Here I explore the notes made by the French theologian Henri de Lubac as he prepared for and participated in the Second Vatican Council. I will gradually add revealing excerpts and comments from successive stages of de Lubac’s involvement. Each stage will be linked below. They will be announced in City Gates as they are added.
- Theological Background
- Preparing for the Council: Highlights through the end of 1961 (presented 5/1/2015)
- Final Preparations: Highlights from 1962 until the Council opened on October 11th (presented 5/8/2015)
- Early Weeks of the Council (presented 5/26/2015)
- Discussing Revelation: Mid-November 1962 (presented 6/15/2015)
- De Lubac’s Closing Chapter: The End of 1962 (presented 8/18/2015)
I’ve been wondering how to handle the decision of Ignatius Press to publish the notebooks kept by Henri de Lubac, SJ on his participation in the Second Vatican Council. Volume I has been released, which covers de Lubac’s observations between July 25, 1960 and September 2, 1963.
In printed form, these observations run to nearly 500 pages, and they include everything from physical descriptions of people he met to brief points of analysis concerning key issues facing the Council. To comb the text searching for particular information would be difficult, and to read the whole thing slowly enough to take my own notes would be unlikely to repay the effort.
And yet de Lubac (1896 - 1991) is a pivotal figure in Catholic theology in the mid-20th century, a man unwillingly locked in a battle on two fronts. On the one side were the largely misguided systematic Thomists who dominated the Roman Curia, expending great energy to secure condemnations of every insight that did not fit conveniently into their own excessively abstract system—almost a philosophy rather than a theology, and increasingly divorced from the sources of theology in Scripture and the Fathers. On the other roamed the Modernists, rapidly rising to leadership in the Jesuit Order and elsewhere, who for many good reasons distrusted the narrow establishment in Rome, but who spiraled into an unbridled secularism which has seriously undermined the Faith.
So some notice must be taken of this new and important resource for understanding the questions, problems, personalities, and even hostile forces surrounding the work of the Council. What I have decided to do, therefore, is read through the notebooks at my leisure, mostly for enjoyment, marking brief passages which shed light on issues of continuing importance. Then, in a series of “interventions” of my own (not to the body of bishops but to my readers in this space), I will present and sometimes comment on what I have found to be of special interest.
To make things easier for readers, who will have to digest this material in fits and starts according to my own schedule, I will use internal links which lead to the beginning of each new and dated addition of highlights. In addition, italics will be used to indicate my own comments. Paragraphs in regular type are de Lubac’s own words. But before I begin to notice the most interesting aspects of the notebooks, I will offer just a little bit of background.
Theological Background [top]
I have already traced in the introduction the broad outline of the theological controversy which afflicted the Church for a generation or two before the Second Vatican Council. This was an age of religious formalism, very frequently affecting not only theological thought, but a common attitude toward the life of faith, personal piety, and liturgy. As an historian, I would suggest that three powerful influences contributed to the problem.
A purely theological influence would be the tendency of the followers of St. Thomas Aquinas to devote themselves to extending his theological system through logical reasoning on previously established points, rather than taking the kind of fresh look at the Christian sources which always characterized the method of St. Thomas himself. This insistence that everything be derived from and fit into a particular system was rendered even more problematic by the fact that much of the system building was based on the initial commentaries by major early figures like Cardinal Cajetan, who—on a number of key points—simply misunderstood Thomas’ thought.
A more immediate historical influence might be attributed to the two world wars of the twentieth century. Throughout the West, people came to have a profound respect for military precision and obedience, and all the habits of thought associated with soldiering. Those who can remember the 1950s will remember a society still interested in precise dress, short military hair cuts, and punctilious manners when it came to rank, not to mention the need to concern oneself primarily with one’s own duties, while accepting unquestionably the larger decisions of authority. This lent the entire culture a quality of systemic formalism.
A far broader influence was the long, slow secularization of Western civilization, so that by the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, much had been drained away from the heart of the Christian life. Increasingly, this life consisted of a series of virtuous habits shored up not so much by interior conviction as by social expectations devoid of active spiritual judgment. Every period has its own problems; remember that I am talking here about pervasive cultural trends. A common approach to the spiritual life in those days has been famously captured in a stock question which really was often asked: “Just tell me what I need to do to get to purgatory.” The first half of the twentieth century has been justly described as a period in which Catholicism tended to be lived “prescriptively”, with little immersion in the mystery of God’s life within.
Interestingly, some of the world’s best theologians from the 1930s through the 1950s began to see quite clearly that this prescriptivism was partly a response to the false view of the natural and the supernatural which characterized the reigning Thomist school. This school, which had enormous power in Rome, had concluded that there was a state of pure nature in which man was created and placed. Adherence to this concept was considered essential (which it was not) to protecting the idea that salvific grace is always gratuitous—that man cannot claim it as something he is owed.
It was actually de Lubac himself who struck the death blow to this naturalist error, and he did it partly through bypassing the schoolmen and going back to St. Thomas himself. De Lubac insisted (rightly) that the natural order must be understood not as a separate order but as a part of the overall order created by God, that is, as a component or aspect of a single supernatural order. Thus human nature is not in its essence cut off from grace; it is not isolated in a fundamentally different order of being. Rather, human nature has been created and formed such that each person who possesses it tends toward God, depends upon and is designed for receptivity to grace, and finds fulfillment in Divine union.
De Lubac advanced his thesis in one of the more famous theological treatises in any age of the Church, simply entitled Supernatural, or as it is always referred to in the original French, Surnaturel. One of the results of the reigning error, which ties in closely with the rest of the background I have presented, was that this strict division between the natural and supernatural orders had led to a vast theoretical framework defining a whole separate set of ends natural to man, while categorically refusing any possible intrinsic orientation to God. (I can actually recall this excessive insistence upon separate natural ends in my youth in the 1950s and early 1960s.)
Far from attempting to weaken the concept of the supernatural, De Lubac saw this unwarranted separation as a clear theological cause of secularization—the same secularization which was already reducing religion to a kind of formalism, devoid of interior life, rather like a suit of clothes draped over our real natures. Once this happens, of course, Christianity is easily swept away altogether.
Ever since the 1960s we have been hearing how the Council caused this or that tragedy of secularization, but this is a gross distortion of causation. In fact, good bishops were already mentioning from the start of the Council that their priests had fallen out of the habit of prayer, and that Catholicism was increasingly being lived mechanically, with little or no inner substance. Already the better bishops were hoping that the Council would find a solution—a renewal. We now know that many bishops were themselves spiritually ennervated, which makes very striking the difference between what they decided at the Council and how they allowed those decisions to be derailed after they returned home. (This may be taken as a practical proof of the work of the Holy Spirit in an ecumenical council.) Still, a good and by no means isolated example of the better type of bishop can be identified in the auxiliary bishop from Krakow, Karol Wojtyla (who became Pope John Paul II).
In any case, the critical shift in theological perception argued by de Lubac (and others) was ultimately embraced by the Council. But for that to happen, the Council fathers had to reject the many preparatory documents created by the Curia, dominated as it was by commentary-based Thomists of the strict secondary observance—narrow system men. Thus the Council fathers found it necessary to redraft just about everything, and those theologians who had long advocated what is called resourcement—the return to the sources in Scripture and the Fathers for fresh insights and a more secure foundation—finally came into their own.
De Lubac was one of these. Throughout the 1950s, he had been subject (and obedient) to a censor and other limitations on his teaching and writing because of the distrust of the dominant Roman Thomists. It was not until Pius XII died and John XXIII became Pope that de Lubac was called back into the light. He was invited to serve on the committee doing preparatory work for the Council, right along with men who had condemned him, who had circulated vicious rumors about his lack of faith, and who had brought about his not atypical but decidedly unjust censure.
De Lubac himself rarely permitted himself to express bitterness. But the bitter fruit of these years was ripening in many others who would end by vomiting up the faith along with the sour system of petty curial control. To take just one example, consider the rebellion against Humanae Vitae in 1968 at Catholic University in Washington, DC. This became the dominant trend of the immediate post-conciliar period as chanceries, universities and religious orders fell into the hands of previously-secret Modernists, basking in the secularist glow of post-1960 culture, who had rooted themselves not in the faith but in worldly ideals. It meant that de Lubac would soon have as many powerful enemies on the “left” as he had once had on the “right”.
By the time Henri de Lubac, SJ was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1983, the great theologian had charted a truly ecclesial course between the Scylla and Charybdis of the modern world. But we need go no further here, since almost everything of continuing interest reported in his Council notebooks can now be understood. These notes begin with his unexpected summons to Rome.
Preparing for the Council: Notebook Highlights through the end of 1961 (presented 5/1/2015) [top]
JAM: These notes cover much of the period in which de Lubac served on the Preparatory Theological Commission to help organize the conciliar program and establish preliminary drafts of proposed texts.
June 25, 1960: I received an official notice, signed: Tardini, that names me as a consultor for the Preparatory Theological Commission at the council. I had heard about this some time earlier, through an issue of La Croix, read in the parlor of a convent, but I wondered if this astonishing piece of news could be correct.
