Changes to Breviary Voted by Council; Laity Discussion Continues

53rd General Congregation
October 22,1963

A radical reform of the breviary was voted at the Oct. 22 meeting of the ecumenical council.

Amendments three to eight of a set of 13 amendments to the fourth chapter of the liturgy schema were passed. Among these were provisions for the modification of the hour of Matins with fewer psalms and longer lessons; suppression of Prime; recitation of a “little hour” corresponding to the time of day, and completion of the revision of the psalter.

Thus one of the great reforms of the official prayer of the Church was accomplished without a word being uttered, but only with the marking of a perforated ballot to be counted by the electronic tabulating machine.

At the U.S. bishops’ press panel after the morning’s assembly, Father Godfrey Diekmann, O.S.B., a council expert, said the amendments voted aimed chiefly at “restoring sincerity to the prayers of the priest,” by eliminating antiquated forms. It is not the considerable lessening of the time required for the recitation of the breviary which was the primary purpose, he said, but rather the restoration of morning and evening prayers and other prayers during the day to their original meaning.

The theme of the spoken word in the council hall continued to be the laity.

Among the opinions expressed was a strong recommendation made by Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-­Brussels that the number of lay auditors be increased to include women and members of congregations of Brothers and Sisters.

Before beginning the work of the day, the secretary general of the council, Archbishop Pericle Felici, announced the distribution of a book containing amendments to the fifth chapter of the liturgy schema. He announced also that voting on these was to begin Thursday, Oct. 24.

The 10 amendments proposed for the fifth chapter concern the liturgical year, with a provision for establishing an immovable day for Easter Sunday.

Antonio Cardinal Caggiano of Buenos Aires led off the day’s speeches with the recommendation, repeated many times previously, that there be a clear differentiation between the priesthood of the faithful and that of the hierarchy. “It is our duty,” he said, “to keep reminding our people that the responsibility for the sanctification of the world does not rest exclusively on the shoulders of the hierarchy.”

The fact of charisms — special graces — in the Church was raised for the first time in the speech by Cardinal Suenens which followed.

“We too easily lose sight of the fact that charisms still exist in the Church,” he declared. “Recognition of this fact is important for any well balanced view of the Church. Such charisms are not mere peripheral phenomena or accidental appendages to the Church, but part of its nature. We must avoid giving the impression that the Church is no more than an administrative machine completely cut off from the influence of the Spirit of God.

“This is the age of the Holy Spirit, who is given not only to pastors but to all members of the Church. The charisms which were so common in the time of St. Paul are not limited to unusual aspects of the life of the Church. Any treatment of the Church which takes up bishops and the hierarchy, while saying nothing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, would be defective.

“It is a fact of history that some members of the laity have at times awakened a sleeping Church, lest the teachings of the Gospel be lost sight of. Charisms without hierarchical direction would be a source of disorder, but any government of the Church which would ignore charisms would be poor and sterile. The chapter should be revised with more emphasis on the freedom of the children of God in the Church.”

It was at this point that Cardinal Suenens made a bid for more lay auditors, saying:

“To show the world that we practice what we preach, we should provide for an increase in the number of lay auditors, with representation on a broader international basis, the admission of women among them, since women constitute one-half of the population of the world, and representation likewise from the great congregations of Brothers and Sisters who contribute so significantly to the apostolic work of the Church.”

At the American bishops’ press panel, Father Gustave Weigel, S.J., a council expert, made the observation that women Religious do not have jurisdiction in the Church, while male Religious superiors do.

Still referring to Cardinal Suenens’ speech, Father Eugene Maly, Scripture professor of the Cincinnati archdiocesan seminary, defined charism as any special manifestation of the Spirit, which can take place in any of the people of God. He distinguished two forms, ordinary and extraordinary. He gave the gift of tongues as an example of the extraordinary, and the gift of interpretation and the prophetic spirit as examples of the ordinary.

Next speaker was Archbishop Henrique Golland Trindade, O.F.M., of Botucatu, Brazil, who said that the collaboration of the laity could not be called on in the bishop’s discharge of his role as a legislator. He added that the greatest obstacle to the expansion of the Church and to the increase of vocations is “certain prelates and priests who are not true witnesses of the Gospel which they preach.”

Bishop Giuseppe Ruotolo of Ugento-S. Maria di Leuca, Italy, urged that, at least in large nations, there should be training centers for lay apostles. He urged also the creation of a new organ of the Holy See, composed of both clergy and laity, as a clearinghouse for lay activities and problems.

A new definition of the layman to replace the one in the schema was offered by Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo Gonzalez, of Saragossa, Spain: “The layman is one who is incorporated into Christ through Baptism and enrolled among the people of God and who, not ascending to the hierarchy, lives his everyday life in a spirit of consecration to God in order to dedicate to God Himself the actions and works of his fellow men.”

Bishop Jules Daem of Antwerp, Belgium, bid council Fathers to give “new dimensions to the place of the laity in the Church.”

A dissenting voice was raised by Bishop Sebastiao Soares de Resende of Beira, Mozambique. The bishop declared:

“There is really no need for a special chapter in the schema on the laity because the Church is not composed of the people of God plus the laity.”

A special chapter “On the Place of Public Opinion in the Church” was urged by Bishop Vicente Enrique y Tarancon of Solsona, Spain, because “public opinion is the patrimony of every natural society.”

Father Johann Schuette, superior general of the Divine Word Fathers, asked for a special paragraph on the missionary obligations of the people of God, “since it is one which binds the hierarchy, Religious and laity.”

Auxiliary Bishop Marius Maziers, of Lyons, France, restating what had been heard before in the council, said that the present text of the schema does not place sufficient stress on how the laity can contribute to the work and purpose of Creation or how in practice they are to fulfill their special functions in the world.

The complaint was voiced by Archbishop Franjo Seper of Zagreb, Yugoslavia, that “there is too much of a distinction between the activities of clerics and the laity.

By receiving orders clerics did not renounce their rights and obligations as members of the people of God. … The schema should avoid seeming to set up an antagonism between the clergy and the laity.”

Another criticism of the text was made by Auxiliary Bishop Mark McGrath of Panama, who said that the schema’s description of laymen makes them appear in relation to the hierarchy “like little acolytes, with the laity at the base of a clerical pyramid subject to everyone.”

Bishop Jacques Menager of Meaux, France, said that “the lay auditors have found the text disappointing because it struck them as being negative, clerical and juridical.”

An Eastern Rite council Father was heard for the first time on this topic when Maronite Rite Archbishop Ignace Ziade of Beirut, Lebanon, said that “the chapter suffers from an omission which is very important from the Oriental viewpoint, namely, the absence of a reference to the Holy Spirit. According to Sacred Scripture and the theological tradition of the Oriental Church, there can be no Church without the influence of the Holy Spirit.”

Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Uribe Jaramillo of Cartagena, Colombia, observed that the character of Baptism gives a sharing in the priesthood of Christ which “enlightens the Christian life of all the faithful and the cultural mission of the people of God. … This explains the close unity of the people of God.”

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