Council Notes Special Status of Jews, Further Debates References to Mary

82nd General Congregation
September 17, 1964

By an overwhelming majority the ecumenical council has passed what might be termed a “little statement on the Jews.” It calls the Jews “the chosen people most dear to God.”

This was included in chapter two of the schema on the nature of the Church. The council passed all eight articles of the chapter by very broad majorities.

In the same voting the council also approved an amendment strongly urged at the last session by Bishop Robert E. Tracy of Baton Rouge, La., making it clear that in the people of God, that is in the Church, there can be no distinction based on race.

Speaking on non-Catholics, the schema says “those who have not yet accepted the Gospel are in various ways oriented to the people of God.

“In the first place is that people to which the covenants and promises were given and from which Christ sprang, the chosen people most dear to God because of the patriarchs.”

The council’s highly publicized statement on the Jews will be debated in the council hall itself — following months of debate in the world press — after the council completes its discussion of the schema on the Church and the schema on the bishops and the government of dioceses.

Discussions on the third session’s fourth day were focused on chapter eight of the schema on the Church, devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The outstanding point at issue was the schema’s use of the title “Mother of the Church.”

The papal sacristan, Bishop Peter van Lierde, not only defended the title but even suggested the chapter itself should be called “Mary, Mother of the Church” or “Mary, Mother of All Believers.”

Auxiliary Bishop Alfred Ancel of Lyons, France, said he would accept the title in a spirit of harmony, provided the council did not put too bold a stamp of approval upon it. He said he would accept the title “mediatrix” for Mary in the same spirit, even though the intervention the previous day by Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J., head of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, had convinced him that the Church’s teaching on this question had not sufficiently matured.

Bishop Primo Gasbarri, apostolic administrator of Grosseto, Italy, warned that Catholics would be scandalized if the council failed to adopt the term “Mother of the Church” used by Pope Paul VI.

Archbishop Rafael Garcia y Garcia de Castro of Granada, Spain, supported this argument by pointing to the use of such a term by Pope Benedict XIV. Speaking in the name of more than 80 bishops, he said he hoped the council would not take from Mary a title given her by the popes.

However, Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo of Cuernavaca, Mexico, declared that Pope Leo XIII was the first pope to use this title. He said Pope St. Pius X cautiously referred to Mary as “the Mother of the members of the Mystical Body,” and Pope Pius XII was equally careful. Pope John XXIII used the title, but Pope Paul always used it “conditionally,” he said.

Considerable interest was aroused when Archbishop Jozef Gawlina, Polish member of the Roman curia, quoted Martin Luther. The prelate was arguing that devotion to Mary is not an obstacle to unity. He cited a sentence from Luther’s exposition on St. Luke’s Gospel, in which he stated: “Mary does not wish to lead us to herself, but through herself to God.”

The 82nd general congregation of the council began with a votive Mass of Christ the High Priest offered by Bishop Giuseppe Angrisani of Casale Monferrato, Italy. Archbishop John J. Krol of Philadelphia enthroned the Gospel. Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna, Italy, remained as moderator since debate was continuing on the same chapter of the schema.

Archbishop Pericle Felici, secretary general of the council, announced the results of the previous day’s voting on the whole of chapter one of the schema on the Church. Out of 2,189 votes, there were 2,114 “yes” votes and 11 “no” votes. Sixty-three Fathers voted “yes” with reservations, and one vote was null.

Archbishop Felici said he hoped the Sept. 17 vote on chapter two would go quickly. The following day (Sept. 18), he said, the Fathers would receive schedules for the expedited vote on chapter three.

On Sept. 18, the council was to begin debate on the schema on bishops and the government of dioceses.

The archbishop announced in the name of the moderators that all summaries of speeches to be made dealing with the schema on revelation must be submitted by Sept. 25. The deadline for summaries of speeches on the lay apostolate was set at Sept. 28. Written criticism of schema 13 on the Church in the modern world or any other schema to be discussed would have to be submitted by Oct. 1.

Archbishop Gabriel Garrone of Toulouse, France, acted as “relator” for the third chapter of the schema on the Church, which was being readied for a vote. He said the text describes the Church in its actual situation as well as in its totality. The text shows that both the pastors and the laity belong to the people of God. The hierarchy springs from the faithful as a means of achieving the Church’s purpose. Therefore, the text emphasizes that the hierarchy renders service to the people of God, he said.

The four votes on the second chapter, which includes article nine to article 17 of the schema, were:

Articles nine to 12: 2,173 “yes”, 30 “no” and seven votes null.

Article 13: 2,186 “yes,” 12 “no” and four votes null.

Articles 14 to 16: 2,048 “yes,” 48 “no” and three votes null. This included the statement on the Jews.

Article 17: 2,106 “yes,” 67 “no” and one vote null.

