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We have considered the two schemata adopted by the Vatican Council: The Constitution on the Liturgy andThe Decree on the Communications Media. There remain fifteen additional schemata which have either been discussed or await treatment, but which have not yet been officially adopted. These schemata contain material, the adoption or rejection of which will have a marked effect on the Romish Church not only, but also upon the ecumenical movement of our day. The Rev. H. Hanko has been calling our attention to some of the past developments, and doubtless he will continue to do so as the council progresses. It would be very worthwhile to watch future developments. 

I cannot discuss the remaining schemata in detail. I, have in my possession only brief summaries of them. The present texts are subject to much revision before final adoption, and, as far as I know, are not available to the general public. However, I would like to point out the unfinished business of the council, and the problems which arise in connection with it. I wish to do this particularly with the four schemata which have been introduced upon the floor of the council either in its first or second sessions. 

ON DIVINE REVELATION 

This schema, numbered One, was on the floor of the first session of the council. It was returned to a special mixed commission after a vote barely failed to reject it. It did not reappear in the second session. In light of the contents, it is questionable whether this schema will be adopted. The schema faces the opposition of Roman Catholics who fear that tradition might be minimized as a source of Divine Revelation, and opposition of those seeking closer union with Protestants who reject tradition as a source of Divine Revelation. Summarizing the schema, the Denver Catholic Register declared:

This schema treats Revelation and ran afoul in debate as to whether there are two separate sources of Revelation—Scripture and Tradition, each containing a part of the deposit of faith. Some commentators say such an interpretation would be a misuse of the formula used by the Council of Trent, and would alienate Protestants.20

THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH

The second schema, The Nature of the Church, was rejected for discussion at the first session, but a revised version was accepted for discussion by a vote of 2,231 to 43. No action on the text or amendments (at least 1,500 of which were presented) has been reported. This schema is a long way from final adoption; and many “liberal” Roman Catholics despair of it ever receiving final approval. In its five chapters, there are at least three items which are rather controversial in the Romish Church: the place of “non- Catholic Christians” in the scheme of God’s Church; the relationship of bishops to the pope; and the role of Mary in the redemptive plan of God. 

The first chapter, discussing the “Mystery of the Church,” describes the “Church as the People of God, and establishes a basic equality of all believers. The place of non-Catholics is discussed.”20 An affirmative decision on this subject could greatly affect the position of the Romish Church on mixed marriages as well as its contact and fellowship with other church groups. A favorable decision would surely forward the drive of ecumenicism. 

The second chapter. is of especial interest to Roman Catholics not only, but also to Protestants who desire the dogma of “papal infallibility” to be further defined and limited in order thus to remove one old hindrance to closer contact with the Roman Catholic Church. “In this chapter, arose discussion of the ‘collegiality of Bishops’—that is, the participation of the Bishops in governing the whole Church as a body in conjunction with the Supreme Bishop—the Pope.”20 The chapter does not change nor deny “papal infallibility,” but its final adoption would remove much of the power of the Curia (the offices and persons the pope uses in expressing his supreme and universal authority) and invest this power rather in the local Bishop. The powerful Curia, of course, opposes such a course, and in its strategic position, has so far been able to block final approval of the “collegiality of Bishops.” The majority of the members of the council plainly approve the granting of more authority to the Bishops. Votes were taken on various questions concerning this subject. The votes strongly favored “collegiality.” These votes were not final and official approval of this chapter, but only “pilot” votes taken to indicate the mind of the council in order to guide the Theological Commission in revising this chapter. The votes revealed the following (affirmative votes given first):

That Episcopal consecration is the highest grade of the Sacrament of Holy Orders—2,123-34; 

That every Bishop who is in union with all the Bishops and the Pope belongs to the body or college of Bishops—2,049-104; 

That the college of Bishops succeeds the college of Apostles and, together with the Pope, has full and supreme power over the whole Church—1,808-336; 

That the college of Bishops, in union with the Pope, has this power by divine right—1,717-408; 

That the diaconate should be restored as a distinct and permanent rank in the sacred ministry—1,588-525.20

Despite the favorable vote, “liberal” Roman Catholics fear that action will be blocked by the powerful minority who oppose the contents of this chapter. Roman Catholic magazines in our country commented as follows:

Another issue has already been raised, and it will be more urgent as the discussions move on. I mean the question of the relation between the Petrine office—the office, committed to Peter by Christ and continued in the papal office—and the united Episcopal college. This issue is of vast theological difficulty, and it is not likely that the Council will give it any definitive solution. . . .21 

. . . Although the notable vote of October 30 on Chapter three of e& Ecclesia saw the bishops affirm four points leading toward a theory of collegiality, neither the Fathers nor the Pope followed through with any decisive action. . . .22

The third and fourth chapters treat various questions concerning the position of the laity in the church, and a call to them unto greater holiness. There is evidently an attempt made to raise the lay person in the Romish Church to “full-fledged” membership. 