August 6: I received a letter from Cardinal Ottaviani, explaining the role of the consultors on this commission and enjoining me to secrecy from now on.
November 15: I swore an oath on the Gospel that Cardinal Ottaviani held on his knees.
November 17: Had lunch at the embassy…. Mr. de Sayve, adviser to the [French] ambassador, exhorted me to prepare a “revolutionary” council; I asked him what he meant by that.
[On a visit later in the afternoon to the Reformed Cistercians] I gave a talk in front of about thirty young monks. Interventions from Dom Jean Leclercq and from Dom Olivier Rousseau…. The atmosphere was fervent, very pleasant. As we were beginning to speak about the study of the Church Fathers, an American, no doubt a student at the Angelicum, stood up and said to me: “But the Church tells us to study the doctrine of St. Thomas!” Clarifications from Dom Leclercq, Dom Rousseau, and myself.
JAM: I cannot fail to note the name Jean Leclercq (above), a brilliant French Benedictine (1911-1993). He wrote a seminal book on monasticism, published in 1961, that I was required to read in a medieval history course at Rutgers in, roughly, 1968. It was a requirement for which I am still profoundly grateful, eclipsed only by the assignment of the Confessions of Augustine in the same course, which I declined to read on the class schedule, much preferring to take it very slowly as spiritual reading. The Leclercq title is The Love of Learning and the Desire for God. I was 20, a damp-eared Catholic apologist who was, sadly, only beginning to discover the interior life; but Leclercq’s book remains the classic in this field.
November 19: Lunched at the Gregorian…. Fr. Henri Vignon showed me, with a good deal of commentary, the Gregorian’s Vota for the council [these were the “wishes” of the conciliar Fathers and of the faculties of canon law and theology, collected shortly before the preparatory phase]. It was insane. These good Fathers would each like to canonize in solemn fashion their own little obsessions. Sectarianism and puerility. Fr. Édouard Dhanis composed in particular a votum on revelation and the formulae of dogma. No sense of the simple grandeur of the Church’s faith that is to be proclaimed. A strange diminishment (to say nothing more) of faith in Christ. Another votum would like to see condemned those who hope that God might have an ordinary means of saving infants who have died without baptism, etc. These are the kinds of things that are going round and round in many [de Lubac later changed “many” to “some”] Roman heads since the announcement of the council!
February 11, 1961: I went to Monte Verde Vecchio to see Fr. L. de Peretti, superior general of the Canons Regular of the I. C..... Fr. de Peretti praised John XXIII for his simplicity. He was troubled by the decline in the spirit of faith and of prayer among the French clergy, secular and regular, and wondered if the future council would be able to provide a remedy for this profound ill. We spoke for a long time on that subject.
February 12: At the end of the afternoon, a visit from Fr. Dhanis…. If he is to be believed, he had almost nothing to do with the Fourvière business [an earlier unjust condemnation of another theologian], he had neither read the texts of Fr. General [of the Jesuits] nor censured my books, etc. Perhaps only “once or twice” he had been called on to “give an opinion”, etc. This is his way of keeping the secrets to which he doubtless feels himself bound. Following his visit, I wrote him a letter reminding him of some indisputable facts, telling him his present duty, explaining to him also my position in matters of faith, and drawing his attention to the spiritual ruins that result from certain attitudes. On reflection, I did not send my letter.
February 16: In the morning, in subcommittee in the premises of the Holy Office. In the middle of the meeting, a coffee break. Then I withstood a hard combat (against Msgr. Piolanti and Fr. Dhanis, who want the condemnation of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin at all costs).
JAM: This will be disturbing for some. In a rare case in which I disagree with de Lubac, he always insisted on the fundamental orthodoxy of Teilhard. To his credit, he did recognize that almost everyone who read Teilhard immediately went off in bizarre directions incompatible with the Faith. But he believed this was entirely unintended by Teilhard, who was guilty of no more than using a kind of vague and poetic language to explore significant mysteries.
It is possible that he is correct, but my question would be whether Teilhard was worth defending. I favor the judgment of the great Thomist Etienne Gilson, a lay friend and frequent correspondent of Fr. de Lubac who shared all of his fundamental concerns. In a letter of May 13, 1962, Gilson thanked de Lubac for sending him a copy of his book on the religious thought of Teilhard, but he confessed that he still could not find much to like in him. The complete text of his comments, along with notes by de Lubac, is preserved in the Ignatius edition of Letters of Étienne Gilson to Henri de Lubac (p. 59ff). It is well worth reading. Here I present only an excerpt. Gilson wrote:
I have asked myself a hundred times what the meaning of these [Teilhard’s typically bizarre and novel] terms could possibly be. Their obvious sense seems to me to be that Christ has always been and still is the cutting edge of a cosmic evolution, of a religiosity which must sooner or later either pass away or replace itself with something entirely different…. [I]f “métachristianisme” means anything at all, it means that Christianity is something that must disappear…. I don’t doubt for a second that he died in the love of Christ; here, it’s a matter of discussing thought and knowledge, not whether he loved the Christ of the Gospel—there can be no further question of that—but what I want to know is what he thought of Christ. I never did understand Teilhard; even after having read him I still don’t, and maybe you don’t understand him too well yourself.September 19 and 20: Everything essential, in this Theological Commission, is done by a small group of Roman theologians. Sometimes they argue among themselves, but on the basis of a common mentality, common reflexes. They know their field, but little more. One senses among them a certain indifference toward Scripture, the Fathers, the Eastern Church; a lack of interest and of concern regarding current doctrines and spiritual trends contrary to the Christian faith. They are, it seems, too sure of their superiority; their habit of judging does not encourage them to work. This is the milieu of the Holy Office….
The result is a small academic system, ultra-intellectualist without any great intellectuality; the Gospel is forced to fit this system, which is the constant a priori. Father Dhani, who plays an important role, seems to want to minimize in every respect the Person of Jesus Christ: the latter is no longer anything more than one of the “legatores divini”; he is designated thus, in anonymous fashion, in the chapter on revelation…. Several times, formulae are put forward that are intended to make equivalent the progress of revelation up to Christ and dogmatic progress within the Christian revelation.
It is this little system, pushed to the point of madness, that for the past twelve years some have wanted to impose on us as the only orthodox one. Because I will not bow to this, everything I write is distorted. By his personal Votum (wrongly said to be the wish of the Gregorian, despite the protestations of more than one professor), by the composition of several passages of the preconciliar schemas that have been entrusted to him, by his many oral interventions in the commission, F. D. is seeking to make this system prevail and to have those in the Church condemned who resist this in some way….
Their “dogmatics” itself seems to lose interest in the great central dogmas; it refuses to recognize the Christian Mystery in its profound unity; it is transformed more and more into an ideology of pulverized assertions….
For example: The text of a profession of faith was being studied: Paragraph on the Redemption: “Christ satisfied the justice of God.” It is proposed (by Philippe de la Trinité) that the adverb “misericordite” [mercifully] be added. Refusal. Why? – Because that is evident, it goes without saying, no one denies it, etc. – so, neither by this adverb nor in any other manner will this text on the redemption make allusion to the divine mercy. It will speak only of justice. Anyone who then wants to speak of mercy will be accused of wishing to contradict or at the very least weaken the solemn text.
JAM: This extraordinarily revealing commentary has attached to it, in a footnote, a further elucidation by de Lubac which is also valuable. But I will content myself with this blistering insight: “Our theologians love diminished truths, ones that they think are surer, easer to delimit conceptually.” Here we have a point which tells against thinkers on both sides: the “hyper-orthodox” who effectively deny the mystery of Christ through excessive definition; and the Modernists, who effectively deny anything that cannot be understood in the ordinary concepts of the dominant human culture. These are two sides of the same coin. Both seek to assert their total intellectual control over a reality which transcends human comprehension.
September 28: Several, as always, have a tendency to think that the role of a council is to make doctrine more “specific”, that is to say, in practical terms, to make it narrower, to conceptualize it to an extreme degree, on precisely those points where many put forward new difficulties. This is what they call timely clarifications and condemnations, as to respond to the errors of our time.
JAM: This remark was made following a discussion about settling the question of children who die without baptism. When some urged caution and prudence, others—referred to above as “several”—insisted on a definitive statement. Fortunately the majority of bishops on the relevant committee opposed this, but Fr. Dhanis and others, generally supported by Cardinal Ottaviani, were apparently confident that it could be settled within their system.
As most people know by now, the Church has not yet found herself capable of making a definitive statement, even after 50 more years of intense study on this very point. There remains even now a grave danger among (dissident) Traditionalists of reducing everything to definition, mirroring the Modernist reduction of everything to contemporary cultural categories, as if the Divine mind can be fully expressed in human terms.
Final Preparations: Highlights from 1962 until the Council opened on October 11th (presented 5/8/2015) [top]
JAM: De Lubac continued his work in March of 1962 in the last plenary session of the Preparatory Theological Commission. When this preparatory work was finished, he was not certain of actually participating in the Council itself. His superiors found a bishop who was willing to take him on as an episcopal theological advisor (peritus), but this proved unnecessary as Pope John XXIII ultimately named him as a papal peritus. Therefore he returned to Rome just before the Council opened. (Note that, as the preconciliar discussions were in Latin, de Lubac typically quotes them in Latin in his notes, but I have changed the quotes to English.)