Other speakers during the session were Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels, Belgium; Bishop Francisco Rendeiro of Faro, Portugal; Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany; Bishop Andrea Sapelak, apostolic visitor for the Ukrainian-Rite Catholics in Argentina; Bishop Wilhelm Kempf of Limburg, Germany; Bishop Leon de Uriarte Bengoa, O.F.M., for San Ramon, Peru; Father Aniceto Fernandez, O.P., master general of the Dominican Order; Father Alfonso Maria Monta, O.S.M., prior general of the Servite Order; Bishop Julien Le Couedic of Troyes, France; and Archbishop Aurelio Signora, pontifical delegate for the sanctuary of Pompei.

Cardinal Suenens said that from a doctrinal point of view the schema says too little. He added that it does not put enough emphasis on Our Lady’s spiritual motherhood and the modern Church. The text, he continued, is too prudent and timid, and places insufficient stress on the deep link between Mary and the work of Christ.

Making Christ the center of all things is good, he said, but this should not be carried to the point of denying Mary’s role.

From a pastoral viewpoint, the cardinal stated, the text fails to show the connection between Mary’s spiritual motherhood and the apostolate. Just as Christ historically was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, he said, so Christ mystically was born and grows through the Holy Spirit and Our Lady.

Bishop Rendeiro said the schema is afraid of being too superlative in praise of Mary, and should proclaim Mary’s title as “mediatrix.” The text on mediation, he went on, should be left as it is. It would be a scandal to Catholics, he said, if the council discusses mediation and then rejects the word “mediatrix” in its pronouncement.

Bishop Sapelak said more stress should be placed on Mary’s role as the protector and helper of the Christian people because this is her most important role in the Church.

Bishop van Lierde said the chapter’s title fails to show Mary’s intimate relation with the Church. He said a new title could be “Mary, Mother of the Church” or “Mary, Mother of All Believers.” He declared that there are several gaps in the text: no mention is made of Mary’s resolve to lead a life of virginity, of her motherly influence in rearing the Child Jesus or of her cooperation with the Holy Spirit. He also said the text has whittled down her influence in the early Church to the help of her prayers.

Archbishop Gawlina said that far from being an obstacle to Christian unity, devotion to Mary promotes it. He called such devotion a “bridge to ecumenism.” He cited Luther’s statement on Mary and pointed out that separated Eastern-Rite Christians have a tender love for Our Lady. He added that when he was in the Soviet Union he was struck by the people’s deep devotion to Mary. This, he continued, served as a bridge between himself and the Orthodox, who asked him for the sacraments.

Archbishop Jaeger said the text should make it clear that Mary, like the Church, is animated and vivified by the Holy Spirit who dwells in her as in a noble temple.

Bishop Ancel said Cardinal Bea’s talk had changed his mind about the maturity of the teaching on the title of “mediatrix” for Mary, as well as the title “Mother of the Church.” He said both these titles could be used in the text if this did not seem to give them theological approval.

Bishop Kempf said Mary’s cooperation in the economy of salvation needs to be brought out of mere biography and interpreted with theological applications.

Bishop De Uriarte said the fact that Mary is the Mother of Jesus is the starting point for all other conclusions, but that the text mentions this fact only twice and then not as starting points for argument but as mere statements of fact. He said that Mary is the mother of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Moslems and of all men, believers and non-believers alike. She is the mother of the Church, he said.

Father Fernandez said the schema protests too much that Mary should not be called equal to Christ. Leaving the text as it stands, he stated, could give future generations the impression that some Catholics of our time maintain that Mary is the equal of Christ and that the Second Vatican Council had to correct this error. For the same reason, he continued, the Fathers should delete the caution warning preachers against using expressions that could give separated Christians the wrong impression of the Church’s teaching on Mary.

Father Monta said the text’s argumentation must be examined closely since it seems to be going in a circle. Instead of saying that Mary is a supereminent member of the Church, it would be better to discuss her as a spiritual mother, he stated. The priest said the council must not fear stating Catholic beliefs about Mary because great harm has always come to the Church from any attempt to de-emphasize doctrine on the mother of God.

Archbishop Garcia said Mary must be given the title of “Mother of God” in the text. Pope Paul and earlier popes used it, he noted. He said that arguments for the title can be found in the works of St. Irenaeus and St. Leo the Great. Council Fathers should either speak as the popes have spoken or keep silent, he said.

Archbishop Signora said there should be reference to the Rosary, which has been called the “breviary of the faithful.”

Bishop Le Couedic said the council should avoid the use of titles such as “mediatrix” and “coredemptrix” lest confusion arise.

Bishop Mendez said the Fathers should agree on a text that will eliminate any danger that the Church will appear divided before the world. The title “Mother of the Church” is too foreign to the traditions of the Eastern Church, and too recent to have a place in the council’s declarations, he said. Noting that Pope Leo XIII was the first to use the title, Bishop Mendez stated that if the Church is our mother, then Mary as mother of the Church would be our grandmother.

The simple fact of not using the title would not imply condemnation of it, he said. He noted that the Mexican bishops have asked for a definition of Mary’s motherhood of all men, not of her spiritual maternity over the Church. Mary is a sign of unity in the Church, he added, and should not be turned into a sign of division.

