124th General Congregation
November 17, 1964
Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York has called on the ecumenical council to declare that since it is the function of the state to facilitate civil freedoms, “justice and equity demand that a due measure of public aid be available to parents in support of the schools they select for their children.”
The cardinal was the first of five Fathers to take the floor when the council’s 124th meeting turned its attention to a declaration on Christian education.
He was joined by Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis, Archbishop John P. Cody of New Orleans and by two French bishops.
Cardinal Ritter rejoiced that the declaration was not limited only to Catholic schools, since “most of the Catholic children and students in the world are in state schools and must be, in fact, the object of the solicitude of the Church, the family and especially the teachers in these schools for their religious education.”
During the day’s session, chapter three of the schema on the nature of the Church, which is the chapter containing the key concept of the collegiality of the bishops, was passed in its final form by a large majority. When passage was announced, the news was greeted with warm applause. Two other chapters of the schema on the Church were also approved with great majorities. This left only three remaining chapters of the document to be voted on Nov. 18 before it was ready for promulgation at a plenary public meeting on Nov. 21.
At the Nov. 17 meeting the new text of the declaration on religious liberty was distributed. It was announced that voting was to begin on it on Nov. 19. The Fathers, moreover, voted to accept the propositions on seminaries and gave overwhelming approval to the first three propositions in separate votes.
Although discussion on the seminary propositions had been closed at the end of the previous day’s meeting, three Fathers took the floor in the first part of the Nov. 17 meeting to speak in the name of 70 or more Fathers. Two of them said they wanted positive consideration of the celibacy of the clergy and that it must not be looked on as a “sort of admission ticket” to Holy Orders.
The opening Mass, celebrated by Latin-rite Patriarch Alberto Gori, O.F.M., of Jerusalem, was offered for all the sick and particularly for sick bishops. The Gospel was enthroned by Abbot Anselmo Tranfaglia, O.S.B., head of the independent abbey of Monte Vergine, Italy.
Cardinal Spellman told the assembly that the “direct intention of the schema is to affirm the rights of children and their parents, not necessarily to seek money from the public treasury for religious schools.” Noting that in many nations the school support question is difficult for historical, sociological and political reasons, he proposed the following change in the text:
“Parents should be free to choose the schools they wish for their children. They should not in consequence of this choice be subject to unjust economic burdens which would infringe upon this freedom of choice. Since it is the function of the state to facilitate civil freedoms, justice and equity demand that a due measure of public aid be available to parents in support of the schools they select for their children.
“Moreover, if these schools serve the public purpose of popular education, the fact that they may be religious in their orientation should not exclude them from a rightful measure of public support.”
Cardinal Spellman said he proposed this amendment to make the council’s intention “clearly apparent, and accordingly I hope that useless quarrels over the words of the schema may be avoided in the future.”
He also warmly favored the text’s proposal to establish a postconciliar commission to study further the intricate problems of Christian education because, “in my opinion, considering the variety of schools from place to place, with the consequent diversity of problems, no commission can decide all particular norms for the whole world or give definitive answers to the schools of all nations and their problems.”
The cardinal urged that the postconciliar commission be composed of representatives from major areas of the world and also “truly expert members from all phases of education, including laymen along with priests and Religious men and women.” He said he also liked the fact that practical application of general principles is to be left in the hands of the national episcopal conferences.
Cardinal Ritter expressed satisfaction that the text provides for a postconciliar commission “to make necessary surveys and research in a professional manner to produce a document on education not only worthy of the council but of real and genuine value to men of good will everywhere.”
Commenting on the fact that the title of the declaration had been changed from one on Catholic schools to a larger concept of Christian education, Cardinal Ritter praised this decision to give it “a much wider term.” He also asked the council to give a “ringing endorsement” to the work of the laity in such organizations as the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, schools of religion, and Newman clubs.
Cardinal Ritter said that in addition to affirming the freedom of parents to select schools of their choice, the Church must also insist on freedom within its schools. “Within their own walls Catholic schools must be models of Christian freedom in their administration, their teaching and particularly in the interpersonal relationships among teachers, pupils and parents,” he said.
The cardinal said that since truth is one, “our schools and their professors and students must pursue the truth boldly and freely without fear, confident that the truth they seek is none other than Christ, who described Himself as the way, the truth and the light, that the truth they seek is the truth which the Sacred Scriptures declare will make us free.” Lastly, the cardinal asked that the document emphasize the fact that Catholic schools by their nature “must be of substantial benefit to the entire community where they serve and to society itself.”
Catholic schools do not exist to serve “narrow sectarian purposes nor to protect the selfish interests of the Church… Rather they stand as an expression of the free choice and liberal sacrifice not only of parents but of priests, Religious and devoted laymen and lay women for God and country as well as for families and the Church itself.”
Archbishop Cody of New Orleans, who spoke in the name of several American and other bishops, is a member of the commission which drafted the document and president of the National Catholic Educational Association.
