140th General Congregation
October 1, 1965
The ecumenical council’s secretary general, Archbishop Pericle Felici, announced at its 140th general meeting that council debates would be suspended for the week of Oct. 18 to 23 while commissions concentrate on revising the texts of council documents and Pope Paul VI sounds out council Fathers on pending pontifical documents.
The subject of these pontifical documents was not announced, but it has been an open secret for weeks that the Pope has been preparing a decree on the revision of the Church’s laws on mixed marriage and possibly of the ne temere decree of 1908 regulating the form of marriage.
Another document long hoped for and even pleaded for in the council hall would contain the Pope’s own word on the problems of birth control.
(At the U.S. bishops’ council press panel, Msgr. George Higgins, director of the N.C.W.C. Social Action Department, emphasizing he was only “guessing,” said one document might deal with fast and abstinence. Father John J. King, O.M.I., superior of the Oblates’ Rome house of studies, said there might be a document on prolonging the diaconate to let candidates for the priesthood have a taste of pastoral work before ordination.)
Archbishop Felici said the Pope’s consultations with council Fathers would be carried out through the presidents of the national bishops conferences. This may explain why early in the fourth session Archbishop Felici asked for the addresses and phone numbers of such presidents or senior members of national hierarchies. At the time it was thought these addresses were required to pave the way for talks on the Synod of Bishops.
The secretary general also gave the schedule of voting from Oct. 6 to 15. The schema on non-Christians, including the Jews, will be the last to be voted on during this period.
He said that toward the end of October the way might be clear for public approval and promulgation of council documents at a solemn general congregation of the council.
The final schema, the one on Christian education, was to be distributed during the first week of October, Archbishop Felici said.
He added that the council moderators would decide whether voting on amendments to the document on the pastoral duties of bishops would be regarded as approval of the document as a whole (as was previously announced) or whether a fresh vote on the document would be taken. This was interpreted as confirmation of reports that Pope Paul himself had made some small amendments to the document, as was done to the schema on ecumenism prior to a final public vote and promulgation.
Archbishop Felici announced that a French Jesuit, Father Jacques Berthieu, would be beatified in St. Peter’s basilica on Oct. 17. He was martyred in Madagascar in 1896.
Archbishop Felici scotched rumors that the council would not meet on the day of the Pope’s return from the United Nations (Oct. 5) by announcing that the council Fathers would remain in the council hall Tuesday for the Pope’s return.
At the end of the meeting Archbishop Felici, in the words of the council press office bulletin, “read a message directed to the U.N. by the Holy Father, also in the name of the council Fathers, in which he explained the motives and the hopes which inspired his trip.”
The schedule of voting was announced by Archbishop Felici as follows:
Oct. 6, 7 and 8 — 19 votes on revised schema on religious life.
Oct. 11 and 12 — seven votes on schema on seminary training.
Oct. 13 — five votes on Christian education.
Oct. 14 and 15 — eight votes on the attitude of the Church toward non-Christian religions, including the Jews.
Debate on the first chapter of the second part of the schema on the Church in the modern world was closed by a standing vote after four Fathers spoke on it. One speaker, with the support of 70 Fathers, then spoke on an earlier section. Seven Fathers then spoke on the second chapter.
Four more votes were taken on amendments to the schema on the pastoral duties of bishops, thus winding up scheduled votes on this text. All votes were favorable.
The first speaker in the day’s debate was Valerian Cardinal Gracias of Bombay, who had been absent from the earlier part of the council session because of the fighting between India and Pakistan.
The Indian cardinal said he had submitted the schema’s text under promises of secrecy to five laymen, including some non-Christians. Their judgment of the text was that it is good inasmuch as the Church is accommodating itself to modern times, he said, but they suggested that its final wording be left to laymen.
Cardinal Gracias said Western influence is contributing to the deterioration of marriage in the East. He complained that the text fails to condemn materialism strongly enough.
He said chapter one on marriage cannot be understood without chapter three on economic life because of the strong connection between them. He added that the text is too weak in deploring inequalities among men and the hunger that afflicts great portions of humanity.
Josyf Cardinal Slipyi of Lvov joined forces with a great number of other Eastern speakers in attacking the predominantly Western terminology of the text. However, he confessed he was deeply concerned to hear Melkite-rite Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh of Antioch say the manuals of moral theology should be changed.