Bishop Gasbarri said that if from the ecclesiological point of view Mary is the most noble member and the firstborn daughter of the Church, then from a Christological point of view she is the Mother of the Church because she is the mother of Christ. Some ecumenists desire a minimal statement on Mary, he said, but the Church’s chief duty is to keep and proclaim the deposit of faith. He said the existing text presents only a brief biography of the Blessed Virgin which is beneath the dignity of a council discussion.

*          *          *          *

A statement giving the opinion of Biblical scholars in Rome indicating that there is not sufficient basis in the Bible for the doctrine of episcopal collegiality was distributed to the Fathers of the ecumenical council on the opening day of the third session.

It was disclosed at the meeting of the U.S. bishops’ press panel that copies of the statement were distributed to the council members by Archbishop Pericle Felici, the council’s general secretary.

The concept of episcopal collegiality has emerged as one of the most important doctrinal issues to be debated by the council Fathers.

In brief, the concept means that the bishops of the world with the pope form a body, or college, which is the successor to the Twelve Apostles, and as such a divine institution responsible as a whole for the mission of the Church on earth.

Father Francis J. McCool, S.J., of New York, a member of the faculty of the Pontifical Biblical Institute here, said the Scripture scholars’ opinion was requested by Archbishop Felici “at the command of the Pope” last May 27. The request was sent to the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies. Since an urgent response was requested, in time for the meeting of the council coordinating commission on May 31, Father McCool said, only the consultors of the Biblical commission residing in Rome were consulted.

The American Jesuit said that the signers of the statement of opinion include one bishop and other priest consultors of various nationalities, but only those residing in Rome. (The current Vatican directory lists 12 residents of Rome among the total of 31 consultors to the Biblical commission.)

Asked the substance of the statement, technically labeled a votum, Father McCool said:

“Its form seems negative, indicating there is not sufficient Scriptural basis for the doctrine of collegiality. The phrase used, non constat (it is not clear), would give this impression. However, some exegetes [interpreters] might find Scriptural basis for collegiality from the very texts used in the votum.”

Press panel members could offer no explanation as to why the May request for the Biblical scholars’ statement was so urgent that there was no time to seek the opinion of members or consultors of the Biblical commission who were not in Rome. Some panelists voiced the thought that the idea to pinpoint the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of collegiality might have been a last-minute decision preceding the meeting of the Coordinating Commission four days later.

(It was explained later that the term votum as applied to the Biblical commission consultors’ statement is not the same as the votum which is a pronouncement of the council Fathers.

(A council votum is the least important pronouncement by the council Fathers. Next comes a proposition. Then a decree. Then the most important type of conciliar pronouncement, a constitution.

(Msgr. Mark Hurley, chancellor of the Stockton, Calif., diocese, a member of the American press panel, said that another form of conciliar statement is a declaration. This does not fit into any of the other four categories, he said, but is treated in the same way as a decree or a constitution — that is, that it is debated, voted on tentatively, amended and then given a final vote in the presence of the Pope, who in turn promulgates it in a plenary council session.

(Msgr. Hurley said that the council’s celebrated statements on religious liberty and on Christian-Jewish relations have the status of declarations.)

*          *          *          *

The schema on the status of the Church in the modern world in its present form was judged inadequate by a Dutch theological expert.

Father Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., spoke at the opening of the Netherlands bishops’ new documentation center here in the presence of Bernard Cardinal Alfrink of Utrecht and numerous bishops and guests.

Father Schillebeeckx charged that the schema is based on “a conception that is still too dualistic regarding the Church’s relationship to the world, as if the latter were beyond the scope of her saving mission, while the historic task of humanity is stressed, but insufficiently, and not enough emphasis given to apostolic secularity and secular sanctity.”

The speaker added that God’s love for man implies the justification of all efforts tending toward the improvement of living conditions for all mankind and toward a better world generally. This should not lead to an underevaluation of the secular sphere of life, which not only should be seen under supernatural perspectives but should be accepted as a reality to be redeemed, he said.

Religious practice starting from different premises as a monologue rather than a dialogue, the speaker said, would disregard “the intrinsic autonomy of the world and be alien to the concept of the world created by divine will, a world given to man as implicitly Christian and destined to become humane and more in keeping with man’s dignity as the image of God.”

Another council theologian at the same time spoke out against what he called a “triumphalism alien to the Church” which “always remains on pilgrimage in its existence on this earth.” He was Father Otto Semmelroth, S.J., of Frankfurt, Germany, who addressed the German bishops’ council press center here.

He was referring particularly to the veneration of saints, which was under discussion on the council floor. He said such veneration sometimes may appear as “veiled polytheism,” while in reality it only should be an expression of a proper tribute to heroes of the Faith and should not be exaggerated. It is in this sense that the intercession of saints in heaven should be understood as a “triumph” in heaven of which their earthly experience is but a sign indicating the potential of future glory.

Father Placid Jordan, O.S.B.
NCWC News Rome correspondent

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