Draft on Divine Revelation Won’t be Shelved

23rd General Congregation
November 20, 1962

Participants in the Second Vatican Council voted to continue discussion of a draft text of a treatise on the sources of Divine Revelation point by point instead of pigeonholing the work for the time being.

The vote was taken at the 23rd general meeting of the council. The text had been under fire from some sources within the council for several days of the Fathers’ deliberations of theological questions.

The council’s regular press communique reported that it was again proposed to refer the treatise back to a specialized commission for redrafting.

“Some of the Fathers,” said the communique, “stressed the need to formulate clearly in council the Catholic teaching on interpretation of Sacred Scriptures, for the purpose of avoiding confusion and for indicating and preventing errors. It was further urged to maintain a closer contact with the great Biblical tradition of the East.”

It was also proposed that the present treatise be replaced by a more solemn declaration on Sacred Scripture. The bulletin reported that “against this proposal it was observed that a substitution would give rise to different juridical questions which are not provided for in the regulations which govern the council and that such a proposal would have to be submitted for examination to the Secretariat for Extraordinary Questions.” At this point the secretary general of the council, Archbishop Pericle Felici, announced that it had been proposed to vote on whether or not to end the discussion of the general outline of the text. He said, however, that since a number of the council Fathers had declared themselves against the thesis as it stood, the presiding cardinals considered it fitting to ask for a vote of the Fathers to determine whether they should continue discussions of the individual chapters of the treatise or drop it altogether.

The council Fathers were instructed to vote “placet” (yes) if they wanted the discussion of the treatise to stop and to vote “non-placet” if they wanted it continued.

The bulletin then said: “The results of the ballots which were made known shortly before the conclusion of the assembly indicated that discussion of the single chapters of the projects will continue in the following days.”

The council press communique did not release any of the voting statistics. But at the American press panel later it was explained that the vote was on whether to conclude discussion of the treatise once and for all, and that the proposal to discontinue discussion barely fell short of the necessary two-thirds vote.

It was stated by the American panel that if discussion of the thesis had been discontinued, the next matter up for discussion at the council would have been the draft statement concerning the press and other communications media.

Actually, the council press office said that the majority of the day’s speeches “were in defense of the project (on Revelation), once more underlining positive reasons which had been advanced in the preceding days.” Eleven participants spoke on the general outline of the project during the 23rd general session before the question of whether to continue discussions was put to a vote.

Among the day’s speakers was the recently elected Master General of the Dominican Order, Father Aniceto Fernandez, O.P.

The bulletin said that “among other things, the opinion was expressed that to reject the project in its entirety would signify that it contains errors, which no one admits.”

Despite the vote to continue deliberations on the thesis, the discussion of its general outlines did come to a close the same day. As soon as it ended, the first chapter of the treatise was brought up for discussion. This deals with the twofold sources of Revelation — Scripture and Tradition.

The first speakers on this chapter were Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini, of Palermo, Sicily, and Paul Emile Cardinal Leger of Montreal.

The meeting opened with 2,211 Fathers present for the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Carlos Rodriguez Quiros of San Jose, Costa Rica. Joseph Cardinal Frings, Archbishop of Cologne, was the presiding officer. The meeting adjourned at 12:20 p.m.

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