"What Happened At Vatican II"
by John W. O'Malley



Cardinal Michael Browne



Cardinal Bernard Alfrink



Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens



Cardinal Achille Lienart



Cardinal Francis Spellman



Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani



Cardinal James Francis McIntyre



Cardinal Leo De Smedt



Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini



Cardinal Giuseppe Siri



Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh

pages 97-98:

On October 13 the first working session of the council was held. In it the bishops were to elect from their number the members of the ten commissions of the council that would be responsible for the preparation, the presentation, and then the revision of the major documents with which the council had to deal. These ten commissions corresponded one-for-one to the Preparatory Commissions that had been at work since 1960. They were the "committees" of the council, to give them a name from Robert's Rules of Order, and they were therefore of crucial importance for the council's functioning.

The bishops were given the names of all bishops present at the council, from which each was to choose 160 (sixteen for each commission). They were also given the names of the members of the corresponding Preparatory Commissions. Since any individual would have known only a tiny percentage of the other bishops present, it would have been easy for them simply to reinstate the bishops of the Preparatory Commissions, and in fact this is probably what was expected to happen. Cardinal Ottaviani had in the meantime circulated a set of names of bishops whom he regarded as appropriate for the different commissions, a move that, however well intentioned, was interpreted by some bishops as manipulation by "the Curia."

After the opening Mass, the session on October 13 got under way with an announcement from the secretary general, Archbishop Felici, that the election would begin immediately. Consternation followed, as bishops tried to fill their ballots with 160 names, while sometimes calling out for advice to one another across the aisles. Cardinal Achille Lienart of Lille, France, rose from the table where the presidents (that is, the panel of ten cardinals chairing the session) sat and asked that the voting be postponed for a few days to allow the bishops a chance to get to know one another and episcopal conferences time to develop their own lists. His intervention was met with prolonged applause. Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne seconded the motion from the presidents' table. The ten presidents of the council agreed with the proposal, postponed the election until the following Tuesday, and adjourned the session, which had lasted less than an hour.

Lienart's intervention was practical, but it was seen as more than that. It was taken as an indication that the council would run its business in its own way and not meekly assent to what was handed to it. After the adjournment that morning, Cardinal Siri of Genoa went immediately to the Holy Office to meet with Ottaviani and others to try to decide what to do about what he regarded as "a maneuver directed more subconsciously than consciously by a certain antipathy to the Curia." It was an antipathy that arose, he thought, from "the eternal inferiority-complex which the Northerners have in their relations with Rome." He noted in his diary, "The devil has had a hand in this."

pages 125-126:

Among these bishops Elias Zoghby, Melkite patriarchal vicar for Egypt, was important, for instance, but none could compare with Maximos -- "Patriarch of Antioch and of all the Orient, of Alexandria and Jerusalem," to give him his official title. Eighty-four years old when the council opened, he emerged as one of the most important prelates at it. On ceremonial occasions he wore not the miter of the Western bishops but the crown traditional in his rite. In his interventions he flouted the "Regulations" by speaking French instead of Latin and by addressing "Their Beatitudes," the Eastern patriarchs, before "Their Eminences," the cardinals. He gained attention, but he also won respect and admiration for the substance of his speeches and their straightforward style, which made them among the very few at the council that the bishops anticipated with pleasure and, sometimes, suspense. As early as May 23, 1959, he urged John XXIII to found a new office in the Curia that anticipated what the Secretariat for Christian Unity would become.

Under Maximos's leadership, the Melkites came to the council with clear ideas, some of which were shocking, at least at first, to bishops of the Latin rite. On August 29,1959, long before the council opened, they sent a joint response to Cardinal Tardini's request for items for the council's agenda. In it they insisted that the first concern of the council was to work for Christian unity, especially with the Orthodox churches. The major obstacle to overcoming the evil of disunity was clear to them: "The principal cause of the evil, we believe, is the tendency of most Latin theologians and canonists to concentrate all the authority Christ granted to his church in the one person of the Sovereign Pontiff and to make him the source of all power and, consequently, to give practically sovereign and completely centralized power to the Roman Curia, which acts in his name. In this perspective it is difficult to see in the apostolic authority of the patriarchs and bishops anything except a pure and simple delegation of the supreme authority of the pope, which he can limit and revoke at will." Canon law itself, they insisted, promoted this tendency. The council must address the evil by defining the true nature of the patriarchs' and bishops' authority.

pages 134-138:

Then came Spellman of New York with one of the longer interventions, in which he managed never to say outright that he liked what he had read. His message was simple: caution. In particular, though the vernacular might be fine in the administration of some of the sacraments, it should not be introduced into the Mass. Later in the course of the debate he was seconded in this opinion by Cardinal Mclntyre of Los Angeles: "The sacred Mass should remain as it is." Spellman had meanwhile taken a swipe at professional liturgists by reminding the council fathers that as far as the liturgy was concerned, the perspective of real pastors was often different from that of liturgical scholars.

