Council Quickly Concludes Chapter on Nature of the Church

80th General Congregation
September 15, 1964

The work of the third session of the ecumenical council got off to a fast start.

The council Fathers wound up debate on the seventh chapter of the schema on the nature of the Church on the very first day of deliberation. The chapter is titled “The Eschatological Nature of Our Calling.” It had been drawn up to express the wish of the late Pope John XXIII, who felt that a treatment of the Church would be incomplete without dealing with the members of the Church who are fully united with Christ in heaven while still united with the Church on earth, thus forming one Church.

Pope John’s wish was pointed out by Michael Cardinal Browne, O.P., of the Roman curia, who presented the report on the draft chapter.

However, the chapter came under heavy fire from several sides.

Three speakers objected that although the chapter deals with eschatology — the doctrine of the last things, such as death, resurrection, immortality and judgment — it made no mention of hell.

Three other speakers objected that the chapter deals with the Church’s calling from an individual and ascetic point of view, omitting the Church’s social, historic and cosmic viewpoints.

A third criticism was that the role of the Holy Spirit was neglected. Both an Eastern-rite and a Latin-rite Father made this point.

The council meeting opened with a Mass of the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, offered by Bishop Charles Vanuytven, O.Praem., a retired Belgian missionary in the Congo. He was celebrating the 40th anniversary of his consecration as a bishop.

During the Mass a group of lay auditors received Holy Communion.

Once the extra omnes — the call to all not officially entitled to be there during a meeting to leave the council hall — had sounded, Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the College of Cardinals, addressed the meeting as chairman of the Council of the Presidency. He urged the Fathers to heed Pope Paul VI’s appeal for prayer and sacrifice for the council’s success.

He also reminded the Fathers that the council’s aim is pastoral rather than doctrinal and said that this has been the guiding norm in preparing all schemata.

He said he had observed “a very strong desire” on the part of many bishops that this should be the concluding session of the council. He said he could not make any predictions on this point, but he urged the Fathers to stick to the point in arguments and to avoid repetition.

As a further means of hastening debate he suggested that any Fathers with suggestions for revising canon law make them to the commission for the revision of canon law.

Cardinal Tisserant also spoke on the question of council secrecy. He expressed regret at “certain incidents” of past sessions involving a breach of secrecy and urged all present not only to be prudent and discreet but to observe their duty of secrecy concerning the council’s discussions.

The moderator of the day, Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, who is also president of the council’s mission commission, said that the council must aim at concluding its deliberations as soon as possible but without compromising full liberty of expression.

Archbishop Pericle Felici, council general secretary, after making routine announcements about the distribution of documents, said that unless the council experts observe the regulations laid down for their conduct with the Pope’s approval, they can be stripped of their status as experts. Therefore, he said, they should engage in no lobbying for any point of view, organize no factions, and take part in no publicity campaigns designed to spread a particular opinion.

Archbishop Felici also pointed out that the norms laid down for the conduct of experts give him power to stop the unauthorized distribution of documents in or near the council hall. He said he would be ready to use this power if the necessity arose.

He also asked the council Fathers to stay in their places throughout the morning session because there would be several communications about the council’s work. The council hall’s coffee shops would not open until 11 a.m., he said. He added that it would be “useless to knock on the doors.”

Fourteen council Fathers then rose in succession to offer their views — often critical — of the draft of chapter 7 on the Church.

Cardinal Agagianian then announced that since no other Fathers had asked for the floor on this chapter, debate on it was concluded.

This 80th general congregation of the Second Vatican Council, first of the third session, ended about 12:35 p.m. It had been announced that congregations would end at 12:30, half an hour later than in previous sessions.

Chapter 7, on which debate was concluded, consists of four paragraphs.

The first, titled “On Our Call to Sanctification Through Christ and Our Call to the Perfection of Holiness in Heaven,” deals with the relation between the present life and eternal life.

The second notes that until the end of time the Church consists of some members in heaven, some undergoing purification (in Purgatory) and some still on earth.

The third states that the example of the saints encourages earthbound Christians in striving for heaven.