March 4, 1962: [Noting rumors circulating about the reception of the Theological Commission’s work by the preconciliar Central Commission:] Cardinal Ottaviani and Fr. Tromp are said to have endured some harsh attacks there…. The plans of the Theological Commission seemed to be in peril. But…in fact, Ottaviani has supposedly been allowed personally, together with some members of the commission, to revise the criticized texts; these texts would then be submitted to a commission of five cardinals named by the pope. It appears that these 5 cardinals, who are hardly theologians (among them, Micara, known to be useless), will prove to be very accommodating.
March 5: We…then passed on to the chapter of De Ecclesia: “On the relations between the Church and the State on religious tolerance”…. Gagnebet, quoting in particular Taparelli d’Azeglio, held that the State cannot officially profess Christian worship unless it represents the moral unanimity of the citizens (“cives fere omnes”). To the contrary, Fr. Dhanis, supported by Cardinal Ottaviani and Msgr. Piolanti, thought that the State did not need this near-unanimous consent; it should only need to have the majority; even then, there was here no question of principle, for governments can make use of their authority without consulting those who have elected them. Fr. Dhanis returned to the attack several times; Cardinal Ottaviani continued to support him against the objections of the other party, saying: “The council must not give an opening to the secularists.”...
In the session of the commission this afternoon, concerning tolerance, Msgr. Philips had intervened against Fr. Dhanis. Citing the example of Belgium (both of them are Belgian and Flemish), he had said to him: According to your principles, if a Belgian government obtains a majority of 51%, and if its members are personally Catholics, the government can and must impose Catholicism as the state religion! Etc.—After the meeting, I found myself on the bus with Msgr. Philips; he said to me: “I have been discouraged from intervening; doing so makes me seem like a heretic, and the very people who pushed me to it were very careful to say nothing.” Then he gave me the names of two members who had strongly complained to him about the “harshness” of the draft and who, in fact, did not open their mouths in the meeting.
March 6: Toward the end of that morning meeting, Archbishop Hermaniuk, metropolitan of the Ruthenian Catholic Church in North America, asked to speak. He deplored the one-sided character of the chapter on the magisterium, its exclusive concern to exalt the pope alone, its tendency to diminish the council, etc. He proposed a new draft, more balanced, taking better account of tradition, better suited to show the Eastern Churches the true Catholic doctrine. He also asked, as several others had done, that it be made clear that when the pope defines a doctrine of the faith, although he should do it “ex sese, etc.” [an ex cathedra statement is irreformable in itself (ex sese) rather than from the consent of the Church], he nevertheless is speaking as the head of the episcopate…. Father Tromp answered him: “What Your Reverence says is certainly very true, but very dangerous.”...
One senses that, for the group of theologians connected with the Holy Office, “unum est necessarium” [one thing is needful]: the power of Rome, which is their power. They sincerely believe that safety lies in this alone. Hence, through all sorts of formulas, with some quibbling from the canon lawyers, their tendency to diminish the doctrinal role of the bishops, in order to magnify that of the Roman congregations and their own. At the end of the meeting, Bishop Griffiths, auxiliary bishop of New York, asked to be allowed to speak; the president made everyone, already standing for the prayer, sit down again; then the bishop made this simple statement: “Might I be permitted to remark humbly that on the day of Pentecost, there were bishops in the Upper Room, but there were no Roman theologians.”
We had a discussion, in the context of the Roman congregations, on the Holy Office. Several people criticized the planned text, which said that the pope “committere solet” [is accustomed to entrust] certain matters to the congregations. One cannot say that about the Holy Office, they explained; the Holy Office always judges in the name of the pope, it is in the same category as the pope, and not simply charged by him with certain tasks. This torrent of subtleties achieved its end: the text was modified as a consequence.—From this it is clear that the Holy Office, with its theologians, wants to be the supreme power in the Church.
March 9: Once again, here and there, as in other chapters, some texts from Scripture were deleted, based on the critical objections raised by our two principal experts on exegesis: Msgr. Cerfaux (Louvain) and Msgr. Garofalo. With their “principium proximum”, which resides solely in the pontifical documents of about the last hundred years, most of the members of the commission have no need to look at Scripture or tradition or to inform themselves about any science at all. It must be confessed that our exegetes, in commission or outside, withdraw into a philological and critical role; they are pure specialists; they do not know how to bring out the doctrines that stem from the Bible or to show its spirit. As for our theologians, if one brings to their attention a consideration of a more or less scientific order, they respond as Tromp did: “Debemus procedure theologice” [we must proceed theologically]—an attitude that does not prevent them, for example, on the subject of human origins, from wanting to decide the degree of certitude or probability of scientific transformism [evolutionary theory as opposed to creationism].
March 10: Next came the schema De jure et officio Ecclesiae praedicandi evangelium omnibus gentibus [On the right and the duty of the Church to preach the Gospel to all peoples]. The relator was Father Gagnebet. He said to me before the meeting that he had taken careful account of my observations. In fact, he started by changing the title, which became: De necessitate annuntiandi Evangelium [On the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel], etc., and from one end to the other, I observed that the juridical point of view of the original schema was softened....
Then we ate. During the meal, I continued to chat (as we had already done many times) with Father Häring, a good, evangelical man, who sees, perhaps to excess, the faults of the Roman milieu. He is upset over the spirit of our draft documents. We need, he said to me, to pray a great deal. He noted that the Roman theologians are motivated, without their even knowing it, by a spirit of power and domination….
After the meal, in the middle of the large vestibule, Archbishop Parente amiably rushed up to me. (I had noticed earlier that Cardinal Ottaviani had pointed me out to him.) Seeing that, the cardinal drew near to us: On all sides, people were watching our trio. I said to Archbishop Parente: “Your Excellency, I have not yet had the honor of meeting you; but I already knew you; you have written some nasty things about me. Rest assured, I do not hold it against you.” He was rather taken aback; then he poured out a flood of kind remarks about my books, my erudition, my “beautiful Méditation sur l’Église”….
The whole schema of the constitution De re sociali (On the social question) remained to be studied. The subcommission that was charged with the task, too few in number, was divided into two irreconcilable parties: the one, “liberalizing”, led by Fr. Grunlach; the other, “socializing”, led by Msgr. Pavan (the principal author, so Fr. Gagnebet tells me, of the encyclical Mater et magistra). There is hope that by enlarging the subcommission, a compromise might be reached later.
JAM: This remark is telling. It is another demonstration that it has been, over the past century and more, very difficult for Catholics to think clearly about the social order without being excessively influenced by the secular categories of liberalism and socialism, both of which make strong (rhetorical) appeals on behalf of the poor. The Church has struggled to articulate a “Catholic way” ever since Pope Leo XIII, and yet some questionable influences are nearly always reflected in episcopal and even Vatican statements on social issues. Even the great social encyclicals find it difficult to avoid confusion, owing to the difficulty of applying genuine Catholic and natural law insights when both authors and readers are so conditioned by conflicting habitual social attitudes. Combining key principles, real conditions, and prudence, Catholic social teaching remains extraordinarily difficult to craft, once it goes beyond the broad principles on which it is based.
March 12: There is a dangerous opposition within a certain current “theology” between safe truths and dangerous truths. It is more than the necessary pedagogy for the intellectual life as for the spiritual life. This comes down in the end to an opposition between truth and safety.
Theology, such as I have seen it operate in Rome, is more and more a specialty that grows complicated and rigid. It is not renewed, it does not change the old conception of itself as “queen of the sciences”: it turns its back on science—without having lost anything of its pretensions to rule over the sciences, that is, to dismiss them, in an arrogant and systematic ignorance.
In this kind of theology, the questions that touch on the government of the Church are overdeveloped…. Certain of them, considered to be clever theologians, seem not to have reflected for a single instant of their existence on the mystery of faith; such a reflection, moreover, would be incompatible with their work as they understand it.
As for those who devote themselves to other parts of theology, their concerns all tend toward the requirements…of academic and primary instruction. They are sometimes reproached for their “rationalism”, a very great and very noble word, to designate their verbalism. But the fact that their wild imaginings are as empty of spiritual sense as of any reference to historical reality is only too true.
Whenever anyone asks them to take some note of some particular point of the social sciences, they arrogantly respond that they are proceeding doctrinally, theologically, that they are pronouncing truths in absolute terms; that they have no need to think historically or sociologically or psychologically; they do not consent to descend into the domain of the relative.—That is all well and good. That would have some value if they occupied themselves with deepening the mystery of the faith. But, in fact, incessantly busy with expanding the field of the “truths” to be imposed on the faithful, they deal with problems that demand some serious scientific knowledge and more humane methods. Without being aware of it, they put in the place of Dogma a theology that usurps its place and that can satisfy neither the scholar nor the believer.