Dopfner of Munich stated immediately his wholehearted approval of the schema. He registered his disagreement with those who felt that the document should stick to general principles and not descend, as it did in some matters, to specific measures. He probably made this point because he feared what would happen in the Congregation of Rites if the provisions were left too vague. Then, seemingly in direct response to Spellman, he voiced his support for use of the vernacular even in the Mass.

Meanwhile, outside the precincts of St. Peter's, bishops from the "new churches" began holding press conferences about the liturgy. Bishop Willem van Bekkum of Ruteng, Indonesia, held the first on October 23, followed within a few days by another by Archbishop Eugene D'Souza of Nagpur, India, and then another by Lawrence Nagae of Urawa, Japan. They all insisted on the urgency in their countries of cultural adaptation, including use of the vernacular. These conferences attracted considerable attention in the media and thus had at least as much impact on the other bishops as if they had been delivered on the council floor.

Back in St. Peter's on October 24, the day after van Bekkum's conference, Maximos IV rose to speak and shook the bishops to attention right off by addressing them in French. His voice was strong, his tone assured. Here was a speaker, the council fathers immediately recognized, with a quite different perspective, a speaker representing a venerable tradition that had not been subject to many of the historical developments that so much conditioned the traditions of the western church.

Maximos praised the document but said he would confine his remarks only to section 24, concerning Latin:

The almost absolute value assigned to Latin in the liturgy, in teaching, and in the administration of the Latin church strikes us from the Eastern church as strange [assez anormal]. Christ after all spoke the language of his contemporaries. ... [In the East] there has never been a problem about the proper liturgical language. All languages are liturgical, as the Psalmist says, "Praise the Lord, all ye people." . . . The Latin language is dead. But the church is living, and its language, the vehicle of the grace of the Holy Spirit, must also be living because it is intended for us human beings not for angels.

He had two suggestions. First, instead of saying that Latin was to be kept as the language for the liturgy, the text should be emended to say simply that it is "the original and official language of the Roman Rite." Second, instead of saying that the episcopal conferences "propose" to the Holy See whatever use of the vernacular they think appropriate, the text should say that the conferences "decide," subject to the approval of the Holy See. When the session ended, a number of bishops rushed up to Maximos to congratulate him and shake his hand. That very day, Pope John noted in his diary that the Latin issue divided the council into those who had never left their own country "or Italy" and those especially from mission territories.

But Maximos was far from being the last bishop to address Sacrosanctum. Discussion of the schema dragged on from October 22 to November 13 -- three weeks, fifteen sessions, with 328 interventions from the floor and submitted in written form. Although speakers were held to a ten-minute limit, the "Regulations" failed to provide a procedure for closing debate on a topic. Bishops began to fear that the discussion on the liturgy would go on forever. Speaker after speaker repeated the same points. On November 6 Pope John intervened, making an ad hoc change in the "Regulations" to allow the presidents to close discussion if they felt an issue had been adequately addressed. Timely closure was now legal, an important step in moving the agenda along more quickly.

Where did the schema stand when, on November 13, the presidents successfully called for a vote to halt the interventions? It obviously had strong support, perhaps most notably from African and Asian bishops, but it had also received much criticism. Two issues attracted the most attention and generated the most heat. The first was the vernacular. Eighty-one interventions focused on that issue. The second revolved around the competence of local bishops or episcopal conferences to make decisions, and thus concerned the limits of the authority of the Congregation of Rites. Early on, therefore, the crucial issue of center-periphery bounded to the surface. It was well known, moreover, that in the Central Preparatory Commission, when the council was still being planned, resolutions to abolish the Holy Office outright had come to the floor -- but had gotten nowhere.

Ottaviani had already come to stand for "the Curia" and to embody everything people disliked about the Holy Office, which was being increasingly criticized. This perception of him was not confined to members of the council. Even for those who followed the council from afar, Ottaviani became almost a household name. Jokes about him circulated broadly and began to appear in newspapers and journals. One morning, supposedly, Ottaviani called a taxi and directed the driver to take him to the council. The driver hit the road for Trent.

