Extra Work Anticipated as Current Council Session Nears End

122nd General Congregation
November 14, 1964

Vatican council Fathers moved into the final week of their current session by clearing the way for the promulgation of the schema on ecumenism.

This action was taken with an affirmative vote of 1,870 to 82 on the third chapter of the ecumenism schema. All other chapters had been previously approved.

In other events at the council’s 122nd general congregation the council Fathers greeted with groans an announcement that they would probably be asked to attend double sessions on some of the days of the final week, in order to complete work on some of the most important schemata.

Council officials explained informally that there would probably be afternoon sessions, from 5 to 7 p.m., on one or two days scheduled mainly for voting rather than debate.

After the last working days, Monday through Friday, the third session concludes with a public plenary session scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 21, in the presence of Pope Paul VI for the formal promulgation of new decrees and constitutions. Since not one document had reached its final form at the end of the ninth week, a crowded and demanding schedule awaited the final tenth week’s developments.

Although the double daily sessions were greeted with groans, the Fathers applauded loudly when informed that the amended chapters three to eight of the schema on the nature of the Church — including the all-important chapter on collegiality — were to be distributed in the council hall and that voting on them would be held Tuesday and Wednesday. This announcement meant that the long-awaited chapters, which are the keystone of the work of the Second Vatican Council, will reach the floor for the crucial vote needed to ready them for promulgation Saturday.

When the third chapter of the ecumenism schema was approved it meant that the complete document on ecumenism had cleared all major hurdles and can be readied for promulgation Nov. 21.

Also brought to the floor were six votes on various propositions in the document on the Religious. Although the document had been accepted in general by an earlier vote rather than being thrown out completely, Saturday’s six votes on individual sections of the propositions showed great dissatisfaction with the present form and meant that the propositions in general will have to be revised entirely according to the suggestions submitted with the votes.

Once the voting was out of the way, discussion reopened on the propositions dealing with seminaries. Two major currents of debate were easily observed. One centered on whether or not the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas should be given special reverence in the curriculum of seminaries. The second revolved around the provision in the document permitting seminary training to be interrupted to give seminarians time out of the seminary to live in the world in order to gain better experience for the exercise of their future ministry as priests.

The session began with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gabriel Bukatko of Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The previous day he had been one of the celebrants in a Byzantine Liturgy, but Saturday he offered Mass in the Latin rite since, because of pastoral considerations in Yugoslavia, he can offer Mass in both liturgies. Archbishop Franjo Seper of Zagreb, Yugoslavia, enthroned the Bible and Gregory Cardinal Agagianian of the Roman curia was the session’s moderator.

The votes on the propositions on the Religious showed great dissatisfaction with individual propositions, as five out of six votes were cast with heavy “yes, but” reservations. This means the commission has to revise the document extensively before it can be brought back at a future session.

The balloting was as follows:

Vote one — Introduction and Articles 1 to 3 concerning the principles governing renovation of the Religious, criteria to be used and what authority is to have competence — affirmative, 871, negative, 77, yes with reservations, 1,005.

Vote two — Article 4 stating the perfection of the religious life is to be found in the love of God and neighbor — affirmative, 1,049, negative, 64, yes with reservations, 845.

Vote three — Articles 5 and 6 on encouragement of contemplatives and of right organization of the active life institutes — affirmative, 883, negative, 77, yes with reservations, 987.

Vote four — Articles 7 to 10 on the observance of the Evangelical Counsels, especially poverty, chastity and obedience — affirmative, 907, negative, 66, yes with reservations, 975.

Vote five — Articles 11 to 13 on the common life, enclosure of nuns and Religious habits or garments — affirmative, 940, negative, 56, yes with reservations, 947.

Vote six — Article 14 on training of candidates for the religious life — affirmative, 1,076, negative, 65, yes with reservations, 103.

Three additional votes were to be taken Monday to complete voting on these propositions.

The day’s debate on the propositions on seminary training was opened by Jaime Cardinal de Barros Camara of Rio de Janeiro. He said that the propositions were good and that it was more a question of how to go about the renovation of seminaries rather than of dealing with specifics. He urged that general principles be dealt with and that a careful study based on sound psychological principles be devoted to the problem.

The debate over St. Thomas’ role in the theological and philosophical curriculum of the seminary was begun by Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini of Palermo.

Noting that he had been 30 years in the seminary as a student and as a professor and was secretary of the congregation of seminaries for 18 years, he deplored the slighting mention given to St. Thomas. He pointed to the example of 80 Popes since the 13th century and particularly to Leo XIII and Paul VI, who have held St. Thomas’ teaching in great regard.

A greater mention of St. Thomas does not neglect other Fathers, he said, but gives him his rightful place. Cardinal Ruffini also supported the existence of minor seminaries as being as valid today as in the time of the Council of Trent, and added, “I am an old man, and you can’t put old wine into new bottles, but don’t forget the ancient truth.”

Canada’s Paul Emile Cardinal Leger of Montreal took an opposite stand. He began by taking issue with a phrase in the text which recommends teaching the “perennial philosophy” of the Church in seminaries.

Cardinal Leger said if this refers to scholastic philosophy then it is ambiguous, since historians of philosophy have shown that there is not one scholastic system but many. Moreover, to teach one philosophy, he said, conflicts with the nature of philosophy itself, which does not proceed from authority but from investigation into reality.

The end of philosophy is not to say what authors have written or thought, he commented, but to say what things are. He also warned of the danger of imposing a system of Western philosophy on non-Western seminarians.

It is not the council’s role, he said, to impose one philosophical system or another on the students but to assure them of a philosophical formation that is sound, correct and useful.