Archbishop Cody noted that today the greatest national expenditures are for defense and education, which shows the importance of this document to the world. The Church carries on its teaching mission and the schema reflects this mission, he said. It would be offensive to priests, Religious and laymen and all those in the Catholic educational field if the council did not speak out on the subject, he stated. The declaration will come as a joy to U.S. Catholics, he declared, including the 161,000 priests, Brothers and teachers engaged in the field.
Archbishop Cody reported that the text originally had been 16 pages long and then had been reduced to the propositions which had been sent to the bishops. The bishops reacted unfavorably to these, and so the commission redrafted the document, making it a declaration three pages long. Because of the many difficulties in the educational field, such as ever-growing teaching methods, the commission decided to leave the more profound work to the post-conciliar commission and the specifics to national bishops’ conferences.
Two French bishops were not quite as warm in praise of the document as their American confreres.
Coadjutor Bishop Leon Elchinger of Strasbourg said he felt the text had been drafted too early and therefore did not reflect the council’s spirit to be found in the perfected texts of the schemas on the nature of the Church, on the lay apostolate and on the Church in the modern world. Saying it was the goal of the document to transmit the council’s spirit to the youth of today, he called for considerable revision.
Christian education, he said, should inculcate the missionary spirit, personal faith and a faith that communicates itself to others, opening the way for dialogue and conversation with those seeking the truth. The document further should speak of the rights and duties of the state in education and make it clear that no state or family owns the child and that no single ideology or totalitarianism can be taught in the schools at the state’s dictation.
Lastly, he said he wanted emphasis on the family’s role in education which, in the Christian sense, goes deeper than the school. To reorganize Christian education properly, he declared there is a need for “wise audacity.”
Archbishop Paul Gouyon of Rennes also wanted emphasis placed on the first of educators — parents — and also on the duty of Christian education to transmit the Faith and encourage personal faith and prayer, which is not the same as the mere multiplication of the exercise of pious practices. Education should encourage personal attention and initiation in the apostolate and membership in Catholic Action, he said.
In a report on the schema before the education discussion began, Bishop Jules Daem of Antwerp, Belgium, explained the change of title from “On Catholic Schools” to “On Christian Education.” The change had been made, he said, because Catholic schools embrace too vast a field of problems and because the Church’s teaching mission goes beyond Catholic schools.
In the day’s voting, the first on the list were votes on chapters three, four and five of the schema on the Church. Chapter three, dealing with collegiality, was approved 2,099 to 46. Chapter four was approved 2,135 to 8, and chapter five was approved 2,142 to 4.
Asked if they were willing to vote on the propositions on seminaries, the Fathers approved the motion by a vote of 2,076 to 41. They then voted on groups of articles of the propositions.
Vote one was on the introduction and article one dealing with seminary training, the importance and powers of national conferences — affirmative 1,707, negative 3, affirmative with reservations 120.
Vote two was on articles two and three dealing with vocation recruitment and the role of minor seminaries — affirmative 1,721, negative 10, affirmative with reservations 149.
Vote three was on articles four through seven dealing with the organization of minor seminaries — affirmative 1,808, negative 4, affirmative with reservations 154.
Three council Fathers, speaking in the name of 70 or more bishops, spoke on the seminaries schema. Archbishop Gabriel Garrone of Toulouse, France, led off by stating that it was good that authority for seminary training was left with national bishops’ conferences, but said that this will require closer cooperation between conferences and Rome to facilitate coordination of the various regions.
He called for renovation of the Congregation of Seminaries to make it capable of meeting the needs of the hour and to keep up with modern developments. Up to now, it has been too negative and detached from the times, he said. He also said the congregation should be in contact with the congregation dealing with priests so that it knows what problems priests have and thus can prepare students for the future. He suggested it might be profitable to merge these two congregations.
Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo of Cuernavaca, Mexico, asked for an organic and vital treatment of clerical celibacy. He urged that celibacy be treated in the terms of St. Paul in which it is seen as apostolic celibacy. He warned against the dangers of loneliness and urged not only that common life be recommended but also that fraternal contacts among fellow priests be encouraged to offset this danger. He also asked that bishops be given the faculty to dispense unfaithful priests from celibacy and to reduce them to the lay state under certain circumstances. However, he asked that discussion on this point be held off until the fourth session.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Reuss of Mainz, Germany, also wanted celibacy considered in its positive aspects. He said it is a mistake to look on celibacy as nothing more than a renunciation or as a necessary admission ticket to Holy Orders. It must be regarded in the positive light of the imitation of Christ.
A summation was delivered by Bishop Giuseppe Carraro of Verona, Italy, in the name of the commission which drafted the propositions. He promised that all suggestions made would be reviewed and the best ideas incorporated into the revised text.
Before debate opened on education, a Spanish priest, Father Luis Marcos of Madrid, addressed the council in the name of the pastors who had been invited to attend the council by the Pope. He thanked the Fathers for rejecting the schema on the priesthood and sending it back so that a genuine and complete statement could be produced. Among other things pastors would welcome, Father Marcos said, was the right to administer Confirmation where it is necessary for the good of souls and to hear confessions everywhere, or at least everywhere within national boundaries.
James C. O’Neill
NCWC News Rome Correspondent