Monday, December 24, 2012

DECEMBER 1962 - 50 Years Later

Pope John XXIII Named
Time 's "Man of the Year"

The opening words of the U.S. newsweekly's announcement:

The Year of Our Lord 1962 was a year of American resolve, Russian orbiting, European union and Chinese war.
In a tense yet hope-filled time, these were the events that dominated conversation and invited history's scrutiny. But history has a long eye, and it is quite possible that in her vision 1962's most fateful rendezvous took place in the world's most famous church—having lived for years in men's hearts and minds.
That event was the beginning of a revolution in Christianity, the ancient faith whose 900 million adherents make it the world's largest religion...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

50 Years Later
December 1962




What was accomplished?


             At the end of the first session on December 8, Pope John XXIII said that “the first session was like a slow, solemn introduction to the great work of the Council … It was necessary for brothers, gathered from afar, to make each other’s closer acquaintance; it was necessary for them to look at each other squarely in order to understand each other’s hearts; and to describe their own experiences … under the most varied climates and circumstances, so that there could be a thoughtful interchange of views on pastoral matters.”

             The U.S. Bishops’ own Council Daybook  recalled this “human side of Council” – “Around 11 o’clock each morning, scenes develop in the side aisles of the basilica which - except for the purple robes and colored marbles - could be seen in the corridors and cloakrooms of the U.S. Senate…Clusters of Bishops engage in animated conversation, form, dissolve, reform with new members…in cloakroom and coffee lounge.” 

               During the first session, the 2,500 Bishops got to know one another, realizing the vastness and the vitality of Christ’s  Church throughout the world.


 What wasn’t accomplished?   

          None of the conciliar documents was ready for promulgation at the end of the first session. The Bishops decided that the schemata which had been prepared before the Council – for the most part by curial officials – did not reflect the pastoral style of the Council.

          One conciliar historian noted that:  “The German theologian Father Josef Ratzinger called the absence of any approved Council text before the end of the first session “the great, astonishing,  genuinely positive result of the first session.”  The fact that no text had gained approval was evidence, he said, of “the strong reaction against the spirit of the preparatory work.”  This he called “the truly epoch-making character of the Council’s  first session."

What were the plans for the second session?

       Pope John expected to call the Bishops back to Rome in early 1963.  There was need for more discussion on the Sacred Liturgy, the Sources of Revelation, the Role of Bishops, and the very nature of the Church itself.  If re-writing (in some cases),  amendments (to several decrees), and preparations for topics not yet addressed could go forward at a rapid pace, the Ecumenical Council might end at Christmas 1963, which would be precisely four hundred years after the Council of Trent.

        That schedule was to be changed, because of the sheer magnitude of the work to be done – and because of Pope John’s failing health.  After the first session, the Bishops returned to their dioceses “changed men”;  when they returned to Rome,  they would find dramatic changes, including a new Pope – who would commit himself to the ongoing work of the Second Vatican Council.    

                                                                                                  (Coming Next:  June 1963 – The Death of Pope John, the Election of Pope Paul)

- Monsignor John T. Myler

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This Week at Vatican II  
          – Fifty Years Later

             December 1962



               In the 19th century, during the months leading up to the First Vatican Council, Blessed Pope Pius IX wrote to all the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church; they were informed that, if they “ended their separation” from the Roman Catholic Church, they would be welcomed at Vatican I – as full, validly ordained and consecrated Bishops.  During the same days in 1868, Pius IX issued a call to Protestant leaders and their people “to return to the Catholic Church,” ending their visible separation from Catholic unity.   Both the Orthodox and the Protestants were offended by the wording of the appeals. Neither group participated in the First Vatican Council.

