Canadian Cardinal Seeks ‘Modern Charter of Christian Education’

125th General Congregation
November 18, 1964

The ecumenical council should support full freedom in scientific investigation, including research and study on Church sciences, within Catholic universities, Paul Cardinal Leger of Montreal told the Fathers during the second day of debate on the document on Christian education.

The Canadian cardinal’s speech echoed the sentiments voiced by Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis on the previous day. But unlike Cardinal Ritter, who accepted the document in principle, Cardinal Leger called for its outright rejection. He urged that it be sent back for complete redrafting so that the council could present to the world at the next session a significant “modern charter of Christian education.”

During the 125th meeting of the council, the Fathers voted overwhelmingly to approve the changes made in the three final chapters of the schema on the nature of the Church, thus assuring its promulgation on Nov. 21, although they were to vote once more on the schema as a whole at the Nov. 19 session. The announcement by Archbishop Pericle Felici, council secretary general, that all the chapters had been approved was greeted with loud applause.

Chapter six was approved by a vote of 2,114 to 12. Chapter seven was approved by 2,127 to 4, and chapter eight was approved 2,096 to 23.

While the schema on the Church sailed through with ease, the declaration on religious liberty ran into a last minute complication. Archbishop Felici announced that several Fathers had asked for more time to study the document, which had been distributed on Nov. 17 and which was scheduled to be voted on at the Nov. 19 meeting. The delay was asked on the grounds that the document as it now stands is a new document and considerably different from the previous one, and that its theological implications and importance require further examination.

As a result, the council presidency and moderators decided to put this point to a vote on Nov. 19, leaving it up to the Fathers themselves to determine if they wanted to go ahead with voting or to delay a decision until future sessions.

The council declaration on non-Christians, including the Jews, was distributed during the meeting and was to be voted on Nov. 20. It laments past and present persecutions and warns against Catholics’ presenting the Jews as rejected by God or as cursed or guilty of deicide (God-killing).

Among the speakers of the day was Auxiliary Bishop James William Malone of Youngstown, Ohio, who was especially interested in emphasizing the distinction between society and the state. He defined society as a social concept, as the people. The state is a narrower political concept, he said. Society determines the power of the state, but the state does not determine the power of the people, he said. The terms society and state are not the same, he added.

If this distinction is insisted on, he said, much of the confusion on the matters of the rights of people, parents, the Church, teachers, government and students themselves can be cleared up.

Support of the previous day’s statement by Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York was voiced in the session when English Archbishop George Beck of Liverpool declared that Catholic parents as citizens and taxpayers have rights that should be recognized by the public authorities. “In fact, in many parts of the world they are recognized, at least to some extent, so that Catholic parents are able with a quiet conscience to send their children to Catholic schools without an unfair or too heavy financial burden being imposed on them.”

Moreover, said Archbishop Beck, governments should recognize the contribution which Catholic schools make to the good of society. This argument, he said, is a “further argument for assistance, at least in part, from public funds. It is not indeed an argument based on justice but on the recognition of the service which such schools give to the state.”

Pope Paul VI surprised the council Fathers by attending the morning Mass, which was offered at the beginning of the 50th anniversary year of the slaughter of the Armenians in 1915 during World War I. The Pope entered the basilica with a small group of his household and left immediately after Mass without making any statements or greeting anyone.

Mass was offered by Armenian-rite Patriarch Ignace Pierre XVI Batanian of Cilicia. The Gospel was enthroned by Armenian-rite Archbishop Nerses Tayroyan of Baghdad, Iraq.

Cardinal Leger opened the day’s discussions by calling for the return of the schema on Christian education to commission for complete revision. He said the Fathers had not had the time or strength to work out a suitable document that could be a veritable charter for Christian education and higher studies in the years to come.

He chose to concentrate on two problems involved with higher education. First, he called for better cooperation and coordination between various Catholic universities and said this should be the main concern of the congregation of the Holy See in charge of the supervision of studies.

Secondly, he said he wanted a clear statement on the freedom of scientific investigation and particularly that the schema should emphasize liberty of research in the sacred sciences. Noting that the Church’s teaching power, or magisterium, is a necessary and useful element, he said that the Church should not be overanxious to take positions or issue decisions until there has been full freedom of investigation of a given topic.

Bishop Malone asked for a “clear and explicit distinction” between “society itself and the state or government, which is society’s political arm or instrument.” He said it is not enough to stress the rights of the Church in education, but “it is equally necessary to give the reasons why” these are rights.

