141st General Congregation
October 4, 1965
As Pope Paul VI winged his way across the Atlantic to address the world’s political leaders at the United Nations, the world’s bishops met in the ecumenical council to support him with prayer.
The day’s debate made perfectly clear their solidarity with his message of peace and brotherhood among all men and the abandonment of the armaments race.
Coadjutor Archbishop Pierre Veuillot of Paris called on the council Fathers to address themselves specifically to the “greatest problem facing modern science” — how to control and use the power of the mighty nuclear forces they had released.
The opening Mass — for the feast of the great symbol of peace, St. Francis of Assisi — was celebrated by Bishop Siro Silvestri of Foligno, near Assisi, where St. Francis gave his rich garments to the poor and set about his mission to preach peace and brotherhood among all men.
During the Mass the world’s bishops recited in unison the prayer of the faithful after the Creed:
For the Holy Church of God, that as a sign of peace among nations it might shine to all men of good will.
For Pope Paul, that he might show the family of nations the way to peace.
For all who govern nations, that they might be moved by the desire in the hearts of all men for peace and promote justice and unity among all peoples.
For public institutions fostering peace among nations, that they might check the growing preoccupation with armaments and direct the thoughts of all men toward peaceful efforts.
For all who suffer the effects of war and persecution, so that one universal peace may be restored to the world and so that they may find consolation.
It was a liturgical summary of the Pope’s entire journey and its insertion into the Mass was made possible by this very council. Though the “prayer of the faithful,” changeable depending on the Church’s needs at the time, was used in the early Church, it had fallen into disuse until the present council restored it with the Constitution on the Liturgy, promulgated by Pope Paul in 1963.
The Gospel was enthroned by Father Clementine of Vlissingen, O.F.M.Cap., Minister General of the Capuchins.
Since the council’s secretary general, Archbishop Pericle Felici, was on his way to New York with the Pope, Archbishop John J. Krol of Philadelphia took his place. Achille Cardinal Lienart of Lille, France, substituted for Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the College of Cardinals, also en route to New York, as head of the council’s presidency.
Archbishop Krol announced the death the previous Saturday of Bishop James J. Navagh of Paterson, N.J., and of Bishop Attilius Beltramino of Iringa, Tanzania.
Continuing debate on the chapter on culture in the schema on the Church in the modern world, Archbishop Veuillot said the chapter would not satisfy men of science since it does not show the importance of scientific progress and its consequences in the practical world. Nor does it demonstrate clearly enough that there is no opposition between science and faith, but rather that each tends toward the discovery of truth by using its own tools. The Church, he said, must hail science and its proponents with “love and reverence” for the service they offer humanity.
The prelate, who had caused a sensation in the world press the previous week with reports that he had called for a reappraisal of the Church’s stand on divorce, explained to the council Fathers that he had been misquoted in part. The Melkite-rite patriarchal Vicar for Egypt, Archbishop Elie Zoghbi pointed out that in his council speech, which he said had a “strictly pastoral purpose,” he had not once used the word “divorce.” What he intended to suggest for families disrupted by mental illness or desertion, he said, was a dissolution of the marriage bond similar to the so-called “Petrine Privilege.”
The “Petrine Privilege” is the name given to declarations by the Church that a marriage is dissolved by her power when the question of the faith of the Catholic party is involved in continuance of the existing bond. It is similar to the “Pauline Privilege” in that it is dissolution of only the natural bond and not of the sacramental marriage. A marriage would be sacramental only if both parties were baptized in a Christian faith. It differs from the “Pauline Privilege” in that it is granted for a marriage, even when performed within the Catholic Church, in which one of the parties is already baptized. The “Pauline Privilege” concerns marriage between two non-baptized persons, one of whom later becomes a Catholic. The Church’s common teaching is that sacramental marriage once consummated cannot be dissolved.
Archbishop Zoghbi said the marriages he was concerned with — those involving abandonment or mental illness — remained an “exegetical (involving Scriptural interpretation), canonical and pastoral problem, which the Church cannot push aside.”
He admitted the reminder of Charles Cardinal Journet of Switzerland to the council that Catholics of both the Eastern and Western rites accept the Church’s teaching on divorce, but denied the cardinal’s assertion that the Orthodox admission of divorce in some cases was prompted by political motives or arose from civil law rather than Church persuasion.
Father John Long, S.J., of New York, Eastern Church expert of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, explained to N.C.W.C. News Service that even though Archbishop Zoghbi compared his suggested dispensation from the marriage bond by Church authority to the “Petrine Privilege,” he was nevertheless referring to sacramental marriages as well as others.