The fourth states that the union of Christians on earth with the blessed in heaven is a stimulus to the efforts of the former to glorify and love God — provided that these efforts are in union with the Church.

Cardinal Browne commented on this chapter, saying that it is a synthesis of the theology of the last things. He said the chapter makes generous use of the words of Christ and of the Apostles.

It asserts that the union with the saints does not hinder the love of the Blessed Trinity but rather fosters it.

The chapter aims at promoting union with the separated brethren, he said, pointing out that devotion to the saints has always been a characteristic of the Oriental Churches. This devotion, he said, is an aid to the appreciation of the common patrimony of the Faith. Even those who do not agree with this doctrine may at least recognize its riches, he said.

Speakers on the chapter were: Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini of Palermo, Italy; Giovanni Cardinal Urbani of Venice; Rufino Cardinal Santos of Manila; and Laurean Cardinal Rugambwa of Bukoba, Tanganyika; Latin-rite Patriarch Alberto Gori, O.F.M., of Jerusalem; Archbishops Enrico Nicodemo of Bari, Italy; Justin Darmajuwana of Semarang, Indonesia; Ignace Ziade of the Maronite Rite See of Beirut; and Maxim Hermaniuk, C.SS.R., of the Ukrainian Rite See of Winnipeg; Bishop Pont y Gol of Segorbe, Spain; Coadjutor Bishop Leon Elchinger of Strasbourg, France; Abbot Christopher Butler, O.S.B., of Downside, England; and Archbishops Segundo Garcia of Burgos, Spain, and Louis Mathias, S.D.B., of Madras and Mylapore, India.

Cardinal Ruffini said: “The chapter’s use of Scripture is admirably generous but lamentably imprecise. The chapter lacks good structure and order and therefore needs recasting.”

Cardinal Urbani said: The chapter is generally acceptable except for the points mentioned by Cardinal Ruffini.

Cardinal Santos said: The chapter completes and enriches the whole schema.

Patriarch Gori said: The text fails to speak about the possibility of eternal damnation — in other words, the existence and eternity of hell. This is needed to check today’s hedonism.

Archbishop Nicodemo, in the name of the bishops of the Apulia region of Italy, said: The chapter’s title is too long. The chapter should mention hell lest the council’s presentation of the last things be incomplete.

Archbishop Darmajuwana said: The chapter should be omitted since it says nothing not already common knowledge.

Archbishop Ziade said: There can be no mention of the eschatology of our calling without mention of the Holy Spirit. The Latin rite is still an adolescent in its understanding of the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Churches would be displeased by this omission from a solemn document.

Archbishop Hermaniuk said: The chapter should emphasize the sacramental union of the faithful with Christ in the Eucharist. It should also stress the need for vigilance in awaiting the coming of Christ.

Bishop Pont said: The chapter gives the Church a transcendent coloring but the schema never gives a parallel exposition of the Church’s immanent aspect — doctrinal base — of its presence in the world.

Bishop Elchinger said: The chapter explains the personal aspect of our vocation in relation to the last things but lacks a treatment of the social, historical and cosmic aspects of the Christian vocation.

Abbot Butler said: The chapter fails to mention the Holy Spirit except in a “calamitous” passage seeming to say we give adoration to the Father and the Son but not to the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop Garcia said: It is too diffuse in its expression and too thin in its substance.

Archbishop Mathias said on behalf of several bishops that the chapter is satisfactory.

*          *          *          *

The U.S. Bishops’ press panel started its daily meetings during the ecumenical council’s third session amid confusion on the part of journalists over the role of experts and what was allowed them in the light of the panel’s new rules.

One of the most popular sessions in Rome during the last sessions of the council, not only for journalists but for anyone else who could crowd into the basement of the USO club, the panel this session was limited “strictly to the working press.” Obviously, though, concessions were made to former panel members and a few others.

Rumors that the panel would have a different look were borne out when introductions were made. Elmer Von Feldt, director of the panel, explained that changes were also made at the last session when four former panel members were not present. He said that the panel was chosen by Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken of San Francisco with a view to obtaining “the best possible team after consultation with several others.”

