Rev. Ralph Wiltgen: The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II
Ebook, the latest edition published by Tan Books, 2014, formerly titled, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber:

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"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
The following is taken from utilizing the first edition of the book:



Rev. Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D.
Divine Word Missionary

Hawthorn Books, Inc. Publishers New York City

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Copyright © 1967 by Rev. Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D. Copyright under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. This book was completely manufactured in the United States of America and published simultaneously in Canada by Prentice-Hall of Canada, Ltd., 1870 Birchmount Road, Scarborough, Ontario. All inquiries should be addressed to Hawthorn Books, Inc., 70 Fifth Avenue, New York City 10011. Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 67-17224.

First Edition: March, 1967

Nihil obstat

Gall Higgins, O.F.M. Cap.

Censor Librorum


Terence J. Cooke, D.D., V.G.

New York, N.Y.

December 15, 1966

The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.


Juvenal, the Roman satirist, writing one hundred years after the birth of Christ, asserted that Syria’s chief river, the Orontes, had flowed intd the Roman Tiber. The poet meant by this that Syria’s culture, which he despised, had succeeded in penetrating the culture of his beloved Rome.

What happened in Juvenal’s day on a cultural level happened in our own day on a theological level. This time, however, the penetrating influence came from the countries along the Rhine—Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands—and from nearby Belgium. Because the cardinals, bishops and theologians of these six countries succeeded in exerting a predominant influence over the Second Vatican Council, I have titled my book The Rhine Flows into the Tiber.

The public has heard very little of the powerful alliance established by the forces of the Rhine, a factor which greatly influenced Council legislation. It has heard even less about half a dozen minority groups which sprang into existence precisely to counteract this alliance. Since so little is known about this aspect of the Council, and since the activities of these groups make up a major part of the present work, I have chosen as my subtitle The Unknown Council.

Soon after the opening day of the Council, when I saw the diluted accounts of the proceedings which were issued by the official Press Office, I began to invite Council Fathers to hold press conferences. This developed into a multilingual news agency, the Divine Word News Service, which specialized in detailed Council reporting. By the end of the Council we
had over 3100 subscribers in 108 countries. Although we never had an edition in Russian, the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church later made its own translation of our bulletins.

As a priest and a journalist familiar with several languages, and as a member of the international and interracial Divine Word missionary society, I had almost limitless opportunities for personal contact with  Council Fathers. They quickly recognized that in my reporting I took no sides, and so I was supplied with information as readily by conservatives as by liberals. In fact, minority groups often sought me out and provided me with exclusive information.

For writing this history I have had access to a complete set of the official documents issued to the Council Fathers during the four sessions. In addition I have been able to consult private and official correspondence, the minutes of meetings, and many documents issued by episcopal conferences. Writing this book in Rome has proved extremely beneficial because further information became available once the Council had ended.

In conclusion, I wish to express thanks to my publisher for his interest and to all others who in any way have contributed to the realization of this book. My very special thanks go to the innumerable Council fathers, periti, members of the Roman Curia and fellow journalists who over the past four years have assisted me in so many different ways. I also wish
publicly to thank the superiors of my religious community for giving me the time to write this book; Father Vincent Fecher, S.V.D., for his assistance with the manuscript; and Miss Patricia O’Connell for typing it.

Rev. Ralph M. Wiltgen, S.V.D.
Divine Word Missionary

Divine Word College, Rome
September 8, 1966
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

THE FIRST SESSION October 11 to December 8, 1962

A Leap Forward, 13 / The European Alliance, 15 / Third Victory, 19 / Sacred Liturgy, 24 / The Press and Secrecy, 29 / The Mission Viewpoint on the Liturgy, 35 / “The Christian Life Is Not a Collection of Ancient Customs,” 39 / Updating Liturgical Practices—Some Underlying Issues, 42 / Deadlock and Solution, 46 / In Search of Unity, 51 / What the First Session Achieved, 56

THE SECOND SESSION September 29 to December 4, 1963

Preparing for the Second Session, 63 / The Mechanics of the Liturgical Commission, 65 / The Last Months of Pope John’s Life, 68 / A Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions, 73 / The Fulda Conference and Its Implications, 78 / Opening the Second Session, 84 / The Schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary, 90 / The Diaconate, 96 / The Laity, 100 / Religious Orders and the Universal Vocation to Sanctity, 103 / The Roman Curia under Fire: Schema on Bishops and the Government of Dioceses, no / Collegiality, 114 / Observer-Delegates and Guests, 119 / World Alliance, 128 / Adoption of the Schema on Communications Media, 130 /Adoption of the Schema on the Liturgy, and Its Implementation, 136

THE THIRD SESSION September 14 to November 21, 1964

Speed Is of the Essence, 145 / Organized Opposition, 148 / Information Please!, 150 / The Blessed Virgin and the Church, 153 / Religious Freedom, 159 / Jews and Moslems, 167 / The Schema on Divine Revelation: Some Papal Directives, 175 / Women at the Council, 184 / Expanding the Propositions on Priests and . the Missions, 189 / Seating the Patriarchs, 198 / The Church in the Modern World, 205 / Defeat for the Moderators, 212 / Seminaries and Schools, 222 / The Preliminary Explanatory Note, 228 / Black Week, 234

THE FOURTH SESSION September 14 to December 8, 1965

Alignments on the Schema on Religious Freedom, 247 / Solving the World's Problems, 252 / The Church’s Missionary Activity, 256 /Authority of Bishops over Schools, 260 / Primly CaibaTy, 262 / Marriage and Birth Control, 267 / Atheism and Communism, 272 / On Nuclear Weapons, 278 / Invitation to Rediscover God, 282


In gratitude to Michael and Martha Wiltgen of Chicago, my father and mother.

It is clear that the history of this Council will have to be written according to the best approved norms laid down for historians by the ancient writers. The first of these is: “Do not dare to say anything false, and at the same time do not dare to keep back the truth. Let there be nothing in what you write that arouses suspicions of favoritism or animosity.” (Cicero, Or. n, 15)

Pope Paul VI
January 31, 1966
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
October 11 to December 8, 1962


The long white procession of bishops in miters and flowing copes seemed never to end. It came down the Royal Staircase, through the Bronze Door and halfway across the square. Then it turned abruptly to the right, mounted the steps and disappeared through the main entrance of St. Peter’s. It was Thursday, October 11, 1962, the feast of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the opening day of the Second Vatican Council.

The cobblestones underfoot were wet and shiny from the rain that had fallen all night long, but they quickly dried in the bright morning sun.

I stood on the front steps watching all 2400 Council Fathers pass by. These men for the most part were unknown outside their own dioceses. But some of them, because of what they would say, or do, were destined to live forever in the histories of this Council. Names like Frings, Ottaviani, Lienart, Meyer, Bea, Suenens, Leger, Maximos IV Saigh and Sigaud were just a few of the many that would never be forgotten.

Not all of the bishops were smiling as they passed. Many believed that the Council had been convoked simply to rubber-stamp previously prepared documents. Some United States bishops had intimated that they would put in a token appearance for two or three weeks, and then go home. And all the bishops of Paraguay had been informed by a high ecclesiastical dignitary that everything had been so well prepared in Rome that the Council would soon be over.

Pope John finally appeared at the end of the procession, his face radiant with joy. Repeatedly he bowed to the crowd, giving his blessing, and gladly accepting their greetings in return. For, so to speak, this Council was his creation, the twenty-first ecumenical council in the history of the Catholic Church, and the second to be held in the Vatican. (He had been Pope for scarcely three months when he told seventeen astonished cardinals of his intention to call an ecumenical council, on January 25, 1959, in the Benedictine monastery adjoining the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.)