”Natural theology” often interests them more than revealed mystery. It seems to them to be an area more propitious for their hairsplitting method and, on the other hand, to provide a more “secure” base for the government of souls. They are thereby closely akin to their brothers, the canon lawyers. It is very characteristic of their way of proceeding that, in the chapter De Deo (On God) of the schema De deposito fidei (On the deposit of faith), they did not make the least allusion to God’s revelation in Christ; and that, having finally decided to make a slight concession to the objections that had been addressed to them, they only mentioned, as the end of this supernatural revelation, the “service” of God. Thus they think to facilitate submission to the leaders of the Church—whom they think to have well in hand through their doctrinal consultation.
On the other hand, they are, each according to his character, good people, and they can be virtuous. Their number, even in Rome, is not great; but they dominate. Without even wishing to (at least not always), they instill fear. An entire system of habits, of rites, of language, makes a frank discussion very difficult; they are “at home”, they understand each other, even when they argue. They are unaware of what they lack. Their self-sufficiency is extreme, and their good faith is not in question. There is in this a situation that appears to me disturbing. What will this council be?
JAM: These extended reflections on Roman theology were written after the last preparatory work session. De Lubac had just returned to France, and did not yet know if he would have any further role in the Council. One senses his perplexity. But in the actual event, he returned to Rome six months later, in October, to take part in the Council as a peritus.
October 7: According to the Assistant [to the Jesuit Father General], it was the pope himself who wanted to put me on the list of experts (“periti”). “The Holy Father does not want to depend on the Roman Congregations during the council; so he chose some theologians capable of understanding and supporting his thought.”…
JAM: De Lubac was provided with a rule book for how the Council would be conducted. Under “Duties of the conciliar periti (experts)” it says “a. The periti of the council are present during the General Congregations and do not express their opinion unless asked. b. According to the designation of the presidents of the commissions and the subject under discussion, the conciliar periti zealously serve any commission by working with its members on the schemas to be examined and on the reports to be drafted.”
October 8: Cardinal Tisserant told him [Fr. Paul Poupard, employed at the Vatican Secretariat of State], even somewhat violently, of his opposition to the plan to have Pius IX canonized by the council; but it appears that the pope and Cardinal Ottaviani are united in this; the pope seems very insistent on it and has made frequent allusions to it; even his trip to Loreto, it is said, was an allusion to it.
Father Poupard confirmed to me that John XXIII wants reforms in the Roman congregations. Too much hope on this subject would be unrealistic; but an attainable reform would consist of implementing at least what already exists in theory; only it would be necessary for the bishops to insist on it. So, for example: Why are foreign cardinals not even advised of the meetings of the congregations to which they nominally belong? Why are there never any cardinals who are not Italians at the Holy Office? etc., etc. If the cardinals of the entire world, who belong to the household of the pope, were effectively associated with the course of affairs in Rome, that would already be a very important reform.
JAM: In comparing these remarks with the obvious dissatisfactions of John XXIII, the subsequent isolation of Paul VI, the modest reforms begun by John Paul II, the feeling by Benedict XVI that a significant curial reform was beyond his strength, and the election of Pope Francis at least partly because it was thought he would reform the Curia, one begins to realize how difficult it has been to fully overcome the entrenched powers of this Vatican administrative apparatus, which is supposed to serve the servant of the servants of God.
... Jungmann [Joseph Andreas Jungmann, SJ, an Austrian, was one of the major architects of the twentieth-century liturgical movement, and a member of the Preparatory Commission for the Liturgy] told me also that, in his circle, many are critical of the doctrinal schemas: they complain that they only set forth a narrow, by-the-book theology, without taking account of anything that has been published in the past century by the best theologians. He would like the council to concern itself first with liturgical questions and other practical matters, postponing the discussion of the doctrinal texts, which would allow time for other ones to be drafted and proposed.
There is, it seems, at the Secretariat of State, an entire service officially dedicated to the writing of “briefs to the Christian princes”; the staff is chosen from among the good Latinists. But there are fewer and fewer princes in the world, the princes are less and less Christian, and when every now and then the pope writes to Princess Grace of Monaco or someone else, he composes his letter in French, the diplomatic language of the Holy See; the Secretaries of State come and go, without anyone thinking to or daring to eliminate these positions. It is true that the personnel have some small, alternative tasks....
At the time of the afternoon siesta, saw Fr. Robert Rouquette, of Études, who has come as a journalist for the session of the council…. He tells me that the question of Orthodox observers has not yet been settled; Rome has not yet been notified of the definite refusal, published in the press. Msgr. Willebrands, secretary of the Secretariat for Unity (Card. Bea) has gone to Moscow; it is not known what response he will bring back. The patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras, personally very favorable, does not want to break the union of the patriarchates he has accomplished, which is why he is yielding to the refusal; but at least he will send a personal representative….
According to Fr. Rouquette, the Dutch bishops might not have any influence, because they are too violent. It is also commonly said that in order to neutralize the French, one only needs to get them a little excited; then they speak too sharply and are ruined. Fr. Rouquette regrets that the French episcopate has taken so little interest in the preparation for the council…. He also fears that Archbishop Felici, secretary general, does not understand the necessity of keeping the journalists, who have come in great numbers, many of them not Catholic, well informed….
At 5 P.M., the profession of faith and the taking of the oath by the periti….
October 9: There are complaints from different sides about a point of order with regard to the council: “The president of the commission will choose a person from among the experts in theology or canon law at the council who will perform the function of secretary” (art. 6, no. 5). Since the president of each commission is in fact a cardinal of the Roman Curia, that reinforces the domination of the Curia. Cardinal Ottaviani, president of the Commission De doctrina fedei et morum [On the teaching of faith and morals], has already chosen Fr. Sébastien Tromp. So, through this, the most important commission, the Holy Office, would be able to dominate.
October 10: Fr. [Henri] Daniélou was invited privately by some French bishops. It appears that the draft of a sort of manifesto has been submitted to them, to be proclaimed by the council at its opening. According to them, this text was written by Fr. Chenu, Cardinal Liénart approved of it, and it has already been proposed to the Holy Father. Fr. Daniélou appeared very reticent; according to what he told me about it, I would be, too. I fear something demagogic, of a naturalistic spirit in its tone—as if the Church, seeing that she can no longer interest people with the message of Christ, the Christian mystery, were looking for an alternative activity in order to survive. Everything must follow from the Faith; it is the Faith that must be explicit and foremost, especially in a council.
JAM: This proposed opening statement was substantially modified before the Council formally opened on October 11, 1962. The schemas were prepared and distributed. The opening ceremony was impressive. But I will record two notes from the very next day which suggest the broad range of issues for which it was still possible to feel unprepared.
October 12: Still impossible to find time to write a few remarks on the schemas of the first printed volume. I only have rough notes....
Fr. Rondet went this afternoon with Archbishop Dalmais to pay a visit to the Melchite patriarch Maximos. The patriarch did not attend the opening ceremony, because they would not accord him precedence over the cardinals; not out of a superficial concern over precedence, it was explained to us, but because the Orthodox have their eyes on the Eastern Churches united to Rome: if they yield their rights, hopes for union will be lost. Moreover, the patriarch has announced that if the Orthodox unite with Rome, he will step down and give place to the leader of the largest community.
Early Weeks of the Council [top]
[JAM: From the opening of the Council on October 11th through the end of October, de Lubac’s notebooks are full of observations on two things: First, the maneuvers attempted by various parties to ensure that discussions and voting would favor their own agendas; second, the discussions of the first schema, the text of what would become the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. As the bishops made their “interventions” on this text, de Lubac summarized each man’s argument. Note that the opinions were mixed, and were essentially the same as they are now: on the use of Latin, on celebrating Mass facing the people, on communion under both species, on the length of the fast before Mass, on the nature and frequency of the homily, on the level at which decisions should be made (Holy See, episcopal conference, local bishop), and so on. These discussions are still so familiar that it would serve little purpose to quote much on this topic.]
October 13, 1962: It was immediately announced that they were going to proceed to the vote on the commissions [the groups responsible for working directly on the text of the documents]. Each bishop was asked to put 16 names on each of the 10 sheets of paper he had received, for the ten commissions. The bishops had already started to fill out their sheets. But Cardinal Liénart, who was at the table with the Board of Presidency, got up; in a very clear, firm voice he said that he at least, and some others, were uneasy, since they had not had time to become better informed. He then asked for a delay. Much applause. He immediately made a positive proposal: that each episcopal commission (conference) draw up a list to propose to the others, etc. He pointed out three advantages of this procedure: 1. The bishops would have time to become better informed; 2. They would give each other proof of their mutual confidence; 3. The vote would be more rapid, and time would be saved. More applause, very hearty….
After one or two minutes, Archbishop Felici, general secretary, took the floor to declare that the Board of Presidency (which had just deliberated quickly on the spot) supported the proposal and asked that the Fathers come together for the vote on Tuesday morning, the 16th, at 9 a.m. There was more applause, and everyone left.
Canon Martimort (Institut Catholique of Toulouse), who was beside me in the gallery, whispered to me that he had himself suggested that procedure to Cardinal Liénart. He was pleased. Another said: “That was imperative; otherwise the bishops would have had to vote haphazardly.” On that, a prelate (a relator from the Congregation of Rites), smiling, said: “That was precisely what they wanted.” (They = certain Romans, the Holy Office). This dramatic little episode is spoken of as a victory of the bishops over the Holy Office. Other victories will no doubt be more difficult.