The archbishop said others would be called upon from time to time to discuss aspects of their particular fields, but that the present panel would be the regulars.

Before beginning work, the journalists and panel members stood for a moment in private prayer for two members missing from the last time — Father Gustave Weigel, S.J., a member of the press panel in 1963, and Milton Bracker, correspondent of the New York Times, who covered the 1963 session of the council. Both died shortly after the 1963 session ended.

Some concern was expressed by several journalists over restrictions on the experts announced on Dec. 28, 1963, by the council’s Coordinating Commission and reiterated at the opening meeting of the third session by Archbishop Pericle Felici, general secretary of the council.

Father Robert Trisco pointed out these were not new restrictions but that perhaps more stress was being placed on them this time. He said they were “never expressed quite so bluntly before.”

The restrictions on the experts — called norms — are three:

  1. Experts are restricted to answering questions put them by the commission or council Fathers.
  1. They are forbidden to lobby, establish factions or currents of thought, or to divulge or defend their private opinions on council matters.
  1. They are to abstain from criticizing the council or council Fathers and from instructing outsiders on the secret business of the commissions.

Not included in norms, but threatened by Archbishop Felici at the first meeting, was that experts failing to follow these directives would be liable to lose their status as experts. Father Trisco said this was something new, and had not been announced after the Coordinating Commission’s meeting in December. But he said that Archbishop Felici announced that he had such power.

Others on the panel said they felt that the new rule would not impose new restrictions or change the method of operation for journalists, since the experts have always been bound to such secrecy. As for restrictions on lobbying and expressing personal opinions, there did not seem to be much hope among the panel that this would be observed too strictly.

Von Feldt pointed out that the panel has always had it as its purpose to provide background, even though at times panelists have expressed their personal views. He said it is perhaps true that the purpose of the panel had not always been properly stressed, and thus the present guidelines have been drawn up.

Following are the “ground rules” under which the press panel of the U.S. Bishops is operating during the third session, a panel spokesman said:

  1. The U.S. Bishops’ Press Panel has been established through the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the secretariat of the American bishops, as a service for working reporters. Unfortunately, limitations of space demand that briefing sessions be limited to the working press, with the consequent exclusion of seminarians, guests and spectators.
  1. The purpose of the press panel is to make available to newsmen the professional help of specialists who can provide factual, theological and background information and clarification, which may be desirable to develop fully their reports on the council. The panel is not designed to provide a forum to promote the personal opinions or projects of individuals, whether panel members or journalists. In view of this purpose, questions by reporters, aimed at soliciting the personal opinion of the panel members, will be ruled out of order.
  1. Panel members may be quoted, but the clarifications and background information they provide should not be represented as coming from the universities, colleges or institutions to which these men are attached.
  1. Reporters are free to ask any questions seeking clarification or background information on a subject currently being considered by the Council Fathers. If a reporter has questions which are not on the subject, he is asked to contact the panel director. Arrangements will be made for a panel member to answer his questions fully, but in private. This procedure will avoid wasting the time of other reporters.
  1. All reporters should identify themselves and their publications before giving their questions.

The following is what the press release described as an “initial listing” of members of the press panel at the third session:

Father Francis J. Connell, C.SS.R., former dean of the School of Sacred Theology of the Catholic University of America. Moral Theology. From Boston.

Msgr. Mark J. Hurley, chancellor of the Stockton (Calif.) diocese. Education. From San Francisco.

Father John J. King, O.M.I., superior of the General House of Studies in Rome for Oblate priests. Dogmatic Theology. From Lowell, Mass.

Father Francis J. McCool, S.J., professor of introduction to the New Testament at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Sacred Scripture. From New York.

Father Frederick McManus, professor of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America. Canon Law and Liturgy. From Boston.

Msgr. George W. Shea, rector of Immaculate Conception seminary, Darlington, N.J. Dogmatic Theology. From Belleville, N.J.

Father George Tavard, chairman of the theology department of Mount Mercy College, Pittsburgh. Theology and Ecumenism. From France.

Father Robert Trisco, professor of Church History at Catholic University of America, and editor of Catholic Historical Review. Church History. From Chicago.

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