Council Fathers Share Ideas for Implementing Ecumenical Actions

77th General Congregation
November 28, 1963

Extreme liberalism was the dominant note of the ecumenical council’s Nov. 28 meeting as the world’s bishops discussed ways of encouraging ecumenical relations with non-Catholics of East and West.

The measures recommended included such things as recognition of the validity of mixed marriages before non-Catholic ministers, permission to attend non-Catholic religious services and cooperation with non-Catholic religious services and with non-Catholics in studies.

In spite of the fact that a majority vote had closed discussion of the second chapter on the schema on ecumenism, which deals with the implementation of ecumenism, 15 council Fathers succeeded in finding another five Fathers each to support them in their requests to continue speaking on Chapter II. As a result, although technically consideration of Chapter II was already closed, only four of the day’s speakers could be heard on the topic properly under discussion, Chapter III dealing with separated Christians.

One of the 15, Archbishop Eugene D’Souza of Bhopal, India, yielded the floor in view of the great number of Fathers who had asked to speak on the second chapter. He was roundly applauded.

The long list of speakers on the “closed chapter” had a noticeable effect on the meeting. This reporter had never seen the council hall so empty. A majority of the bishops were in the side aisles of St. Peter’s basilica, walking up and down and conversing privately with other council Fathers.

One of the bishops commented that he believed there was no one left in the council hall but the bishops listed to speak and the five bishops each who had supported their request to speak.

During the morning, ballots of the council Fathers for election of additional members of council commissions were collected. Since each ballot called for 45 votes, the tally of some 2,000 ballots could not be made until the following day.

First speaker on Chapter II was Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Germany. He said the council should demonstrate that one church is possible here and now and is not necessarily something to be awaited in the distant future. To demonstrate this possibility, he urged recognition of the validity of mixed marriages contracted before a non-Catholic minister. He did so, however, with some strong reservations.

While urging the council to declare the validity of mixed marriages before non-Catholic ministers, he said:

“We should at the same time declare disapproval of mixed marriages. We should insist on the question of religious schools for the education of our children. If a non-Catholic party feels it is against his conscience to promise to bring up his children in the Catholic Faith, he is not to be subjected to pressure, but he should give up an idea of marriage in the circumstances. We should declare the validity of mixed marriages contracted in the presence of a non-Catholic minister and should remove the ecclesiastical penalties of such marriages. All this would clear the atmosphere and prepare the way for fruitful ecumenical activity.”

Cardinal Frings was followed in these suggestions by Father Hilaire Capucci, superior general of the Melkite Rite Order of St. Basil of Aleppo, who also added that legislation on participation in non-Catholic religious services should be changed.

Beyond cooperation with non-Catholics in the social field, Archbishop Hyacinthe Thiandoum of Dakar, Senegal, said there should be cooperation also in the fields of science, art and culture.

Bishop Vicente Reyes of Borongan, the Philippines, suggested that it would be a practical step to promote a joint novena with non-Catholics in preparation for the feast of Pentecost for the intention of unity in faith and charity.

“We should not lose sight of the importance of intellectual activity in the work of reconciliation,” said Archbishop Emile Blanchet, rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris. “We should carefully avoid any feelings of superiority or condescension and should guard against any attitude which might give the impression that accepting the Catholic Church is like abandoning one’s mother. We should have respect for the positive aspects of the faith of our separated brethren.”

Abbot Benedict Reetz, OSB, president of the Benedictine Congregation of Beuron, Germany, recounted his experiences with theologians of the Protestant faculty of the University of Tubingen, Germany, who sometimes make a retreat in his monastery. He said:

“One of their major complaints is what we might call contorted and acrobatic theology. … Similarly they dislike the excessive scholasticism in our theology which is often lacking the Biblical touch. They dislike undue juridicism, which exalts the legal element in the Church to the point where it becomes difficult to understand its relationship with human liberty.

“Lastly, they object to certain forms of piety which obscure true piety. …

“On the other hand, they admire our liturgy with chant, the marvelous unity of the Church, the monastic life, the celibacy of the clergy and sacramental confession.”

Since Chapter II speaks of the Biblical movement as a pledge and augury of the success of the ecumenical movement, said Bishop Guillaume Schoemaker of Purwokerto, Indonesia, the council should entrust the preparation of a text of the Vulgate for all Christians to a post-council commission, with experts from every nation and religious confession collaborating.

Bishop Garabed Amadouni, Apostolic Exarch of Armenian Rite Catholics in France, suggested a special college in Rome for the training of Eastern Rite clerics which would also admit clerics of churches separated from Rome.

In order that “this great grace of the council” not be simply recorded and filed away, Archbishop Henrique Golland Trinidade, OFM, of Botucatu, Brazil, urged that public opinion should be taken into account. He declared:

“We cannot influence this opinion by radio, press or television, but it is always in our power to influence it by good example.”

Elements often repeated before were brought to the floor by the following:

–Bishop Antonio Pildain y Zapiain of the Canary Islands asked that the schema give more emphasis to charity.

–Archbishop Armando Fares of Catanzaro, Italy, warned that ignorance and imprudence might lead to indifferentism.

–Archbishop Anibal Munoz Duque of Nueva Pamplona, Colombia, said that a different approach to ecumenism would be required in Latin America.

–Bishop Bernardino Pinera Carvallo of Temuco, Chile, said that the interior renewal of the Church would require greater emphasis on poverty, humility and the spirit of service.

Bishop Lucien Lebrun of Autun, France, recounted to council Fathers details of the success of the Protestant monastic community of Taize and its experiments in ecumenism.

Speaking on the third chapter, Maronite Rite Patriarch Paul Meouchi of Antioch said:

“Progress in ecumenism can be likened to progress in the spiritual life, in which the first steps are in the ‘purgative way.’ In the spirit of this way, it is important to purge ourselves of all prejudices and false impressions and thus to build up a genuine respect for the churches of the Orient.”

There is more to separation of the churches than theological causes, said Archbishop Franjo Seper of Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and Bishop Vladimir Malanchuk, Apostolic Exarch of Ukrainian Rite Catholics in France.

Archbishop Seper said:

“The text gives the impression that the separation of the churches came only from theological causes. There were many others, such as the work of the devil, sin, and some non-religious elements such as differences in languages, mentality and discipline. There is no reason for insisting on certain points which have no meaning for the majority of the Oriental faithful, like the apostolic origin of some particular churches. …

“It is much more important for the council to determine clearly the conditions on which our separated brethren can enter the Church. Provided they accept the [papal] primacy, they should be allowed to keep the structure which they have now. The same dignity should be assured the married priests of the Orient as for the celibate priests of the West. There should be no Latinization, especially in liturgical matters.”

Bishop Malanchuk said:

“The schema should make some mention of the non­religious causes of past separations: politics, race, excessive patriotism, the desire to be free of outside influences, mutual ignorance and distrust.”

Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo Gonzalez of Saragossa, Spain, said that “the distinction made in the text between the Oriental churches and the Protestant churches of the West is inadequate because a geographical basis is used for the Orient, while chronology is used for the Protestants.”

Msgr. James I. Tucek
NCWC News Rome bureau chief

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