Received a visit from a young Spanish priest, a professor of Church history at the Gregorian. With an ardor that was a bit carried away, he expressed his wish that the council would put an end to the integrism that currently reigns in the Curia; otherwise, he told me, we will be lost for a long time. He thought it very important that it be decided that no one will be able to be condemned without a hearing; that is wise; but the Holy Office has got around that difficulty in advance, by taking or forcing others to take all sorts of measures that are not official condemnations, that do not stir up great collective emotions, and are all the more effective by the fact that their victims are Catholics of the better sort, who spontaneously submit. – The arrogant rut in which a clan of Roman theologians is mired is equaled only by the suffocating system that it tries to make prevail—knowing full well today that it is acting against the desire of the Holy Father.
[JAM: Note that the term “integrism”, while first used under Pope Pius X by Modernists to describe the approach of those who opposed them, gradually came to mean a narrow system of thought which claims to describe the integrality of the world from a few axioms. This was its use at the time of the Council—in other words, the narrow systematizing tendencies, without reference to Scripture and the Fathers, which de Lubac so strongly opposed in the Holy Office at that time. De Lubac suggests its defining qualities in the following passage.]
October 14: One gets used to saying: “the terrible Cardinal Ottaviani”, “the rigidness of his doctrine”, to call him the leader of the integrists, etc. That is an extreme oversimplification; Cardinal Ottaviani appears to me to be a strong personality, one that cannot be reduced to the traits of integrism. On the other hand, these expressions presuppose that one accepts a division that is harmful and not well-founded. There seems to be a belief that integrism is characterized by a greater firmness in the doctrine of the faith, by a refusal of any impoverishing human concessions, etc. This is false. One ought really to say: “the poverty of this doctrine”, its ignorance of our great tradition. Building and multiplying barriers around a void: that is how one could almost define the action of certain theologians of the Holy Office and those like them. They hold, they vigorously defend, only:
b) diminished truths. For example, they prefer the “God of nature” to the Christian God; an abstract idea of revelation to the revelation of Christ; they teach that God reveals himself to us “in order that we might serve him”, not in order that we might become his children; sin, original or actual, is nothing other than an infraction of the law, not the refusal to our divine vocation, etc.
b) human theories, most often ones that are rather recent, puerile, or outdated, to which they are just as much if not more attached than to dogma, on which they dig in their heels, and which make them forget the essential part of the Christian mystery.
October 15: It has been confirmed that the Curia had its list for the commissions all ready. Cardinal Liénart’s intervention ruined their plan.
October 16: Next we talked about the dogmatic schemas, their preparation, then about the role, recognized de facto, of the “ecclesiastical conferences” in the preparation of the first vote: Fr. Raes sees in this an encouraging sign of a certain “decentralization”, recognizing some autonomy in certain groups of the Western Church: the only means, he believes, capable of preparing for reunion with the Eastern Churches.
October 17: An article by Henri Fesquet in Le Monde sets me in opposition to Father Gagnebet, the principal author of the enormous schema De Ecclesia. That can only hinder me in my relations with Fr. Gagnebet, which I want to be good; he has more than once in the last two years asked for my collaboration, and he has shown himself more moderate than some others.
[JAM: We are accustomed to lamenting the ways in which media coverage of councils, synods, etc. makes it far more difficult for Catholics around the world to recognize what is really being decided by the bishops. This note indicates the problems such coverage can cause also within the assembly itself.]
Father Gauthier spoke to me about Nazareth and about the booklet that he has printed to distribute to a certain number of the Fathers on the Church and the poor at the present time. The intention is excellent. I am a little afraid that there are some ideology and propaganda in it that are indiscreet.
October 19: Bishop Elschinger told me that Cardinal König had received some time ago a notice from the Holy Office banning him from speaking on ecumenical questions. Other subjects of conversation, after the meeting: the faith and the social milieu—the Theological Commission—the troubles made for Fr. Rahner, Fr. Congar’s illness, etc. I had the impression that several were not rising enough above their one-sided concerns.
October 21: People have reported to me some words from Fr. Sébastien Tromp [a key theologian of the Holy Office]. After a meeting of the Central Commission where his plans had been shaken: “Everything is lost…. There is nothing more to do but pray to the Holy Spirit!”—These last few days, seeing the direction that the council seemed to be taking: “And here are these outsiders who want to impose their ideas on us!”
October 22: A decision is said to have been made regarding the periti. Those who were on a preconciliar commission would be offered to the corresponding conciliar commission. The others would be evenly allotted among the particular commissions. So I would be on the Commission on the Faith. Where will Father Daniélou be?
On Sunday, Frs. Rahner, Congar, and Daniélou met, following the meeting organized around Bishop Volk. Congar is preparing a totally new schema, as a sort of general proooemium, that they would try to have accepted by the Commission for Extraordinary Affairs. Rahner and Daniélou are preparing a revision of the existing texts, as a fall-back position in case Congar’s schema should be rejected on principle.
[JAM: Jean Daniélou, later a Cardinal, was de Lubac’s friend, countryman and fellow Jesuit, another brilliant theologian, beloved by orthodox Catholics in the immediate post-conciliar Church. Yves Congar, also French, was a Dominican who served as a military chaplain and was a prisoner of war from 1940-1945. A theologian who was marginalized as de Lubac was in the 1950s, he too was called upon by Pope John XXIII at the time of the Council, and was later recognized for the depth of his Catholic thought by being made a Cardinal. Karl Rahner, a German Jesuit, was one of the most influential academic theologians of the 20th century, despite being under suspicion as a proponent of the “new theology” in the years before the Council. His notion of the “anonymous Christian” influenced the Council’s treatment of the relationship of Christ and the Church to non-Christians. Although some of Rahner’s ideas (such as transfinalization instead of transubstantiation) were rejected by the Church, once any question was settled, he never dissented.
[In this Rahner differed from, for example, Fr. Bernard Häring, a German Redemptorist also occasionally mentioned by de Lubac, who became the most prominent dissenter in 1968 against Paul VI’s teaching on the immorality of contraception. Another member of this group of “outsiders” mentioned by de Lubac was Marie-Dominique Chenu, OP, founder of the Institute for Medieval Studies in Montreal, who seems to have been, at the very least, unfortunate in his more notorious students. These included Gustavo Gutiérrez (liberation theology), Matthew Fox (creation spirituality), and Edward Schillebeeckx (rather clearly a Christological Modernist).
[There is a significant lesson here: Among the many scholars unjustly under suspicion in the 1940s and 1950s for rejecting the modern scholastic system and advocating a return to the sources to rejuvenate Catholic theology (including a return to St. Thomas directly, instead of the commentaries), it was very difficult in the early 1960s to discern which ones would prove in the end to be careless of the Magisterium. By the late 1960s and 1970s, this would become agonizingly clear. Anyway, these theologians were among the “outsiders” through whom Pope St. John XXIII wished to offset the excessively narrow approach of the staff of the Holy Office, in shaping the theological basis of the Conciliar program of renewal.]
The newspapers are full of gross inaccuracies, often tendentious.
The pope supposedly said jokingly, while showing some people the first volume of the schemas open on his table to one of the chapters of De deposito fidei: “Look, I have just measured it; there are 25 centimeters of condemnations there!”
October 23: [A particularly interesting episcopal intervention on the liturgy] Bishop Argaya, Spanish, expressed a wish “de dolemnibus…formis simplificandis” [concerning the solemn forms to be simplified]…the norms should be: pietas, simplicitas, et dignitas [piety, simplicity, and dignity]. Let everything be brought back to the spirit of the Gospel, especially in the Pontifical. We should eliminate everything that in dress and ceremonies resembles “alicui pompae humanae et mundanae” [some human and worldly pomp].
October 24: [Another interesting intervention] Adam Kozlowiecki (Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia). In chap. 1, no. 3 is not clear or well-organized; the first schema and Mediator Dei were better. On no. 24: thanks to Cardinals Tisserant and Bea. Let the episcopal conferences have the right to introduce the vernacular “propter rationes practicas” [for practical reasons]. –At no. 21 and elsewhere: “Sancta Sedes, sancta Sedes…” [Holy See, Holy See…]; it is unsettling. “Auctoritatem Petri non timeo, set aliquando timeo Secretarium Petri” [I do not fear the authority of Peter, but I sometimes fear Peter’s secretary].
October 25: The cardinal primate of Spain is supposed to have written the pope to complain that no Spaniard was elected to the Commission on the Faith; it appears that this was the result of a maneuver by Cardinal Antoniutti, former nuncio to Madrid, and of his friend Ottaviani: they supposedly saw to it that the first two names proposed on certain lists were deleted, as not being sufficiently in conformity with their point of view; thus the votes of the electors were scattered.
Conversation with Archbishop de Furstenberg [Belgian], from the Secretariat of State: we spoke of Fr. K. Rahner and his great notoriety; of the council; of the pope, who gives indications concerning what he wants and makes his leanings manifest by significant gestures, but he does not press, he gives no precise orders, with the result that the pope can say one thing and “the Holy See” do the opposite, etc.