As early as October 24 Archbishop Pietro Parente, the assessor (administrative director) of the Holy Office, complained in an angry intervention about criticisms of his Congregation: "We in the Holy Office are martyrs, martyrs." He called on the innovators at the council -- novatores -- to learn a thing or two from the caution with which the Holy See operated and not rush into changes. Although novatores could have a less nocuous meaning, in ecclesiastical parlance it was a synonym for heretic, as everybody at the council knew full well.

A few days earlier Ottaviani had criticized Sacrosanctum for its literary style. The language was often ambiguous, he said, even in the doctrinal parts. Those parts, furthermore, "invaded" the doctrinal camp and hence needed to be reviewed by theologians, by which he meant his own Doctrinal Commission. His patience was wearing thin. He took the floor again on October 30, opening his intervention with a series of rhetorical questions that made clear how utterly unacceptable he found the schema. Among the questions: "What, now, are we dealing here with a revolution regarding the whole Mass?"

He insisted that the Mass not be changed and that reception of the Eucharist under both forms was a bad idea, as was concelebration, that is, more than one priest officiating at a single Mass. He then hit his adversaries at their most vulnerable point. It was all well and good to quote popes like Pius XII when they agreed with one's position, but what about quoting them when they did not? In 1956, he reminded the council, Pius XII had made it clear to liturgists who had just completed an important meeting at Assisi that Latin was and would remain the language of the Mass.

He was well over the ten-minute limit. Cardinal Alfrink, presiding that day, interrupted the powerful head of the Holy Office to inform him that he had already spoken for the maximum amount of time. This was treatment to which Ottaviani was not accustomed: "I've finished! I've finished! I've finished!" The basilica broke into applause. Ottaviani, insulted and humiliated, boycotted the council for the next two weeks, a dramatic and extraordinarily meaningful gesture from somebody of his stature.

Finally, on November 14 Cardinal Tisserant, the presiding president of the day, put Sacrosanctum Concilium to a vote on whether to accept the schema as the base text. Because so many interventions on the document had been critical, this vote, the council's first on a schema, was awaited with considerable tension. A positive vote meant that the document was fundamentally sound, so that after revisions by the Liturgical Commission, it could later in the council be resubmitted for approval of the changes and then for final approval. It also implicitly meant that it need not be submitted to the Doctrinal Commission, as Ottaviani had asked, to have its orthodoxy ensured. The outcome of the voting astounded everybody -- a landslide in favor, 2,162 votes, with only 46 opposed. That was a 97 percent approval.

pages 153-154:

On that same day Cardinal Ottaviani took the floor to introduce the long-awaited schema On the Church (De Ecclesia), which the council fathers to their great annoyance had received only the previous week. By now it was well known that the preparation of this schema had been marked by sharp disagreements between the Theological Commission and the Secretariat for Christian Unity, disagreements that the Central Preparatory Commission did not resolve largely because its own membership reflected the same tensions. This polarization now marked the council itself, and Ottaviani represented in everybody's eyes one of the poles. When he rose to speak, he commanded attention.

In two sentences he told the council fathers of the care with which the schema had been prepared by a commission of seventy members and approved by the Central Preparatory Commission: "After this long journey the Supreme Pontiff ordered that it be presented to you for your examination." Then he said:

The concern of those who prepared the schema was that it be as pastoral and biblical as possible, not academic [scholasticum], and that it be done in a form comprehensible by everybody. I say this because I expect to hear the usual litany from the fathers of the council -- it's academic, it's not ecumenical, it's not pastoral, it's negative, and other things like that.

Further, I'll tell you what I really think. I believe that I and the speaker for the commission are wasting our words because the outcome has already been decided. Those whose constant cry is "Take it away! Take it away! Give us a new schema!" are now ready to open fire. I'll tell you something you may not know: even before this schema was distributed -- Listen to me! Listen to me! -- even before it was distributed, an alternative schema had already been produced. Yes, even before the merits of this schema have been looked at the jury has rendered its verdict. I have no choice now but to say no more because, as Scripture teaches, when nobody is listening words are a waste of time.

page 155:

De Smedt did not mince words. He delivered one of the most famous and most quoted speeches of the council when he denounced the schema for its three isms -- triumphalism, clericalism, and "juridicism" (triumphalismus, clericalismus, juridismus). The document, he asserted, was written in a pompous and romantic style that manifested a "triumphalistic" spirit. The style was out of touch with the reality of the humble people of God. Its clericalism was revealed in the pyramidal structure of the church it presents, with everything flowing from top to bottom. It took little account of the horizontal relationships in the church. The reality of the People of God is more fundamental in the church, he maintained, than hierarchy: "We must beware of falling into . . . some kind of bishop-worship or pope-worship [episcopolatriam vel papolatriam]." And, finally, the church is more our mother than a juridical institution.

