Is Massive Draft on Church in Modern World in Trouble?

Will the statement on the Church in the modern world be completed by the close of the ecumenical council? Will it be a formal constitution or merely a council declaration?

Rumors of the schema’s being “in trouble” and hesitancy about the possibility of finishing it provided the theme for discussion for the second successive day by the U.S. bishops’ press panel.

During the morning’s council session, two Fathers had called for a change in the name of the text from that of a formal constitution to a “pastoral allocution” or council declaration to the world, re-echoing suggestions of other Fathers the day before as debate continued on Part I of the massive document on the Church in the modern world.

Panama’s Bishop Marcos McGrath of Santiago de Veragua, a member of the commission which framed the document, who was a panel guest, said he was confident both that it would be finished in time and that it would retain the status of a “pastoral constitution.”

He explained that in modern terminology at least “constitution” means a council document which “affects the doctrine or the structure of the Church. It is intended to express and explain dogma such as the Constitution on the Church, or to affect worship such as that on the liturgy.”

Both of these were completed and enacted by the council at former sessions and then promulgated by the Pope.

“Another possibility is that a constitution affects the structure and operational aspects of the Church — and this is what the present document intends to do, establishing an operative attitude of the Church toward the modern world. This is why it is called a ‘pastoral’ constitution.”

He said the only “trouble” the schema is in is the trouble of time. “Nobody has explicitly rejected the idea of having such a schema. All recommendations have been on ways to improve it, with some doubts expressed on whether there will be enough time to get the kind of schema we want.

“I think there will be enough time, but it will involve the members of the commission disappearing from the world for a time and coming up with a schema changed to meet the objections raised in the council hall.”

He said that all the Fathers seem to agree to the necessity of reducing the size of the schema and further “digesting” the work of the various subcommissions into a “unified whole.”

He cautioned against overemphasis on particular problems treated in the schema such as nuclear warfare, birth control and the like, thus reducing the schema to a discussion of “pill and bomb.”

“Though these problems are important, it is a more important purpose of the schema to place the Church in a new focus regarding these problems, giving it the impetus to carry forward dialogue in each of the areas as problems arise. It is important that this dialogue be set in motion and that an approach to the problem be established. The value of the schema then does not lie completely in solving the big problems it treats, but in establishing the dialogue necessary for their solution.

“I am confident such a schema can be brought to completion in as perfect a manner as humanly possible in the time left to us,” Bishop McGrath said.

Msgr. George G. Higgins, director of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Washington, observed that the “intrinsic problem” in understanding the schema is the answer to the question: “What is the Church?”

“We have to be careful not to talk as if we were discussing a universal chancery office. The Church as presented in this schema is the People of God — this theme runs throughout the text.”

Bishop McGrath said he agreed completely with this assessment.

Answering a question about a suggestion made to the council by Bishop Sergio Mendez of Cuernavaca, Mexico, that the Church apologize for its former negative attitude concerning the psychiatric discoveries of Sigmund Freud, Msgr. Mark J. Hurley, vice chancellor of the San Francisco archdiocese, said that a distinction could be made between the attitude of churchmen toward Freud and that toward Galileo.

“Freud was not only expressing scientific views but was also proposing a philosophy of life,” he said, adding that it was this which churchmen objected to and are still objecting to.

“It is true that in condemning his philosophy, the Church is in danger of losing the value of his scientific discoveries,” he said. “But it is also true that many in the Church have used his scientific research and are using it today.”

Father John J. King, O.M.I., superior of the Oblate Fathers’ house of studies in Rome, said the use of depth psychology and Freudian methods is “common in seminaries in the U.S.A.”

Bishop McGrath was asked by a reporter whether a suggestion has been made to the commission to “reinstate Freud” by mentioning him in the schema.

“It has never been discussed in specific terms,” the bishop said. “But if it did it would cause no sense of embarrassment to mention mistakes of the past. Some think, though, that it would be in bad taste to mention Freud — or any individual — by name.”

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