At the main entrance to St. Peter’s, his portable throne was lowered, and he proceeded down the long aisle on foot. The Council Fathers, now in their places in the huge Council hall (it was 75 feet wide and 624 feet long), applauded and cheered him as he passed. They represented every part of the world: North America (14 per cent), South America (18 per cent), Central America (3 per cent), Europe (39 per cent), Asia (12 per cent), Africa (12 per cent), and Oceania (2 per cent).

When Pope John reached the altar at the front of the hall, he knelt down to pray. Then followed the first official prayer of the Second Vatican Council, the Veni, Creator Spiritus (“Come, Creator Spirit”), in which the Pope and the Council Fathers together called upon the Holy Spirit for light and guidance in the task ahead. Mass was then celebrated, after which the Book of the Gospels was solemnly enthroned upon the altar, a custom dating back to the earliest councils.

Finally, Pope John made his opening address. He was confident, he said, that the Church would draw new energy and new strength from 'the Council, and “look to the future without fear.” His contagious optimism burst forth as he said: “We feel we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. ... . They say that our era in comparison with past eras is getting worse, and behave as though they had learned nothing from history, the real teacher of life.” For history, said the Pope, showed that things had not in fact been any better in the olden days.

Pope John wished to leave no doubt about his orthodoxy. “The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council,” he asserted, “is this, that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.” The Church, moreover, must never depart “from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers.” At the same time, it “must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and forms of life introduced into the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate.”

The Council, he said, was not to concern itself with a point-by-point exposition of basic doctrines of the Church as taught by ancient and modern theologians, as these were already “well known and familiar to all.” For this, he added, a Council was not necessary. He stressed that there should be a “renewed, serene and tranquil adherence to all the teachings of the Church in their entirety and preciseness, as they still shine forth in the acts of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council.”

The Pope now came to the most important section of his address: “The Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a leap forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciences in most faithful and perfect conformity to authentic doctrine.” This doctrine, he said, was to be studied and expounded “by using modern methods of research and the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.” Great patience and careful consideration were necessary, he stressed, so that the teachings to be drawn up by the Council would be “predominantly pastoral in character.”

Although Pope John called attention to “fallacious and dangerous teachings, opinions and concepts,” he elaborated on this theme with characteristic optimism. Men’s views, he pointed out, change from age to age, and the errors of a particular generation often vanish as quickly as they arise, “like fog before the sun.” The Church has always opposed errors, he recalled, and “frequently it has condemned them with the greatest severity.” Nowadays, however, the Church “prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy. . . .It considers that it meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of its teachings rather than by condemnations.”

He firmly believed, he said, that man had become “ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity” of the human person, of the perfection which was his goal, and of the duties which this implied. “Even more important, experience has taught men that violence inflicted on others, the might of arms and political domination, are of no help at all in finding a happy solution to the grave problems which afflict them.”

In conclusion, he reminded the Council Fathers of their obligation to respond to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, so that their work might fulfill the expectations of the hour and the needs of the peoples of the world. That, he said, “requires of you serenity of mind, brotherly concord, moderation in proposals, dignity in discussion and wise deliberation.”

The stage was set. The business of the Second Vatican Council could begin. It was announced that the first General Congregation (meeting) would open on Saturday, October 13, at 9 a.m.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
October 11 to December 8, 1962


The crucial question before the Council Fathers was the membership of the ten Council commissions. The German bishops discussed possible candidates at the residence of seventy-five-year-old Joseph Cardinal Frings, Archbishop of Cologne, whose dynamic qualities of leadership were unimpaired by frailness, age and partial blindness. Considerable agitation was caused when someone reported that the Roman Curia had prepared a list of candidates for distribution at election time. To counteract this move, it was proposed that each national episcopal conference should be permitted to nominate candidates from its own ranks for each commission. The idea was laid before seventy-eight-year-old Achille Cardinal Lienart of Lille, president of the episcopal conference of France, by Cardinal Frings, president of the episcopal conference of Germany, and both cardinals agreed upon a plan of procedure for the opening day.

After the Mass which opened the first General Congregation on October 13, the Council Fathers received three booklets prepared by the General Secretariat. The first contained a complete listing of Council Fathers, all of whom were eligible for office unless they already held some position. The second listed the Council Fathers who had taken part in the various preparatory commissions of the Council. This was the so-called “Curial” list which had caused so much agitation among the German bishops. As the General Secretariat later explained, the list was prepared simply as an aid to Council Fathers so that they could see who already had had experience in particular fields. But since all preparatory commission members originally had been appointed to office by the Holy See, some Council Fathers resented this list. The third booklet contained ten pages with sixteen consecutively numbered blanks on each page, on which the Council Fathers were to enter the candidates of their choice. Each of the ten Council commissions was to be presided over by a cardinal appointed by the Pope, and to consist of twenty-four members, two thirds elected by the Council Fathers and one third appointed by the Pope. The papal appointments would be made after the announcement of the election results.

Archbishop Pericle Felici, Secretary General of the Council, was explaining the election procedures to the assembled Fathers in his fluent Latin when Cardinal Lienart, who served as one of the ten Council Presidents, seated at a long table at the front of the Council hall, rose in his place and asked to speak. He expressed his conviction that the Council Fathers needed more time to study the qualifications of the various candidates. After consultations among the national episcopal conferences, he explained, everyone would know who were the most qualified candidates, and it would be possible to vote intelligently. He requested a few days’ delay in the balloting.

The suggestion was greeted with applause, and, after a moment’s silence, Cardinal Frings rose to second the motion. He, too, was applauded. After hurried consultation with Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, who as first of the Council Presidents was conducting the meeting, Archbishop Felici announced that the Council Presidency had acceded to the request of the two cardinals. The meeting was adjourned until 9 a.m. on Tuesday, October 16. The first business meeting, including Mass, had lasted only fifty minutes. A Dutch bishop on his way out of the Council hall called to a priest friend some distance away, “That was our first victory!”

The different national episcopal conferences immediately set to work drawing up their lists. The German and Austrian bishops, because of linguistic bonds, decided to establish a combined list. The two German cardinals were not eligible, Cardinal Frings being a member of the Council Presidency, and Julius Cardinal Dopfner of Munich, a member of the Secretariat for Extraordinary Council Affairs. Franziskus Cardinal Konig of Vienna, however, who held no conciliar office, was immediately placed at the head of the list of candidates for the most important commission of all, the Theological Commission. At the close of the discussions, the German-Austrian group had a fist of twenty-seven candidates: three Austrians, twenty-three Germans and one Dutch-born bishop from Indonesia who had received his liturgical training in Germany and Austria.

Other episcopal conferences were similarly preparing their lists. Canada had twelve candidates; the United States, twenty-one; Argentina, ten; Italy, fifty. The superiors general presented six of their number for the Commission on Religious, and one of their number for each of the other commissions.

Nevertheless, as these lists began to form, it became frighteningly apparent to the liberal element in the Council that their proposal for individual fists by episcopal conferences was no real safeguard against ultraconservative domination of the commissions. For it was expected in those early days of the Council that countries like Italy, Spain, the United States, Britain and Australia and all of Latin America would side with the conservatives. Italy alone was believed to have some 400 Council Fathers, the United States about 230, Spain close to 80, and Latin America nearly 650. Europe had over 1100, including those of Italy and Spain. Africa, with its nearly 300 votes, was in the balance, and might be won for either side. Such considerations prompted the bishops of Germany, Austria and France to propose a combined fist with the bishops of Holland, Belgium and Switzerland. At the same time, Bishop- Joseph Blomjous, a Dutch-born bishop in charge of Mwanza diocese in Tanzania, together with African-born Archbishop Jean Zoa of Yaounde, in Cameroun, had been busy organizing the bishops of English- and French-speaking Africa. They offered their list of candidates to the group headed by Cardinal Frings, thus assuring numerous African votes.