As for theological formation, Cardinal Leger objected specifically to teaching only Thomistic theology. “Woe to the Church of one teacher,” he declared, and urged that a phrase in the text which placed theological formation “under the guidance of St. Thomas” be removed.

Instead he proposed that St. Thomas be offered as a teacher and model for all — not his system but himself — in light of his ability to put the science of his time at the service of the Gospel.

Cardinal Leger further warned against building up an artificial world and living inside as in a cloister, saying that dialogue with the Middle Ages is not dialogue with today. He called for revision of moral theology texts because they are too juridical, legalistic and casuistic, whereas they should be more closely related with dogma and Scripture.

Disagreeing with Cardinal Leger and agreeing with Cardinal Ruffini was Archbishop Dino Staffa, secretary of the Congregation on Seminaries. Speaking in the name of several Latin and Eastern-rite Fathers, he called for closer reliance on St. Thomas in the schema, saying that it would not do to separate what is new from what is true. Hailing St. Thomas “as a man of all hours,” and one who “transcends space and time,” Archbishop Staffa said St. Thomas is as valid for men of today as for those of his own time. Moreover, Eastern tradition can accept St. Thomas, even though he is Western, because he teaches truth, and truth is everywhere the same, never changing. Thomism, he said, is not an element of division.

The second major current of the day’s debate centered on the proposal to permit some period of time during the seminary training for students to be outside the seminary to get better orientation and appreciation of the world’s problems before completing studies.

Cardinal Ruffini was the first to speak out against this idea. He said too much worldly contact would weaken discipline and harm the unity of seminary life. Instead he suggested that necessary contacts with the world could be provided in a period of pastoral apprenticeship after ordination, suggesting as much as two years of apprenticeship.

Julius Cardinal Doepfner of Munich, Germany, in passing, supported the idea of a period of pastoral apprenticeship. He said such a period would make young priests more humanly, spiritually and pedagogically equal to their task.

Bishop Paul Sani of Den Pasar, Indonesia, and Archbishop Joseph Mark Gopu of Hyderabad, India, speaking in the name of all India’s bishops, opposed breaking up the seminary cycle but urged vacation periods to be used to provide practical experience.

Cardinal Doepfner said the text had been improved by being reduced to propositions and steered a middle course by retaining long-standing principles while also taking decisive steps toward bringing seminary formation up to date. He called for coordination of the norms of national bishops’ conferences with competent offices of the Holy See, and said all efforts should be directed to developing a sense of personal responsibility.

Regarding minor seminaries, while commending them, he cautioned that they are not the only source of vocations, since many vocations come from colleges and go directly into higher studies. Thus the Christian families in which these vocations grow should be made aware of their responsibility, he said, and more stress should be put on contacts with the laity to offset exaggeration of the isolation of clerical life.

Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, asked for a special commission to study overall reorganization of seminaries on the grounds that promulgation of texts is not enough to ensure pastoral renewal. The Council of Trent, 400 years ago, established seminaries to meet the difficulties of its time, and now seminaries must be integrated in the movement of renovation that is going on within the Church, he declared.

Cardinal Suenens said we must hold fast to traditions which call for union with God through prayer, self-denial and zeal, but he said most seminaries are based in some degree on the general structure of religious houses, which does not provide diocesan priests with the spirituality fitted to their needs. He further called for reorganization of theological studies, better instruction in preaching, better leadership instruction and the pastoralization of the whole seminary cycle.

Bishop Manuel Fernandez Conde of Cordoba, Spain, called for special attention to be paid to training seminarians in the natural virtues, such as gravity, responsibility, and approachability. He said the whole edifice of evangelical formation must be built on the foundation of the natural virtues.

Bishop Sani objected to the practice of educating seminarians abroad, since today many mission countries have adequate seminaries. Being educated abroad, he said, leaves many seminarians dissatisfied, and they are no longer native priests. Also, by taking the best students for education in Europe, the standards of the local seminaries are lowered.

European influence was also decried by Archbishop Gopu, who said it was a mistake to turn mission seminaries into slavish imitations of European seminaries. He also asked that the propositions apply to religious seminaries as well as diocesan, and that there should be special emphasis on the interior life as the soul of the apostolate.

Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany, said he felt the text as it stands avoids the possibility of exaggeration of uniformity of training because it recognizes national and regional differences. But he wanted emphasis placed on the interior and personal development of priest-candidates and not merely passive formation. He asked that material contained in the earlier text be added to the present text to round it out.

A genuine family spirit within seminary walls was called for by Archbishop Tulio Botero Salazar of Medellin, Colombia. He asked that the rector be a real father, particularly to avoid a too abrupt transition from family life to that of the seminary and especially for the very young.

Christ must be the center of the seminary, and the seminary must recognize that the first apostolate is that to its own souls. Priests, he said, must remember their grave responsibility to be kindly and fatherly with the faithful.

Spain’s Bishop Jaime Florez Martin of Barbastro wanted attention paid to the exercise of authority and obedience within the seminary. It is necessary to reaffirm the principles of authority and the need of obedience, he said, particularly in the light of some things said in the council. Authority should show itself kind, approachable and interested in the unfolding personality and the development of initiative and personal responsibility, he declared.

The last speaker of the day, Bishop Jean Sauvage of Annecy, France, said philosophy in the seminary should not be regarded as a necessary evil but as a means of dialogue between priests and the world. Seminaries should be regarded as the heart of priestly training, and it is important for seminary authorities to encourage a spirit of mutual trust and confidence between superiors and subjects, he said. It will be impossible to promote any dialogue with those outside unless priests have first learned to carry on fruitful dialogue among themselves, he asserted.

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