pages 179-180:

In his attack on collegiality Ruffini had already touched on an issue that properly belonged in discussion of chapter two. The next day Alfrink raised the same issue by defending the biblical basis for collegiality. Soon thereafter the moderators formally moved discussion to the controversial chapter. Ruffini, the second to speak, shot back at "our beloved Cardinal Alfrink who seemed to be refuting my position" on papal primacy (Alfrink and Ruffini had been students together at the Biblicum!), then raised further objections to collegiality. He passed on to another highly contested proposition, the reinstating of the permanent diaconate. Section 15 of the schema, which dealt with this issue, ended with what seemed to some bishops almost an inflammatory statement: "It will fall to the authorities in the church to decide whether such deacons will be bound or not by the sacred law of celibacy." Celibacy hit the floor of the council.

Cardinal Spellman had just a few minutes earlier made a long intervention on the proposal to reinstate the office. Without raising the celibacy issue, he had stated his opposition to it and pointed out the origin of the idea and the faulty reasoning behind it: "This proposal . . . originates for the most part from Liturgists, who want to reinstate usages of the ancient church without taking account of the real situation today." Then came Ruffini, followed by Cardinal Antonio Bacci, who attacked the proposal and ended with the passionate plea, "With trepidation in my soul I beg you, venerable council fathers, do not inflict a wound on the sacred law of celibacy."

pages 215-217:

When De Smedt sat down, Ruffini took the floor as the first speaker. He offered some points purportedly to improve this "opportune" declaration, but in fact he launched a frontal attack, beginning with the very title, "religious liberty." Since by definition there is only one true religion, it does not admit freedom of choice. True religious liberty cannot be achieved except by embracing the truth, which the Catholic Church possesses. We need to be careful, he said, not to give the impression that in this matter we are saying no more than Article 18 in the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. If the principles enunciated in the document are always and everywhere to be applied, then the Holy See would have to retract the agreements it entered into with Italy in 1929, with Portugal in 1940, with Spain in 1953, and with the Dominican Republic in I954.

Cardinal Fernando Quiroga y Palacios, archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, continued the assault. The document seems to have been constructed with an eye to those countries that we call "Protestant," with little attention to those that by long tradition are Catholic. Its language is often obscure and ambiguous, so that, if it were accepted, "unbridled license would follow." It pays little attention to the traditional teaching of the church and moves quickly into "novelty." That's not all: "This concept of liberty is not only extolled with great praise but seems to be proposed as a solemn definition. Thus you could say that Liberalism, so often condemned by the church, is now solemnly approved by Vatican Council II." The doctrine proposed here is not evolution but revolution!

In these first two interventions most of the major objections to the declaration came clearly to the fore: it is a change in the church's teaching; it is a change in the church's practice, as made clear in the recent concordats; it fosters subjectivism and religious indifferentism; it opens the door to immorality; it is illogical because it seems to deny that there can be only one religious truth. The only significant addition to the list was raised by Bishop Jose Lopez Ortiz of Tui Vigo, Spain, on September 24. He simply refused to accept a fundamental assumption of the declaration, that governments were incapable of judging between true and false religions.

Cardinal Ottaviani's intervention was listened to with great attention. For decades he had been a major force in upholding the traditional teaching of the church, and he was known for regarding the concordat of 1953 with Franco's government in Spain as a model of relations between church and state. In his widely disseminated textbook on canon law, he asserted that freedom of conscience was an expression introduced to legitimate religious indifferentism. His speech was firm and clear, as always with him, but not quite so vehement as some expected. He did manage to express more effectively than others a point that was repeatedly made: "I do not understand why a person who errs is worthy of honor. I understand that the person is worthy of consideration, of tolerance, of cordiality, of charity. But I do not understand why worthy of honor."

