Decision on Revelation Dispute Called Turning Point of Council

December 7, 1962

Pope John XXIII’s creation of a special commission to study the disputed proposal on the sources of Revelation was “a turning point in the Second Vatican Council,” Father John B. Sheerin, C.S.P., said here.

Father Sheerin, of New York, editor of the Catholic World and a member of the U.S. bishops’ press panel, also told newsmen at the panel’s final meeting (Dec. 7) that the Pope’s act in setting up a special committee to coordinate revisional work during the council’s long recess “means that a counter-reformation theology won’t be able to exert influence on the schemata.”

(Pope John ordered [Nov. 21] that a special commission made up of members of the Theology Commission and of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity be set up to revise the proposal on Revelation. This proposal, submitted to the council by the Theology Commission, headed by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, was criticized in the council as too rigid and formal.

(The committee set up to carry on the work of the council between the first and second sessions was announced Dec. 6, two days before the first session’s end.)

Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste of Belleville, Ill., chairman of the committee which set up the press panel, said that the council has made the bishops “intellectually richer but financially poorer.”

Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan of Atlanta, a member of the council’s Liturgical Commission, described the chairmanship of Arcadio Cardinal Larraona, C.M.F., in that commission, as “very fair.” He said the Cardinal paid great attention to all criticisms.

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of Dallas-Fort Worth said that “much more has been accomplished than just the vote on the introduction and first chapter of the liturgy project.”

“There has been a tremendous growth,” he said, “in the bishops’ knowledge of the problems of Christianity throughout the world.”

He added that he thought “the present secrecy of the council — which in the words of the old saying has been more honored in the breach than in the observance — will be somewhat modified.”

Bishop Robert J. Dwyer of Reno, Nev., said that he had gotten “a good many ideas” from conversation with other bishops from around the world.

Father Francis J. McCool, S.J., of New York, professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome and another expert of the U.S. bishops’ press panel, gave an answer to a newsman’s question: “How do you tell a conservative from a progressive?”

“A progressive looks to the future and sees the promise in it,” he explained. “A conservative looks to the future and sees a threat to the past.”

Father Sheerin remarked that Archbishop Hallinan had put it well earlier in the panel session when he said “a conservative represents the inertia that is in all of us.”

Another newsman asked the panel to explain the frequent comment that this council is “pastoral rather than doctrinal.”

Father McCool replied that when heresy threatened the Church — for instance in the early Church on the nature of Our Lord and at the time of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) — “the main issue was to clarify the Catholic view of the doctrine in question. Now the Church has returned to its original attitude: to give the truth to those who will receive it.”

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