Council Fathers Applaud Call for End to Nuclear Threat

144th General Congregation
October 7, 1965

Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, secretary of the Congregation of the Holy Office, his voice vibrant with emotion, urged the ecumenical council to summon all nations to a one-world republic that would end the threat of nuclear doom for the world.

Council Fathers gave him one of the warmest and longest ovations in the council’s four-year history. This applause signaled an end of the antipathy focused upon Cardinal Ottaviani at the council’s first session as a leader and symbol of immovable conservatism in the Church.

Cardinal Ottaviani’s speech demolished this image with a series of vigorous strokes:

He “heartily” seconded the demands of other council Fathers that the council ban all war absolutely.

He called for worldwide development of the ideal of international brotherhood without distinction of race, color, cultural levels and the like.

He asserted the right and duty of people to reject their own legal government if it is leading them into a ruinous war.

The 144th general council meeting opened with the Mass celebrated by Bishop Guillermo Bolatti of Rosario, Argentina. The Gospel was enthroned by Bishop Guillaume Cobben of Helsinki, Finland.

The council’s secretary general, Archbishop Pericle Felici, told the meeting that some council Fathers had asked that more numerous and detailed questions be posed to the council for voting on changes to the schema on seminary training. He reported that a special meeting of the council’s Commission on Seminaries and Catholic Education had agreed to this petition and that the council moderators had gone along with the commission’s decision. Consequently, he said, a new list of 14 specific questions on the way the commission had handled suggested changes would be distributed the following day. Voting on these 14 questions and on the schema as a whole, he said, would take place Oct. 11 and 12.

Debate continued on chapter five of the second part of the schema on the Church in the modern world. Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, was moderator. After voting to end debate on the schema, the council turned to the rewritten schema on the missions and Gregorio Pietro Cardinal Agagianian, prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, became moderator.

Meanwhile voting on amendments to the schema on the life of Religious continued.

Joseph Cardinal Martin of Rouen, France, was the day’s first speaker. He asserted that the old distinction between offensive and defensive warfare is next to useless, practically speaking, and is dangerous as well. War should be banned both as a word and as a thing, he said.

The French Cardinal said the classical terminology of theology, which spoke of just war and unjust war, is useless today because today’s total war is so completely different from war as known in earlier ages. He called for a halt in the arms race.

Cardinal Ottaviani, after concurring with council Fathers who had pleaded for a total ban on war, criticized the schema for dealing too briefly with the means of forestalling war.

He said the first of these is education, both civic and religious.

Such education, he said, would incline governments and the governed to spurn every form of discrimination, class struggle, and political or economic imperialism.

Another means of preventing war listed by Cardinal Ottaviani is the fostering of human brotherhood among all peoples of the world. Through this means men would be ready to sacrifice themselves for the common good of all mankind, he said, and would help ensure a fairer distribution of the world’s goods throughout the entire human family.

Another element in the prevention of war is the continued struggle against totalitarianism, he said.

Pointing out that communists wage war under other names, such as the “struggle for national liberation,” he said all forms of violence should be banned. He included ideological warfare on the grounds that it easily leads to real war.

With obvious emotion, Cardinal Ottaviani then expressed what he called a “most fervent wish”: that the council call all nations to unite in a worldwide republic transcending national barriers in order that the peace of Christ might reign throughout the world.

Bishop Mariano Gaviola of Cabanatuan, Philippines, then delivered what might be considered a reply to the assertion of a Dutch-born bishop from India in the previous day’s debate that the population explosion is a fact. The Filipino bishop said the schema seems to fear a population explosion which will eventually result in too many people for the earth. Recalling that Pope John XXIII declared this theory shaky, he said the schema should take into consideration other scientific positions. He pointed out that a diminishing population can have a negative effect on a national economy.

In this regard he pointed out that some of the world’s richest nations are compelled to import workers.

He said it would be fitting if the schema were to end with a reminder to young married couples that their path is one of sanctification under the influence of Christian principles. Nothing the council says or does, he concluded, should have the effect of making people soft or selfish.