The six European countries, which now formed an alliance in fact, if not in name, found additional liberal-minded candidates among cardinals, archbishops and bishops of other countries. Thus they incorporated in their list eight candidates from Italy, eight from Spain, four from the United States, three from Britain, three from Australia, and two each from Canada, India, China, Japan, Chile and Bolivia. Five other countries were represented by one candidate each, and Africa by sixteen. This list of Cardinal Frings came to be called the “international” list and contained 109 carefully picked candidates so placed as to guarantee broad representation of the European alliance on the ten commissions.

By the evening of Monday, October 15, at least thirty-four separate lists of candidates had been prepared and handed in to the Secretary General of the Council, who arranged for them to be printed in a twenty-eight-page booklet entitled Lists of Council Fathers as Proposed by Episcopal Conferences for Use in Electing Council Commissions.

Tuesday, October 16, was spent entering the names of 160 candidates on the ballot sheets. The student body of the Pontifical Urban College was enlisted to count the ballots — a tedious job, there being approximately 380,000 entries in longhand. At the third General Congregation, On Saturday, October 20, the Secretary General announced that Pope John, acting on the suggestion of the Council Presidency, had dispensed with Article 39 of the Council Rules of Procedure, which required an absolute majority (50 per cent plus one) in all elections. A plurality would now suffice, and the sixteen Council Fathers who received the largest number of votes for each commission would be considered as elected to that commission.

The results of these elections were eminently satisfying to the European alliance. Of the 109 candidates presented by the alliance, 79 were elected, representing 49 per cent of all elective seats. When the papal appointments were announced, they included eight more candidates put forward by the European alliance. Alliance candidates constituted 50 per cent of all elected members of the most important Theological Commission. In the Liturgical Commission, the alliance had a majority of 12 to 4 among elected members and 14 to n after the papal appointments had been made.

Eight out of every ten candidates put forward by the European alliance received a commission seat. Germany and France were both represented on all but one of the commissions. Germany had eleven representatives; France, ten. The Netherlands and Belgium each won four seats; Austria, three; and Switzerland, one.

But the election returns did not satisfy everyone. One of the African bishops said it had been understood that, in exchange for African support for all alliance candidates to the Theological Commission, the alliance would support all African candidates to the Commission on the Missions; yet only three of the nine candidates from Africa had been voted into office. Again, not one of the fifteen superiors general proposed as candidates by the conference of superiors general was elected, although they represented communities which were exceptionally competent in liturgy, education, missions, and the religious life.

At the last moment, it was announced that Pope John would appoint nine members to each commission instead of the eight provided for in the rules of procedure. Of the ninety appointed by him, eight were superiors general. Of the 250 Council Fathers elected or appointed to the ten Council Commissions, 154, or 62 per cent, had served on a preparatory commission, and so had previous experience.

After this election, it was not too hard to foresee which group was well enough organized to take over leadership at the Second Vatican Council. The Rhine had begun to flow into the Tiber.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
October 11 to December 8, 1962


The work of the Council, briefly, was to examine schemas (preliminary drafts) of constitutions and decrees, and then amend them, accept them or reject them. To understand what was implied by the rejection of a schema, something which happened repeatedly during the first session, we must look into the background of the schemas, which were prepared over a period of three years and five months of intense work prior to the opening of the Council.

The first phase of the work began on Pentecost (May 17) 1959, when Pope John created an Ante-Preparatory Commission, presided over by his able Secretary of State, Domenico Cardinal Tardini, to assist him in determining the subject matter of the Council. (Canon law stipulates that it is the Pope's responsibility to determine the subject matter and the procedures to be followed at an ecumenical council.) The Pope chose one representative from each of ten Sacred Congregations of the Roman Curia to be members of the commission, and as Secretary he appointed another very able Curial official. Monsignor Felici.

Twelve days after his appointment to the presidency of the Ante-Preparatory Commission, Cardinal Tardini invited the Sacred Congregations of the Roman Curia to make a comprehensive study of all matters under their authority, and to offer specific proposals on matters which they felt could usefully be presented to the future preparatory commissions. Three weeks later, he sent out 2593 copies of a letter to as many prelates around the world, informing them that Pope John XXIII desired their assistance in drawing up topics for discussion at the Council. Originally, Cardinal Tardini had planned to send a questionnaire indicating suitable topics. But since this might have been regarded as a form of pressure, limiting discussion to certain questions, and since he knew how eager the Pope was to create an atmosphere of free and open discussion, he had decided against it. He added in his letter that the prelates were at liberty to consult "prudent and expert clerics” in formulating their replies. The letter was sent not only to those entitled to attend the Council by virtue of canon law, but also to titular bishops, vicars and prefects apostolic, and superiors general of nonexempt religious congregations.

In July 1959, Cardinal Tardini invited the rectors of Catholic universities and the deans of the theological faculties in Rome and around the world (sixty-two in all) to prepare a series of studies on issues which they regarded as especially timely and important. He told the rectors and deans in Rome: “From what we can foresee today, it is more than probable that the Council will have a character that is practical, rather than dogmatic; pastoral, rather than ideological; and that it will provide norms, rather than definitions. This does not remove the possibility or necessity of recalling and reaffirming those points of doctrine which are more important today, and which are more attacked today. Nor does it remove the possibility or necessity of first giving rapid and tranquil summaries and reminders of the doctrinal principles before stating the practical norms.”

A second letter was mailed by Monsignor Felici to the prelates who had not replied by March 21, i960. “The Supreme Pontiff,” he wrote, “who is directly and personally concerned with the guidance and preparation of Council activities, will be most grateful to you for a reply.” He enclosed a copy of the letter sent by Cardinal Tardini nine months previously.

A total of 1998 replies (77 per cent) was received to the two letters. Some of the highest returns came from Mexico (92 per cent), Spain (93 per cent), Ireland (94 per cent), Congo (95 per cent) and Indonesia (100 per cent). The United States made a 70-per-cent return (151 out of 216), and Canada a 69-per'Cent return (62 out of 90). These percentages were low due to the poor response from titular bishops and archbishops in the two countries. The response from heads of dioceses and archdioceses in the United States was 89 per cent, in Canada, 90 per cent. In Germany, it was 100 per cent.

Monsignor Felici worked quietly with nine assistants in a ten-room office in the shadow of St. Peter’s. Their job was to classify and summarize the recommendations which came in through the mails. The letters were first photostatted and then the originals were filed. The photostats were cut into sections and classified according to subject matter. Pope John said later that he had personally followed these labors, which had been conducted “with accuracy and care,” and that he had most attentively examined the suggestions made by the bishops, the proposals of the Sacred Congregations of the Roman Curia, and the wishes and special studies presented by the Catholic universities.

The replies of the prelates filled eight huge volumes; those of the universities and theological faculties, three; and those of the Sacred Congregations of the Roman Curia, one. In addition to these twelve volumes, there were one containing all Pope John’s statements on the Council, two containing an analysis of the proposals made by the prelates, and a final one containing an index. These sixteen volumes of nearly ten thousand pages were to serve as a basis for the work of the future preparatory commissions. Monsignor Felici and his staff completed all this work in the space of one year.

The Ante-Preparatory Commission was now in a position to indicate what subjects should be given thorough study in the Council. It was also able to suggest—and this was another of its tasks—what structural organization would be required to carry out the second phase of the preparatory work for the Council.

