108th General Congregation
October 23, 1964
The ecumenical council’s third session will end Nov. 21 with concelebration of the Mass by Pope Paul VI and 24 council Fathers.
The Saturday morning ceremony in St. Peter’s on the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple will be followed by formal closing ceremonies the same afternoon in the basilica of St. Mary Major in downtown Rome. Taking part in the morning Mass will be prelates in whose dioceses the world’s major Marian sanctuaries are located.
In announcing the third session’s closing date, Archbishop Pericle Felici, council secretary general, expressed hope that several documents already discussed in the council and now being reworked in commission would be ready for formal proclamation by the Pope at the closing ceremonies.
He said the fourth session will begin “whenever the Pope decides.”
These announcements were made during the council’s 108th congregation, at which the draft schema on the Church in the modern world was accepted as the basis for further discussion after three days of debate.
Three speakers — one in the name of 70 other Fathers — called for formal condemnation in the text of what was called the “total heresy of communism.”
Seven speakers in all took the floor to defend the schema as the basis for discussion before the standing vote to close the discussion. The Fathers then decided to accept the schema by a secret vote of 1,579 to 296. Seven more speakers then began the discussion of the introduction and first chapter of the document.
One of the more colorful talks of the day was made by a monk who responded to the charge by England’s Archbishop John C. Heenan of Westminster the previous day that monks and seminarians are out of contact with the world.
Remarking that he rose “trembling and afraid,” Archabbot Benedict Reetz, O.S.B., superior general of the Benedictine Congregation of Beuron, Germany, made an eloquent defense of monks, who, he said, “carry the world on their shoulders.” He referred to the legend of Pope St. Gregory the Great’s commission to 40 monks to go to England and “make angels out of the Angles” — the forefathers of the English. He also pointed out that the very next day at Monte Cassino, Pope Paul would proclaim a monk — St. Benedict — patron of Europe. These facts hardly indicate monks are out of contact with the world, he said.
Exiled Archbishop Paul Yu Pin of Nanking, China — now rector of Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, Formosa — asked in the name of 70 other Fathers that a new chapter on atheistic communism be added to the schema.
The Church cannot ignore this “accumulation of all the heresies,” he said. It must defend truth and clear up confusion caused in the minds of the faithful by peaceful coexistence and talk of so-called Catholic communism.
The Church must consider this evil not only as one of “the signs of the times,” but as the most prominent of all the signs in the modern world, Archbishop Yu Pin asserted. He said that as it is militantly atheistic and grossly materialistic, communism must be condemned for its denial of human freedom. Thus will the council satisfy the expectations and desires of all freedom-loving peoples, he said, especially those under communism’s yoke.
Archbishop Guillermo Bolatti of Rosario, Argentina, took up the same theme. The Church cannot pass over the doctrine of communism in silence, he said, since one-third of the world is under its yoke and the rest is in danger.
This “reality of the world,” however, should not be treated from a political or economic point of view, but rather as an ideology affecting the minds of men. Atheistic communism is obviously opposed to the Gospels, he said. It destroys men’s sense of God as the Creator of the world and of Christ as its redeemer. For this reason, the Church must condemn it or at least warn men against it, since it is “intrinsically contrary to Catholic teaching,” the archbishop said.
He added: “Do not say it is inopportune to act now. Pope Paul has thought otherwise, as witnessed in his encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam.”
The third speaker to take up the same theme was Bishop Paul J. Schmitt of Metz, France. This is the first council ever held in the “age of atheism,” he said, and it is a “novelty” in the world to which the Church must give heed.
In the Middle Ages, the Church absorbed society and the “world” was something apart and condemned, he said. But this is not the “world” spoken of in this schema. “We mean rather the total complex of civilization of the last four centuries, and it is in this complex that we must make the actuality of the Gospel felt,” said Bishop Schmitt.
Archbishop Raymond Tchidimbo of Conakry, Guinea, said the text was only partially satisfactory since it says nothing about one-third of the world. Apparently written with European and American orientation, he said, it leaves out problems of the vast continent of Africa, among others.
The statement on poverty is not enough, he continued. The Church must also express itself on the necessity of “socialization” in modern unified society, and declare its “solidarity with the poor.” He asked that bishops from nations outside Europe and America be given a greater voice in reworking the document.
Summing up the arguments on the schema’s general acceptability for discussion, Bishop Emilio Guano of Leghorn, Italy, said he was speaking in his own name since there was not time to convoke the mixed commission which framed the text. He said that he felt his remarks would nevertheless reflect the thinking of the commission.
He observed in answer to criticism expressed that a large number of specialists and experts had been consulted in the preparation of the schema. These included scientists, scholars and a number of the laity, as well as priests with pastoral experience and some council Fathers “who can be presumed to have some pastoral background.” He said, however, that the ultimate responsibility rests with the council.
Many of the observations made were contradictory, Bishop Guano said — some calling for more doctrinal expression, others asking for more exhortation. These will have to be sifted by the commission, he said.