His argument, Father Long said, would be that just as the Church uses its power to “dispense” from the marriage bond in “Petrine Privilege” cases without denying the indissolubility of marriage, so it might use the same power to “dispense” even from sacramental marriages when there is a question of abandonment or mental illness without denying the indissolubility of marriage. This, Father Long said, is the approach used by the Orthodox in cases involving adultery, while the Orthodox continue to maintain that they do not admit “divorce.”
Auxiliary Bishop Augustin Frotz of Cologne, Germany, called on the council to state not only the equality between men and women, but also to outline the unique role each must play in the development of culture. The fact that men and women play roles complementary to each other is in the order of nature, he said. Therefore it should not be confined to marriage, but extend into every order of human existence. This could give rise to a new concept of celibacy and the role of celibate men and women in the development of culture, whether they are priests, Religious or laymen.
Passing to the discussion of social and economic problems in the third chapter of part two of schema 13, several Fathers asked the council to define more clearly the Church’s social doctrine in relation to agriculture, labor and management. They urged that it set precise limits on man’s right to strike, and asked that the text be purged of its tendency to discuss labor problems in terms “smacking of liberal capitalism,” as Jose Cardinal Bueno y Monreal of Seville, Spain, expressed it. “The right to private property is not as closely bound to Catholic doctrine as the text indicates,” he said.
Two Indian bishops, one speaking in the name of 100 other bishops from Europe, Africa, Canada and India, called on the Pope to establish a postconciliar secretariat to deal with the problems of world justice and poverty. Their suggestion was reiterated by Benjamin Cardinal de Arriba y Castro of Tarragona, Spain, and Auxiliary Bishop Edward E. Swanstrom of New York, executive director of Catholic Relief Services-National Catholic Welfare Conference. The latter asked that such a secretariat “carry on a long-term process of education and inspiration, motivation and moral influence.”
“In a few months this council will be closed,” Bishop Swanstrom said. “But our concern for the world’s poor, so often voiced in this hall by the college of bishops, led by our chief shepherd, the Holy Father, should continue to ring out to teach and exhort. This would be the role of the secretariat, functioning perhaps under a permanent commission of bishops appointed by the Holy Father.
“This effort would not hinder in any way, but would rather strengthen the works of social assistance and development now carried on by several national conferences of bishops and by other Church organizations. These raise and distribute funds and are engaged in concrete operations. The new secretariat, I repeat, would be educational and inspirational.”
His suggestion repeated on the council floor what his assistant at CRS-NCWC, American council auditor James Norris, had submitted in writing to the council’s secretariat several days before.
Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, continued to moderate discussion even though a new chapter was introduced. Discussion was led by Giuseppe Cardinal Siri of Genoa, Italy, who said he thought it is imprudent to speak of technical matters concerning economics and politics — matters which could change in a short time and make the council appear outdated. He asked that these matters be left to experts who can teach them better than the council.
The text, he said, does well in advocating the participation of all in the administration of economic affairs, but it must also be remembered that some technical matters cannot be left to the ordinary man. He asked for a more extensive reference to the papal encyclicals on social teaching, lest the impression be given that the Church has not spoken out on these matters before.
Cardinal De Arriba objected to the use of the phrase “the Church of the poor” in the text without explaining its sense: that the Church is trying to work on behalf of the poor and to raise standards of living.
Never has mankind had such scientific and technical progress, he said, while at the same time having such poverty, threats of wars and the like. The people of God cannot he excluded from guilt in the presence of these evils, but on the other hand, communism will never cure them because it denies the dignity of man. The Church should foster social studies to avert these evils, he said, but the burden of the application of the Church’s social teaching lies with property owners.
To get rid of the text’s flavor of “liberal capitalism,” Cardinal Bueno said, it should be revised according to the universally valid principles of natural law and the Gospel, which are not in danger of obsolescence. He regretted the text’s lack of discussion on the organization of collective production and its dearth of consideration of the just and human distribution of goods. He said businesses should be seen as an effort of a community of persons. Conceiving them with too “capitalistic” a mentality is the cause of social conflict between labor unions and management and is the cause of strikes, he stated.
“It should be recognized that the doctrine of private property is not necessarily bound as closely to Catholic doctrine as the text seems to suggest,” he concluded.
Bishop Franz Hengsbach of Essen, Germany, said he had examined the text together with experts in social and economic sciences, and that together they had concluded it does not respond to concrete social situations. It is also too negative, he said, and points on agriculture and monetary policy are not sufficiently elaborated. On the other hand, he said, the treatment on investments and other technicalities is beyond the scope of the council.