On Pentecost (June 5) i960, Pope John launched the second phase of the preparatory work. Twelve preparatory commissions were established, and three secretariats. Over these was a Central Preparatory Commission, with three subcommissions. The Pope himself was president of the Central Preparatory Commission, which had 108 members and twenty-seven consultants from fifty-seven countries (its counterpart at Vatican I had had nine members — all cardinals — and eight consultants from four countries). This central body was the coordinating agency for the other groups, supervised their work, amended their texts, declaring them suitable or unsuitable for treatment by the Council, and reported to the Pope the conclusions reached by individual commissions and secretariats, so that he might be able to make the final decisions as to what subjects should be dealt with at the Council.

When Pope John founded the Central Preparatory Commission, he made forty-eight-year-old Monsignor Felici its Secretary General, elevating him to the rank of archbishop three months later. Although jurisprudence was the Italian archbishop’s specialty, Latin was his hobby, and he had published several books of Latin verse. He was born in Segni, where his maternal uncle, the rector of the local seminary, instilled in him a love for Latin. Ordained a priest at the age of twenty-two, and installed as a judge on the Roman Rota, the supreme court of the Catholic Church, at the age of thirty-six, he went on to become director of the Roman Rota’s college of jurisprudence, before being chosen by Pope John for Council work.

The topics to be studied, as chosen or approved by the Pope, were mailed to the members of preparatory commissions and secretariats by Archbishop Felici on July 9, i960. Four months later, the activity of these bodies officially began when Pope John received the 871 men involved — among them 67 cardinals, 5 patriarchs, 116 archbishops, 135 bishops, 220 secular priests, 282 religious priests and 8 laymen — in St. Peter’s basilica.

After two years’ work, ending on the eve of the Council with the dissolution of most of these bodies, a total of seventy-five schemas had been prepared. Some were merely chapters of full schemas, some were later combined with others by the Central Preparatory Commission, and still others were considered too specialized for treatment by the Council, and were referred to the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law. In this way, the seventy-five schemas were ultimately reduced to twenty. These, as Monsignor Vincenzo Carbone, an official of the General Secretariat, subsequently pointed out, were only “preliminary drafts, capable of further improvement.” As at other councils, they would be perfected “only through discussion in the Council, with the help of the Holy Spirit.” It was certain, however, that no other council had had a preparation “so vast, so diligently carried out, and so profound.”

On July 13, 1962, three months before the opening of the Council, Pope John decreed - *that the first seven schemas, officially called the “First Series of Schemas of Constitutions and Decrees,” should be sent to the Council Fathers around the world. Since they were consecutively numbered, most bishops assumed that it was intended to treat them in their numerical sequence.

Shortly thereafter^ seventeen Dutch bishops met at Hertpgenbosch, at the invitation of Bishop Wilhem Bekkers, to discuss the the schemas. There was general dissatisfaction with the first four dogmatic constitutions, entitled "Sources of Revelation," "Preserving the Pure the Deposit of Faith," "Christian Moral Order,” and “Chastity, Matrimony, the Family and Virginity,” and general agreement that the fifth, on the liturgy, was the best. The proposal was "then discussed and approved that a commentary should be prepared, and be widely distributed among the Council Fathers, pointing out the weaknesses of the dogmatic, constitutions, and suggesting that the schema on the liturgy be placed first on the. Council agenda.

In effect, the only author of the resulting commentary, published anonymously, was Father Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., a Belgian-born professor of dogmatics at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, who served as the leading theologian for the Dutch hierarchy. It contained a devastating criticism of the four dogmatic constitutions, which were charged with representing only one school of theological thought. Only "the fifth schema, on the liturgy, was described as “an admirable piece of It should be noted that the liturgical movement had been arrive in Europe for several decades, and that quite a large number of bishops and periti from the Rhine' countries had been appointed by Pope John to the preparatory commission on liturgy. As a result, they had succeeded in inserting their ideas in the schema and gaining approval for what they considered a very acceptable document.

On the opening page of his lengthy commentary, Father Schillebeeckx wrote: If you are of the opinion that the following commentary requires more time for study and reflection, it might be well to request of the Council Presidency that schemas V, VI and VII should be treated first, and only afterwards the first four.” In a second remark, he went even further: “One might well raise the question whether it would not be better to rewrite the first four schemas completely.” Such complete revision was, in fact, the real aim in view. A third remark suggested that Vatican II should follow the example of the Council of Trent, and refrain from settling questions which were still controverted among the theologians. Father Schillebeeckx also suggested that a classroom style should be avoided, both in language and in treatment, and that “the good news should be proclaimed with good will and in a positive way.”

Latin, English and French versions of the commentary were prepared. Close to 1500 copies were printed in Rome by seventy-two-year-old Bishop Tarcisio van Valenberg, a Dutch Capuchin, and were distributed to bishops from all countries as they arrived for the Council.

Prior to the distribution of this commentary, individual episcopal conferences had not been aware of what bishops from other countries thought of the first four dogmatic constitutions. As one prelate put it, “It was only after seeing the commentary that the Council Fathers dared speak out their secret thoughts about the schemas.”

In consequence of this Dutch initiative, numerous petitions were submitted to the Council Presidency, by episcopal conferences and individual bishops, asking for a delay in the treatment of the four dogmatic constitutions that the schema on the liturgy should be treated first. Actually, no decision had been made as to the sequence in which the schemas were to be debated; this was, a matter within the jurisdiction of t he Council Presidency, as determined by the Rules of Procedure of the Council.

The proposal was strongly supported by Cardinals Frings, Lienart, and Bernard Alfrink of Utrecht, the Netherlands, a ta meeting of the ten Council Presidents, following the brief first General Congregation on October 13. On the following Monday, Pope John received the ten Presidents in a private audience. The next morning, it was announced in the Council hall that the first schema to be presented for discussion would be the constitution on the Liturgy.

With this announcement on Tuesday, October 16, during the second General Congregation, the European alliance had scored another victory. Although the first two victories — the postponement of elections and the placing of hand-picked candidates on the Council commissions — were given extensive press coverage, this third victory passed unnoticed.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
October 11 to December 8, 1962

Sacred Liturgy

The official news bulletin of the Council Press Office on October 22, 1962, carried only two sentences on the first debate on the liturgy, one giving the names of the prelates who had spoken that morning, the other stating, “there were twenty interventions (speeches), and all of them referred to the schema as a whole, some defending it and others attacking it.” The hundreds of journalists who had made the trip to Rome in order to inform their readers of what was being said at the Council ran their fingers through their hair in desperation as they read this scanty report.

The first speaker on that day was Cardinal Frings. He informed the Council that the Central Preparatory Commission had in fact examined a longer text than the one which was now before the Council Fathers. Some important passages had been deleted, including the important “Declarations” which explained seeming innovations, and each Council Father should therefore receive an additional copy of the schema in the complete form in which it had been drawn up by the Preparatory Commission.

Cardinal Frings’ request was a sequel to the publication on Saturday, October 20, of a six-page report by Bishop Franz Zauner of Linz, Austria. Bishop Zauner, a candidate of the European alliance, had been elected to the Liturgical Commission by over two thousand votes, the highest number received by any Council Father for any commission. He had also been a member of the Preparatory Commission on the Liturgy, and therefore knew the details of the text which that body had presented to the Central Preparatory Commission.

Bishop Zauner gave his general approval, but drew attention to eleven specific passages in the schema which he and “some other Council Fathers from various nations” wanted to have changed.

