Discussions on Ecumenism Continue; Liturgy Votes Also Take Place

71st General Congregation
November 20, 1963

Council Fathers of the English-speaking world presented a solid front in favor of the schema on ecumenism as council debate on the topic went into its third day.

Strong recommendations of the schema were made by Albert Cardinal Meyer of Chicago, Archbishop John Heenan of Westminster, England, and Archbishop Maurice Baudoux of St. Boniface, Man.

Criticisms of the schema at the meeting were only on minor points, and it appeared that discussion on general acceptability of the schema would soon be closed and that the council would pass on to examination of its individual chapters.

While discussion of the schema was going on, five ballots were taken on details of the second chapter of the liturgy schema, all of which passed by wide margins.

This assembly witnessed also an open difference between Antonio Cardinal Bacci of the Roman curia and the four cardinal moderators of the council.

Before the day’s work began, Cardinal Bacci asked to be allowed to insert a remark to the effect that on Oct. 30, before the presentation to the Fathers of the five points on the collegiality of bishops and the permanent diaconate prepared by the moderators, he had requested permission to speak. He said that his request had been ignored and that he considered it such a serious breach of council procedure that perhaps it should be brought to the attention of Pope Paul VI.

Later in the morning the presiding moderator, Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, interrupted the council’s work to give an explanation of the incident cited by Cardinal Bacci. He said that the Cardinal had approached the moderators to call their attention to a weakness in the Latin formulation of one of the points. He objected to the use of the expression “jus primatiale” as being less clear than “jus primatus.” Cardinal Agagianian explained that, since the moderators were in agreement that the text was clear as it stood and that in substance the two expressions were identical in meaning, their decision had been that there was no point in permitting discussion of a point of grammar on the council floor. He was applauded by the council Fathers.

Five votes were taken on the liturgy schema: one on each of three changes in the text which had been suggested; one on the commission’s handling of the suggested changes, and the final vote on the chapter as a whole.

One of the changes dealt with the authority of the local Ordinary over concelebration of Mass with special reference to Religious houses. This passed with 2,057 in favor and 123 opposed. A second change had to do with a textual change referring to concelebration in the Eastern and Western Rites and this was not submitted to a vote.

The liturgical commission’s decision not to incorporate two changes in the text was voted upon and passed. The first suggestion had been that explicit use of the vernacular be provided for in the prayers of the priest to which the faithful are to respond. The commission decided that such explicit mention was not necessary since it is already contained in the more general provisions of the text.

The second suggestion had been that permission for Holy Communion under both species be extended to nuptial Mass. The commission replied that this extension could not be proposed in a brief article with all necessary precautions, and that this could be provided for in individual local circumstances under the authority of national conferences of bishops according to the general principle already approved.

The Fathers approved the liturgical commission’s work on the schema by a favorable vote of 2,056. Its acceptance of the complete text of the second chapter passed with a favorable vote of 2,112.

Cardinal Meyer was the first of the day’s 13 speakers on the schema on ecumenism. He said that Chapter IV on the Jews and Chapter V on freedom of conscience were topics which must be considered by the council and urged that they be treated in the present schema. He declared:

“There might be some differences of opinion on their place in this schema or another, but it is the opinion of numerous council Fathers that the subjects of these two chapters are intimately connected with the whole question of ecumenism. Although the text can and should be perfected, it is to be hoped that the entire schema will be approved as it stands.”

Cardinal Bacci then objected to the use of the word “ecumenism,” saying that it could cause confusion and the danger of interconfessionalism. He declared furthermore that Chapters IV and V are out of a place in a schema on ecumenism.

At the U.S. bishops’ press panel following the meeting, it was asked what Cardinal Bacci had meant by the “danger of interconfessionalism.”

Father Gustave Weigel, SJ, council expert from Woodstock College, Md., replied that he thought Cardinal Bacci meant the danger of Catholics attending non-Catholic churches, accepting their ceremonies and thus accomplishing an easy transference from one church to another without a person’s specifically desiring to lose his identity in his own religion.

Bishop Angelo Jelmini, Apostolic Administrator of Lugano, speaking in the name of the Swiss bishops, urged the council to take up not only the question of the Jews but also of Moslems, saying that “in these days of atheism we should consider all who believe in God because the Church must present herself as the friend of all believers. Without a firm stand on religious liberty there can be no ecumenism.”