Many are concerned about the working procedure that has been announced for the council, which permits neither the outright rejection of a schema nor a vote on the general observations.
October 29:The October 28 edition of the Espresso has a long article on the council. Title: “Versa la nuova teologia”. The article talks about the “program of the new theology”, its condemnation in 1950 by Humani generis, its partial return in 1960 when Congar and Lubac were named as consultors, although they rank lower than simple old-school types like Piolanti and Parente, etc. It also says that my book on Teilhard has been censored; and that, despite that, I was called with Daniélou as an expert to the council and that Chenu is the theologian of a Malagasy archbishop. The article ends with a long quotation from Parente’s speech at the Lateran in 1960 and the threats that it contained: as one can see, it concludes, a great battle is brewing.—Articles like this are well designed to create a battlefield atmosphere, if not within the council, at least around it, in public opinion, and to distort everything.
October 30: Despite wishes and rumors to the contrary, it seems that the council will not start up again in January [after the December recess], but only after Easter. One of the reasons would seem to be that it is impossible to heat Saint Peter’s adequately enough to permit a large number of old men to remain sitting there for almost four hours at a stretch.
Discussing Revelation (Mid-November 1962) [top]
[JAM: By November 13th, the discussions of the liturgical schema were completed, and the Fathers began to work on the controversial doctrinal schema, which was destined to become the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The schema began as a text that was focused on identifying and condemning errors in the spirit of the Holy Office of the immediately preceding era; but both Pope John XXIII and the majority of the Council fathers wanted a document which would express a positive understanding of Divine Revelation to attract souls, nurture Scriptural exegesis and theology, and promote Christian unity.
At the heart of the debate was something we have encountered before: The observation that Catholic teaching, as asserted by the Holy Office, was excessively philosophical, less nourished by Scripture and Tradition than by a particular systematic school of thought. In addition, those who favored condemnations of errors argued that adopting a “positive” or “pastoral” approach (for Vatican II was to be a pastoral council) meant fudging the truth to accommodate the world—a misconception as simplistic as it was common, but which, on all sides, created serious problems for the Church in the immediate aftermath of the Council.
The initial intervention by Cardinal Frings below captures the main issues in the discussion. Moreover, by this time, a serious effort was generally being made by the Fathers to get positive schemas that they could work with, schemas which would enlighten, not condemn.]
November 14, 1962: Card. Jos. Frings. “Schema non placet.” [meaning he would vote against it] (1) The two doctrinal schemas are bad. The first pastoral duty is doctrine, but how? In such a way as to attract men, or even though they be driven away? At Vatican I, they rejected a schema that was too professorial, and it was replaced. One does not hear in this schema the voice of a Mother and Teacher, but a voice that is neither edifying nor vivifying…. (2) In this schema there are two fundamental doctrines: a. “De duobus fontibus” [on the two fonts or sources (of Revelation)]. This manner of speaking is recent; it is not found in the Fathers or in the scholastics (it is not in Saint Thomas) or in the councils; it is the fruit of the historicism of the 19th century. In the order of knowledge, one can speak of two sources, but in the order of being, the source is unique [i.e., Christ]. Concerning this unique source, it is greatly to be regretted that there is nothing in the schema. And from the very first lines, by these “two sources”, our separated brethren will be offended, a new gap will be created. (b) On the inerrancy of Scripture. The doctrine is too rigid, approaching the doctrine of literal inspiration. The schema is against scientific work, etc. On this subject there are two opinions in the process of being debated: It is not the tradition of the councils to resolve disputed questions; one school of thought must not anathematize the other. It will no doubt be necessary to condemn false opinions—but no more. (3) Nor do I approve the excessive length of the schema. With all the others, it imposes an impossible task on the council. It is necessary to omit, abridge, merge sections. Let the first two schemas be combined into one, reduced to a quarter.
Card. Léger. – One does not base a constitution on the fear of error…. It is one school alone that wishes to substitute itself for the others.
Card. Joseph E. Ritter, archbishop of Saint Louis (USA). The schema should be rejected; let another one be proposed…. It lacks any evident usefulness…. The whole schema suffers from a negative spirit, from pessimism…. On those matters where solutions are not ready, let the council keep silent.
Card. A. Bea. – I know how many eminent men worked on this schema for a long time; it is all the more painful for me to have to say that I do not approve it…. It does not correspond to the aim proposed for the council by the Supreme Pontiff that things not be repeated at length…. It completely lacks any pastoral character. (Doctrine is the foundation, but it is not in itself pastoral.) It has before its eyes, not modern men, but, rather, theological schools.)…. It casts suspicion on them [i.e., exegetes]; it leads to fear of error everywhere, without going deeply into any problem.
Maximos IV Saigh, Melchite patriarch. – In this schema, everything is envisaged from an angle that is limited, negative, contentious. Does it respond to the wishes of the bishops and of the Catholic universities? It was drawn up, rather, to resolve the questions debated among the theological schools…. Some parts of the schema give the traditional teaching, but in a negative, polemical form that condemns. Today we need to have an exposition of salvation history that is dispassionate, positive, rich. Finally, the schema makes no effort to prepare paths toward unity but, rather, blocks them. It hardens even more the outdated positions of the Counter-Reformation and of anti-modernism.
An archbishop from Indonesia [Gabriel Manek]. With modesty, but at the same time with clarity, in the name of all the bishops of Indonesia, I saw that the schema is so unsatisfactory that it must be rejected or at least be radically amended. Several points are unnecessary. There are some polemical condemnations, taking aim at several Catholic authors of good repute; this is contrary to the usage of Trent and Vatican I. It will create new obstacles to the dialogue with the separated brethren.
November 15: At 4 pm, with Fr. Rondet, visit to Fr. Lyonnet (Biblical Institute). We exchanged news. Fr. Lyonnet insisted that I write some coherent remarks on the essential deficiencies of the two dogmatic schemas, from the doctrinal point of view. He will have need of them, he told me.
At 8 pm, a visit from Fr. Martelet [who] informed me about the meeting of a certain number of representatives from various episcopal conferences on the afternoon of the 13th, at the “Domus Mariae”…. It was announced that Cardinal Bea was requesting a mixed commission, charged with drafting the new schema that would replace De fontibus. And each group said, in a few words, through its representative, what its intention was on the subject of this schema. Spain: it is the Holy Father’s schema; it must be accepted. – Italy (Castelli): it is inopportune and illegitimate to give an opinion for the episcopal conference; each will decide for himself. – Japan: the schema is worthless; how do we get it rejected? – France (Veuillot): we hope that there will be a vote after the discussion on the whole of it; the schema is bad. – India: unanimously against the schema. – Mexico: doubts; various opinions; but quite against it. – Germany: firmly against. – Burma: divided. – All of Africa: firmly against. – Ceylon: it is important not to close the paths for exegesis; therefore, against. – The Philippines: against. CELAM [Latin America]: against. – Canada: divided.
Another anecdote recounted at noon by Archbishop Assaf. Since he had been in Rome, he has not succeeded in penetrating the Propaganda [Propaganda Fide, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith] to deal with some urgent matters there. He ended up writing to the secretary of the Congregation, more or less in these terms: “During the five weeks I have been here, I have not been able to see you: in the morning, I am at the council; in the afternoon. I find the door of the Congregation closed. Thursday there will be no general congregation; so I will come to you in the morning.” But around 11 am, immediately upon leaving the Consistory, he hurried to the Spanish Square: the door of the Congregation was closed, even the heavy outer door. – Fr. Kéramé in this connection related to us the following joke. Someone said to a monsignor of the Congregation: “So, in the afternoon, it seems that you don’t do anything? – Excuse me, Excellency, that is a mistake: in the afternoon, we are not there; it is in the morning that we do not do anything.”
November 16: Card. Cerejeira (Lisbon): I must confide to you my sad observation: our debates have been disseminated in the newspapers. (He reminded everyone of the obligation of secrecy, the safeguard of liberty.)
Card. McIntyre (Los Angeles, USA). There has been too much talk of pastoral concerns: the essential thing, for pastors, is to guide the faithful, priests, and especially young clerics…. Obedience and humility are necessary in order to keep the doctrine without ambiguity. We must preserve what has been handed down, against all kinds of strange teachings, etc. (quotation from the Letter to the Hebrews).
Card. Rufinus Santos (Manila). Let us be able to examine and correct the schema freely. The objections that have been made against it are not valid. Our duty is to declare doctrine. “Pastoral” is an adjective; the doctrine is the substance. Let the doctrine be certain, complete, sound, uncorrupted.
Card. Jean Urbani, patriarch of Venice: What is said in the schema is very useful and responds well to the necessities of this time, although sometimes in a manner that is too scholastic. Let us set aside matters that can be legitimately disputed: let our exegetes be praised and paternally advised. Let the doctrine on tradition be affirmed in a clearer way—as well as the connection between the magisterium and Scripture.
Card. Raoul Silva Henriquez (Santiago, Chile). In the name of all the bishops of Latin America, especially of Chile: the pastoral character is lacking…. This schema is completely lacking in that regard. It seeks to promote a single school of thought: not only will it not serve unity in the Church, it will provoke arguments among Catholics. It has a flavor of professorial distortion, as is said today.