One concerned the section headed “The Language of the Liturgy.” Here the bishop asked for the restoration of the provision in the original text authorizing episcopal conferences to “set the limits and determine the manner in which a vernacular language might be allowed in the liturgy, provided these decisions were acceptable to the Holy See.” The text now before the Council read that bishops might simply “propose” such suggestions to the Holy See.

Another concerned the matter of concelebration, that is, the simultaneous celebration of the same Mass by two or more priests. The present schema allowed concelebration in only two cases: the Mass for the blessing of the sacred chrism on Holy Thursday, and large gatherings of priests. In the light of these restrictions, Bishop Zauner asserted, “concelebration seems to be something exceptional, . . . although the practice is actually legitimate and greatly esteemed by the Oriental brethren of our own day, as it was in the Roman Church in the Middle Ages.”

Another of the bishop’s major objections was to the flat statement in the schema that Latin should be retained for the recitation of the Divine Office, in accordance with the time-honored tradition of the Western Church. He asked for the restoration of the following proviso, which had been deleted from the original text: “But when knowledge of the Latin language is very insufficient, and when there is no legitimate hope of altering the situation, episcopal conferences will be allowed to establish norms regarding the use of another language for their regions.”

The proviso had originally been included by the Preparatory Commission because some of tomorrow’s priests are studying in public schools, where they receive insufficient Latin or none at all; if, therefore, they have to read the Divine Office in Latin, they will derive little spiritual benefit from it. 

As Bishop Zauner’s report became more widely known, increasing numbers of Council Fathers demanded from the floor that the text as drawn up by the Preparatory Commission on the Liturgy should be printed and distributed among them. But no official action was taken in the matter at the time.

On the day that Cardinal Frings spoke, an address was also made by Giovanni Battista Cardinal Montini, Archbishop of Milan, who a year later would be presiding over the second session of the Council as Pope Paul VI. He expressed general satisfaction with the schema, particularly since it stressed the pastoral aspect of the liturgy. It was apparent from the tone of his address that he wished to mediate between liberals and conservatives, pointing out that the schema provided a balance between two extreme points of view. On the one hand, he said, it gave no authorization to those who would introduce changes in venerable practices on a whim, thereby prejudicing important elements in the liturgy both of human and of divine origin; on the other hand, it did not endorse the view that a rite was absolutely unalterable, or that ceremonies which had arisen as a result of historical circumstances must at all costs be retained. Provided that the basic elements were safeguarded, he said, then the form in which liturgy had been handed down, and which was like a garment clothing the divine mysteries, could be changed and made more applicable to present needs. “Such changes, of course, must be carried out prudently and wisely.”

Cardinal Montini went on to say that the schema in no sense constituted a break with divine and Catholic worship inherited from the past. On the contrary, it recommended that commissions be formed after the Council “to make this inheritance more evident, more understandable and more useful to men of our day.” And he supported the statement in the schema that “bishops active in the care of souls would also have to be represented” on such post-conciliar commissions. Unknowingly, Cardinal Montini was laying down norms which he himself would later have to follow as Pope Paul VI.

As to the language of the liturgy, he said that traditional languages “such as Latin within the realm of the Latin Church” should be retained intact “in those parts of the rite which are sacramental and, in the true sense of the word, priestly.” Any difficulty experienced by the laity in understanding the instructional parts of the sacred liturgy should be promptly removed.

Cardinal Montini also declared his wholehearted support of the principle that “ceremonies must once again be reduced to a more simple form.” This did not mean casting off the beauty of divine service and its symbolic power, but merely shortening ceremonies and removing from them whatever was repetitious and overcomplicated. This principle, he felt, should guide the announced reform of the liturgy, since it corresponded so well to the temper of modern man.

On the following day, the Council was addressed in French—although Latin was the prescribed language of the debate—by Maximos IV Saigh, a venerable bearded old man of eighty-four years, the Melchite Patriarch of Antioch, who soon became known for his blunt and forceful speeches. He explained that, while he did not belong to the Latin rite, he wished to add to the discussion the testimony of a patriarch from the East “who follows with great interest the progress of the liturgical movement in the Latin Church.”

He called the schema as a whole an outstanding accomplishment; “all honor is due,” he said, “to the commission which prepared it and likewise to the liturgical movement itself, which was responsible for the schema’s coming into existence.”

The patriarch then turned to the matter of language in the liturgy. Christ himself had spoken the language of his contemporaries, he said, “and he offered the first Eucharistic Sacrifice in a language which could be understood by all who heard him, namely, Aramaic.” The Apostles had maintained this practice. “Never could the idea have come to them that in a Christian gathering the celebrant should read the texts of Holy Scripture, sing psalms, preach or break bread, and at the same time use a language different from that of the community gathered there.” The use of Latin in the liturgy of the Latin Church, he said, “seems altogether abnormal to the Eastern Church.” And even the Roman Church itself, at least in the middle of the third century, had used Greek in its liturgy, “because this language was spoken by the faithful of that time.” Greek had been abandoned in favor of Latin precisely because Latin had meantime become the language of the faithful. “Why, then, should the Roman Church cease to apply the same principle today?”

In the East, the patriarch pointed out, there had never been a problem of liturgical language. “For actually every language is liturgical, since the Psalmist says, ‘Let all peoples praise the Lord.' Therefore man must praise God, announce the Gospel, and offer sacrifice in every language, no matter what it is. We Orientals cannot 'understand how the faithful can be gathered together and made to pray in a language which they do not understand. The Latin language is dead, but the Church is alive. Language is a medium of grace . . . The language used must be a living language, since it is meant for men and not for angels.”

The patriarch suggested in conclusion that episcopal conferences be authorized by the schema to decide whether and in what manner the vernacular should be introduced into the liturgy. The text as it stood gave such conferences “no other right than merely to propose to the Holy See in Rome the introduction of the vernacular. But no conference of bishops is even needed for that; every single Catholic can make a suggestion.”

Archbishop Enrico Dante, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, spoke out strongly against the schema on liturgy. Legislation on the subject, he said, must remain the exclusive prerogative of the Holy See. Latin t should continue to be the language of the liturgy; and the vernacular should be used only for instructions and certain prayers. This position was supported by three other members of the Curia: Antonio Cardinal Bacci, a member of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, who was regarded as the outstanding Latinist in the Vatican; Archbishop Pietro Parente, a consultant to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, who was also first assistant to Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani in the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office; and Archbishop Dino Staff a, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities. Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, and a leading conservative, suggested that a joint commission of members from the Theological and Liturgical Commissions be appointed to revise the entire schema.

On October 30, the day after his seventy-second birthday, Cardinal Ottaviani addressed the Council to protest against the drastic changes which were being suggested in the Mass. “Are we seeking to stir up wonder, or perhaps scandal, among the Christian people, by introducing changes in so venerable a rite, that has been approved for so many centuries and is now so familiar? The rite of Holy Mass should not be treated as if it were a piece of cloth to be refashioned according to the whim of each generation.” Speaking without a text, because of his partial blindness, he exceeded the ten-minute time limit which all had been requested to observe. Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the Council Presidents, showed his watch to Cardinal Alfrink, who was presiding that morning. When Cardinal Ottaviani reached fifteen minutes, Cardinal Alfrink rang the warning bell. But the speaker was so engrossed in his topic that he did not notice the bell, or purposely ignored it. At a signal from Cardinal Alfrink, a technician switched off the microphone. After confirming the fact by tapping the instrument, Cardinal Ottaviani stumbled back to his seat in humiliation. The most powerful cardinal in the Roman Curia had been silenced, and the Council Fathers clapped with glee.

