Cautious Council Fathers Need More Time to Reach Decisions

As the deliberations of the ecumenical council’s second session entered their second week, two conclusions could be drawn from the debates up to that point.

First, great caution is being exercised by the council Fathers to avoid forcing any of the issues under consideration.

Second, considerably more time will be required than originally anticipated to reach final decisions.

During the second week of debate, amendments proposed to the schema—draft constitution—on the liturgy were scheduled to be voted on. The liturgy schema was discussed during the council’s first session last year, and parts were voted on. Following completion of the voting, the schema will be referred for final ap­proval to Pope Paul VI.

Meanwhile, discussion of the schema “On the Nature of the Church” now before the council will continue. But it is already evident that many amend­ments will be proposed.

In the end, this schema may have to be rewritten in its entirety. This rewriting, a theological expert concerned with the matter said, might take as much as a whole year.

This remark may only reflect the mood of those who are reluctant to go along with far-reaching reforms in the structure of the Church and who are inclined to apply delaying tactics. But the proponents of measures tending toward the inner renewal of the Church, which Pope Paul has so eloquently expressed as the council’s principal aim, will nevertheless not want to apply undue pressure.

According to competent informants, the Pope will not interfere in any way whatever with the freedom of the council and is willing to let all council Fathers have their say without pressing for decisions not acceptable to a clear majority.

The prospects of eventually achieving practical unanimity on key issues consequently appear quite encouraging.

One of these issues has come to the fore with the discussion of episcopal collegiality, which has also been the topic of press conferences given during the first week of the second council session by such outstanding council experts as Father Karl Rahner, S.J., of Innsbruck University, Austria, and Father Yves Congar, O.P., noted French theologian.

The exact relationship between the supreme authority of the pope and the authority of the bishops, both as individuals and as a body, is at stake, as is the question of how the double aspect of their powers is to be interpreted in the light of the Scriptures.

Archbishop Maxim Hermaniuk, C.SS.R., of Winnipeg, Man., Metropolitan for Ukrainian Rite Catholics in Canada, proposed one solution for this council problem which has attracted wide attention. Asked about his proposal, Archbishop Hermaniuk told me he envisions a kind of apostolic council with the pope as its head as the supreme governing body of the Church on an inter­national level.

“Such a council,” he said, “which would be a permanent institution, would be made up of the cardinals who are diocesan Ordinaries, the patriarchs of the Eastern Rites, and bishops delegated by the various national episcopal conferences, such as the National Catholic Welfare Conference, and including those of mission territories.

“This body would have supreme legislative powers directly under the pope, just as the 12 Apostles chosen by Christ with Peter as first among them.

“Under this body would function two secretariats, one for the Latin Rite and one for the Eastern Rites, and they in turn would be assisted in their executive duties by the existing congregations of the Roman curia.

A project along these or similar lines, Archbishop Hermaniuk said, would promote true unity in the Church, bring about decentralization of Church administration and at the same time ensure the proper influence of the Eastern Rites. The Canadian prelate said he feels that the Eastern Rites were neglected after the original patriarchate of Rome became separated from the other four patriarchates—Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem—and concentrated all power in its hands.

“If the proper balance between East and West were restored,” Archbishop Hermaniuk concluded, “this would strengthen the ecumenical efforts now in progress with regard to both Orthodox and Protestants.”

The Archbishop’s proposal, in the opinion of competent observers here, appears to be in line with statements in Pope Paul’s address of Sept. 29 at the opening of the council, when he said that in his mind there is “no intention of human predominance, no jealousy of exclusive power” and that his apostolic duty “may receive more help and support from a more effective and responsible collaboration” with the college of all the world’s bishops.

Father Placid Jordan, O.S.B.
NCWC Correspondent

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