Pope Paul VI’s trip to the United Nations is “in a sense a pilgrimage,” Father Francis J. McCool, S.J., a professor at Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute, said during the meeting of the U.S. bishops’ press panel.
“Although not called a pilgrimage like his trip to the Holy Land, it is one in a sense since it is a visit of a religious leader representing a large denomination to the United Nations. The Pope is going to show his solidarity with Pope John and his encyclical Pacem in Terris and to pledge the Church and all its members in the struggle for world peace.”
Father McCool spoke in response to a question by a member of the press. Portions of the bishops’ press panel were televised by the British Broadcasting Corporation, following the lead of the National Broadcasting Corporation the day before.
Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher, director of the Institute for Judaeo-Christian Studies of Seton Hall University, Newark, N.J., speaking on the council’s proposed statement on the Jews, said the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in framing the document did not want to decide on the involved theological question of whether the Jews can still be called the “chosen people” since the establishment of the Church by Christ.
“Though Christ changed the position of the ‘people of God,’ still you cannot impute collective guilt to the Jewish people.”
Father Georges Tavard, A.A., chairman of the theology department of Mount Mercy College, Pittsburgh, one of the panelists, said it was his opinion that the Jews have “retained their vocation as the chosen people. I look forward to the time when all people of God will be united,” he said.
In predicating “people of God” of the Church, said Father John J. King, O.M.I., superior of the Oblates’ Rome house of studies and a member of the press panel, “we do not mean that God has abandoned others or does not communicate with them. We mean only that the fullness of Revelation was transferred to the Catholic Church.”
Much of the day’s session was related to the morning talk by newly named Archbishop Michele Pelligrino of Turin, Italy, the former rector of Turin University, who had asked for freedom of scientific investigation within the Church on the part of clergy and bishops as well as laymen. The archbishop mentioned “injustices” caused theologians at the time of the condemnation of Modernism just after the turn of the century, although, he said, “we are all grateful for the papacy’s stand against Modernism.”
Father McCool said: “The most useful attitude is to remember that injustices were done and that we need to develop public opinion in the Church to such an extent that it won’t happen again.”
The rise of Modernism, he said, was the result of attempts by churchmen, which go back to the 17th and 18th centuries, to “grapple with the modern world, just as our council schema on the modern world is doing today.”
Many of those who did this work were not sufficiently trained theologically to use correctly the new material they were given. “These became a real danger to the faithful. The Church reacted by strong restrictive measures within the Church,” he said.
But the same Pope St. Pius X, who reacted by publishing the condemnation of Modernism, “realized that the Church’s Scriptural study was not sufficiently advanced or mature, and so he formed the Pontifical Biblical Institute to help solve this problem.”
Father McCool, a member of this institute, said that the impetus in biblical scholarship “which began in the black days of Modernism, developed into Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu, and the very ideas which are finding their flowering in this council.”
Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on Scripture scholarship is credited generally with giving major impetus to Catholic research in the field and bringing about new prominence for Catholic scholars who often before had taken second place to Protestant biblical experts.
Modernism, which was condemned by Pope Pius X, involved a trend within the Church to make Christian exegesis [interpretation of Scriptural texts] harmonize with the data of historical criticism and modern philosophy.
The Holy Father, in pointing out where several of these attempts went wrong, also laid down guidelines for the future approach to biblical studies in a set of 65 propositions known as Lamentabili, from the first word of the Latin text. Published by the Congregation of the Holy Office and approved by the Pope on July 3, 1907, it condemns modernist errors on the Church, Revelation, Christ and the sacraments. Later, in the encyclical, Pascendi, of Sept. 8, 1907, the Pope formally exposed the errors of modernism in detail and laid down the law for the Church’s future action.