               Nearly a century later, before Vatican II convened, Blessed Pope John XXIII –  with talents he had honed from years in diplomacy --- invited Orthodox and Protestant “observers” to the Council.  He joyfully welcomed them to the First Session -- the first time a Pope had ever met collectively with a group with non-Catholic representatives, including:

(Among the Orthodox:)

Patriarchate of Moscow

Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria 
Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch      

Ethiopian Church                             

Armenian Catholicate of Cilicia     

Russian Church in exile                   

(Among the Protestants:)

Anglican Union

Lutheran Federation

Presbyterian Alliance

German Evangelical Church

Disciples of Christ       

World Methodist Council

            Pope John had appointed the German Jesuit, Augustine Cardinal Bea, to be president of a new “Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.”  Cardinal Bea, although seventy-nine years old, was a professor and Biblical scholar – and the “Biblical Movement” of the 20th century had often been a “meeting point” for Catholics and Protestants. Cardinal Bea welcomed the observers  with the words: “Instead of a long listing of your titles, which I certainly do respect, please allow me to address you with these simple but so profound words:

            ‘My Brothers in Christ.’”

            In a moving response, Dr. Edmund Schlink, a Lutheran professor from Heidelburg University, said that Pope John “by the initiative of his heart has created a new atmosphere of openness in regard to the non-Roman churches.”

            After six weeks, the distinguished professor Oscar Cullmann of the Universities of Basel and Paris explained to the press that the invited Observers had received all the Council texts, attended all General Congregations, could make their views known at weekly meetings of the Secretariat, and had personal contact with the Bishops and their periti --  “daily reveal(ing) to us how truly we are drawn closer together.”

            However, in “The Rhine flows into the Tiber”, historian R. M. Wiltgen recalls: “Professor Cullman also pointed out that mistaken conclusions were being drawn from the presence of the Observers … among both Catholics and Protestants who appeared to think that the purpose of the Council was to bring about union between the Catholic and other Christian churches.  That was not the immediate purpose of the Council, he said, and he feared that many such people would be disillusioned when, after the end of the Council, they found that the Churches remained distinct.”
Next Week: The End of the First Session
- Monsignor John T. Myler

              -- Fifty Years Later 

               November 1962

Prophetic About Social Communications

                 Inter mirificaAmong the wonderful technological discoveries which men of talent, especially in the present era, have made with God's help, the Church welcomes and promotes with special interest those …which have uncovered new avenues of communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort.”

               During the first session of Vatican II – in late November, 1962 -- the Council Fathers began discussion of the schema on the modern means of social communications.  Over three days, more than 50 Council Fathers made interventions about the text prepared by the “Commission on the Apostolate of the Laity, the Press and Information Media.”  Additionally, proposals on the entertainment media had been drawn up by Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, the rector of the North American College in Rome, who had served since the late 1940’s as president of the Pontifical Commission for Radio, Television and Motion Pictures.

               No previous Council had discussed such a topic.  Each Bishop received a copy of the proposed document, which consisted of four parts:
--- The Church’s doctrine on the subject
--- The media as a help to the apostolate

--- Disciplinary norms of the Church

--- Each of the major media: the press / cinema / radio and television

In their discussion, the Bishops spoke very favorably of the schema and the importance of the Church’s use, cooperation with – and, in some cases – regulation of the modern means of social communications.

               The Council Fathers agreed that these media could be of help in transmitting the Gospel message to all parts of the world;  ecumenical and inter-religious messages of peace, justice and human dignity could also be universally spread.  Nevertheless, the Church had a responsibility to see that “such a vast force will not be abandoned to evil.” 


               Among the suggestions was the institution of an office in the Vatican – or an expansion of Archbishop O’Connor’s  commission – which would “have the task of creating an official organization on an international, national, and diocesan basis for the communications media and for the purpose of forming and informing the public opinion.”


                Trained members of the Catholic laity had expertise in these fields.  Yet clergy and religious should also be given at least some training in the media, for as the Swiss Bishop Francois Charriere pointed out, Christianity is indeed a “revealed” religion.  By the time of the Council’s second session, the decree on social communications would be ready.                    

               In 1962, there was no Internet…no “emails” or “texting”…no “cable news”…no “blogs” or “instant messaging”… but the Council Fathers saw that new ways of communicating could be – for the Church and for the world -- a gift from God for the good of mankind. 


