The overall agreement among the great majority of the council Fathers was singled out here as perhaps the most significant development of the second council session.
Experts on the American bishops’ press panel were asked to give a summary of the second session of the council by American journalists Dec. 2. Members of the panel expressed various views, but the common denominator seemed to be the question of the unanimity demonstrated during the course of the second session.
Father Eugene H. Maly, Scripture professor at the archdiocesan seminary of Cincinnati, pointed to the actual votings that had been taken during the session and said they indicate there has been “a loud voice” in the hall. He said the size of the majorities reached was significant, reflecting the thinking and tendencies predominating in this session.
Father Gregory Baum, Berlin-born Augustinian teaching in Canada, said he thought the “growing unanimity” among the bishops was the most important development of the session. He said that the council was not divided equally in two camps but rather that there was demonstrated a tremendous and unexpected unanimity which constantly grew, so that majorities of 80 percent and larger were reached on almost all matters.
Father Gustave Weigel, SJ, of Woodstock (Md.) College, distinguished between formulation of doctrine and between the impact that the council will have in the future of the catholic life of the Church. In terms of formulation little was done at the second session, he noted. Most of the work on liturgy was done at the first session; there still must be written a chapter on the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be inserted in the project on the Church; the communications media project was not discussed but it does constitute a formulation of teaching; the project on bishops still needs work, and only three sections of the ecumenical schema have been reviewed.
In terms of the effect the council will have on the future of the Church’s life, however, Father Weigel said there have been developments of real significance. “During the first session, the conservative minds were like persons holding a hill; they were the kings of the mountain. But during that session the kings of the mountain found themselves in a very precarious position.”
In the second session, he said, the conservative minds were “not anxious to take to the battlefield. Rather they retired to strong, previously prepared positions, leaving the battleground to others.”
As a result there will be more action, more freedom in the Church in the future, according to the Jesuit theologian. “This session has opened the windows wider.” What can be expected, he added, is an evolution both greater and more rapid in its progress in the future.
Before the panel began the day’s business, the moderator, Father John Sheerin, CSP, was presented with a gold ping pong paddle by the newsmen covering daily meetings in recognition of his ability to send difficult and thorny questions to the right panel expert.
Both Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken of San Francisco and Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste of Belleville, Ill. — who are in charge of the panel — paid tribute to the American bishops’ panel of experts and to the level of reporting that had been done by the American press.
James C. O’Neill
NCWC News Rome correspondent