Laity, Call to Holiness Discussions Continue; Liturgy Votes Also Take Place

56th General Congregation
October 25, 1963

Council Fathers began debate on Chapter IV of the schema “On the Nature of the Church,” entitled “Call to Holiness in the Church,” at their Oct. 25 meeting.

Discussion began following the last speeches on Chapter III, “The People of God and Especially the Laity.”

At the same time the Fathers continued voting on amendments to the liturgy schema, passing the final five of 10 amendments to Chapter V, which deals with the liturgical year.

The amendments passed Oct. 25 said Lenten instructions should stress the social character and consequences of sin, urged penitential practices in accordance with the changed conditions of the times, and called for studies of a new calendar providing for a fixed Sunday for Easter.

Before beginning the work of the day, it was announced that on Monday, Oct. 28, Pope Paul VI would celebrate a Mass to commemorate the anniversary of the election of Pope John. After Mass Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels was scheduled to address the assembly on the work of the late Pope. This service was to take the place of the regular working meeting of that day.

While announcements were being made, texts were distributed of the speeches made (Oct. 24) by Rufino Cardinal Santos of Manila and Franziskus Cardinal Koenig of Vienna on the pros and cons of including the schema on Our Lady as a chapter of the schema on the Church.

A vote on this question was scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Eight bishops spoke on Chapter III of the schema on the Church, availing themselves of the provision which permits such speeches even after the close of a debate, provided it is in the name of five other council Fathers.

The first to speak was Bishop Pierre Boillon of Verdun, France, who said that the text should devote particular attention to those who suffer and are persecuted. He added:

“We should take special care to insure that the poor do not come to regard us as rich men clothed in purple and living lavishly. Otherwise we shall run the risk of having the ‘people of God’ as our judges.”

A similar observation was made by Archbishop Antoni Baraniak, S.D.B., of Pozan in Red-ruled Poland, who said:

“Nothing is said in the text about the services rendered to the Church by the laity living in very difficult circumstances. There are, at least, only passing references to situations in which oppression of the Church is the order of the day and where it is a crime to go to church, have children Baptized, send them to religious schools or prepare them for solemn Communion.”

Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo of Cuernavaca, Mexico, supported the suggestion that the matter of Church and State be treated thoroughly. However, he said, “we should wait for the declaration on religious liberty to be presented by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.”

Former Auxiliary Bishop Frantisek Tomasek of Olomouc, Czechoslovakia, said the “schema should insist more strongly on the apostolate of the laity within the family circle, because family influence is of such essential importance in the early years of a child’s life.”

A protest against all intolerance was raised by Bishop Michel Darmancier, S.M., Apostolic Vicar of the Wallis and Futuna Islands. He said: “The intolerant man offends Christ, is untrue to the teaching of the popes and is a real obstacle to the apostolate.”

The “sense of faith,” said Archbishop Raffaele Calabria of Benevento, Italy, “is given to the faithful that they may believe and obey.”

Coadjutor Bishop Fortunato Da Veiga Countinho of Belgaum, India, observed that “although the restoration of a permanent diaconate would provide some remedy for the lack of priests, another remedy would be to allow the laity broader powers in the apostolate, but without entering the clerical state.”

“We should be careful in using the term ‘people of God’,” noted Bishop Joseph Evangelisti, O.F.M. Cap., of Meerut, India, “because it can easily give offense to non­Christians, as if we were insinuating that they are the people of the devil. … We might entitle this chapter ‘The Christian People and Especially the Laity’.”

Chapter IV of the schema on the Church, which was now to follow, contained these general principles:

In the mystery of the Church all are called to holiness. Christian holiness is one for all, whatever their state or way of life. Beginning in faith and Baptism, it grows by grace into abundant fruits.

The one holiness is developed in many ways of life and in many functions. The council exhorts all priests, secular and religious, to fulfill their ministry with holiness, eagerness and strength, on the model of the order of Bishops, who are established in the vocation to the perfect exercise of pastoral charity, and with whom all priests are united in the one Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The council also addresses itself to married persons and parents so that they may help each other in a life of grace with faithful love, and may give a Christian mind and the evangelical virtues to their children.

The evangelical counsels do not constitute perfection; yet they greatly contribute to the fervor of charity. There are many in the Gospel, although three are particularly praised in the doctrine and practice of the Church: poverty, chastity and obedience.

All the faithful are called to holiness, though not necessarily to the practice of the evangelical counsels. Many Christians practice the counsels as a stable way of life, approved by the Church, called the State of Striving for Perfection.

Since those who follow the counsels are united to the Church in a special way, their spiritual life must serve the good of the whole Church.

Since love for one’s neighbor derives from love of God, the function of working for the Kingdom of Christ in souls derives from the profession to seek holiness.

On account of his primacy in the Universal Church, the Roman pontiff can, for the common good, exempt institutes of perfection from the jurisdiction of the Ordinary. The Religious in the performance of their function must show reverence and practice obedience, in keeping with canon law, to the bishops, by reason of their pastoral authority in the particular churches and of necessary unity and concord in apostolic work.

All the faithful should remember that the practice of the counsels, even though it deprives from some goods that are indeed praiseworthy, does not impede, but helps, the development of the human person. The council praises the innumerable men and women, Brothers and Sisters, who adorn the Bride of Christ by their faithful and humble practice of this consecration.

Since the faithful are bound to seek holiness in the spirit of the Gospel, each should strive to persevere and excel in the vocation to which he has been called for the glory of Christ, who is the Origin and the model of all holiness, and for the holiness of the church.

Discussion of Chapter IV of the schema on the Church was begun by Paul Cardinal Richaud of Bordeaux, France, who complained that “the text does not place sufficient stress on the element of penance and mortification.”

The next to speak, Raul Cardinal Silva Henriquez of Santiago, Chile, made two points. First, he suggested that it would be helpful to both Religious and laymen to have a treatment of the general vocation to sanctity and of the profession of the evangelical counsels in the same chapter of the schema. Secondly, he observed that the exemption of Religious from episcopal authority, as expressed in the text, can be regarded as a concrete manifestation of the collegiality of the bishops.

“The text says holiness consists in charity,” said Bishop Guillaume Schoemaker of Purwokerto, Indonesia, “but there is no mention of faith and hope which are the proper virtues of man on earth. Instead of speaking of the religious life as ‘the state of perfection to be acquired,’ we should refer to it rather as ‘the state of imitation of Christ according to the counsels.’”

Bishop Marcello Gonzalez Martin of Astorga, Spain, said that the weakness of this chapter, as also of the previous chapter, is its lack of emphasis on the place of the bishops of the Church as the principal agents and promoters of the holiness of both priests and laity.

“The notion of sanctity in the text is too generic and indefinite,” said Bishop Luigi Morstabilini of Veroli-Frosinone, Italy. “Before insisting on the obligation of sanctity, we should first explain its nature clearly.”

Bishop Andre Charue of Namur, Belgium, suggested a change in the arrangement of the chapters of the schema.

Archbishop Joseph Urtasun of Avignon, France, urged that there be developed “a treatise on the religious state as part of the structure of the Universal Church.”

One of the most applauded of the day’s speakers was Bishop Stjepan Baeuerlein of Srijem, Yugoslavia, who said that “the council should declare that secular priests, no less than Religious [priests] and bishops, are in a state of perfection.”

He said: “Too often the secular priest seems to be suspended in midair between the heaven of the Religious [priests] and the earth of ordinary Christians. Holiness is required by the state of life of the secular priest and he has all the elements required for such a state. Many advantages, especially greater union between the secular and Religious clergy, would be the result.”

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC Rome bureau chief

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