A serious defect of the schema, in the mind of Bishop Andrzej Sapelak, SDB, Apostolic Visitor of Ukrainian Rite Catholics in Argentina, lay in its failure to make a clear distinction “between the venerable separated Oriental churches and the Christian communities of the West.” He objected also that there is not enough clarity in stating the necessary conditions of unity.

Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo Gonzalez of Saragossa became the first Spanish Father in the current debate to favor the schema. He said: “We welcome the schema warmly because of its positive approach and its omission of the usual warnings and condemnations.” He suggested, however, that the question of the Jews be treated not in the present schema but in the one on the presence of the Church in the world.

It was asked at the bishops’ press panel if Archbishop Morcillo was breaking ranks with the other Spanish prelates who have already denounced the schema. Father Weigel replied that it would be difficult to say, since ecumenism may mean different things to different people. He remarked that the Spanish idea of ecumenism may be colored by the fact that there really is not any non-Catholic church to speak of in Spain.

To this, Father Thomas Stransky, CSP, of Milwaukee added that most of the Spanish priests encounter the problem of ecumenism only in the missions. The official of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity said, however, that there has already been an ecumenical center established in Barcelona, Spain.

“Christians not of our Faith are expecting great things of this council,” declared Archbishop Baudoux, who read a telegram addressed to the Canadian Bishops at the council by the executive council of the Anglican Church of Canada.

He said: “Our dialogue is not merely human but it is a genuinely supernatural conversation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and has nothing in common with doctrinal relativism. The chief means of promoting understanding are mutual pardon, friendship and mutual confidence.”

Archbishop Heenan was loudly applauded for his “welcome of the present schema with joy.”

He said: “In the ecumenical movement we should have regard for the greatness of our common heritage and should forget past injuries in order to allow charity to be in control and to cast out the spirit of dissension. Union will never be achieved through argument, but only through virtuous living.

“The text should indicate clearly the immediate objective of ecumenism, which is mutual understanding and love among those who are united by Baptism but divided by doctrine. Its final aim is the visible union of all Christians in the one church of Christ. …

“Some suspicious Catholics eye the ecumenical movement with misgivings and would cooperate with other Christians only on the level of charity and sociology. This is not enough. The renewal of the Church requires a true religious dialogue. Genuine interest in the mission of the Church demands that we undertake a fuller and more frequent dialogue with all Christians of whatever denomination.”

Although no note was made of it in the council press communiqué, it was brought out at the press panel that Archbishop Heenan was speaking in the name of the entire English hierarchy.

Two Fathers — Archbishop Jean Weber of Strasbourg, France, and Father Robert Chopard-Lallir, SMA, Apostolic Prefect of Parakou, Dahomey — asked that ecumenism be furthered by a less strict law on Catholic participation in the religious services of non-Catholics. The former urged participation “particularly when we are dealing with those who belong to churches having all the sacraments, valid priesthood and bishops in apostolic succession.” The latter said it would be desirable “especially for such family events as weddings, funerals and the like.”

Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo of Cuernavaca, Mexico, called the schema “the finest gift the council can make to the Church.” He suggested that the text give more emphasis to “the importance of the liturgical movement and the Biblical movement in ecumenism.” It should establish the Gospel as the foundation for all dialogue, he said.

Retired Coadjutor Bishop Andre Jacq, OP, of Langson and Caobang, Vietnam, said that “the schema corresponds to the aim of the council and opens the door to the renewal of the Catholic Church.”

A more detailed study of the collegiality of the bishops might serve as an acceptable basis for ecumenism, Bishop Antonio Ferreira Gomes of Oporto, Portugal, suggested.

Bishop Leon De Uriarte Bengoa, OFM, Apostolic Vicar of San Ramon, Peru, asked for a clearer definition of terms in the schema.

At the press panel, Father Robert Trisco, council expert from the Catholic University of America, added that Bishop Ferreira Gomes praised the schema particularly for its use of Biblical language.

It was announced that a vote on the complete schema on communications media would be taken on Nov. 25.

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC News Rome bureau chief

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