The report on the text of the schema on the Church in the modern world was presented by Archbishop Gabriel Garrone of Toulouse, France, who pointed out that the period since the last council session in 1964 has been marked by intense activity on the part of the commission responsible for the text.
Several meetings were held, he said, and the number of bishops on the commission was greatly increased in order to have a stronger universal representation. The commission had the collaboration of several prominent laymen, both men and women, he reported.
If the text at first seems to be quite different from the preceding version, Archbishop Garrone reported, this is because the commission tried to adapt the text to the wishes of the council Fathers. This same observation explains the greater length of the text. The commission encountered difficulties both because of the subject matter, which was not too clearly defined, and also because of the form which, in the light of those to whom the document is addressed, had to use a new conciliar language, he said.
The text is divided simply and clearly into two parts, following a descriptive introduction. A special report will be presented in the name of the subcommission responsible for the introduction, he noted.
In the 1964 session, the archbishop said, the mind of the council was that the Fathers approved the schema in general, accepting it by a great majority as a basis for further study, thus making known its viewpoint to the commission.
At the same time, the Fathers abounded in suggestions and observations which greatly affected the content of the schema. Great attention was needed in the explanation and editing of the text because the matter was dangerously complex and the different categories of those for whom it was intended had to be kept in mind, Archbishop Garrone continued.
He said it was clear that one basic problem was the problem of man himself. This was made clear by several Fathers who regarded a kind of “Christian anthropology” as an essential element of the schema. As can be seen from the table of contents, he noted, the general scope of the schema is contained within man and man’s condition, which is the very heart of the document. The schema intends to explain in the first part what the Spirit says to the Church on the condition of man and on where man’s salvation will come from.
To speak of man, the archbishop said, means evoking Christ, the origin and fountainhead of human perfection, as well as its supreme exemplar. Hence, the chapter on the vocation of man closes in Christ.
Chapter two goes into great detail on human society, he reported. In this community, the man who is conformable to the Gospel can find himself and his completion. For this reason, there is an enunciation of the basic principles of the social order. The great outlines of human existence as passed on to us by Christ and as found in Christ Himself are then recalled, because in Christ is founded whatever solidarity there is between men.
The chief questions raised in chapter three, Archbishop Garrone said, are the mind of the Church on earthly things, their value as recognized by the Church and the autonomy of earthly things. Does the Church recognize these things’ own proper existence? What of the progressive evolution of the world and of the victories of which the world may legitimately boast today? What is the value of all this under the aspect of heavenly promises and the kingdom of God?
Here we touch some of the most difficult and most obscure points of Christian revelation, the archbishop noted. This called for a deep inquiry into faith, particularly into the dogma of creation whence earthly things have their beginning and into the Paschal mystery. This work called for great prudence, Archbishop Garrone stated.
In chapter four, which was requested insistently by many Fathers, it was regarded as necessary to state clearly the purpose of the schema, namely, to show that the Church is a principle and teacher of salvation in the world. This doctrine had to be set forth not as a philosophy, but as a genuine economy of salvation, including the creation of man in redemption, the archbishop said. Consequently, the people of God, which is the Church, manifests its communion with the world in which it is present. It is clear that Christian life cannot be separated from world realities nor can there be any faith outside of life. These considerations bring into bold relief the functions of the laity, the reporter continued.
Special problems were encountered in the choice of language for the schema, he said. Terms had to be used which would be intelligible not only to Christians but to all men. In this question the supreme intention and purpose of the council as defined by Pope John XXIII stands out clearly, he stated. Our document aims to show that the world is not closed to the word of Jesus Christ and can be brought into contact with Him. Attempts were made to keep the text living and dynamic instead of abstract and theoretical so that it might be close to the human problems which it is intended to study.
Very special efforts were made to see that the text would be faithful to the teachings of revelation and at the same time to the realities of human life, Archbishop Garrone said.
In the second part of the schema, he reported, a special chapter on the human person was suppressed and the substance of it was put into part one in order to avoid repetitions. The doctrine contained in the adnexa in the previous session has been included in the schema, at least in its essential parts. We cannot conclude, the archbishop said, without recalling the words of Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, on the necessities and conditions of dialogue. These words are our law, he said.