Cardinal Slipyi said that states which persecute all religion speak more about liberty than some of the council Fathers. He said the Church has a duty to perfect the world.
(Cardinal Slipyi was interrupted twice by the day’s moderator, Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, who pointed out he had spoken beyond his allotted time.)
Bishop Hadrianus Ddungu of Masaka, Uganda, in the name of 95 Fathers pointed out that the text both poses the problem of racial discrimination and offers its solutions within a brief compass of four lines. It treats of various forms of discrimination — by culture, race, sex, social condition, language, tribe, color of skin, and religion — as if all were equally serious. The council, like a prophet, must “cry out without ceasing” against the evil of racial discrimination, he said.
Auxiliary Bishop Antoine Hacault of Saint Boniface, Man., asked that the text be made more explicit on the practical demands of conjugal love.
He said that in dealing with polygamy the text becomes negative. If this institution was tolerated by God (as in the Old Testament), it cannot be altogether bad, he said. He added that the best form of union between a man and a woman is that which best helps man overcome hedonism and selfishness. Far be it from me, he declared, to suggest that the Church approve every type of union. They generally sin by defect, lacking the unity and indissolubility which Catholic teaching holds essential. But the council should present the dynamism of Christian marriage.
At this point the council moderators asked for a standing vote of cloture on chapter one and virtually all Fathers present stood.
The next speaker, however, took advantage of the rule allowing speeches on closed matters if the speaker obtains the support of 70 council Fathers or more.
Bishop Paul Schmitt of Metz, France, speaking on the schema’s first part, said it does well to point out how the Church teaches the world about man’s vocation to grace. But, he asserted, there is another aspect to this dialogue with the world. In the world there are various opportunities which the world itself is seizing to come to a better knowledge of itself, to a better way of expressing its message, and to a better way of fulfilling its mission. The Church can learn from the world how to make use of these opportunities. It should not only propose itself as a doctor but must integrate its missionary efforts into the world’s conditions, needs and aspirations, he stated.
Debate then moved on to chapter two of part two of the schema, which deals with culture.
Coadjutor Bishop Leon Elchinger of Strasbourg, France, said the principal problem involved here is how the Church conducts itself with regard to a technological civilization. The text abounds in pious exhortations, he said, but has few practical suggestions. Its concept of human culture is too narrow and too briefly stated.
The Church has not listened to the world as much as it should, he said. It must make certain that Christians are ready to accept whatever culture they live in so that the human values in all of these cultures can be appreciated better, he said.
Bishop Julien Le Couedic of Troyes, France, in a highly philosophical speech, said all cultures tend to find ever more effective ways of using created things, which must remain only means and not ends in themselves.
Bishop Lucien Lebrun of Autun, France, emphasized the importance of sports in every social stratum of today’s world. Sports attract an ever-increasing number of spectators, he noted. Their value is seen in helping the soul dominate the body and in fostering virtue. They also give people of different social conditions an opportunity of meeting on an equal level, he said.
Father Aniceto Fernandez, O.P., Master General of the Dominican Fathers, said the text spreads itself too broadly but does not penetrate deeply enough. It should first be established that it is speaking of a culture which is true and good, and which perfects the whole man and all men.
The Church’s contribution to culture should be mentioned, he said.
Archbishop Michele Pellegrino of Turin, Italy, said the text should emphasize the science of history, both because its subject matter is man himself and because of its links with the history of salvation.
He suggested that where the text speaks of freedom of inquiry, it should make it clear that such freedom extends to priests and bishops too.
Archbishop Emile Blanchet, rector of the Catholic University of Paris, also lamented the text’s silence on history. He said history is important because it teaches the mutability and relativity of things. The study of history, he said, has given impetus to other studies in the Church.
Archbishop Blanchet said modern philosophies are important even when they sail under false colors as sciences. He referred specifically to atheism, which calls itself scientific but is a philosophy.
Speaking on the widespread modern philosophy of existentialism, he commented that it has two different forms: one leading to God and the other exaggerating liberty to the point of making man an end unto himself.
The day’s meeting opened with a Syrian-rite Mass celebrated by Syrian-rite Archbishop Athanase Bakose of Baghdad, Iraq. Syrian-rite seminarians of Rome’s Propaganda College provided service at the altar. The Gospel was enthroned by Bishop Basil Habra, patriarchal vicar in Egypt and the Sudan for Syrian-rite Catholics.
NCWC News Rome correspondent