(Next Week: Observers)

-- Monsignor John T. Myler


Sunday, November 18, 2012

November, 1962 - 50 Years Later

           Eminent historians of the Second Vatican Council agree that “the week of November 14 – 21, 1962, which was devoted to discussion of the schema on the sources of Divine Revelation, represented a turning point that was decisive for the future of the Council and therefore for the future of the Church itself.”

          The discussion was about God’s revealing Himself to us:  Are Scripture and Tradition two separate, independent sources of Divine Revelation?  Or are these “two sources” an inseparable whole transmitted to God’s people generation after generation?

          The U.S. Bishops’ “Council Daybook” explained that four hundred years earlier, the Fathers at the Council of Trent had spoken of a “unique fount” of Revelation;  in the period after Trent, the term “two sources of Revelation” came into use among Catholic theologians during the time when they were defending tradition against the attacks of Protestants who put all their faith in “sola scriptura” – the Bible alone.

                Keeping in mind the ecumenical implications of the doctrine, some of the Bishops at Vatican II wanted an answer to the question: Are Scripture and Tradition to be considered two distinct sources – or a single source considered in two manifestations?

                At the same time, other Bishops (and some theologians) stated that the study and development of the doctrine on Revelation had not sufficiently matured and the time was not right for a doctrinal decision on the matter.

                Yet theologians and Council periti (experts) such as Frs. Yves Congar, Karl Raher and Edward Schillebeeckx  maintained it was clear that Scripture and Tradition cannot be separated from one another; rather – as God’s Revelation of Himself to the world -- they complement one another.  Congar emphatically stated:  There is not a single dogma which the Church holds by Scripture alone, not a single dogma which it holds by Tradition alone.”

                How could this Divine gift to the Church be stated clearly for the modern world?

                After a week of many interventions and inconclusive votes, the Council neared the point of a doctrinal “impasse”.  Would the document de fontibus revelationibus be discussed further? Or be amended considerably?  Or be rejected completely?

                On November 21, Pope John XXIII intervened.

                Archbishop Pericle Felici announced that the Pope had followed the debates closely – and recognized the truth in both propositions: that Scripture and Tradition appear as two sources of Faith, but that they stand side-by-side as the Church’s Tradition explains Sacred Scripture.  More prolonged discussions, tenacious and unproductive, would not clarify the matter. Therefore, according to Pope John’s wishes, a separate commission of eight Cardinals would be established to put the teaching in a clearer, more acceptable form.  In addition to the Cardinals, experts from the Theological Commission and the Secretariat for Christian Unity would assist.

                Their task was to explicitly restate the relationship of Scripture to Tradition – but to do so more concisely; to bring out the teachings of Trent and Vatican I; and not so much to “defend against error” as to speak positively and confidently.    

                From this “turning point”, it would take several more sessions and over two more years to produce the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, “Dei Verbum.”
(Next Week: Observers at the Council)
                                                                                             -- Monsignor John T. Myler

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 11, 1962 – Fifty Years Later

          The purpose of the Sacred Liturgy is to give glory to God (sometimes referred to as a vertical orientation).  The purpose of the Liturgical Renewal would be pastoral: so that people could better understand the Word of God and share more fully in His sacrificial banquet (a horizontal element).  This dynamic tension was present even prior to the Second Vatican Council.

          In February 1962 – just eight months before the Council’s opening – Pope John had issued an Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia maintaining that Latin should be used in the training of seminarians.  No professors or instructors, “moved by an inordinate desire for novelty, (should) write against the use of Latin either in the teaching of the sacred disciplines or in the sacred rites of the liturgy.”  Many thought this signaled the end of any discussion about the using the vernacular at Mass.

          Yet, a few months later in April 1962, the Vatican Congregation for Rites issued a decree that, all over the world, the prayers and blessings of the baptismal rite could be pronounced in the vernacular (except for the baptismal words themselves -- “Ego te baptizo…”). This more widespread use of the vernacular seemed particularly pastoral; parts of the rite could be used to instruct the people gathered for Baptism.


         During October and into November, the Council Fathers openly discussed the language of the Liturgy and the Sacraments.  Over eighty Bishops made “interventions” about the use of Latin and the vernacular languages.