Archbishop Alfred Bengsch (Berlin). Non placet. It cannot even be corrected. Its intention cannot satisfy us. Its manner of speaking is such that the faithful would not recognize their mother in it, but only a harsh teacher. It contradicts, at least in part, the words of the pope…. I speak also in the name of my experience. In East Germany, as in many other countries, there is an imminent danger of materialism. The faithful expect from us help and consolation. This was a superb opportunity: to speak to them about the revelation of Christ, open wide for them the divine treasure, explain to them as well how the Redeemer can reach great numbers of men who have not outwardly received the good news, etc. But on all of this, nothing or almost nothing in the schema. – It adds new obstacles to union. There are those who tell our faithful that the Christian faith is no longer anything more than an antiquity, something that belongs in a museum; they speak to them in a completely different language that seems new and stirring. This schema is made to support that kind of talk. – The Gospel of Christ, that is the good news: it must be proclaimed, and there indeed is the task of the council….
Archbishop Guerry (Cambrai), In the name of the bishops of France. Certain points should be removed that are perilous, ambiguous, etc. It is not at all a question, as some have claimed, of sacrificing doctrine. This opposition between doctrinal and pastoral necessities is false. There is an equivocation about the word “adapt”. In one sense, it signifies to accommodate, compromise: This would be a crime. But in another sense, it is about an adaptation of the doctrine’s presentation, so that evangelical truth might shine.
At 4:30 pm, lecture by Hans Küng, who is a professor at Tubingen, on the collegiality of the episcopate and ecclesiastical decentralization. He spoke with a juvenile audacity; it was strange to hear that sort of thing resounding in Rome. I would have preferred a little more calm and interiority.
November 17: Bishop Schmitt of Metz. After the mostly negative propositions of Vatican I, we need a more positive language, which emphasizes the traditional doctrine. Therefore I will propose three guiding principles for this: 1. – All revelation consists in the person of Christ, who is himself the word of God to men and the revelation of God. Christ is not only a very high-ranking envoy, the whole of his life, death, Resurrection is divine revelation. From Pentecost until the end of the world, the Church will never cease to search the Depths of the Mystery of Christ…. – 2. – The Christian revelation is the Gospel. There is a danger of reducing the Christian faith to an ideology if one does not see that it is faith in the Good News, in an economy of salvation. – 3. – This Gospel of salvation responds completely to today’s needs. Come, and believe with us in the Gospel. We must not show men “truths”, but Christ himself, who is the Truth, Savior, and Judge of the living and the dead. The Christian faith is greater than an intellectual adherence to some truths.
Bishop George Hakim of Akka (Palestine Israel). These schemas are foreign…. They monopolize the universal faith in aid of a particular theology. One does not see in them the Mystery of Christ, the economy of salvation unfolding in history. Theological explanations must not be detached from Scripture and the Fathers. One must not lose sight of the concrete character of the Word of God, of which the Church is the authentic place [i.e., the locus].
At 7 pm, I arrived at the Canadian College…. We had dinner together in a small restaurant very close by. Next, a visit to Cardinal Léger. A simple and open welcome…. [T]he cardinal got up, went to his desk to get a large notebook, came back and sat down across from me, and read out to me the notes he had taken on the spot during the first meeting of the Doctrinal Commission, Wednesday afternoon. The meeting was a stormy one. Card. Ottaviani was presiding; Fr. Sébastien Tromp was beside him. Everything began with a long diatribe, harsh, haughty, violent, by Fr. Tromp, directed at all those who were criticizing the schema: a retort to each of the bishops who had sent “remarks”…an indignant condemnation of some theologians as traitors and troublemakers…. When Tromp had finished, Card. Léger requested the floor; he said: I thought I was coming to the meeting of a commission working in the service of the council; I did not think I was being summoned before a tribunal. I am neither a heretic nor a traitor. But I insist on remaining free to speak according to my conscience. If I cannot be free here, I would prefer to tender my resignation.
November 18: I was invited to the “Mater Dei” boarding house by Bishop Volk of Mainz. There were about 18 of us: 6 German bishops…; 4 French bishops…; theologians from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland…. Bishop Volk: This is an absolutely private meeting, to examine freely among ourselves how we can get out of this impasse. There are various misunderstandings within the council. Three in particular. 1. On the word “pastoral”: it is not a question of using pastoral perspectives as a pretext for diminishing doctrinal density and fullness – 2. On scholasticism: To criticize a language that is too scholastic in a conciliar text is not to find fault with scholasticism as a science; we must nonetheless insert into the schema certain elements of the faith that cannot be translated into the language of the Schools and that are nevertheless doctrinally necessary. – 3. On the ecumenical aspects: the impression could be given that there might be a willingness to dilute the doctrine to make it acceptable; no; on the contrary, we want to express the totality of Catholic doctrine, of which there are important elements among our separated brothers. We want to reclaim the totality of the Catholic patrimony. The Eastern Churches and the Protestants have been led to go more deeply into certain elements than we have.
Ratzinger [at the meeting]: One thing is essential: let us make sure that periti of diverse tendencies are heard within the commission. Without that, there will be no real and sincere work.
[JAM: Note that the above intervention, at a planning meeting, while certainly excellent advice, is included mainly because it came from the thirty-five year old theologian, Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.]
November 20: Msgr. Lafortune recounted a joke to me that is going around: A ship, which has as passengers Ottaviani, Ruffini, and Siri, has just gone down in a storm; someone asks: Who was saved? One would have to respond: The Holy Church.
Titular Bishop Fidel Gracia Martinez, (Spain): All the Fathers agree that we must profess the whole of our doctrine. But is it necessary to condemn certain debated opinions? Instead of interminable discussions article by article, let a commission be formed, truly representative of diverse opinions.
Card. Frings: In the name of the Board of Presidency, a proposal of great importance. We should soon come to a discussion of the schema’s chapters, one by one. But since some Fathers think that this is not timely, it has seemed to the Board of Presidency that it would be good to get the Fathers’ votes on the matter.
At the end of the session, the result of the vote was obtained, and Archbishop Felici announced it. Those present: 2,200 and some; for sending it back: 1,368; for moving to an immediate discussion of the articles: 800 and some [the exact figures were 2,209; 1,368; 822; and 19 invalid ballots]. As the necessary two-third majority was not reached for sending the schema back, we will continue tomorrow with the discussion of its articles.
At 3 pm, a working meeting on the first chapter of the De fontibus, and especially on tradition, in a room in the Angelicum. There were fifteen of us, half bishops, half theologians. We talked about 3 or 4 possible interventions that were allocated and whose terms were outlined. Father Congar was at the helm. Each of us freely expresses his opinion. Frs. Labourdette and Camelot, OP, were there. Among the bishops, Bishop Pourchet (Saint-Flour). At 4:30 it was decided that the next meeting would be on Friday. Fr. Congar told us that it would not be at the Angelicum; the master general had just forbidden all private meetings on the premises. They say that he was sensitive to a complaint by Card. Ottaviani, who is afraid of “seditious” meetings.
November 21: Cardinal Ruffini was presiding. He announced a message from the secretary general. Archbishop Felici then read a rather long text. This is what I understood and remembered of it, in summary: By mandate of the cardinal of the Secretariat for Extraordinary Affairs: yesterday’s ballot seems to have given rise to some anxiety…. (1) This vote was not without some bending of the rules…; (2) Various factors suggest that we will come up against great difficulties in the discussion. Therefore it is necessary that the schema be better explained. The Supreme Pontiff, taking account of these reasons, etc., has decided to hand the matter over to a commission.
[JAM: There followed a number of general interventions.]
Card. Ruffini: All those who had asked for the floor have had their say. So the discussion of the schema De fontibus revelationis is closed.
[JAM: While awaiting with considerable interest the formation of the special commission which would, in fact, completely rework De fontibus, the Council Fathers moved on to a discussion of the next schema, De instrumentis communicationis socialis, which would become the Decree on the Means of Social Communication.]
De Lubac’s Closing Chapter: The End of 1962 (presented 8/18/2015) [top]
November 23, 1962: An article in Témoignage chrétien relates that “250 black bishops” (!) rejected the schema De fontibus. It also reports that “some texts were already in circulation, one attributed to Fr. de Lubac, the other to Fr. Rahner” (!) Oh, the newspapers!
November 24: [In discussing the document on social communications:] Card. Suenens (Malines). 2. “The passivity of the faithful is very harmful [maxime damnosa].” Let us educate them so that they might play an active role, found associations, etc. Lamenting on the evil of the times serves no purpose. – 3. Religious news is for the most part superficial and extrinsic (ceremonies, blessing of bells, etc.). It should above all be concerned with fundamental matters of faith and Christian life. To this end, a certain theology of the news is necessary. Let the lay writers understand their duty here.
November 26: Bishop Abdul Ahad Sana [Chaldean bishop of Alquoch, Iraq]: To give directives is insufficient. We must give the means of practical action, etc. Improvements to be desired for Vatican radio: programs, and technical aspects.
Voting was by sitting or standing. Everyone stood up.