Cardinal Browne called for a rejection of the document as it stood. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a leader in the Group and a future schismatic, predicted ruin for the Catholic Church if the declaration were adopted. Others raised the specter of Liberalism and Modernism making their way back into the church even though the popes had roundly and often condemned them.

pages 236-238:

Article 21 of chapter four was titled "The Dignity of Marriage and the Family." It was an explosive subject. The text did three things that roused the ire of council fathers like Ruffini, Ottaviani, and Browne. First, it avoided using the textbook terms "primary" and "secondary" ends of marriage, in which the primary end was the procreation of children and the secondary end was a remedy for concupiscence and the mutual help of the spouses. The document instead spoke at length about the holiness and goodness of the love that bound the spouses; only then did it mention children as the fulfillment of that love. Second, it made the consciences of the spouses the deciding factor for the number of children they should have. Finally, it did not explicitly reaffirm a condemnation of birth control.

Ruffini, Ottaviani, Browne, and a number of others wanted a clear statement reaffirming "the certain teaching" that the primary end of marriage was the procreation of children, and they cited the encyclicals Arcanum of Leo XIII, Casti Connubii of Pius XI, and the allocutions of Pius XII on the subject. They disliked the emphasis on the consciences of the parents in deciding family size. Beneath the surface of the whole discussion of article 21 seethed the question of birth control, made more urgent by "the pill." The previous year John Rock, a Catholic physician who had participated in the creation of an oral contraceptive, had published his widely reviewed book The Time Has Come, in which he advocated a change in approach by the churches, especially the Catholic Church. Later in the year the Belgian theologian Louis Janssens published a long article in which he referred to Rock's book, also arguing that maybe "the time had come."

By now the council knew that a Papal Commission, established by John XXIII in 1963 at the suggestion of Suenens, was studying the problem. Paul had announced it in an address to the cardinals on the previous June 23. Now, between October 23 and 29, council members were three times reminded of the fact -- by Archbishop Guano, Cardinal Agagianian, and Archbishop John Dearden of Detroit -- and further reminded that birth control as such was not to be debated in the council because it was being studied by the Papal Commission.

There seemed, however, no way to keep the topic entirely off the floor. In discreet and indiscreet ways the bishops kept bringing it up, usually with at least an insinuation that the time had come for a change in the teaching. Thus spoke, for instance, Leger, Alfrink, Joseph Reuss (speaking for 145 fathers "from various countries and parts of the world"), and Rudolf Staverman of Sukarnapura, Indonesia, who expressly argued that marriage had evolved like every historical reality and therefore the church could not just repeat old formulas -- the way this schema spoke of marriage was, on the contrary, "healthy and liberating."

Saigh was as usual boldly outspoken and direct. He began, "I call your attention today ... to birth control." It is a pressing problem that the council must confront. For the faithful it is a sad and agonizing issue, for there is a cleavage between the official teaching of the church and the contrary practice in most families. Moreover, the population explosion in certain parts of the world is condemning hundreds of millions of human beings to misery without hope. The council must find a solution. It must ask whether God really wants this depressing and unnatural impasse: "Let me speak frankly: do not the official positions of the church in this matter require revision in the light of modern research -- theological, medical, psychological, sociological?"

It was Suenens's speech, however, that caused a sensation and led Ruffini to write to Cicognani reporting that some fathers were so scandalized by it that they thought he should be removed as a moderator. In 1956, while Suenens was auxiliary bishop of Malines, he had published a small book on the subject for a popular audience defending the standard teaching. Once the council was called, however, he worried that a simplistic reiteration of Casti Connubii would carry the day, and at that point he suggested to John XXIII the need for a special study group. The matter had an added urgency in that the United Nations and the World Health Organization had announced the first international conference on world population, scheduled for 1964 in New Delhi.

Two features of Suenens's speech caused the uproar and provoked the ire of Paul VI. First, he more than intimated that a change might be in order. We have learned a few things, he said, since Aristotle and Augustine. He invoked development of doctrine and called attention to the population explosion. He injected a dramatic note into his presentation with the statement, "I plead with you, brothers. We must avoid another 'Galileo case.' One is enough for the church." Second, at the very end he called on Paul VI to make public the names of the members of the Papal Commission. That way, he said, the members will receive the most copious information on the subject, and the whole people of God will be represented. Suenens' words, unfortunately, could sound like a call for a plebiscite. When he finished, applause broke out.