Again and again the request was made from the floor that the schema on the liturgy should be given to the Council Fathers in its entirety, as Cardinal Frings had suggested. The feeling was widespread that some highhanded, behind-the-scenes action had been responsible for cutting down the original text to its present form. The position was finally clarified by Carlo Cardinal Confalonieri, a member of the Curia and chairman of the subcommission on amendments, a division of the Central Preparatory Commission to which all draft texts had had to be submitted. He told the assembled Council Fathers on November 5 that his subcommission alone had been responsible for the changes made.

This admission in the Council hall was regarded as another triumph for the liberals. And it was followed by an even more impressive triumph: the eventual restoration of most of the passages—including the “Declarations”—which had been deleted from the Preparatory Commission’s original draft.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
October 11 to December 8, 1962


Everyone connected in any way with the First Vatican Council (1869-70) was ordered by Pope Pius IX to observe strict secrecy on every conceivable aspect of Council business. The Pope explained that secrecy had also been imposed upon those partaking in earlier Councils, whenever the occasion had warranted it. “But now more than ever such caution appears necessary,” he said, “since every opportunity is quickly seized by the powerful and destructive forces of wickedness to inspire hateful attacks against the Catholic Church and its doctrine.” This rigid secrecy obligation, and the lack of a Council Press Office, forced journalists assigned to cover Vatican I to obtain their information in devious ways. The resultant coverage was considered by Church authorities to be lacking in objectivity and balance, however good the intentions of the journalists concerned might have been.

To avoid any repetition of this situation at Vatican II, it was early decided to make special efforts to provide journalists with authentic information. At a press conference held by Cardinal Tardini on October 30, 1959, and attended by over a hundred journalists, it was announced that a Council Press Office would be established to give journalists an opportunity to obtain “precise and topical information on the various phases of the Council.” This Press Office opened its doors on April 18, 1961, operating first as an information service for the Central Preparatory Commission. In this capacity, it issued a total of 112 news releases during the preparatory phase of the Council.

In June 1961, Pope John told those engaged in the preparatory work that he did not wish to “forget the journalists,” whose desire for news on the Council he appreciated. “Nevertheless,” he added, “we invite them courteously to reflect that an ecumenical council is neither an academy of science nor a parliament, but rather a solemn meeting of the entire hierarchy of the Church to discuss questions regarding the ordinary life of the Church and the good of souls. It is clear that all of this interests the journalists, but it also requires special respect and reserve.”

In October of the same year, Pope John received the press in audience and said that everything would be done to provide them with detailed information on the preparation and development of the Council. In fact, we are fully conscious of the precious service that the press will be able to perform in making the Council known in its true light, and in making it understood and appreciated by the public at large as it deserves to be. Indeed, it would be most unfortunate if, for lack of sufficient information, or for lack of discretion and objectivity, a religious event of this importance should be presented so inexactly as to distort its character and the very goals which it has set for itself. A month later, the Pope told the Central Preparatory Commission that not everything could be made known to the press. There are some deliberations which necessarily . . . must remain veiled in silence.”

Six days before the opening of the Council, Amleto Cardinal Cicognani, the Secretary of State, blessed and inaugurated the newly expanded Council Press Office, facing St. Peter’s. The office was equipped with all modern facilities, and in the course of the four sessions issued 176 news bulletins and 141 special studies in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic and Chinese. Even before the Council opened, over a thousand journalists from around the world had been accredited.

Monsignor Fausto Vallainc, the Director of the Council Press Office, was immediately responsible to the Secretary General during the first session, an arrangement which proved most unsatisfactory and was changed before the second session. On the opening day of the Council, he issued a bulletin to the effect that the Council Press Office would do all in its power to fulfill the requests of journalists and facilitate their work. . . . Naturally this office has certain necessary limitations, since the information to be given out must always first be approved, and may never violate the laws of necessary reserve, discretion and secrecy required for the good of the Council.”

The matter of secrecy was specifically treated in three different articles of the Rules of Procedure of the Council, endorsed by Pope John two months before the Council opened. In its mildest form it was imposed upon observer-delegates from non-Catholic Christian Churches invited to attend the Council. Article 18 provided: “The observers may inform their own communities of those things that take place in the Council. They are bound to observe secrecy, however, with regard to all other persons, in the same way as the Council Fathers, as indicated in Article 26.” The wording of the obligation as it related to the Council Fathers was very brief: “The Fathers are obliged to keep secret the Council discussions and the opinions of individuals.” The secrecy obligation imposed by Article 27 was even more stringent: Procurators, Council periti, ministers, officials and all others who have anything to do with Council affairs are obliged before the Council opens to take an oath in the presence of the President or his delegate, stating that they will faithfully fulfill their office and observe secrecy regarding documents, discussions, opinions of individual Fathers, and votes.”

Although Monsignor Vallainc made heroic efforts to supply information, it was so anonymous that the press could quote no one. He was in a dilemma. He knew what the reporters wanted, and realized the validity of their requests, but he could not oblige. And this angered the journalists with whom he was in daily contact. If he ventured to give more detailed information than usual, those Council Fathers who believed this to indicate partiality toward conservatives or liberals, or to be injurious to the Council, complained to the authorities, and Monsignor Vallainc would receive new instructions from Archbishop Felici. His job was to remain as neutral as possible.

Throughout the first session, representations were made through a variety of channels urging improvements in the press arrangements. Notably, the Spanish Information Center drafted a memorandum on the subject for presentation to the Council Secretariat; more or less formal representations were also made by the press committee of the United States hierarchy, by many individual bishops of various countries, and by individual journalists. Although there was some improvement in the bulletins issued to the press, they never became quite satisfactory. There continued to be emphasis on basic agreement among the Council Fathers, with disagreement being evident only on minor points, even in cases where it later became apparent that the disagreements were much more than minor. And the presentation of arguments on both sides of an issue tended to give the impression that there was about equal division, when this was not at all the case in fact.

There was an attempt among some Council Fathers, especially those from Canada, to do away with the secrecy obligation altogether and to allow the press to attend all meetings inside St. Peter’s. This proposal, however, met with strong opposition not only from Council authorities, but also from many Council Fathers. The secrecy obligation was never formally revoked or even mitigated during the first session.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Manuel Cardinal Gonsalves Cerejeira of Lisbon should have risen in the Council hall on November 16, to say that he was obliged to make “a sad observation,” namely, that the secrecy obligation regarding Council matters was very poorly observed, since everything said at the previous meeting two days earlier was already public knowledge. Actually, much of what Council Fathers regarded as leakage of Council information was news that had been issued by the Council Press Office itself. Each day, shortly after a meeting, there was an oral briefing for the press in the Council Press Office, and two or three hours later the same information was available to the press in bulletin form. Many Council Fathers found themselves in the embarrassing position of withholding information from persons outside the Council, only to find the selfsame news in the next morning’s paper.

The French La Croix, a daily published in Paris by the Augustinians of the Assumption, enjoyed the special confidence of the French hierarchy. These bishops knew that La Croix would faithfully print what they said, and would not sensationalize the news. As a result, numerous and lengthy direct quotations of statements by French bishops in the Council hall appeared in La Croix. Archbishop Rene Stourm of Sens, press representative for the French hierarchy, later said that the French bishops regarded themselves as responsible to their people, and wanted to keep them informed; hence they had used the press.

Many Council Fathers from Italy, France and Canada sent weekly newsletters on the Council to their diocesan newspapers. Some of these newsletters, such as that of Cardinal Montini, were widely reproduced in the press. Coadjutor Archbishop John Patrick Cody made a weekly broadcast from Rome to New Orleans via telephone to keep the people of his archdiocese informed about the progress of the Council.