Regarding “some points of major importance,” he said that the council cannot go into too much detail since the Pope “has made known that some of these points are being carefully examined by experts and he has reserved to himself the final judgment on their findings.”
Although the speakers varied in their enthusiasm for the schema as drafted, Bishop Guano said, “only one damned the whole text to eternal fire.” The reference was again obviously to Archbishop Heenan’s strongly worded attack the previous day.
The congregation opened with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Luc Sangare of Bamako, Mali, and the Gospel book was enthroned by Ukrainian-rite Bishop Nicholas T. Elko of Pittsburgh. Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich, Germany, began as the moderator and was replaced by Belgium’s Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels with the opening of the discussion on particular points of the introduction of the first chapter of Schema 13.
The amended text of the proposition dealing with religious life was distributed, together with a brochure of appendices to aid the discussion. The new title for these propositions is “Accommodated Adaptation of the Religious Life” — or as it was announced at a press briefing the same day, “The Renewal of the Religious Life in Modern Times.”
Among those speaking before the cloture vote was Bishop Franz von Streng of Basel and Lugano, Switzerland, in the name of all the bishops of Switzerland. He said the schema could well be reduced to two chapters, one for the exposition of principles, the other for practical applications.
Some of the delicate problems of marriage and family life should not be treated by the full council, he said, but rather left to discussion by regional bishops’ conferences. On the other hand, the schema should say something about business morals and the moral obligation to respect life and the integrity of others on the highways in the midst of increasing modern traffic. A statement should also be included, he said, declaring the inviolability of the life of unborn children.
Auxiliary Bishop Rafael Gonzalez Moralejo of Valencia, Spain, also wanted the text divided into two parts, one doctrinal and the other practical. Speaking for 60 Spanish-speaking bishops, he said the value of the schema is based on three considerations: doctrinal and conciliar aspect, the pastoral aspect, and the ecumenical aspect.
He referred to the intervention by Pope Paul in a speech during the first session of the Second Vatican Council when he was still Cardinal Montini. In his talk, the then Archbishop of Milan said the work of the council would be to answer two questions: What is the Church and what does the Church do? The present schema is an answer to the second of these questions dealing with the mission of the Church to the world, Bishop Gonzalez said.
The last speaker of the general discussion was Archbishop Justin Darmajuwana of Semarang, Indonesia, in the name of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference. He thought the schema does not answer the main question — what is the value of temporal activity in relation to the kingdom of God? It also fails to clarify the role of the laity in the solution of moral and religious problems encountered in the world. It fails, he said, to have a proper outlook on the true and living reality of the world.
Moving to a particular discussion on the introduction and the first chapter, Archbishop Paul Gouyon of Rennes, France, remarked that the text appears to have been composed by men living in peace, far removed from strife and from gripping, practical problems.
He said its vision of the world is limited, and only in passing does it seem to have a universal outlook. Its language shows no emotion like that of a mother speaking of joys or sorrows of her children. “We need a cosmic vision expressed in an ardent language,” he said.
Bishop Felix Romero Menjibar of Jaen, Spain, wanted an explanation of the basic principles of dialogue between the Church and the world, which he said he thought should be the ideological theme of the entire schema. The world has to show competence, he said, and the building of an earthly city belongs to men of the world. It is a valid occupation in itself, and can lead men to salvation.
Nor is it possible to ignore the historical reality of sin, to which all men arc subject, he said.
Bishop Gerard De Vet of Breda, the Netherlands, thought there was not enough place given to the good of men. The text seems to distrust the world and to be ill at ease trying to recognize its positive aspects. The Church stands out as above and beyond men and almost identified with the hierarchy. This should be corrected, he said.
Archbishop Luis del Rosario of Zamboanga, the Philippines, spoke in the name of his country’s episcopal conference. He cautioned the Fathers to give the Christian mentality of Redemption as a countermeasure against the “squirrel-cage mentality” so common today — whereby men run and run and never arrive. It is important to explain to men the what, how and why of human existence so they will understand where they are heading. Since justice and charity are means of living and not ends in themselves, they cannot be the aim of Christian life.
One of the first themes to be expressed in the schema, according to Bishop Joseph Schoiswohl of Graz-Seckau, Austria, is the nature and immortality of the soul. Even many who believe in God are not too convinced of this. He called for arguments which would be not only philosophical, but would reach the hearts and “into the inner being of man.”
The day’s final speaker was Archbishop Segundo Garcia de Sierra y Mendez of Burgos, Spain. He asked that the text see everything in relation to man: “Not that man is a measure of all things, but because all things were made for him.”
He wanted emphasis on such fundamental truths as man’s creation to the image and likeness of God, and said the root of most present-day errors is a false concept of man viewed in purely natural light.
Man must also be taught, he said, to maintain a proper balance between technical progress and culture.
Father John P. Donnelly
NCWC News Rome Correspondent