But all was not well. The press played up the speech, noteworthy for coming from a person so eminent in the council. Suenens may have been encouraged to speak by reading Janssens's article, or he may have known that Rock cited him favorably as a distinguished churchman who urged "the need for fertility research. No matter, Paul VI was angry. Visibly upset in a very difficult audience with Suenens shortly afterward, he reproached him for lack of judgment and, without explicitly asking for it, made clear that he expected a retraction. About a week later, on November 7, Suenens said at the end of another speech that he needed to respond "to certain reactions of public opinion." He issued a retraction in the form of a clarification and further affirmed that the decision in the matter rested fully in the hands of the "supreme magisterium."

pages 265-266:

The exception was the ends of marriage and birth control. Although the commission was divided on these two issues, the majority prevailed in the final text by refusing to rank the ends of marriage, stating simply that God endowed the married state "with various benefits and with various ends in view." The text began, however, by developing at length the theme of "the intimate partnership of life and the love that constitutes the married state." It insisted on "the equal personal dignity that must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and unreserved affection." The spouses are effectively led to God and are helped and strengthened in their lofty role as fathers and mothers," for "marriage and married love are by nature ordered to the procreation and education of children." From the viewpoint of traditional Catholic theology the text did several things: it passed over in silence the idea that a purpose of marriage was to provide "an honest remedy" for concupiscence, it refused to rank the purposes, and it newly emphasized love and partnership.

The spouses should welcome children as gifts of God, true, but in some circumstances they might legitimately limit their number. In this regard they should not be capricious but follow their consciences in conformity with the law of God and the teaching of the church. The commission felt that it could not say more on this explosive issue now that Paul had reserved a final determination to himself. On birth control, therefore, the text itself was generic and admitted an interpretation that did not go beyond what theologians were teaching when the council opened. The problem was that everybody knew about the Papal Commission, and many people were drawing the understandable inference that the teaching might be changed. On this issue the final crisis in the council did not break until six weeks later.

page 266:

The other hot issue -- war and armament -- went forward in the commission without great drama. The final text admitted the right of nations to defend themselves and even gave a grudging nod to the idea that stockpiling nuclear weapons might under present circumstances act as a deterrent to war. Nonetheless, "The development of armaments by modern science has immeasurably magnified the horrors and wickedness of war," including the crime of "the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities," so that all effort must be expended to outlaw it. To that end an international institution needs to be established with effective power to secure justice for all.

But before such an institution can be successful every effort must be expended to end the abomination of the arms race, which is not only an ineffective way of securing peace but also a deplorable diversion of immense amounts of money from the legitimate purpose of alleviating the miseries that affect large segments of the human race. Nations possessing these weapons run the risk of using them. In the very last week of the council, Philip M. Hannan, newly appointed archbishop of New Orleans, ran a campaign supported by Cardinal Spellman to persuade members of the council to vote against the chapter containing these provisions. In his circular letter Hannan argued, for instance, that possession of nuclear weapons had been beneficial in preserving freedom for a very large portion of the world. The Group threw its support behind the letter. In the end, however, Hannan's efforts against the chapter, widely resented and dangerous to the very viability of Gaudium et Spes, came to nought.

pages 281-282

The first prelate to speak, in the name of the Melkite episcopate, was the intrepid Maximos IV Saigh, and he fired off the most radical criticism. By categorically denying that there was any connection between the intercession of the church and the partial or full remission of any temporal punishment resulting from sin, the concept on which the practice rested, he torpedoed the basis for it. Moreover, he challenged the assumption of a continuity between the practice of the early church and the medieval doctrine and practice of indulgences: "There is no indication that in the primitive and universal tradition of the church indulgences were known and practiced as they were in the Western Middle Ages. More specifically, during at least the eleven centuries when the Eastern and Western churches were united there is no evidence of indulgences in the modern sense of the term. . . . The theological arguments that try to justify the late introduction of indulgences into the West constitute, in our opinion, a collection of deductions in which every conclusion goes beyond the evidence." The solution, unless the church decides to abolish indulgences altogether, is to institute a thorough reform of both practice and theology as they pertain to the matter, which the present document does not do.

The interventions the next day from Alfrink speaking for the Dutch episcopate, Koenig for the Austrian, and Dopfner for the German did not help matters. The last two, especially, made a strong impression. Dopfner did not go so far as to call for the abolition of indulgences, but he severely criticized the theology that underlay the document, the misleading way it handled the history of indulgences, and the changes in practice, all too minimal, that it advocated. He was the last to speak that day. As it turned out, he was the last to speak altogether, even though only eleven episcopates had made their reports.

The next day had been scheduled exclusively for voting on amendments to Presbyterorum Ordinis, but the fathers assumed that on the following day, November 13, the reports on indulgences would continue. At the beginning of the session, however, Felici unexpectedly announced that because of time constraints there would be no more reports in St. Peter's. Was that really the reason? The bishops who had not had a chance to speak, Felici added, should hand in written reports to his Secretariat.