         The Melchite Patriarch of Antioch – the venerable eighty-four year old Maximos IV Saigh – spoke in French (not the usual Latin) to the Council Fathers:  “Christ Himself had spoken the language of his contemporaries and He offered the first Eucharistic Sacrifice in a language which could be understood by all who heard Him, namely, Aramaic.”  He explained that, in the East, “every language is liturgical, since the Psalmist says, ‘Let all peoples praise the Lord.’ Therefore man must praise God, announce the Gospel, and offer sacrifice in every language.”


          The reaction of the gathered Bishops – from both East and West -- was very positive.


          Speaking in his own name and those of several other Council Fathers (including several Americans), Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani – the head of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office – appealed to the Latin language’s antiquity, universality, theological precision and sign of unity.  Latin – he said -- should continue to be the language of the Liturgy, and the vernacular should be used only for instructions and certain prayers.  Are we seeking to stir up wonder or perhaps scandal among the people by introducing changes in so venerable a rite, that has been approved for so many centuries…? The rite of Holy Mass should not be treated as if it were a piece of cloth to be refashioned according to the whim of each generation.”


          Sadly, because of partial blindness, the elderly Cardinal Ottaviani did not see the signal to finish his talk after 10 minutes nor did he hear the instruction to stop. His microphone was turned off in mid-sentence.  Some of the Bishops applauded.


          Giovanni Cardinal Montini of Milan spoke as a mediator between opposing points of view.  He maintained that changes should not be introduced “on a whim” because the Liturgy is of both divine and human origin; yet the rites were not completely unalterable.  “Latin should be retained,” he proposed, “in those parts of the rite that are sacramental and, in the true sense of the word, priestly.”   Without discarding the beauty and the sense of the sacred and while retaining their symbolic power, “the rites should be reduced to a simpler, more easily understood form – eliminating what is repetitious and over-complicated”.


          The fervent discussion of the Sacred Liturgy – the “vertical” and “horizontal” dimensions truly forming a cross -- would continue into the Council’s Second Session, by which time Montini would be Pope Paul VI.           


(Next Week: The Sources of Revelation)                    Monsignor John T. Myler