[Discussing the schema De Ecclesiae unitate (On the Unity of the Church):]
Cardinal Liénart. – The more certain our Church is that she is in the right, the more she must feel an obligation to talk with others, not auctoritativo modo [in an authoritarian manner], but through a true dialogue.
Cardinal Ruffini. It is hard to see why this schema is separate from the dogmatic constitution De Ecclesia.
November 28: Joseph Knoury, Maronite Archbishop of Beirut. – This decree does not even concern all the Eastern Churches; it is rather a decree “for the Greeks. There are several Churches in the East.”… Several of these Churches, heirs of ancient patriarchates, have always been very different from the Byzantine Church.
Melchite Archbishop Michel Assaf of Petra (Jordan). – This is a reminder of what Leo XIII said in the encyclical Orientalium dignitas. But let us reread the context. Our Church has no intention of introducing innovations in the rite without the agreement of our Orthodox brothers. – Again at no. 25: it is stressed, in order to reassure the Eastern Churches: they will find in the Catholic Church their own home. A beautiful, ecumenical declaration, and obvious besides. What is less obvious is the actual reality in our Eastern countries. What a situation, where we act and speak as if the Catholic Church was the sole Latin Church! I deliberately refrain from explaining what I mean. Let our intentions be followed by effects. We rely on the collaboration of everyone, with the grace of God.
November 29: Archbishop Dalmais (of Fort-Lamy)…. He thinks it is an error to want to deal with the Blessed Virgin outside of any ecclesiological reference and that a hasty discussion on the Blessed Virgin might cause a good number of arguments instead of manifesting unity. In South America, it appears that an enormous number of Masses have been offered to obtain the definition of Mary as mediatrix.
Msgr. Spada, president of the Italian Catholic Press, wanted me to write an article on the council. I declined.
November 30: I met Archbishop Hermaniuk of the Ruthenians in Canada; he asked me my impressions and gave me his. He was a member of the Preparatory Theological Commission. I was never given any idea, he told me, of the offers from the Secretariat for Unity. He, too, had harsh words for the methods of Ottaviani, Tromp, and some others. He does not believe that mental attitudes have matured enough to draw up a satisfactory constitution on the Church.
Card. Wyszy?ski: “The schema is, in general, good; it is very well distinguished from the schema on the Church.” It needs a certain breadth. Let us proclaim the urgency of unity. In our time, concern about Christian unity is in the heart of all. The question is of interest to all Churches and confessions, especially the Christians who bear witness to Christ. The materialism of daily life is more dangerous than doctrinal materialism.
Card. Bea. …this schema also contains things similar to those treated by the other documents on ecumenism.
[JAM: Note that one of the problems in discussing this schema on the unity of the Church was getting the balance right between how to consider Protestant denominations and how to consider the Eastern Churches not in union with Rome. They are, as the Council ultimately made surprisingly clear, very different ecclesial realities. Thus the following:]
Archbishop John Heenan of Liverpool. – De facto, it is perhaps more difficult to speak of the Eastern Churches than of the Protestants, because they are closer to us. – The virtue of humility is essential, on both sides…. Let us pray that all Christians, after the council, feel closer to each other and, what is still more important, closer to Christ. (Some applause.)
Bishop Nicolas Elko of the Ruthenians in Pittsburgh. My experience, especially at Mount Athos, has shown me that the Orthodox agree with us on doctrine, except for the dogma of infallibility and the primacy of the pope. We need to show them Catholic discipline and unity; I have known some who have been converted on seeing this….
At 4:30 PM, I was received by Father General (J. B. Janssens). Yesterday morning, he sent me a jar of honey from Sicily, through his private secretary, Fr. Van der Brempt, who was saying that he had noticed my cough. (This good Father General does not know how much this shows me his affection, considering his past severity.) It was a good conversation starter…. He spoke to me also about a newspaper article in which it was said that Rahner, Congar, and Holstein rejected tradition in the name of Scripture alone; he understood very well that this interpretation of their rejection of the “two sources” view was tendentious; I explained to him how it was entirely false, and I laid stress on the text of the Council of Trent. On this subject he said to me that his old professor of theology, Father De Villers (whom I also got to know in Louvain in 1930), taught him to read and interpret strictly the conciliar texts, and he was surprised to see so many bishops and theologians so little versed in this art.
[JAM: I have emphasized again and again in today’s controversies that this is the essential feature of proper method in resolving doctrinal disputes. It is not what we think Magisterial documents sort of say, or what someone says they say, or how prominent theologians have interpreted them in the past, or what we take them to mean given our own assumptions. What matters is what is actually either required or excluded by the specific words of the relevant texts, and by them alone.]
December 1: Bishop Verwimp, S.J. …asked me what the story was with regard to the things reported by Le Libre Belgique (of yesterday). I told him what I knew. He said to me that there was a lot of subterranean maneuvering going on around the council, and he did not hide from me that he did not think much certain Italian ecclesiastics.
In Saint Peter’s…Father Gagnebet gave me some alarming news about the health of John XXIII. In Rome, he told me, it is a convention, as long as the pope is not on his deathbed, to say that he is doing well or that he is only slightly ill.
[JAM: Ha! Who says things have changed since 1960! Now the council fathers moved on to discuss the schema of the constitution De Ecclesia.]
Bishop Frani?. – He is going to set out the schema in summary form. The intention was to treat only the questions posed by the majority of bishops. – Chap. 1: No real distinction between the juridical and the pneumatic [related to the action of the Holy Spirit] Church, between the Roman Church and the Mystical Body. – Chap. 2, on the Members of the Church: nothing is said about what could be disputed concerning non-Catholics, “members in an improper way and by analogy”…. Chap. 7: “In order to respond to current needs”, it speaks also of the auxiliary magisterium of theologians, priests, preachers. Here, as at the end of every other chapter, we could not keep silent about certain errors…. Everything is treated “in a positive way. But, not without very grave reasons,” we had to condemn errors and point out dangers, so that these would be very clear to all. The schema has been approved by the pope. Condemning errors is the best way to shed more light on what is true. We have worked on this schema over the course of nearly 100 meetings.
Card. Liénart. – Let the identity of the Mystical Body and the Church not be affirmed to the point of wanting to enclose the whole of the Mystical Body within the limits of the Roman Church. The grace of Christ overflows these limits, and no one is saved who is not incorporated into Christ…we must not forget any longer all baptized Christians.
Bishop Arthur Elchinger, coadjutor of Strasbourg. “A point on the general spirit of this schema. The faithful also are expecting from us an explanation of the Mystery of the Church, even those who do not belong to the Catholic Church. For many, today, the Church is a veil rather than the revelation of Christ. The pastoral intention is not opposed to the doctrinal intention; on the contrary, it must animate the doctrinal exposition itself.” Today’s questions are not those of yesterday; other aspects need to be explored and set forth. We have in particular to show “that the Church is not only an institution, but also a communion. Yesterday, one spoke especially of the pope; today we must also speak of the bishops, including the titular ones.” (I am one of them.) “Yesterday, of the bishop alone; today, of the college of bishops. Yesterday, of the hierarchy; today, of the Christian people also.
Yesterday, of the causes of division among Christians; today, in the first place, of the points in common. Yesterday, the Church was depicted as bringing salvation to those within her; today, in a certain way, also to those who are outside her. We must also purify in the Church the modes of action according to the Gospel…: the Church does not want to dominate but to serve. None of these things are innovations; this is a return to the Fathers, to Scripture, to the full Catholic tradition.”
December 3: [JAM: Following is an interesting intervention which is clearly a combination of insight and naïveté .]
Bishop G. Huyghe of Arras. – “This schema is of such great importance that it can be called the center of the council.” So many men today do not know the Church or fight against her! Why? She seems like an enemy to them. It depends on the way we present her. The world is expecting that the Church through this council, will tell it what she is.... Our answer will be known everywhere Thanks to the means of communication, the situation today can no longer be as it was with other councils. Our texts will immediately go everywhere. The Church will be judged according to our texts. Now, although the schema presents some positive elements, it does not at all respond to what the world is asking.
In the afternoon, conversation with Dr. Joseph Ratzinger, who gave me various pieces of information on things as seen from the German point of view.
December 4: There is a lot of talk these days about a Pastoral Letter written by Cardinal Montini [the future Pope Paul VI] deploring the poor preparation for the council. The Tempo has taken some quotations from it that some have called tendentious. Some members of the Curia are making a show of saying that it is insulting to the pope. In reality, the campaign for the election of the successor of John XXIII is underway, and this is what explains certain things.
December 5: There is a little joke about Ottaviani going around. He is supposed to have said: “I want to die soon.” – “What’s that, Your Eminence?” – “Yes, soon; I would like to die before the end of the council.” – “But why, Your Eminence?” – “Oh! I would very much like to die a Catholic!”
[JAM: The first session of the Council closed in December of 1962. Most of 1963 was devoted to finishing up work from Session 1 and preparing for Session 2. De Lubac has brief notes on this period. But his journal ends with the following entry.]
September 2, 1963: After my recent hospital stay [first for appendicitis and then for a prostate operation], the provincial (Arminjon) wrote to the Assistant [to the Jesuit Father General] to have me exempted from attending the second session of the council.[Hat tip to G. N.]