The Christian optimism of the text is praiseworthy, Syro-Malankara-rite Archbishop Gregorios Thangalathil of Trivandrum, India, said. So is the pastoral solicitude shown in treating industry, agriculture and the like, he added. But the Church should also direct Christian consciences toward concrete solutions.
“Do not rich living and luxury give scandal to others?” he asked. The Holy See should establish an office for putting the Gospel teaching on world poverty and justice into practice, he said, stressing thereby the urgency of economic and social assistance to regions in need.
Poverty is not a subject of minor importance, Coadjutor Archbishop Angelo Fernandes of Delhi, India, said. It concerns the “greater part of humanity.” In the name of over 100 bishops, he too called for establishment of a secretariat within the Roman curia to deal with hunger and poverty problems facing this “major part of humanity.”
Human progress is not limited geographically and is not merely a material consideration, he said. The council should clearly express human progress in terms of helping Christian and non-Christian alike, instilling motives of brotherhood which are superior to and independent of any one economic system.
Bishop Frane Franic of Split, Yugoslavia, asked that virtually the entire chapter should be taken from the text and given over to the new world Synod of Bishops set up by the Pope. It would, he said, give the Synod “a good start” in its intended work. The Church’s traditional metaphysics, he went on, should be stressed more so that natural law is clearly stated as the font and root of international ethics. Doctrine should be proclaimed not only “in modern ghettoes and catacombs, but everywhere,” he concluded.
Speaking in the name of 80 German bishops, Bishop Joseph Hoeffner of Muenster, Germany, said the schema’s treatment of social problems does not sufficiently reflect the papal encyclicals on the same subject. He referred specifically to the “maturity and clarity” of Pope Leo XIIl’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of the Working Man”), Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (“Fortieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum”) and Pope John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”).
The text could give rise to errors, he said, when it treats of agriculture, monetary policy, the right to strike and other items. It reflects too optimistic an ideology regarding progress in raising economic standards, he continued.
The description given private property is inadequate since the Church does not condemn riches except insofar as they violate social justice and charity, he stated.
By descending to particulars, the council seems to be going too far afield, he said, and the text is full of “pious exhortations which do not help much in economic life.”
In the name of “various Canadian bishops,” Bishop Gerard Coderre of Saint Jean de Quebec called for a treatment of the state’s role in social security, social planning, and a policy of proper balance between work and leisure. Past experience, he said, is not sufficient for formulating universal economic theory since economics is too fluid a science. He said the experts he had consulted consider the text too concerned with a type of economic society which is already becoming extinct.
Archbishop Segundo De Sierra y Mendez of Burgos, Spain, called for improvement both of the text’s doctrine and its manner of expression. But he admitted it had many “praiseworthy elements.”
The Church has received from Christ “no mandate regarding politics … economic freedom, strikes, investments and the like,” he said. He agreed that the Gospel “should not be alien to any human activity,” however, and called on the Church to imbue men with Christian responsibility. He observed that the text spoke only of the rights of workers and should include the rights of owners as well, laying down among other things the conditions required for a licit strike.
The day’s meeting had begun with continuation of discussion on culture. Archbishop Casimiro Morcillo Gonzalez of Madrid began by charging that the text’s treatment does not sufficiently harmonize human culture with Christian culture. Though culture is the work of man, he said, it is God who endows man with the facilities to develop culture.
A revision of the chapter is called for in the light of revelation, he said, since man’s dominion over nature as described in Genesis was bestowed by God but furthered by man’s labor and through the gradual process of development. Since it is God who endows man with intelligence, senses and the hands with which to develop culture, he said, He has a great part to play in the development of culture, particularly God’s Son, whose redemption benefits all creatures.
Hitting what he called the excessive optimism of the text, Bishop Otto Spuelbeck of Meissen, Germany, observed that the study of natural science does not in itself lead to the acknowledgment of God, since nature today is thought of in terms of the Cartesian method (that of the French philosopher, Rene Descartes). This mathematical approach to nature results in an “ambivalent judgment from which both the acknowledgment of God and the denial of God can be concluded,” he said.
The norm for scientific investigation, he observed, is not the Epistle to the Romans, chapter one, verse 20: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen — His everlasting power also and divinity — being understood through the things that are made.” He said that the Jesuit paleontologist, the late Father Teilhard de Chardin, had pointed out that biological evolution is an indication of the finality of the universe, that is of a Supreme Being directing it toward its goal.
The final speaker on chapter two on culture was Auxiliary Bishop Luigi Bettazzi of Bologna, Italy, who said that the correct use of temporal goods is impossible without a spirit of evangelical poverty, an understanding of sexuality in the spirit of chastity, and an affirmation of the human personality in the light of Christian obedience.
Father John P. Donnelly
NCWC News Rome correspondent