Thursday, October 25, 2012

 Fifty Years Later

          Never before in the long history of the Church’s twenty ecumenical, world-wide Councils, had five Popes – present and future -- been gathered together in one Council aula.
          They were present in St. Peter’s Basilica during Vatican II’s first session (October to December, 1962) : the Pope who called the Council; the Cardinal who would be elected Pope and bring the Council to its completion; two diocesan Bishops who would also become Popes; and a young priest-theologian who, fifty years later, presides as Pope over a “Year of Faith” to commemorate the Council.
         Pope John XXIII (Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli) was nearly 77 years old when elected Pope in 1958. Thought to be a mere “care-taker”, he stunned the Church when – within the first 100 days of his papacy -- he called for a Council. Born to poor parents in a small village, one of 13 children, he was ordained in 1904, serving as his Bishop’s secretary and as a chaplain in the Italian army. A scholar of Church history, he became head of the Propagation of the Faith in Italy and, beginning in 1925, spent nearly three decades as a diplomat of the Holy See to Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, and finally France. In 1953, Pope Pius XII created him Cardinal Patriarch of Venice. He succeeded Pius as Pope, his papacy lasting only four – eventful -- years. Acclaimed for his “goodness”, he was beatified -- as Blessed John XXIII -- in the year 2000.
           Giovanni Battista Cardinal Montini, Archbishop of Milan, was born in 1897, ordained in 1920, and – always in frail health - spent almost his entire priesthood in the Roman Curia, working closely with Pope Pius XII. While in Milan, he was created the “first” Cardinal of John XXIII, and succeeded him in 1963 – taking the name Pope Paul VI. Montini had been an important figure at the Council’s first session (John XXIII kept him close, with residence in the Papal apartments) and Papa Montini guided the Council’s last three sessions. Sometimes described as “Hamlet-like”, he was perhaps too quickly and unfairly berated for his 1968 encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (On Human Life). Paul died in 1978 –after 15 years as Pope.
Bishop Albino Luciani was, in 1962, the 50-year-old Bishop of Vittorio-Venetto. Consecrated a Bishop by Pope John himself, he had been a professor, pastor and catechist; he urged the Council to preserve “the fundamental elements of the Faith.” At 57, he became the Patriarch of Venice and, as Cardinal, he was elected to succeed Pope Paul on August 26, 1978, taking the names of his two predecessors as Pope John Paul I. Known as “the smiling Pope,” he held that “the Church that comes out of the Council is still the same as it was yesterday, but renewed. No one can ever say ‘We have a new Church, different from what it was’”. He died on September 28, 1978 – Pope for only 33 days.
           Auxiliary Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow participated in the first three sessions, returning for the fourth as a young Archbishop. A very active Council Father, he took part in the debates and in the writing of the decrees Lumen Gentium (“The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”) and Gaudium et Spes (“The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”). He returned to his native Poland – formerly under Nazism and then under Communism - and set about implementing the Conciliar decrees. He was created a Cardinal by Paul VI; after the sudden death of John Paul I, Wojtyla was elected the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. As Pope John Paul II he proclaimed, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” During his 26-year pontificate, he became a pilgrim throughout the world. He promulgated a “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, which included the teaching of the Council. John Paul “the Great” died in 2005 and was beatified in 2011.
Father Josef Ratzinger – 35 year old German priest and professor of dogmatic theology -- was the main peritus (expert) to Cardinal Frings of Cologne and, like Cardinal Wojtyla, was a major influence on the writing of several of the Council documents. A decade after the Council, he was called away from academia to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, and then called to Rome in 1981 to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, working closely with John Paul II for over 20 years. At age 78, he was elected Pope, taking the name Benedict XVI. His vision of the Council is the Church’s “renewal and continuity” (rather than its “discontinuity and rupture”) -- the Church which “grows in time and develops, remaining however always the same, the one People of God on their way.”
           With that understanding of ecclesial continuity, one might say they were “all” present at Vatican II: Pius XII… Pius XI … Benedict XV … Pius X … Leo XIII … Pius IX … back to Trent … to Ephesus … to Peter and Paul meeting in Jerusalem.

          -- Monsignor John T. Myler
October 1962

Early Discussion on the Sacred Liturgy

      Near the end of October, 1962, the very first general topic taken up by the Council Fathers was the Sacred Liturgy, discussing an early draft of the document which would eventually become known as Sacrosanctum Concilium.

     On each Council day, always beginning at 9 AM, as many as two dozen Bishops would speak (for a maximum of 10 minutes each). During the early discussions on the Liturgy, various Bishops could be heard giving brief addresses -- called interventions, some of which were submitted as written, rather than oral texts -- requesting that:

• local languages should be used instead of Latin in the teaching parts of the Mass
• the Scriptural texts proclaimed at Mass should be more varied
• the laity of the Latin Rite should be able to receive Holy Communion under the appearance of both bread and wine
• there should be a wider provision for priests to concelebrate Masses

      In historical perspective, these proposed liturgical changes were not impulsive and revolutionary – but had been preceded throughout the 20th century by both papal initiatives and liturgical scholarship. A “Liturgical Movement” which began during the 19th-century among Benedictine monks in France, slowly spread to other monasteries and countries. Some of the reforms proposed by this movement received papal support, especially from Popes St. Pius X and Pius XII. Always in fidelity to the Church, liturgical scholars attempted to share the profound meaning of various rites – especially the Mass – with the laity, leading to the publication of missals, scholarly and popular journals, a rediscovery of authentic Church music, even national “liturgical congresses.”

      As late as1948, Pius XII had convened a Commission for the Reform of the Liturgy; a newly-revised Holy Week liturgy was im¬ple¬mented in 1955 – a fruit of the “liturgical movement” – of which most Catholics were unaware.