The fifth chapter will, if adopted, be the most disturbing to Protestants. This chapter, “On the Blessed Virgin Mary,” resulted “from a vote to incorporate a separate schema on the topic as, part of this schema on the Church. The vote 1,114-1,074 was only 17 over the required 50 per cent. The chapter treats Mary’s role in the redemptive plan of God.”20

The Roman (Catholic Church has adopted long ago the idea of the “Immaculate Conception” of the Virgin Mary, that is, that she is born without the original sin of Adam, and also that she remained sinless throughout her entire life on earth. This church has also adopted the dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven. There has been in the past, and remains today, strong agitation to assign now to Mary a certain role in the redemption of the Church. It will prove interesting to observe what will be decided. The “liberals” oppose any new statement concerning Mary for fear of antagonizing the church groups with which they desire closer contact. It would appear unlikely that this chapter will be adopted both because its adoption would meet with much Protestant criticism and because many in the Roman Catholic Church are not ready to speak of Mary’s redemptive role. Such statement, however, is but a natural development in the heresies which have evolved around the person of Mary in the Romish Church.

BISHOPS AND DlOCESAN GOVERNMENT 

This is the fourth schema presented to the council. It was accepted for discussion by a vote of 1,610 to 477. There was no action reported on texts or amendments. The schema is divided into four chapters and speaks of the authority and power of bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. It suggests a “national conference of bishops” to handle local problems. It proposes that dioceses (the district over which a bishop has authority) be “neither too large nor too small.” Roman Catholic comment on this schema is:

“An unhappy schema,” said Archbishop Leo Binz, St. Louis. 

Some Bishops charged the schema had been tampered with since its completion in March, 1963; others said only the Bishops and experts in Rome were invited to review it. The schema was also criticized for regarding the powers of Bishops as concessions rather than rights and for disregarding the sentiment in favor of the idea of “collegiality of Bishops.”20

ECUMENISM 

Schema five on Ecumenism probably aroused more discussion and comment within and outside of the council than any of the other schemata. Except for the last two of its five chapters, it was approved for discussion by a vote of 1,996 to 86. No final action on the schema nor on its amendments was taken. The chapters on religious liberty and relations with the Jews (which gave rise to most of the discussion) were not voted upon in the second session. 

The first chapter treats the “principles of Catholic Ecumenism.” It declares Peter and his successors “to preside over the college of his brethren, to confirm them in the faith, and to feed the entire flock in perfect unity.” It acknowledges that separated Churches (i.e., those other than Roman Catholic) do have a certain “efficacy derived from the fullness of grace and truth . . .” with the result that “the spirit of Christ . . . does not refuse to use such Churches as means to salvation.” The chapter appears to moderate the old Romish view that salvation was to be found in the Roman Catholic Church alone, and here concedes that there is the possibility of salvation apart from the Roman Catholic Church. However, concludes the chapter, separated brethren do not enjoy “that unity which Jesus Christ wishes to lavish upon all those whom He regenerated and vivified into one body and in newness of life.”20 

The second chapter treats the “Practice of Ecumenism.” It suggests guidelines for Roman Catholics who desire to encourage and join in the ecumenical movement. It approves, for instance, ecumenical prayer meetings, but does not allow Roman Catholics “to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Eucharist in common” with those outside of the Romish Church. It suggests to its members that to learn “to know one another better” can open de way to Christian unity.20 Incidentally, though the schema has not yet been finally adopted and promulgated, some of the above suggestions are already being followed, especially the “learning to know one another better.” Reports are frequently seen, since the Vatican Council began; of certain Protestant groups meeting with their Roman Catholic counterparts to discuss differences and to seek a common ground of fellowship?

The third chapter “pledges an effort to tear down the wall between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Rome.” It further declares concerning Protestants that they are “true brothers of ours (who,) can live by the charity of Christ and can be elevated by supernatural gifts.”20 Very obviously Rome is seeking to realize a one-world church—on its own terms. 

The fourth chapter, widely discussed and criticized, is summarized as follows by the Roman Catholic press:

In discussing Relations of Catholics to the Jews, Chapter 4 applies the principles of Catholic ecumenism to all who worship God and are at least trying in good will to observe the moral law. The chapter reiterates the historic ties of the Church to the Jews, and calls the Church “the continuation of that people with whom God of old in His ineffable mercy deigned to make His ‘Old Covenant.'” It is this chapter that rejects the idea that the Jews as a race killed the God-Man and are therefore accursed.20

In a concluding article, I wish next time to show the objections raised against de chapter, and also the concern expressed by Roman Catholic leaders in this country because of the obvious intent of a minority in Rome to prevent the approval of this and the following chapter. 

—G.V.B.


20. Denver Catholic Register, supplement, Dec. 26, 1963, pgs. 1 and 2 

21. America, John Courtney Murray, S.J., Oct. 1963, p. 451 

22. The Commonweal, Dec. 27, 1963, p. 384