Bishop Michal Klepacz of Lodz, Poland, took up this question of selfishness. All of us, he said, have seen the deplorable effects of deep-rooted selfishness in international life. The state of the modern world is far from encouraging, he continued. In many countries unborn babies are slaughtered wholesale, and the world itself is racing toward the brink of a precipice. The Church must raise its voice to halt this marathon race toward ruin and to dissuade governments from heeding the advice of madmen, he stated.

He concluded: “Peace, yes, but not peace at any price.”

Archbishop Pedro Cantero Cuadrado of Saragossa, Spain, asserted that while the balance of terror is not admissible in principle, it is the only workable formula in certain circumstances. But peace efforts should be directed at guaranteeing world security without arms.

He defended the right of rulers to forestall an imminent danger to their countries. But he added that rulers must strive to form within public opinion a powerful movement for peace. Moral disarmament, he said, is a prerequisite for physical disarmament.

He defended the right of nations to possess nuclear weapons, but said their proliferation should be stemmed.

He also said the text should avoid giving indiscriminate approval to conscientious objectors.

Archbishop Paul Gouyon of Rennes, France, said no nation can be forbidden to defend itself against an unjust aggressor. The text should therefore unreservedly condemn all aggressive warfare and declare any form of it criminal, he stated. Although it is not always clear who is the first aggressor, the principle of the condemnation of aggressive war has constant validity.

He said international authority needs to be strengthened and to have moral and economic sanctions at its disposal.

Bishop Luigi Carli of Segni, Italy, said some questions dealt with in the schema are not sufficiently mature and should be left open to further theological study. Among these he listed conscientious objection and the allied question of the lawfulness of war. He asked for silence from the council on the disputed principles involved, and asserted that the council is not competent to pronounce upon cases.

Archbishop George Beck of Liverpool, England, took issue with his British colleagues who had said in the previous day’s debate that the council should avoid a statement that possession of modern arms is not immoral in itself.

“The schema is right to say that as long as international institutions give no adequate guarantee, possession of these armaments exclusively as a deterrent for an enemy equipped with the same weapons cannot be said to be in itself immoral.”

But he joined forces with them in seeking stronger emphasis “both on what a public authority must never do or threaten to do under pain of losing its right to the obedience of its subjects and the rights of conscience of all citizens in certain circumstances.” He made it clear that he meant the right of disobedience to immoral commands.

After this speech, the moderator called for a cloture vote. A vast majority of the Fathers voted in favor of it.

Cardinal Agagianian took the moderator’s post and then, as president of the Mission Commission, briefly introduced the report on the schema on the missions which was read before debate opened on it. Cardinal Agagianian said the schema’s importance had been underlined by Pope Paul’s presence at the opening of debate on it at last year’s session.

Father John Schuette, S.V.D., superior general of the Divine Word Fathers, then read the commission’s report.

The first speaker of the debate complained that the schema reads more like an academic text than a council document on teaching the Gospel.

Paul Cardinal Meouchi, Maronite-rite Patriarch of Antioch, stated it says nothing of the saving influence of faith and nothing on the pulsing growth of the apostolate.

He asked for more stress on preaching the word of God and on the responsibility of all men for one another.

He also asked that more authority be given to local episcopal conferences since they are more fully acquainted with local needs.

Jaime Cardinal de Barros Camara of Rio de Janeiro, in the name of 57 Latin American bishops, said that in view of the missionary activity of the separated brethren in Latin America, criteria should be established to help avoid hard feelings and misunderstandings created through proselytism.

Rufino Cardinal Santos of Manila, after thanking the bishops for their sympathy and help in the recent volcanic eruption in the Philippines, suggested that the schema’s chapter on missionary activity be given another place in the schema.

The final speaker of the day, Lorenz Cardinal Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany, said the sad spectacle of religious divisions in the world should encourage an ecumenical spirit.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome correspondent

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