      So, while there was indeed serious debate in the Council aula regarding proposed liturgical changes, these were not new, unheard of suggestions. Speaking to reporters in the Council press center, Fr. Hermann Schmidt, SJ (of the Gregorian University) and Fr. Frederick McManus (of the Catholic University of America) summarized the discussion with two deeper questions: “First, whether the texts and rites should be changed to express more clearly the divine things they signify, paving the way to full, actual, and community participation; and second, how the liturgy could be an effective influence on society, not divorced from modern civilization and the existing social situation.”

      They hoped that the liturgy of the monasteries would find its way into the cathedrals and parish churches. renewal of the Divine Office and of the Psalter were also Conciliar topics, along with a discussion of liturgical needs in mission lands.

      The Council discussions on the Sacred Liturgy would continue for more than a year. As one observer on Catholics in American culture later noted, “Perhaps more dramatically than any other decree issuing from the Council, the decree (on the liturgy) would touch the folks in the pews in immediate and understandable ways.”

      As the Council Fathers entered a brief recess from November 1st to 4th – to observe the traditional days of All Saints and All Souls, and in observance of the 4th anniversary of John XXIII’s papacy – a “renewed” liturgy was surely in their thoughts. Fidelity, the place of Sacred Scripture, heart-felt reverence, a “ressourcement” (the study of Patristics, the teaching of the early Fathers of the Church), and the recent “Liturgical Movement” would all be factors in a reformed liturgy.

      There would be renewal – yet it was surely intended to be renewal within tradition.

(Next Week:  Five Popes at One Council)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 21, 1962 – Fifty Years Later


        Press coverage of the first Council in nearly a century was a challenge for the hundreds of journalists who had been assigned to Rome -- and for the Church itself.

       “The first few days of the Council sessions (mid- October of 1962) were hectic and frustrating experiences for the press and media.  The correspondents who came to Rome were at a loss on how to report the happenings of each day.  The journalists were informed that texts of what was said by the various speakers were unavailable,” reported Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste of Belleville, IL, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Communications Committee.  Additionally, some writers mistakenly expected an “ecumenical” Council to include the equal participation of non-Catholics.

        Many Council Fathers from European nations sent weekly newsletters to the their diocesan papers, but “the U.S. Bishops’ ‘Press Panel’, sponsored by the hierarchy of the United States, was the answer to the appeal of newsmen for a competent and reliable source of information.”

        The Press Panel was set up by the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC, later called the NCCB, and today the USCCB – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).  The committee for the Press Panel was chaired by Bishop Zuroweste who, as a priest, had been editor of his diocesan newspaper.  The press met almost daily with the panel’s priest-experts in theology, scripture, ecumenism, canon law, liturgy and church history – among them young Father William Keeler of Harrisburg, PA (later Bishop there, eventually Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore).

      Newsweek and Time reporters stated: “Nothing can substitute for interviews for more accurate reporting…What the press needs is access to Bishops and theologians who can speak frankly about the great event (of the Council).”

        One American Redemptorist, Fr. Francis X. Murphy - writing under the pseudonym “Xavier Rhynne” – sent periodic reports to The New Yorker magazine.  His unofficial, behind-the-scenes commentaries were called “frank, and sometimes irreverent”, perhaps too simplistic in labeling “progressives” and “conservatives” -- but were very popular.

       Pope John XXIII, at an audience for 807 international journalists, urged the press to stress the religious aspects of the Council.  Gathered in the Sistine Chapel with the huge throng of reporters (some of whom had not been inside a Church for a long time), the Pope asked for their “loyal cooperation in presenting this great event in its true colors … (not) more concerned with speed than accuracy”, nor “more interested in the ‘sensational’ than in the objective truth.”

        “You will be able to see and to report the true motives which inspire the Church’s action in the world.”

        During these October days, the attention of millions of people was focused on a Cuban missile crisis between the US and the USSR; historical research has shown that, diplomatically, John XXIII played no small part in averting nuclear war.  The missile crisis was likely in the Pope’s thoughts, as he urged the members of the press to work for “the interior disarmament which is the necessary condition for the establishment of true peace on this earth.”
(Next week: The Sacred Liturgy – First Topic)