Council Text on Church in Modern World Critiqued for ‘False Optimism’

133rd General Congregation
September 22, 1965

The revised council document on the Church in the modern world drew limited praise as a whole and general criticism of some of its parts as the ecumenical council entered its second day of debate on the massive schema that seeks to set forth the place and role of the Church in relation to modern times.

Twelve council Fathers spoke on the general aspects of the document. While their objections and criticisms covered a variety of points, it was noted that several were particularly concerned with what one described as a “false optimism” about the world.

They objected that the document overlooks the presence of evil in the world today and that it fails to take sufficiently into account the weakness of man caused by original sin.

Before debate was resumed on the new draft, four other council Fathers took advantage of a council rule which provides that they may address the council on a matter of business already closed if they present a petition signed by 70 or more Fathers. They chose to speak again on the proposed religious liberty declaration on which debate had been closed the previous day. Continue reading

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Text of Cardinal Spellman’s Remarks on Draft on Church in Modern World

This is the text of the speech on the schema on the Church in the modern world delivered at the ecumenical council by Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York on Sept. 21.

As I said during the last session of the council, this pastoral constitution should be a lucid and a totally sincere affirmation of the role which the Church sees as her own in the world. It should be a solemn yet simple, frank and humble rededication of the Catholic Church to the service of mankind. To accomplish this end we wish to listen and be listened to; to be asked to state — even to explain — our positions. Above all we ask that we may be allowed to cooperate in the work of helping all men to achieve a fuller life.

If this constitution is to accomplish its purpose, the substance of the present text must not be weakened in any way. Nevertheless, I believe that the task remains to provide — especially in the first pages of the schema — a certain tone or mode of expression which would signify without any doubt precisely what this schema means to achieve. For, in this schema, the Church does not intend to give simple and definitive solutions for all the problems of the modern world; rather, she desires to enter into a dialogue with all men of good will to build together a better world.

The essential condition of this dialogue on the part of the Christian faithful is the spirit and virtue of obedience toward that power in the Church “which has been established by Christ, acts in His place, is as it were His visible instrument, and represents the love of so noble a Shepherd.” I think it most necessary that we explain the essence and significance of filial Christian obedience generously given. Continue reading

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Report Notes Draft on Church in Modern World Heavily Rewritten

The report on the text of the schema on the Church in the modern world was presented by Archbishop Gabriel Garrone of Toulouse, France, who pointed out that the period since the last council session in 1964 has been marked by intense activity on the part of the commission responsible for the text.

Several meetings were held, he said, and the number of bishops on the commission was greatly increased in order to have a stronger universal representation. The commission had the collaboration of several prominent laymen, both men and women, he reported.

If the text at first seems to be quite different from the preceding version, Archbishop Garrone reported, this is because the commission tried to adapt the text to the wishes of the council Fathers. This same observation explains the greater length of the text. The commission encountered difficulties both because of the subject matter, which was not too clearly defined, and also because of the form which, in the light of those to whom the document is addressed, had to use a new conciliar language, he said. Continue reading

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Test Vote on Religious Liberty Overwhelmingly Successful

The drive to have the ecumenical council go on record in favor of the principle of religious liberty — long spearheaded by American bishops — has met with a first overwhelming success.

A test vote (Sept. 21) on whether the schema now under consideration should be accepted “as the basis of an ultimate text” resulted in 1,997 “yes” votes against 224 “no” votes, with only one null vote.

On the strength of this ballot, taken following the personal intervention of Pope Paul VI, the schema will now be returned to its sponsor, the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, which will give consideration to the recommendations advanced during the debate. The schema will then come up on the floor again, but there is no longer the slightest doubt that the final vote will be equally favorable.

“It is a great victory,” said Father John Courtney Murray, S.J., the U.S. priest who has long masterminded this crucial draft proposal. Continue reading

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Council Approves Religious Freedom Text, Starts Debate on Church in Modern World

132nd General Congregation
September 21, 1965

A historic meeting of the ecumenical council voted overwhelmingly to present to the world a definitive document affirming man’s civil right to religious freedom.

The vote was taken after five days of debate on the subject by 62 council Fathers and was a special vote proposed by the council’s board of moderators. The Fathers at the 132nd general council meeting were asked to vote on the question:

“Do the Fathers judge that the revised text on religious liberty can serve as a basis for a definitive declaration which will be perfected in the light of the Catholic teaching on the true religion and according to observations proposed by Fathers during the discussions and which will be approved later according to the regulations of the council?”

The answer to the question was resounding. Of the 2,222 Fathers voting, 1,997 said yes; 224 said no, and one vote was null.

With the closing of the debate on religious liberty the council turned to the next matter on its agenda, the lengthy and complicated schema on the Church in the modern world, sometimes known as schema 13 because of the place it occupied during the third session of the council in 1964. Continue reading

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Text of Baltimore Cardinal’s Speech on Religious Liberty

Following is a translation of all but one paragraph of the speech on religious liberty delivered Sept. 20 in the ecumenical council by Lawrence Cardinal Shehan of Baltimore. The omitted paragraph, the first, urged council Fathers to vote either “yes” or “no” on the religious liberty schema — not “yes with reservations” — so that the schema’s principles could be kept intact while it is being amended by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.

The schema on religious liberty has my wholehearted support. I particularly commend the remarks which His Eminence [Giovanni] Cardinal Urbani [of Venice] has made on the development of the schema’s doctrine, a doctrine whose seeds are found in the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person and whose support is drawn from Sacred Scriptures, notably from the way God has dealt with man and from the words and acts of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Here I intend to speak only of the modern development of this doctrine.

The first stages of this development are found in the many writings of Pope Leo XIII, whose name has occurred so often in our discussions. No one holds that the doctrine of this schema is found explicitly in the writings of Pope Leo. But the teaching of Leo already presents to us a notable development over the doctrine commonly held during the Middle Ages and during the post-Reformation period. Furthermore in his teaching Pope Leo took the first steps along that path followed by subsequent popes, particularly Popes Pius XI, Pius XII and John XXIII.

It would be a mistake to see Leo’s doctrine on toleration as the central point of his own teaching or as the final and unchangeable teaching of the Church on religious liberty. The doctrine of Leo, itself a development, in no way prevents us from going on, in the light of experience and a deeper understanding of the dignity of the human person, to find religious liberty properly understood as a universal human right. Continue reading

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Text of Council’s Letter to Pope Paul

This is a translation of the letter written Sept. 20 to Pope Paul VI by Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the College of Cardinals, thanking him in the name of the ecumenical council for issuing his motu proprio, Apostolicae Sollicitudo, establishing the Synod of Bishops, and his encyclical on the Eucharist, Mysterium Fidei.

Most Holy Father, the Fathers of the sacred council who have already shown you with most lively applause how grateful they were for the letter, Apostolica Sollicitudo, promulgated by you as the motu proprio of the 15th of this month at the beginning of the general meetings of the fourth session of the council, now desire to renew in a still more explicit way their recognition and veneration.

They are fully aware that this new and important document flows from your benevolence and from your esteem for the bishops. The very words with which the motu proprio begins clearly reflect how much apostolic solicitude — truly solicitude for all churches — you have that your brothers in the ranks of the bishops may cooperate with their advice in the government of the universal Church and that they may be united with you in the most intimate charity.

The sentiments of our minds are all the more fervent if two particular facts are considered: above all, the fact that you desired paternally, Most Holy Father, to establish the Synod of Bishops to accede to the desires which the Fathers had manifested in the council, and in the second place, the fact that you desired to promulgate the document in the council hall itself in your presence together with the entire assembly of Fathers. Continue reading

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