Pittsburgh Bishop Defends Proposal on Church in the Modern World

Bishop John J. Wright of Pittsburgh made a spirited defense of the council’s schema 13 on the Church in the modern world and of the men who wrote it.

Without mentioning the name of Archbishop John C. Heenan of Westminster, England, the American prelate rebutted the archbishop’s assault on the schema as a “set of platitudes” and his assault on the experts who helped prepare the schema as men who did not really know their subjects.

Bishop Wright spoke at a press conference (Oct. 24) two days after Archbishop Heenan’s speech in the council hall. Bishop Wright pointed out that the schema has to lay down the general principles of the Church’s engagement with the modern world. “General principles tend to be expressed in broad terms and therefore sometimes thought of as platitudes,” he said.

He likened the principles laid down in the schema’s introduction and the first two chapters to the principles set forth in the United Nations Charter, to the “revolutionary propositions” of the American Declaration of Independence, and to the Sermon on the Mount, “which I have heard described as platitudinous.”

He protested that he could not fail to say “a word in tribute to the scholarly humility, the admirable patience, the loving faith and forbearance with which the overwhelming majority of periti (council experts) work.”

Bishop Wright is a member of the mixed commission that drafted schema 13.

He maintained that the schema would not appeal to people who are preoccupied with the moral crisis of modern culture because it regards this moral crisis as merely symptomatic of a deeper crisis of ideas and therefore of dogma.

Noting that it is “always easier to call in the police” than to get at the root of a difficulty, Bishop Wright asserted that the men who must dig at the roots of our crisis are the thinkers and scholars — “and in terms of the council, the word for scholar is periti.”

When asked for his comment on Archbishop Heenan’s speech, Bishop Wright said: “It is clear that he felt very deeply and personally about what he had to say, whatever it was he had to say.”

Bishop Wright also noted that Archbishop Heenan was very anxious to have his speech known, for he provided “abundant translation” of it to newsmen.

A reporter asked Bishop Wright for comment on Archbishop Heenan’s suggestion that the council create a new commission to rewrite the schema, and that the council meet in another three or four years to discuss it.

“I would be reluctant to believe that he wanted to bypass the schema entirely,” Bishop Wright replied, “but that would be the effect.”

Bishop Wright said three years and more had already gone into the preparation of the schema (including material prepared for the other schemata which have since been abandoned), and that Archbishop Heenan’s suggestion would mean a total of seven or eight years in the preparation of the schema.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

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