Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Fr. Komonchak's English translations of the original schemas of Vatican II

"Original Vatican II Schemas" (USC, 2014):
In the years leading up to the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII entrusted the preparation of the documents that would be discussed by the Council to a Preparatory Commission, headed by the venerable Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani. The Preparatory Commission ended up drafting a total of nine schemas on a variety of topics. It was these schemas that would be rejected by the Council Fathers are excessively rigid, condemnatory in tone, and too "Scholastic" in their style. The majority of the documents were rejected in favor of what have gone on to become the sixteen documents of Vatican II. Until recently, we in the English speaking world had no way to assess the alleged inferiority of Ottaviani's original schemas; we had to simply take the word of the Council Fathers and periti. Thankfully, however, in 2012 a priest of Marquette University, Fr. Joseph A. Komonchak, laboriously translated five of the nine schemas into English. We are happy to link Fr. Komonchak's excellent translations below.

Five of the nine schemas are available, with expansive footnotes and helpful commentary by Fr. Komonochak. The original Vatican II schemas available in English are:In reading these original schemas, one is struck by their clarity, their directness, and relative to the subsequent conciliar documents, their brevity. It is also interesting to see in what ways the content of these documents are notably different from the documents that were eventually promulgated. For example, "On the Sources of Revelation" states very plainly that there are two sources of revelation which constitute a single deposit of faith; Dei Verbum, on the other, is emphatic that there is but one source of revelation which is passed on in two modes of transmission.

The source material is interesting as well. An examination of the footnotes of the discarded schemas reveals an abundant number of citations from Pascendi, Mortalium Animos, the Syllabus and even the anti-Modernist oath, none of which are cited in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example.

The tone is markedly different; instead of the humble "searching for truth" [1] that we note in the conciliar documents, the original schemas lucidly and authoritatively proclaim the truth, as well as about the errors which pervert it. De fontibus revelationis, subject to so much scorn by the Council Fathers, issues several formal condemnations. In order to see the difference in tone between the two sets of documents, consider the first as passage from the schema "On the Christian Moral Order", paragraph 6:
"[The Church] grieves, however, that many people are transgressing the divine law, more from weakness than from wickedness, though rarely without grave guilt. It notes with great horror that errors are being spread everywhere, errors that open the way to perdition and close the gate of salvation. There are those who deny a personal God and so deprive the natural law of its foundation; there are those who, repudiating the mission of Christ, reject the law of the Gospel; there are those who rely only on human principles in explaining the moral order and therefore rob it of its genuine and ultimate obligation and sanction...Their impiety and impudence reach such a point that they attempt to assault heaven and to remove God himself from the midst. With notorious wickedness and equal foolishness they are not afraid to state that there is no supreme, most wise and most provident God distinct from the universe; there are those who maintain that the moral law is subject to changes and to evolution even in fundamental matters..."
Now compare this with a parallel passage from Gaudium et Spes chapter 21, also dealing with atheism:
"The Church calls for the active liberty of believers to build up in this world God's temple too. She courteously invites atheists to examine the Gospel of Christ with an open mind."
When the Council got underway, the progressive Council Fathers saw the schemas of Ottaviani as an obstacle to their program of reform. Cardinal Bea, one of the more influential Cardinals and a favorite of Pope John XXIII, explained to his progressive colleagues:
"We must help the Holy Father achieve his goals for the Council, the ones he expresses in his radio messages and in his exhortations. These are not the same as those of the schemas, either because the Theological Commission, which directs them, is closed to the world and to ideas of peace, justice, and unity, or because of the division of the work and a lack of co-ordination. They've made room for everything except the Holy Spirit." [2]
Thus, these schemas, which were 'closed to the world', were replaced with what we currently have, and the defects of which we are all well aware. As they were never adopted, these schemas have no authority; but in reading them, one cannot help but contemplating the council that might have been.

We do not know when and if the other four schemas will be translated by Fr. Komonochak, but we will post them here if they become available.


[1] This phrase comes from Amerio, Romano (1996). Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century.
[2] Fouilloux, Vatican II commence (Catholic Univ. of Louvain, 1993), pg. 72, note 56




Fascinating. Have long wanted to read these. I hadn't thought Komonchak was much of a big friend of conservatives, which adds to the intrigue.

I am not Spartacus


The Bishops at Vatican 1, similarly, ditched the vast majority of schemas the experts had drafted and it was the Bishops who forced the consideration of Infallibility.


I trust the world's Bishops far more than I trust the insular Curia

I am not Spartacus


O, another point. Vatican Two completed the work of the suspended Vatican I Council and so the Church can not and will not agree to the demands of not a few (including Fr Hunwicke, sadly) that we just ditch it/ignore it.

It settled theological questions that existed up to its completion - questions noted by Tanqueray, etc

Ralph Roister-Doister


"For example, 'On the Sources of Revelation' states very plainly that there are two sources of revelation which constitute a single deposit of faith; Dei Verbum, on the other, is emphatic that there is but one source of revelation which is passed on in two modes of transmission."

Yeh, and I just read a guy who says there are four modes of transmission. Why not?

The notion of organic change, and "growing" understandings of revealed truths, and understandings refined to address the "signs of the times": all of this empty verbal fog is needed to forestall accusations of apostasy, while pushing apostasy into the Big Tent. But crap is crap, even on Judgment Day -- especially on Judgment Day.

It is a "sign of the times" that a revisionist historian like Komonchak feels confident enough to make these translations available, thus refocusing attention on what was once a hot topic. After all, this is the same agenda-driven scholar who sought to sow confusion amongst the serfs by describing SSPX Catholics (ie, all of us before 1965) as "Pian modernists."



I trust the world's Bishops far more than I trust the insular Curia ...

Hmmm. I think I often may I trust the non-insular curia far more than I do the most of the world's Bishops. Just saying.