Text of Cardinal Spellman’s Remarks on Draft on Church in Modern World

This is the text of the speech on the schema on the Church in the modern world delivered at the ecumenical council by Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York on Sept. 21.

As I said during the last session of the council, this pastoral constitution should be a lucid and a totally sincere affirmation of the role which the Church sees as her own in the world. It should be a solemn yet simple, frank and humble rededication of the Catholic Church to the service of mankind. To accomplish this end we wish to listen and be listened to; to be asked to state — even to explain — our positions. Above all we ask that we may be allowed to cooperate in the work of helping all men to achieve a fuller life.

If this constitution is to accomplish its purpose, the substance of the present text must not be weakened in any way. Nevertheless, I believe that the task remains to provide — especially in the first pages of the schema — a certain tone or mode of expression which would signify without any doubt precisely what this schema means to achieve. For, in this schema, the Church does not intend to give simple and definitive solutions for all the problems of the modern world; rather, she desires to enter into a dialogue with all men of good will to build together a better world.

The essential condition of this dialogue on the part of the Christian faithful is the spirit and virtue of obedience toward that power in the Church “which has been established by Christ, acts in His place, is as it were His visible instrument, and represents the love of so noble a Shepherd.” I think it most necessary that we explain the essence and significance of filial Christian obedience generously given.

On the one hand, it often appears to some that the Catholic Church especially encourages an obedience which is merely juridical and unreflective. On the other hand, there are some today who speak as if obedience and reverence toward the magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church were somehow opposed to the freedom of the sons of God. Therefore, in a truly pastoral manner we must explain how Christian obedience is in perfect harmony with the freedom of the Christian faithful and how it leads to a better discharge of our ministry of service to mankind.

In particular, let me say that chapter 5 on the Community of Nations and the Promotion of Peace has been wisely revised in line with suggestions of many Fathers. In the text, as it now stands, there shines forth the ardent desire of all men of good will for a peace truly founded in justice and charity.

Nevertheless, I do object to one section. From the wording of No. 101 of this schema the notion could arise that military service can never be obligatory or at least that it can be an obligation only for those who do not desire the more perfect Christian life.

Nations, legitimately concerned about their own existence, must consider the concrete conditions in which they find themselves (cf. No. 99). Even today government leaders can judge that no international organization yet offers a sufficiently strong guarantee of peace and that, as a result, military preparedness is necessary in order to provide a just peace. The presumption in such cases is that those who are called to military service do intend true peace.

As St. Thomas says (S. Th. II-II. q 188, a 3, ad 2), a person can resist evil in two ways. First, by enduring an injury done to himself, and this is a perfection when it is done for the welfare of others. Secondly, by patiently tolerating injuries done to others, and this is an imperfection or even a vice if one can resist the aggressor in a suitable manner.

Without doubt, it is difficult to decide on the more perfect way of resisting evil in the world today. But, if the leaders of a nation decide in good faith and after mature deliberation that military service by their citizens is absolutely necessary for the defense of peace and justice, how can the individual citizen justly refuse military service? As it is said in the same section of the schema: the legitimate authority is presumed to be acting within its competency and its laws are to be obeyed except in those cases in which there is a manifest violation of the law of God.

Every man of good will desires that all regional and internal wars should be peacefully prevented or quickly terminated. Nevertheless, certain governments in good faith have reached the decision that military force is absolutely necessary for preserving true peace in the present world situation. We neither wish nor are we able to make a definitive moral judgment on the circumstances which have led to these decisions. Lest this constitution be twisted for political ends — which is contrary to our intention — I strongly urge that No. 101 be entirely revised.

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