Beyond asserting the right of parents to choose schools and their right to equal treatment under the law, and rejecting all monopoly of education, he said it is also necessary to “put in perspective the delicate and complex relationships among all those agents with rights in education: the Church, state, family, private associations, schools, teachers, administrators and students themselves.”

Bishop Malone said each “agent in education has a proper and legitimate interest in the education of its children” and therefore it is important to distinguish between society itself and the state. He said that society “is a social concept which describes the community itself; society means ‘the people,’ as we say in English, ‘we the people.’”

On the other hand, the state or government “is an instrument of society, the political arm of society and its functions and specific duties must be determined by the consent of the people.”

Bishop Malone insisted on this distinction because “confusion in education in most countries of the world, whether of the Occident or Orient, stems largely from confusion of the bases upon which each agent in education vindicates its rights and duties. The theory of state monopoly in education is based upon total identification of society and the state. We cannot answer that monopoly with a theory of family monopoly or Church monopoly in the 20th century.”

Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Rivera Damas of San Salvador, speaking for 40 bishops, expressed disappointment with the schema’s soft-pedaling of the importance of Catholic schools. Calling the text weak and sickly, he urged that a new text be drawn up to state firmly and clearly the Church’s rights in this field. The present schema’s timidity can do the Church much harm, he said, since it is an open provocation to abuse and makes us ridiculous in the eyes of our enemies.

Nigerian Bishop Luke Olu Nwaezeapu of Warri said he also felt the text was not strong enough on the role of Catholic schools, especially in missionary areas. Such schools often form the nucleus of the Catholic community and are not just another form of proselytizing, since non-Catholics are not required to study religion, he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Luis Henriquez Jimenez of Caracas, Venezuela, also rejected the text because, he said, it sidetracks important questions and practically canonizes whatever has been done up to now without contributing anything new. He called for a serious study of the entire question of Catholic schools which, he said, have the goal of spreading the Gospel. Given the fact that the majority of Catholic children are not in Catholic schools and that the children of the poor find it increasingly difficult to enter Catholic schools, he asked if it is not possible that some other method of evangelization might be more effective. Schools are a means, not an end in themselves, and if they are not doing the job, he said, then there should be a major restudy of the role of Catholic schools in the Church’s program of evangelization.

Archbishop Beck said he found the schema “short and uneven” and added he wanted to give a more prominent place to the right of parents to educate their children according to their conscience. He said this is necessary for two practical reasons.

First, he said, it is necessary in the present age for the Church to show itself as the defender of the rights of all parents, not just Catholics. Secondly, he said, the rights of Catholic parents as citizens and taxpayers should be recognized by the public authorities.

Pointing out that many countries today do recognize the contribution which Catholic and other denominational schools make to the nation, Archbishop Beck said “we should therefore express our gratitude to those governments which recognize the value of Christian education today and offer financial assistance to Catholic schools,” including England, Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Speaking in the name of the bishops of Indonesia, Archbishop Nicolas Schneiders of Makassar asked that a post-conciliar commission study in depth the serious problem of the loss of faith and indifferentism to be found among so many graduates of Catholic schools in order to discover the root of this weakness in Catholic education. He also called for a clarification of the aims of Christian education, especially regarding training in the use of liberty.

Bishop Simon Hoa Nguyen-van Hien of Dalat, Vietnam, said he wanted stress placed on the fact that Catholic schools are effective means of the apostolate in missionary countries and that they attract non-Catholics, who admire Christian morality and ideals and who become defenders of Catholics against detractors. But he warned that standards must be kept high.

The day’s last speaker was Coadjutor Bishop Pablo Munoz Vega of Quito, Ecuador, who said three major problems need to be treated. The first, he said, is the importance and decisive influence attached to education today.

The second is a tendency of modern governments to establish educational monopolies. The last is the divorce of science and religion. Unfortunately, the drastic reduction and simplification of the schema has made the correct treatment difficult, he stated.

Votes were taken on four groups of articles in the proposition on seminaries:

Articles 8 through 12, dealing with the insistence on the spiritual life in seminaries: 1,773 yes, 10 no, 213 yes with reservations.

Articles 13 through 15, dealing with classical and scientific studies, coordination of ecclesiastical studies and the importance of philosophy: 1,618 yes, 5 no, 319 yes with reservations.

Articles 16 through 18, dealing with the integration of theological formation and bishops’ responsibilities to provide the opportunity for higher studies: 1,740 yes, 8 no, 307 yes with reservations.

Articles 19 through 22, dealing with the need of pastoral training in seminaries and steps to encourage priests who are ordained to perfect their seminary learning: 1,845 yes, 6 no, 93 yes with reservations.

Articles 1 through 7 were voted on the previous day.

James C. O’Neill
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

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