Session
November 21, 1964

With the proclamation of the constitution on the nature of the Church and the decrees on ecumenism and the Eastern Churches, Pope Paul VI solemnly brought the third session of the ecumenical council to a close in the presence of the entire body of the Church’s bishops.

During the course of the ceremony he proclaimed Mary “Mother of the Church” and announced that the council will have its “definitive conclusion in the fourth session.” The date for this session was not announced, and speculation in council circles has ranged all the way from March of next year to a date sometime during 1966.

In a surprise move, Pope Paul VI changed the Eucharistic fast regulations, reducing the time of fasting from solid foods before Communion from three hours to one hour.

Archbishop Pericle Felici, secretary general of the council, made the announcement during the council’s closing session. He said the new relaxation applies to priests as well as to the faithful, and was made “at the request of bishops of many countries.”

The proclamation of the council’s most important document on the Church came immediately after a Mass concelebrated by Pope Paul and 24 council Fathers. Each of them has within his diocese a major Marian shrine and was chosen to concelebrate for this reason. The Mass was that of the day’s feast — the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. Among the celebrants was Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle of Washington, in whose diocese the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located.

After Archbishop Felici briefly read from the beginning and end of each chapter, a formal vote on the constitution was taken. The results were tabulated almost immediately: 2,151 affirmative to five negative.

The bishops were directed to stand and remove their miters, and Pope Paul began: Continue reading

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Text Of Cardinal Ritter on Matrimony Document

This is the text of the address delivered by Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis in the ecumenical council Nov. 20 on the document on matrimony.

I am highly pleased by the votum “On the Sacrament of Matrimony” and more particularly on the suggested dispositions affecting inter-confessional marriages.

In its fifth paragraph the proposed votum would introduce two very important departures from the present legislation: the one concerns the premarital guarantees, the other the canonical form.

The new approach to the guarantees, it seems to me, is particularly praiseworthy in that it serves both truth and charity. Herein the Church is concerned with the observance of divine law and the safeguarding of personal right. It is evident that the new disposition would safeguard the right to marry more realistically than the present law. Moreover, the new approach would more effectively secure respect for the divine law. The norms of the Code of Canon Law often enough obscure the existence of a divine law, and by insisting over much on juridical procedure, emphasize ecclesiastical law beyond measure. Adoption of the suggested proposal would strengthen respect for divine law, by stressing more emphatically the role of personal responsibility. Responsibility for the security of his own faith as well as for the Catholic education of children is rightly placed on the Catholic party. In this way we can lessen the possibility of offense to the consciences of our separated brethren.

The schema proceeds wisely and prudently in its approach to the canonical form. It offers a middle course between the extremes of inflexible retention and complete relaxation of the form. Although each extreme has its adherents, I believe that this compromise affords the best response to the needs of our time. On the side the schema supports the general retention of the canonical form of marriage for validity in such cases. Not a few Fathers will find this displeasing and they can point out that the clandestinity of marriage, which the Tridentine legislation was intended to counteract, is no longer a problem. However, a new pastoral problem has presented itself in some countries — the high incidence of early and hasty marriage with a probability of subsequent divorce — which recommends the retention of the form for validity. Continue reading

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Suggestions to Pope on Marriage Norms Break New Ground

The suggestions for canonical legislation on marriage which the council has sent to Pope Paul VI for his own consideration take up little more than two pages of printed text.

But if accepted and enacted, they could give the Church’s matrimonial laws a much milder countenance.

All so-called “minor” impediments to marriage would be suppressed.

Future legislation on marriage between Catholics and baptized non-Catholics, or between Catholics and unbaptized persons, would be oriented along the council’s guidelines on ecumenism.

The legal procedure in marriage cases would be streamlined. All persons would be assured the help of a qualified lawyer without cost. Continue reading

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Flurry of Actions Mark Final Working Day of Council’s Third Session

127th General Congregation
November 20, 1964

The final working day of the third session of the ecumenical council ended as a large majority approved the declaration on the Church’s relations with non-Christians, which includes a strong and clear statement on the Jews.

But the Fathers did not have enough time to cast the declaration in its final form for promulgation at this session.

At the same time, it was announced in the name of Pope Paul VI that the decision not to vote on the religious liberty declaration was upheld in order to give the Fathers sufficient time to study it. It was stated that if at all possible it will be the first order of business at the fourth session, which probably will be called for the fall of 1965.

The final working meeting, which was the 127th to be held since the council opened in October, 1962, also saw final voting on the schemas on the Eastern churches and ecumenism, thus clearing the way for their promulgation at the plenary council session in the Pope’s presence on Nov. 21. One other schema became an official act of the council as a result of this third session, the one on the nature of the Church.

At the end of the debate on the document on matrimony, the Fathers voted to send it to the Pope for his action because they felt the problems are so in need of immediate action that it would be wrong to have to wait on the long and complex process of the council and a new codification of canon law.

Three votes were taken on the declaration on the Church’s relations with non-Christians. The entire text was approved 1,651 to 99, with 242 other Fathers voting in favor of the declaration but with reservations. It was the favorable-with-reservations votes that made it impossible to promulgate the declaration at this session, since each of the reservations must be studied by the commission to see if they can significantly add to the final document.

In addition to the overall vote on the declaration, two other votes on its various sections were cast. The first vote was on the introduction and first three articles, dealing with non-Christians in general and particularly with Moslems. These were approved 1,838 to 136. The second vote covered articles four and five dealing with the Jews and the affirmation of universal brotherhood. These were approved 1,770 to 185. Continue reading

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