In the written reports the episcopal conferences of Belgium, England and Wales, Scandinavia, Haiti, Brazil, Chile, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Dahomey, Japan, and Laos expressed dissatisfaction with the document prepared by the Penitentiary, and the last three called for the abolition of indulgences. Two years later, on January I, 1967, Paul VI would issue an Apostolic Constitution on the matter, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, which consisted in a modest revision of the original text along with a list of twenty-one norms related to practice.

page 285:

Then, as had happened before, on the next day, November 26, Cicognani sent a letter stating that the modi were "counsels" [consigli] of the pope and that they should be treated like the modi of any other bishop. What had happened? Not known. The commission, in any case, swiftly decided to take the pope at his word. Although it made some modifications in the text, it did not explicitly condemn the use of so-called artificial means of birth control. It stated, instead, that Catholics were forbidden to use methods that the church had condemned, to which was attached a footnote referring to Casti Connubii and two other papal documents, as well as a reference to Paul VI's address to the cardinals on June 23,1964, in which he had announced the existence of the Papal Commission and stated that the matter needed thorough investigation.

Ottaviani, obviously displeased, informed the pope of what had transpired. On November 28 Paul wrote on Ottaviani's report that he accepted what the commission had decided, and thus did this last crisis, nine days before the council ended, find its resolution, in the final vote on this chapter in Gaudium et Spes only 155 negative votes were cast. The issue, of course, did not die. The Papal Commission continued to function for another year and a half, with the majority of the members providing the pope at the end with a report favoring a change in the church's position. Finally, as is well known, on July 25, 1968, Paul VI with his encyclical Humanae Vitae settled the matter in favor of the teaching of Pius XI and Pius XII.



pages 295-297:

As it turned out, this biggest meeting in the history of the world was much more than a four-year-long celebration of the glories and perennial faith of Catholicism. It was much more than the "Roman circus" skeptics predicted beforehand. Something happened. The council addressed and changed principles and practices of worship, building on initiatives of previous decades but doing so in an incomparably more comprehensive and systemic way. It agreed with the Council of Trent that the Mass was rightly described as a sacrifice united with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but Vatican II went further by explicitly including the Resurrection in it, as the fullness of the "Paschal Mystery." It gave new emphasis to the Mass as a replication of the sacred banquet that was the Last Supper. It enhanced the part of the Mass known as the Liturgy of the Word. It encouraged styles of piety centered on the Mass, the Liturgical Hours, and the Bible rather than on devotional practices like novenas that had proliferated in Catholicism since the Middle Ages.

Vatican II highlighted the importance of baptism as the foundation of the Christian life and as the entrance into the body of the church. It thereby validated a less restrictive understanding of membership in the Catholic Church, for the church to some degree includes all the baptized. At the same time the council took pains not to exclude from salvation even the unbaptized.

It affirmed that what had been revealed to the human race from above was not doctrines as such but the very person of God, especially as the divinity was manifested in the person of Christ. Without explicitly affiliating itself with any specific school of Christology, the council consistently presented Christ as servant and liberator. He was celebrated as friend of all people, especially the poor and victims of war and injustice.

In one of its rare negative statements, the council denounced the arms race and registered skepticism that stockpiling weapons was a deterrent to war -- indeed, it "serves only to aggravate the problem." This was in keeping with the concern the council more generally manifested for "the world," a concern unprecedented in the history of councils. For instance, Vatican II addressed the pastoral constitution On the Church in the Modern World not to church members but to all persons of good will. It committed the church to spare no effort in working for the complete outlawing of war, and to that end it supported and promoted every international organization, including, of course, the United Nations, designed to further humanitarian goals.

It made its own the right of people to free assembly and association. By affirming that it was consonant with human nature for citizens to play an active role in the political community and to exercise the right to vote, it distanced itself from forms of government in which that role and right could not be exercised. In the economic sphere it insisted that every effort be made to eliminate economic inequalities that worked against the creation of a just society.

Now, in a silent rejection of earlier positions, it fully embraced the right of individuals not only to inquire freely in matters of religion but also to practice the religion of their choice without intimidation or coercion from civil authorities. In that regard the council affirmed that in the last analysis the moral norm that everybody is obliged to obey is their own conscience, which is not a vague feeling of right and wrong but a moral judgment. It insisted, therefore, on the duty to form one's moral "judgments in the light of truth, to direct one's activities with a sense of responsibility, and to strive for what is true and just in willing cooperation with others." In forming those moral judgments, individuals must give proper consideration to the teachings of the church.

