Close Vote Moves Declaration on Mary to Document on Church’s Nature

57th General Congregation
October 29, 1963

Council Fathers have voted 1,114 to 1,074 to include their declaration on Our Lady in the schema on the nature of the Church rather than in a separate schema.

Before the vote was taken, the day’s moderator, Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, stated: “No vote on either side can be construed as constituting any lessening of the dignity of the Blessed Virgin or any diminution of her pre-eminent role in the Church.”

Two other major steps taken at the Oct. 29 general meeting were to give overall approval to Chapter V of the liturgy schema, which concerns the liturgical year, and to begin voting on amendments to Chapter VII, which deals with sacred music. The vote on Chapter V was 2,154 in favor; 21 against and 16 in favor but with reservations.

The long-awaited “four points” on the schema on the Church finally made their appearance at the day’s meeting. The leaflets which were distributed, however, presented five instead of the often-mentioned four points. The leaflet explained that the vote — to be taken Oct. 30 — will not have the effect of approving or rejecting any part of the text, but will only serve as a guide to the Theological Commission in its revision of the text.

The five propositions were stated in the form of questions.

The questions were:

1. Whether it is agreeable that the schema should be so drawn up as to state that episcopal consecration is the highest grade of the Sacrament of Orders?

2. Whether it is agreeable that every legitimately consecrated bishop in communion with the bishops and the Roman pontiff, who is the head and principle of unity, can be said to be a member of the body of bishops?

3. Whether it is agreeable that the body or college of bishops in evangelizing, sanctifying and feeding the flock can be said to succeed the college of Apostles; and that this college, in union with the Roman pontiff and never without him, has full and supreme power over the Universal Church?

4. Whether it is agreeable that the aforesaid power belongs to the college of bishops in union with its Head by divine right?

5. Whether it is agreed that it is considered timely to restore the diaconate as a distinct and permanent rank of the sacred ministry, according to the needs of the Church in different regions?

A lengthy booklet containing amendments to the schema on Our Lady was also distributed. It seemed likely, however, that in view of the decision to combine the schema on Our Lady with the one on the Church, further revisions might be made in the text.

At the American bishops’ press panel after the meeting, Father Bernard Haering, CSSR, said that there were two predominant reasons motivating those who voted against making the schema on Our Lady part of the schema on the Church. Some of the Fathers, he said, did not want the matter of Our Lady to be treated at all, mostly for reasons of ecumenism. Others, and the greater part, felt that if a special place was not given to the Blessed Virgin in a separate schema, her glory would be diminished, he said.

Father Haering revealed that three other schemata besides the present one have been drawn up on Our Lady. The first of these was composed by Abbot Christopher Butler, OSB, of Downside Abbey, England. The second was drawn up by the bishops of Chile. A third was done by the French theologian, Father Rene Laurentin. All three, Father Haering said, try to present Our Lady in a more ecumenical manner.

Father Gustave Weigel, SJ, brought out that there are two tendencies in the Marian movement today. The U.S. theologian said there are the “maximalists” who want to say all they can about the Blessed Virgin and consequently stress her importance. There are also the “minimalists” who want to stick to Scripture and Tradition and say no more.

Father Haering said that it must be pointed out that the question here is not a matter of “maximalists” or “minimalists,” but a question of good doctrine. It is a matter of expressing the fullness of the doctrine as far as it enters into the balanced perspective of the Church and presents the veneration of Mary in its proper relation to the adoration of Christ.

Apart from the theological significance of the decision to incorporate the schema on Our Lady into that on the Church, it was agreed by many bishops that the schema on the Church, discussion of which had already extended through two sessions of the council, would now almost certainly be prolonged into a third session.

Due to the length of the Mass which opened the meeting, the time spent distributing the various ballots and the length of the presentation of Chapter VII of the schema on the liturgy, there was little time left for speeches. Only seven Fathers had time to speak.

The opening Mass was concelebrated by three Ukrainian Rite prelates: Archbishop Josyf Slipyi of Lvov, Bishop Isidore Borecky of Toronto and Bishop Jaroslav Gabro of St. Nicholas of Chicago.

The Fathers then continued debate on Chapter IV of the schema on the Church, entitled: “Call to Holiness in the Church.”

Manuel Cardinal Goncalves Cerejeira of Lisbon led off with the observation that “the identification of sanctity with the religious state is still far too widespread among our faithful.”

It would add to the increase of sanctity, he said, “if all Christians were made more keenly aware of the possibility, and even the obligation, of striving for sanctity in the living of their daily lives.”

Jaime Cardinal de Barros Camara of Rio de Janeiro, speaking in the name of the 121 Brazilian bishops, criticized the structure of the chapter and added that in treating of priestly holiness in the world today, we should put special stress on the spirit of poverty.”

An objection was made by Norman Cardinal Gilroy of Sydney, Australia, to the use of certain expressions in the schema. “Such expressions as the ‘mystery of the Church,’ the ‘people of God,’ and ‘charisms’ would be completely unintelligible to the general run of the faithful,” he said.

Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini of Palermo, Italy, as he has done several times before regarding other schemata, criticized the Scriptural citations for being “out of their real context.” He further suggested that “everything in the chapter pertaining to the states of perfection should be made the subject matter of a separate chapter.”

Fernando Cardinal Quiroga y Palacios of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, said that the idea of holiness in the chapter “is too moralistic and almost exclusively ethical.” He urged that more attention be given to “the ecclesiological, pastoral and ecumenical aspects of the chapter.”

A systematic criticism of the chapter was made by Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich and Freising in the name of 79 bishops from Germany and Scandinavia. He said the chapter should be revamped along the lines of the following principles:

“A distinction should be made between the general means of sanctification and the special means provided by the counsels [poverty, chastity and obedience], as also between the holiness conferred in Baptism and the personal holiness which is a development of it. The description of holiness should pay more attention to the primacy of grace. There should also be a description of the theological concept and role of the counsels and of the state in which they are professed. … Scripture texts should be used with greater caution, and the chapter should be cleared of repetitions and some superfluous elements.”

The ecumenical aspects of the chapter were emphasized by former Archbishop Antonio Vuccino, AA, of Corfu, Zante and Cefalonia, Greece. He recalled how, after the recent papal audience for non-Catholic observers at the council, satisfaction was expressed over the statement “that a precise and clear definition of the Church should be drawn up from Biblical sources.” He complained that “the present chapter provides no such definition but gives only a few scattered elements.”

The three amendments out of a set of six to Chapter VII of the liturgy schema passed at this meeting make the following provisions:

1. Changes the original text of the schema to emphasize that chant is an integral part of the liturgy.

2. Modifies the original text to indicate that solemn services with ministers and the active participation of the faithful is a more noble expression of the liturgy.

3. Recommends the organization of higher institutes of sacred music.

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC News Rome bureau chief

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