Council Fathers Continue Focus on Collegiality, Permanent Deacons

45th and 46th General Congregations
October 10 and 11, 1963

The issue of the collegiality of bishops has clearly emerged as one of the major issues of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council as the debates of its second session ended their second week. Another much discussed subject was the permanent diaconate.

Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy, and one of the four council moderators, announced at the Oct. 11 meeting that the moderators had decided that “because of the importance of the matters under discussion, the time is not yet right to close off debate on the collegiality of bishops and the restoration of the permanent diaconate.”

Obviously a number of council Fathers had petitioned that debate on the subjects be closed, otherwise the moderators would not have found it necessary to issue such an announcement. But speaking for the moderators, Cardinal Lercaro warned that “those Fathers who may yet be called upon to speak should take special care not to repeat what has already been said on the floor.”

Nevertheless, an end of the discussions on these two topics was in view, for Cardinal Lercaro also announced that the council secretariat was ready to receive requests from those who wished to speak on the third chapter of the schema—or draft constitution—“On the Nature of the Church” now being debated. The third chapter is entitled “On the People of God, Especially of the Laity.”

At the previous day’s meeting (Oct. 10) another important subject—the teaching of the First Vatican Council (1869-70) on papal primacy—was brought forward for clarification.

Archbishop Lawrence J. Shehan of Baltimore urged that the text of the schema on the Church “be amended so as to show that the ‘definitions’ [of doctrine] of the pope are never to be understood as being against or without the consent of the Church.”

At the Oct. 10 general meeting the council Fathers continued their simultaneous discussion of one schema and voting on amendments to another. The voting on the second chapter of the liturgy schema was completed with all 19 amendments receiving approval.

At the beginning of the day’s meeting, the moderator, Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, read the names of those slated to speak. The first name he read was that of Ukrainian Rite Archbishop Josyf Slipyi of Lvov, who was released late last year after 18 years of imprisonment in the Soviet Union. The council Fathers applauded loudly when the prelate’s name was read. Archbishop Slipyi, however, did not speak until the following day.

Debate on Oct. 10 again centered on the two questions of collegiality and the diaconate.

Jaime Cardinal de Barros Camara, Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, led off, declaring himself in favor of the teaching of collegiality and repeating more or less what had been said in several previous speeches. Similar remarks were made by Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo Gonzalez of Saragossa, Spain.

The subject of a permanent diaconate was resumed by Fernando Cardinal Cento, Grand Penitentiary, who favored its restoration but only under celibacy. Others to speak in favor of the permanent diaconate were Archbishop Bernard Yago of Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Archbishop Jose Maurer, C.SS.R., of Sucre, Bolivia, speaking in the name of the Bishops of Bolivia and two other Latin American bishops; and Archbishop Paul Yu Pin of Nanking, China.

Auxiliary Bishop Emanuele Galea of Malta raised the point that the schema does not make the proper distinction between “the hierarchy of orders and the hierarchy of jurisdiction.” He suggested that the text should go from a discussion of the hierarchy in general to that of the episcopate in particular.

Other points were raised in this same area by Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany, who asked for a “clearer definition between the Apostles and today’s bishops,” and Auxiliary Bishop Demetrio Mansilla Reoyo of Burgos, Spain, who asked for a more precise use of the word “collegiality.”

While supporting the idea of the collegiality of bishops, similar recommendations for changes of expression in the text were raised by Archbishop Joseph Urtasun of Avignon, France; Archbishop Antoine van den Hurk, O.F.M. Cap., of Medan, Indonesia; and Father Aniceto Fernandez, O.P., Master General of the Dominican Order.

Auxiliary Bishop Eduard Schick of Fulda, Germany, returned to the suggestion that the priesthood should be given greater emphasis in the schema, repeating much the same arguments which had already been heard in the assembly. Similar observations were made by Bishop Alexandre Renard of Versailles, France.

The First Vatican Council’s teaching on the pope’s primacy and infallibility was brought up by Archbishop Joseph Descuffi, C.M., of Izmir, Turkey. His remarks turned on the phrase used by the First Vatican Council: “Ex sese, non ex consensu ecclesiae” (of himself and not by consent of the Church).

Archbishop Descuffi said that there should be a special paragraph in the text explaining how the privlege of infallibility makes the definitions of the pope irreversible of themselves, by virtue of special divine assistance and not by virtue of the consent of the Church.

It is true, he said, that the Universal Church is likewise infallible, but this is not in conflict with the infallibility of the pope. His infallibility comes from Christ, not from the Church; it confirms the infallibility of the Church, he said. Archbishop Descuffi added:

“The two infallibilities should not be opposed, but rather composed. The consent of the Church is not to be regarded in the same light as that of a parliament where experience shows that a majority vote is not always a sign of absolute truth.”

The same argument was taken up by Archbishop Shehan, who quoted from Bishop Vincent Gasser, who spoke on the same matter at the First Vatican Council:

“We cannot separate the pope from the consent of the Church because this consent is never wanting. Since we hold that the Roman Pontiff is infallible, we automatically teach that his definitions will have the consent of the Church because the body of the bishops cannot be separated from its head and the entire Church cannot be found wanting.”

The Archbishop raised this point, he said, “because the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility gives rise to many difficulties with our separated brethren.”

At the American bishops’ press briefing following the council meeting this matter was discussed at length. Father Gregory Baum, O.S.A., council expert from Toronto, said that the “ex sese” clause had been necessary at the time of the First Vatican Council as a refutation against those who held that the pope’s pronouncement of doctrine depended on the consent of the episcopate. Father Gustave Weigel, S.J., of Woodstock College, Md., added that although the phrase had justification in its historic context, today the words are judged to be misleading.

Father Weigel said: “The bishops want those words explained so that the scandal that could be read into them can be avoided.”

It was explained at the discussion between the journalists and the panel of experts that the pope actually does consult the world episcopate before he defines a doctrine. To the hypothetical question of what the pope would do if the majority of the bishops were not in accord with what the pope wanted to define, Father Weigel said that “the guarantee that the Holy Spirit protects the truth in the Church” makes that eventuality impossible.

Father Baum added: “We believe that the defining of doctrine is up to the Holy Spirit and that, eventually, the bishops and the pope teaching together cannot be at odds.”

A new note was raised at the meeting by Coptic Rite Bishop Isaac Ghattas of Thebes, Egypt. He was the first Eastern Rite prelate to speak in the assembly against the “Latinization” of the schema.

He said: “Though it is universal in intention, the schema is decidedly Latin in execution. The treatment seems to regard the Universal Church as being only the Latin Church, with certain privileges granted to the Oriental Churches.”

The core of his complaint was that the schema failed to give the patriarchs their proper place in the college of bishops.

He said: “This identification of the Latin Church with the Universal Church is the root of all difficulties with the Orientals. They cannot accept any such mentality.”

The first of the next day’s (Oct. 11) speakers, Fernando Cardinal Quiroga y Palacios, Archbishop of Santiago di Compostella, Spain, was perhaps also the most important. He raised the issue of the juridical aspects of the collegiality of the bishops. He said:

“It is not dear whether the bishops have been constituted by the will of Christ into a juridical moral person or whether the term ‘collegiality’ designates only the totality of the bishops. It is true that the college of bishops by the will of Christ, in union with its head, has the power to make laws. But this power does not necessarily constitute a college in the strict sense. If the bishops form a college only in virtue of moral union, deriving from the pursuit of one same end and the use of common means, then there is no doubt about collegiality. But if the term means that the bishops, in union with the pope, enjoy legislative power over the entire Church, then we must determine clearly whether this is divine or only ecclesiastical law. That it is divine law does not yet seem to be conclusively proved.”

Archbishop Slipyi followed with much the same argument, saying that “strictly speaking the bishops of the Church do not constitute a college because a college must be founded on a juridical and legal basis.”

Bishop Helmut Wittler of Osnabrueck, Germany, and Auxiliary Bishop Jose Cirarda Lachiondo of Seville, Spain, each insisted that the episcopal powers of teaching, governing and sanctifying come from episcopal consecration and do not depend on the pope, even though their nomination to the episcopate is by the pope.

Archbishop Enrico Nicodemo of Bari, Italy, said that discussion of the issues being debated should continue until the many uncertain elements are ironed out once and for all. He was followed by Coadjutor Archbishop Paul Gouyon of Rennes, France, who said that “collegiality of the bishops and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff seem to have arisen together in the very first beginnings of the history of the Church and to have evolved together with the passage of the centuries. Consequently any discussion of the one necessarily entails discussion of the other.”

Bishop Jaime Flores Martin of Barbastro, Spain, took the microphone to say, that “the council should determine if there are sufficient reasons for confirming this doctrine [of collegiality]as a matter of ecclesiastical law.” Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, C.S.Sp., superior general of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, observed that the very existence of councils in the Church and the power attributed to them are evidence of the collegial character of the episcopate.

“Some degree of collegiality must be recognized,” declared Bishop Angelo Temino Saiz of Orense, Spain, “but collegiality based on divine law in the ordinary government of the Church must be excluded because the Roman Pontiff is the active principle of unity and to him alone pertains everything touching upon unity in the Church.”

Coadjutor Bishop Pierre Boillon of Verdun, France, suggested that the inclusion of a treatment on Christ, the High Priest, would put the office of the bishop “in a clearer and richer light.”

Bishop Jose Pont y Col of Segorbe-Castellon de la Plana, Spain, complained that the language of the text is too authoritarian and added that “something needs to be said on the degree of participation of Orthodox bishops in the mission of Christ.”

Bishop Paulus Rusch, Apostolic Administrator of Innsbruck-Feldkirch, Austria, and Auxiliary Bishop Luigi Bettazzi of Bologna expressed ideas that had already been heard on the floor. The former declared that Christ Himself set up the Apostolic College, which ruled as a college as is indicated in several passages in the Acts of the Apostles.

Bishop Bettazzi said that the concept of episcopal collegiality constitutes no danger to the primacy and that it is neither a theological nor a canonical novelty in the Church.

Debate on the permanent diaconate was re-entered by Bishop Vittorio Costantini, O.F.M., of Sessa Aurunca, Italy, who held that there is no cogent reason for restoring the diaconate as a permanent rank. Turning to another matter, he replied directly to the objection voiced the previous day by Bishop Ghattas saying that “it is erroneous to think that the schema is defective because it says nothing about patriarchs. The text says nothing either about cardinals, primates or metropolitans. The schema treats only of the divine constitution of the Church.”

Bishop Manuel Talamas Camandari of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and Bishop Albert de Vito of Lucknow, India, declared themselves in favor of the permanent diaconate. Both also favored that it be conferred without the obligation of celibacy but with great caution. The second of these inserted a note of humor into the morning’s work when he detailed the difficulties that a married diaconate might produce.

Bishop de Vito said that, if permanent deacons were to be married, problems might arise in connection with their wives: choice of clothes, company to be kept, and so on. Difficulties might conceivably arise also from the possible misconduct of their children. Such troubles could easily interfere with the effective performance of a deacon’s duties.

These difficulties could be avoided, he suggested, “if this diaconate were regarded as an office to be conferred only on carefully selected laymen.”

At the beginning of the day’s assembly, a booklet containing amendments proposed for chapter three of the liturgy schema were distributed, and it was annoured that voting on these starts Oct. 15.

At the American bishops’ press panel session following the day’s council meeting, Father Robert Trisco said that he sees favor toward the concept of the collegiality of the bishops building up in the council speeches. Father Gustave Weigel, S.J., added to this that the debate was turning on finding proper expressions and definitions of terms in which to couch the teaching of collegiality. He said he doubted that the projected teaching would be tabled because of this.

Father Georges Tavard, A.A., said, “There is no foreseeing what results or what form that new togetherness of the bishops might have.”

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC bureau chief

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