Simultaneously with the opening of the Council, several national information centers were established. These grew rapidly in importance, because of the general need of the press for information about the Council, and they also began to exert an altogether unexpected influence on the Council’s deliberations.

The most elaborate, most influential and most regular service was the one provided by the United States hierarchy; it might well be regarded as one of that hierarchy’s greatest contributions to the Council. Officially it was known as the U. S. Bishops’ Press Panel. It operated within the limits of the rules governing the Council, and its principal purpose was to provide more information on Council proceedings and throw light on the highly complex questions treated in the debates. The panel during the first session regularly numbered eleven members, all experts on subjects related to the Council’s work—dogmatic theology, moral theology, sacred Scripture, ecumenism, council history, canon law, liturgy, seminaries, etc. These experts would clarify definitions and positions, and provide the press with background material on matters under discussion in the Council hall on any one day. As the Council progressed, these briefings were increasingly well attended.

The German hierarchy established an information center at which a bishop or theologian read a weekly background paper. The Spanish hierarchy opened an information office which was concerned chiefly with supplying information to the Spanish bishops themselves. The Dutch hierarchy opened a documentation center which during the first session issued a series of forty research papers in Dutch. The French and Argentine hierarchies also established information offices.

In a pre-Council survey that I made of press attitudes in regard to Council coverage, the chief of the Rome bureau of Newsweek, Mr. Curtis Pepper, told me, “Nothing can substitute for interviews with important people.” He cited the meeting of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, where he and other representatives of the press had been given every opportunity to interview churchmen. “This,” he said, “cleared up ambiguities and led to more accurate reporting on the part of the press.” These views were confirmed by Mr. Robert Kaiser of the Rome bureau of Time, who said, “What the press needs is access to bishops and theologians who have the freedom to speak frankly about something which is a human event involving intelligent men in dialogue.”

Most of the Council Fathers who came to Rome distrusted the press. They believed they would be misquoted, and therefore refused to meet and cooperate with journalists they did not know. And such a vast assortment of tongues were spoken by the Council Fathers that most journalists would be automatically restricted to their own linguistic groups. Because I was a priest and a member of an international and multilingual missionary order, I was in a more advantageous position to make contact with Council Fathers from many different parts of the world.

Like all other journalists, I had to overcome the obstacle of secrecy. Convinced by Mr. Pepper and Mr. Kaiser of the importance of press conferences, I felt it imperative to find a way for a Council Father to speak before the press without fear of breaking the obligation of Council secrecy. At the same time, his words must obviously have some direct bearing on the Council; background talks were not enough. The solution reached was actually very simple. Instead of asking a Council Father to speak about what was going on in the Council hall, I would merely ask him to state in practical terms the needs and wishes of his own diocese in regard to the matter currently under discussion. This did not violate secrecy, and was still topical information for the press. For it was clear that what a bishop might say in this connection would echo views that he, or someone else, was voicing in the Council hall.

To overcome a bishop’s fear of being misquoted, I suggested that he first give me a private interview, which I would then write up and submit to him for his approval. After the transcript was cleared, translations of it would be made. At the subsequent press conference, each journalist would receive this bulletin in his own language. It contained numerous direct quotations, which the press was free to use. This procedure guaranteed the accuracy of the substance of any story which the press might carry, and it allayed the fears of the Council Father concerned. The press conference itself was conducted in two, and sometimes three, languages; the bulletins were available in six languages. In this way, the Divine Word News Service was able to organize fifteen widely quoted press conferences for seven bishops and eight archbishops from twelve countries during the first session. This practice was widely adopted in subsequent sessions.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
October 11 to December 8, 1962


The choice of the schema on the liturgy as the first topic of debate was to have a number of unexpected side effects. The very practical considerations in the schema affecting the Church’s life of worship were of paramount concern to missionary and Asian- and African-born bishops. Had the debate begun with any other topic, these bishops might not have become actively and totally engaged in it until much later. They knew better than anyone else the importance of liturgical reform, particularly in respect to language. At the same time, they knew that they could not effect the desired changes singlehanded. And since the European alliance was altogether sympathetic to their views, they .rallied to its support, causing it to grow in size and power. Still another consequence of the priority given to the debate on the liturgy was that Father Schillebeeckx and other opponents of the four dogmatic constitutions were given ample time to pinpoint the inadequacies of those texts and to demand their complete revision. A number of lectures were organized on the topics concerned and were widely attended by Council Fathers.

The only representative from Asia on the Liturgical Commission was Dutch-born Bishop Willem van Bekkum of Ruteng, Indonesia, who had gained international repute by the paper he had read on liturgical reform and the missions at the Pastoral Liturgical Congress held in Assisi in 1956. His candidacy had been favored by the European alliance, partly because he had received his formal training in liturgy from the two leaders of the liturgical movement in Germany and Austria. On October 23, the day after the discussion on the schema began, I persuaded him to let me arrange a press conference for him. The announced topic was the adaptation of the liturgy to Indonesian culture.

As was anticipated, the press turned out in large numbers. The Bishop said that he had been able, with the help of his Indonesian flock, to “Christianize clan feasts in which original socioreligious structures were preserved.” Before the Council opened, he said, he had felt that proposals such as he wished to make would have no chance of a hearing, but now he was “highly optimistic.” “At private meetings in the past few days with missionary bishops from other parts of the world,” he said, “I have learned that our experience in Ruteng has been multiplied hundreds of times throughout Asia and Africa. And I have found warm sympathy for these ideas among liturgical experts from the West.” Traditional Indonesian practices such as harvest thanksgiving feasts, feasts honoring the dead, and agricultural new year feasts could “safely be transformed in Christ and sanctioned by the Church. On the subject of language, Bishop van Bekkum stressed the importance of spontaneity in worship and pointed out that spontaneity disappeared when the faithful were confronted with a foreign tongue. He hoped that languages other than Latin—those of Asia and Africa, for instance—might become “sacramental languages through their introduction into the liturgy, and especially into the Mass. The result, he said, would be “a much richer and more vital liturgy.

As Bishop van Bekkum walked out of the press conference, he met Archbishop Bernardin Gantin, the African-born head of Cotonou archdiocese in Dahomey. Upon learning of the conference, the Archbishop told the Bishop, “You are our spokesman.” An hour later, news programs throughout Italy and international news agencies were spreading Bishop van Bekkum’s ideas far and wide. L’Osservatore Romano surprised its readers with an exclusive interview. The Bishop’s own comment on his press conference, which had lasted an hour and a half, was: I could never have explained so much in the ten minutes allotted to speakers on the Council floor.”

The press conference had turned out so well that I was eager to try the experiment again. On Sunday, October 28, I approached Archbishop Eugene D’Souza of Nagpur, India, with the suggestion that he might wish to pass on to reporters his thoughts regarding the use of Indian languages and local customs in the liturgy. Realizing that the cause of liturgical reform had been advanced by the published statements of Bishop van Bekkum, the Archbishop agreed, and the conference was held the next day. He had reason to believe that there was serious opposition, because Cardinal Dopfner had told him, “We are standing before a thick stone wall, and it does not look as though we shall get through.”

Archbishop D’Souza told a roomful of reporters, “The marriage rite as it now stands is unintelligible to many of our Catholic people living in rural areas.” To make it more understandable, some local customs had been incorporated in certain regions of India. “For example, since a ring means nothing at all to some of our people, a dish called a thalee is handed by the husband to the wife.” In other places, he said, the “marriage knot” was used as the external sign or symbol of the marriage contract. The whole rite of most of our sacraments and sacramentals ought to have local color.” And on the subject of language, he added: “The use of the vernacular in the administration of the sacraments is a must, for the simple reason that the beautiful rites are completely lost on our people if they are in Latin.” If local languages and customs were not introduced into the liturgy, the Church would “never make the impact it should on our country. ...”