The council gave new prominence to marriage as a loving partnership in which couples are led to God as they share in the joys and sorrows of life. Children, it said, are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute to the good of the parents themselves. Nonetheless, for appropriate reasons parents may limit the number of children they have, provided they do so using moral means. Governments have the right and duty to foster family life and to safeguard the rights of parents to educate their children.

In different ways the council affirmed the dignity of the lay state, as when, with new forthrightness, it reminded the laity and others of the "priesthood of all believers," when it reminded them that they possess charisms and special gifts of the Spirit, and when it reminded them that they were called to lead a holy life. It explicitly affirmed that the body of the faithful cannot err in matters of faith when a consensus prevails in it. It enthusiastically encouraged lay participation in the mission of the church, especially in what it called "the temporal order," that is, out in the marketplace of daily life. If lay persons remain in communion with ecclesiastical authority, they have the right to establish different kinds of associations to advance the work of the church and the common good.

The council sought to underscore the authority of bishops while at the same time making its exercise less authoritarian; it sought to do the same for priests and to indicate ways to better their relationship both to their bishop and to their flocks. For bishops, priests, and everybody in authority, it proposed and tried to make appealing the ideal of the servant-leader. It reaffirmed a place for Aquinas in the curriculum of seminaries but laid down a program in which Scripture would hold a newly central role because it was "the soul of all theology." It confirmed the utility and legitimacy of using modern methods in the study of the Bible. It recommended that seminarians, especially those in the "new churches," study in close contact with the way of life of their own people. For all seminaries it above all insisted that greater attention be given to the spiritual development of the students.

It condemned anti-Semitism and deplored displays of it "at any time and from whatever source." It similarly condemned all forms of discrimination and harassment "on the basis of race, color, condition in life, or religion." It called upon Catholics to participate in the ecumenical movement and to cooperate with persons of other faiths (or of no faith) in all enterprises geared to the common good. It allowed Catholics under certain circumstances to participate in worship services with members of other religions. It supplied the impetus for later official dialogues of the Catholic Church with other churches.

Vatican II was unprecedented in the history of councils for the notice it took of changes in society at large and for its refusal to see them in globally negative terms as devolutions from an older and happier era, despite the fact that the council met just shortly after the bloodiest half-century in the history of the human race. It recognized that a profound shift in human awareness was taking place in the substitution of a dynamic and more evolutionary concept of nature for a static one. Furthermore, it recognized that this changing situation raised new problems that the church and society at large had to face. The church, it made clear, is in the modern world -- not above it, not below it, not for it, not against it. Therefore, like everybody else in the world, the church must assume its share of responsibility for the well-being of the world, not simply denounce what it finds wrong.

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The style is thus values-expressive. In passage after passage values appreciative of "the other," for instance, mark the discourse of the council, as when the declaration On Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, speaks of Hinduism and Buddhism: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines that, although differing in many ways from her own, nevertheless often reflect the ray of the truth that enlightens all human beings."

The familiar passage on conscience in the constitution "On the Church in the Modern World" takes us into another aspect of the style shift, which emphasizes obedience not to external authority but to a higher norm:

Deep within their consciences men and women discover a law that they have not laid upon themselves but which they must obey. Its voice, ever calling them to love and to do what is good and to avoid what is evil, tells them inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For they have in their hearts a law inscribed by God. Their dignity lies in observing this law, and by it they will be judged. ... By conscience that law is made known in a wonderful way that is fulfilled in love for God and for one's neighbor. Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined to others in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems that arise both in the lives of individuals and in social relationships.

Consonant with obeying the dictates of one's conscience is the political freedom that allows one to do so. Thus such freedom enters into the vocabulary of Vatican II as a good to be cherished and secured, as the opening words of the declaration On Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, enjoin:

The dignity of the human person is a concern of which people of our time are becoming increasingly more aware. In growing numbers people demand that they should enjoy the use of their own responsible judgment and freedom and decide on their actions on grounds of duty and conscience, without external pressure or coercion. They also urge that bounds be set to government by law, so that the limits of reasonable freedom should not be too tightly drawn for persons or for social groups. This demand in human society for freedom is chiefly concerned with the values of the human spirit, above all with the free and public practice of religion.

Not alienation from others but a search for communion with them, a quest for mutual understanding, and the prospect of working together for the common good -- all great themes of the council -- are powerfully suggested by the opening words of the constitution On the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes: "The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men and women of our times, especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and affliction of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts."