Benefits of Church-State Separation Raised at Council; Laity Role Further Discussed

51st General Congregation
October 18, 1963

The separation of Church and State was called “sometimes the best thing” as council Fathers continued to debate the part of the schema or draft proposal “On the Nature of the Church” which deals with the laity.

That statement was made by Bishop Michal Klepacz of Lodz, Poland, at the 51st general meeting of the council.

In the now almost daily double flow of council activity — discussion of one schema while voting on another — the third chapter of the liturgy schema was passed as a whole.

Ten amendments to this chapter had been passed individually during the three previous days.

The amendments to Chapter IV of the liturgy schema, which deals with the reform of the breviary, were distributed at the Oct. 18 meeting. Voting on this was to begin Monday, Oct. 21.

Before beginning this day’s work, the presiding moderator, Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich, Germany, announced that the 10-minute limit on addresses would be enforced on all council Fathers without distinction, and also reminded the speakers of their obligation to treat of nothing aside from the point under discussion.

Later on Cardinal Doepfner politely called Valerian Cardinal Gracias of Bombay to order when he exceeded the limit.

First of the day’s speakers was Jaime Cardinal de Barros Camara of Rio de Janeiro, speaking in the name of all Brazilian bishops. He said that the text of the chapter was substantially acceptable, but asked for a clearer explanation in the text of how the laity shares in the priesthood of Christ through Baptism and Confirmation.

“We should not forget that we are dealing with laymen in the concrete,” said Cardinal Gracias, who spoke next, “laymen living in the world and subject to all the laws and weaknesses of human nature. Consequently our approach to the apostolate of the laity must be practical and realistic, not theological and mystical.”

Cardinal Gracias added: “Some members of the hierarchy neither seek nor want the collaboration of the laity. … We must remember that the laity not only has a call and an invitation, but also a right to share in the mission of the Church. This does not mean a share in the mission of the hierarchy, which must always be distinguished from the work of the laity.”

Laurean Cardinal Rugambwa of Bukoba, Tanganyika, said that “it is good to insist on the role of the sacraments, but this should not hide the fact that our laity should also be nourished by Sacred Scripture.”

A similar point was made by Bishop Joseph Schroeffer of Eichstaett, Germany, who complained that “the chapter does not seem to attribute sufficient importance to the role played by Sacred Scripture in the spiritual life of the laity.”

Bishop Paul Sani, S.V.D., of Den Pasar, Indonesia, and Bishop Gilles Barthe of Frejus-Toulon, France, underlined a consideration which had been brought to the council floor by Auxiliary Bishop Philip M. Hannan of Washington the day before.

“The text should emphasize the importance of making Christian principles penetrate into daily conduct,” said Bishop Sani.

To this Bishop Barthe added: “The laity must be the heralds of Christian hope in the world …. More stress should be placed on the obligation of the Catholic laity to interest themselves in political life and in mutual relationships with their fellowmen.”

Bishop Lawrence T. Picachy, S.J., of Jamshedpur, India, objected to that part of the chapter which deals with relationships between the laity and the hierarchy.

“We must make the laity understand that we want their collaboration,” he said. “The text puts undue emphasis on the sole obligation of obedience.”

Not every form of religious life is necessarily clerical, said Abbot Godefroy Dayez, O.S.B., president of the Belgian Benedictine Federation. “That part of the definition of the layman which states that he is a member of the Church who does not belong to an approved religious institute should be modified. It should be borne in mind that religious institutes have among their members some who are lay people in the full sense of the word.”

Bishop Pablo Barrachina of Orihuela-Alicante, Spain, remarked in a similar vein that “the question of secular institutes could profitably be treated at this point in the schema.”

He added: “We should distinguish between the consecration of the world, which is the proper and exclusive function of the laity; the general apostolate carried on in virtue of Baptism, which is their proper but not exclusive function; and the hierarchical apostolate, in which they can have only a delegated function.”

Bishop Arturo Tabera of Albacete, Spain, warned against one extreme, saying that “the schema should not make the mistake of seeming to put Christian life in the world and the religious life on exactly the same level.”

Bishop Paternus Geise, O.F.M., of Bogor, Indonesia, warned against the other extreme: “We should take care, in speaking of the world, not to give the impression that ‘the world’ is the sum total of everything which is an enemy of God. We should show our esteem for the work of daily life and be realistic in our positive evaluation of the activities carried on by the lay people in the world in which they live.”

It would be well to point out, in treating of the priestly character of the laity, that they both receive and administer the sacrament of Matrimony, noted Bishop Giuseppa Vairo of Gravina, Italy.

The unity of the people of God was the point Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany, wanted emphasized. “We would do well,” he said, “to give greater importance to the Eucharist as the principle of unity within the people of God.”

Archbishop Leon Duval of Algiers submitted that “it would be advisable to stress the connection between the people of God in the New Testament and the people in the Old Testament.”

He observed furthermore: “It should be pointed out that in carrying out their apostolate, the laity do not need to leave their ordinary milieu. Each one in his own place and according to his own possibilities is an apostle.”

Bishop Emile De Smedt of Bruges, Belgium, developed this same idea further:

“The consecration of the laity is not mere external legalism. It demands that the whole life be directed to God and that the mind, the body, and all the tools of one’s labor become sacred in their efforts to show how a true Christian lives in practice.”

Bishop Klepacz of Lodz, although he was the only one to speak that morning on separation of Church and State, stimulated great discussion among the council Fathers privately outside the council hall.

“More attention should be devoted to the relationship between Church and State,” the Polish prelate had declared. “This is particularly important because of the encroachments of totalitarian states on human rights. It is important also because the Church cannot remain silent when moral values are ignored or even rejected. Finally, it is important because the interests of the Church are often best served by actual separation of Church and State. Therefore the text should omit its reference to the ‘unfortunate’ separation which sometimes exists between Church and State.” The text states that this separation is unfortunate only in some cases, and Bishop Klepacz wanted this mention removed.

The tally of the votes on approval of the whole of Chapter III of the liturgy schema was: 2,214 voting; 1,130 for, 30 against, 1,054 for with reservations.

According to Father Frederick McManus — a member of the canon law faculty of the Catholic University of America, Washington, and former president of the North American Liturgical Conference — one reservation that may have prompted those 1,054 votes might have been the desire on the part of many council Fathers for greater use of the language of the people in administration of the sacraments. Father McManus told the N.C.W.C. News Service that when the essence of the sacrament is preserved in Latin, it remains hidden from the majority of the people.

The Boston priest, who is an official council expert, said that amendments proposed for Chapter IV of the liturgy project, dealing with the Divine Office, includes one seeking to reorient the Office toward morning and evening prayer. Others, he said, deal with dispensations from priests’ obligation to recite the breviary daily; some abbreviation; and revision of the Office with a view toward making it easier for lay people to recite at least parts of it. An important revision, he said, would allow priests to recite it in their own tongue, with proper permission.

Bishop John J. Wright of Pittsburgh observed at the U.S. bishops’ press panel after the council meeting that the schema does not attempt to define a layman, but instead offers elements for a definition: his membership in the people of God and his functions in the Church. He noted that most previous definitions were simply negative: a layman is not a cleric.

Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken of San Francisco said the role of the layman in the Church is being clarified. Laymen used to regard their apostolate as simply helping the priest in his work. But his proper job is to sanctify the world, he said.

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC Rome bureau chief

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