Council Gets Detailed Report on Draft Document

Bishop Franz Hengsbach of Essen, Germany, presented a report on part two of the schema on the Church in the modern world before the council Fathers began debate on it.

Bishop Hengsbach recalled the particular importance of part two of the schema, which aims to provide answers to questions which have great importance for the world today. Part one outlined general principles, while part two undertakes to give specific answers. Both parts have been drastically revised, the bishop said.

The division of chapters, he added, has remained untouched with three exceptions:

  1. No. 1 of this part, as found in the preceding version, and which dealt with the dignity of the human person and his basic rights and duties, has now been inserted into part one, especially into chapter two dealing with the human community.
  1. A special chapter has been added on the life of the political community.
  1. Two articles previously distinct, the one dealing with the community of peoples and the other with peace, have been fused into one.

The chief difference between the amended text and the former text, Bishop Hengsbach said, lies in the fact that many elements of the adnexa have been incorporated into the council text. Consequently the text has become much longer, he stated. But if the new text with the points of the adnexa included is compared with the old text with the adnexa as a separated document, the new one has been notably reduced.

One of the reasons why the mixed commission prior to the third council session wanted the text and the adnexa separated was that it did not wish to introduce into the council discussion a large number of specific problems treated in the adnexa.

In this part, a distinction must be made between the general principles and particular applications, the bishop said. If only principles are set forth, then the declaration of the council becomes abstract, general and vague, and if it takes up too many details, then it is difficult to take into account the great variety of circumstances existing in the world and the limits of the council’s competence.

The first chapter, “The Dignity of Marriage and the Family,” has remained practically untouched as far as the order is concerned, the bishop reported. The text puts in a clearer light the role of procreation and the education of children in family society, as well as the true character of conjugal love. Treating of responsible parenthood, the text insists on the point that in this connection the conscience of married persons is bound by objective norms. The council invites parents to accept the joys and sacrifices of family life in a Christian spirit as witnesses of the death and Resurrection of the Lord.

The second chapter deals with the proper promotion of human culture. The material is divided into descriptive, doctrinal and pastoral. Some Fathers wanted a definition of culture but the complexity of the question is such that it was felt that no more than a general description of culture should be presented, Bishop Hengsbach reported. This chapter makes special efforts to take into account conditions existing universally in the world, he said.

Chapter three is on economic and social life, he stated. It begins with some aspects of present-day economic life and then takes up more specifically the question of economic progress and the principles which govern the whole of economic and social life. After the example of recent social encyclicals, the text proceeds to take up detailed questions. It does not consider the problems of the West exclusively and it considers economic relationships between the wealthy and the poorer nations.

The fourth chapter — on the life of the political community — first takes up the actual situation of this life, then the nature and aim of political society, the cooperation of all members in public life and, lastly, the relationship of the Church and political society.

The fifth and last chapter sums up all problems under the aspect of peace, including those which are set forth in dealing with international economic cooperation and the demographic problem. This was done in order that the positive nature of peace might be brought into clearer relief. The solution of economic problems on the international level and of the population problem can contribute greatly to creating an atmosphere of peace, the bishop said.

In a special article entitled “The Nature of Peace,” the text points out the intimate connection between human peace and the peace of Christ, of which the former is both a figure and a truth.

Leaving aside certain questions of the war against hunger and poverty in the world and the increase in world population, the commission took up the most thorny problem of the consolidation of peace and the avoidance of war, the bishop declared. All the council Fathers have been unanimous in condemning war, he said. Some wanted the council to condemn modern arms and warfare unconditionally, while others felt that a distinction was in order.

The mind of the commission was to lay down a moral principle which would be general and not open to question, and which would provide a norm for passing judgment on any warlike activity or use of arms. Hence, Bishop Hengsbach concluded, the principle was formulated as follows:

“Any war action which tends indiscriminately to the destruction of entire cities and their inhabitants or, with still great reason, to the almost total destruction of regions, is of itself and objectively a crime against God and man himself, which must be firmly and unhesitatingly condemned.”

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