Philadelphia Archbishop Krol Explains Aspects of Council’s Rules

“A council without opposition and discussion would engender suspicion about the freedom of the council Fathers,” according to Archbishop John J. Krol of Philadelphia.

Speaking at a special background press conference arranged by the American bishops, Archbishop Krol explained various problems and circumstances surrounding the council’s rules. He is one of the five undersecretaries of the council.

He disclosed that strictly speaking “there will not be any simultaneous translation system operating during the council sessions.” Instead, he said there is an experiment to provide translations in six languages of the prepared texts of the council Fathers, to be broadcast while the Father is speaking in the hall.

He explained that a council Father would have to present the text of his intervention four days ahead of his scheduled speech so that it could be translated into the various languages.

He wanted it made clear, however, that the translated text as read over the transistor broadcasting system might not be exactly that which the Father is actually delivering. He explained that a speaker might decide to delete from or add to his prepared text.

Archbishop Krol said that simultaneous translations are not being considered because of personnel problems, not technical ones.

In discussing the rules governing the council, Archbishop Krol pointed out that the right to freedom of expression must be safeguarded. “Truth is reached by a vigorous exchange of opinions — by a real intellectual struggle. A council without opposition and discussions would engender suspicion about the freedom of the council Fathers.”

However, he noted that the right of expression does not have to be oral expression, as the Fathers can submit their opinions in writing. “Freedom of expression is not an absolute right. A prior right is the progress of the council; thus, then, the rule of cloture, which has been invoked several times.”

Archbishop Krol said the Council of the Presidency is constantly studying ways of speeding up procedures, but that at the moment no specific plan for changing the present procedure is being considered.

Archbishop Krol said the present rules are about as good as can be expected, although they are not perfect. The only one that he thinks might be altered is the present discrepancy between the type of majority needed to pass a conciliar act and that needed to reject it.

Under the present rules a two-thirds majority is needed to pass a measure while a simple majority against a measure is sufficient to defeat it.

Archbishop Krol noted that the Council of the Presidency has the task of seeing to it that council rules are respected. Moderators actually run the council and can do as they like as long as they follow the rules.

For example, when the moderators originally presented the four questions they wanted the Fathers to vote on, the presidency overruled them because such an act was not permitted by the council norms. The matter was referred to the Coordinating Commission which met with the Cardinals of the presidency and moderators and worked out a way in which the questions could be presented without violating the rules and that the wording of the questions could not be interpreted as favoring one side or another.

Archbishop Krol asserted that the council has shown a unanimity of spirit somewhat unexpected after the tremendous number of opinions expressed on one question or another.

“Last year’s discussions on a part of the liturgy schema — with a total of 630 oral and written interventions — would, according to many, give little hope for accord,” he said. “Yet after the 26 major recommendations returned to the floor from the commission, the average favorable note on 26 successive ballots was in excess of 98.4 percent.”

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