Similar considerations were voiced at a press conference given by Bishop Lawrence Nagae of Ur aw a, Japan, who maintained that Catholicism had made such slow progress in his country (with 300,000 Catholics) because its presentation had been too Western. “If Catholicism is to be recognized and accepted by the working class, which makes up the bulk of the Japanese population, it is necessary for the Catholic Church to appear as a very modern and dynamic spiritual and social force.” The Catholic Church must have something special to say to modern man and something special to give him, he went on. “Modern Japan, seeing only ceremonies and institutional practices in the Catholic Church, considers the Catholic religion on a par with its own traditional religions, outdated and defunct, incapable of making any serious and worth-while contribution to modern Japanese life.”

He therefore called for a simpler liturgy and a more direct approach, so that the people might be able “to participate more immediately with the priest.” He also called for the elimination from the liturgy of elements such as genuflections, which, he said, stemmed from Western culture and were meaningless to the Japanese. “In our country, where we make a profound bow to show reverence, we would prefer to use that motion in place of the genuflection.” Other ceremonies and symbols, too, were unintelligible to the Japanese—for instance, the kissing of objects during liturgical services. This practice should be made more infrequent, he said, since “the kiss in the Orient is out of place.” He also said that the sign of the Cross should not have to be made so frequently.

The schema on the liturgy went into its ninth day of discussion on November 5. Twenty-four Council Fathers spoke at this meeting, emphasizing many of the same topics, preoccupations, and differences as had been voiced at earlier meetings. Some called for the shortening of the Mass prayers at the foot of the altar, ending the Mass with the Ite, missa est and the blessing, using the pulpit for the Mass of the Word and the altar for the Mass of the Sacrifice, and pronouncing only the words "Corpus Christi” (“Body of Christ”) when distributing Holy Communion. One of the speakers that morning was German-born Bishop William Duschak of Calapan vicariate in the Philippines, who stressed the need for what he called an ecumenical Mass, modeled closely upon the Last Supper, over and above the existing form of the Latin Rite Mass.

The communique issued by the Council Press Office that day made no mention of Bishop Duschak’s proposal. In fact, it stressed the “necessity of preserving the present structure of the Mass in its substance,” and indicated that “only minor changes may be allowed.” A press conference, however, had been arranged for him in the afternoon, and when newsmen heard that the Bishop had spoken in the Council hall that morning, they turned up at his conference in exceptionally large numbers. To inform newsmen of these press conferences, I had to distribute my notices on the front steps of the Council Press Office, since it was not allowed during the first session to post a notice on the bulletin board inside. Authorities maintained that reporters would then consider the press conference to be official. 

Bishop Duschak told the press that he had devoted a lifetime of study to pastoral liturgy, and that his present suggestion was the product of over thirty years of priestly work in the Philippines. “My idea,’ he said, “is to introduce an ecumenical Mass, stripped wherever possible of historical accretions, one that is based on the essence of the Holy Sacrifice, one that is deeply rooted in Holy Scripture. By this I mean that it should contain all the essential elements of the Last Supper, using language and gestures that are understandable, adopting the method and spirit of the prayers and words that were used then. It should be a kind of celebration of the Mass which all members of a community, even if they happen to
be attending Mass for the first time in their lives, can readily understand without involved explanations and without special historical commentaries.” Man-made prayers, he said, should be used very sparingly; the emphasis should instead be placed on the words of promise in Holy Scripture, the words Christ spoke at the Last Supper in instituting the Holy Sacrifice, and in his priestly prayer for unity, and St. Paul’s admonitions regarding the Eucharist as contained in the first Epistle to the Corinthians.

Bishop Duschak did not accept the conventional reasons for keeping the Canon of the Mass intact. “If men in centuries gone by,” he said, “were able to choose and create Mass rites, why should not the greatest of all ecumenical Councils be able to do so ? Why should it not be possible to ordain that a new Mass formula be drawn up with all due reverence, one that is suited to, desired and understood by modern man, who lives in a world which is daily becoming smaller and more uniform.'” The substance of the Holy Sacrifice would remain, he said, but the rite, form, language, and gestures would be accommodated to our modern age, thus making it possible for modern man to derive greater spiritual benefit from it. The entire Mass, moreover, should be said aloud, in the vernacular, and facing the people. “I believe it is also likely that if the world receives such an ecumenical form of Eucharistic celebration, the faith of Catholic Christian communities in the sacramental presence of Christ might be renewed or even rectified.”

Bishop Duschak emphasized that he was not proposing the abolition of the existing form of the Latin Mass. He was merely proposing that an additional form or structure of the Mass be introduced. Asked whether his proposal originated with the people whom he served, he answered, “No, I think they would oppose it, just as many bishops oppose it. But if it could be put into practice, I think they would accept it.”

When a high-ranking conservative official of the Council Press Office saw the bulletin that I had prepared for reporters attending this press conference, he seriously asked me to examine my conscience and decide once and for all to discontinue publishing bulletins, since this was the task of the Council Press Office. But when I sought advice from some progressive Council Fathers, they said, “Carry on! If you run into trouble, we’ll get rid of the roadblocks for you.”

Before the Council ended, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy had already approved of three distinct Mass formulas on a limited experimental basis, in which the entire Mass, including the Canon, was to be said aloud, in the vernacular, with the priest facing the people. A part of Bishop Duschak’s proposal was already being put into practice.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
October 11 to December 8, 1962


In the early days of November, I was approached by Archbishop Geraldo Sigaud of Diamantina, Brazil, who was known to me as a conservative- that is, a Council Father who used more than average caution in advocating change. In disappointed tones, he remarked that I seemed to be arranging press conferences only for speakers who were in favor of the vernacular. Whereupon I assured him that if a Council Father in favor of Latin were willing to speak to the press, I would just as readily arrange a press conference for him. The Archbishop told me that he knew just such a man, and within twenty-four hours had introduced me to a friend of his. Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer of Campos, Brazil. The press conference took place on November 7, and was very well attended.

“Can we be sure,” the Bishop asked, “that the translation of the Mass into the vernacular will convey to the faithful all the nuances of the Latin text? . . . Here we are dealing with a most serious question, one that cannot be decided without profound thought.”

The use of a language not readily understood by all “lends a certain dignity to the divine service, giving it a mysterious tone which, in a certain degree, is natural for things pertaining to God.” The wisdom of the centuries, Bishop Mayer said, had dictated the use of an archaic language in the liturgical services of certain non-Latin rites of the Catholic Church, and also in the best known non-Catholic religions. And since a variety of missals were available with the Mass text translated into living languages, it was not necessary for the priest to say the Mass in the vernacular. Bishop Mayer doubted that a spiritual revival among peoples and nations would necessarily follow upon the introduction of the vernacular in the Mass, as some had claimed.

At the same time, the Bishop conceded that “in certain cultural areas, where the language is far removed from Latin, a gradual changeover could be made. The changeover would be from Latin to a language more in keeping with the local culture, provided that a universal basic element were retained.” He explained here that he did not necessarily mean that the language to be substituted should be the vernacular. Moreover, the changeover would have to be achieved gradually and organically, “always inspired and directed by the Holy See, which enjoys the special assistance of the Holy Spirit in all that pertains to divine worship and the salvation of souls.” As for the peoples of Western lands that possessed the Latin Rite, there seemed to be no reason, as far as Bishop Mayer could see, for abandoning any of the Latin in the Mass, even for a long time to come.

Bishop Mayer’s remarks contrasted greatly with remarks made on the same day by Pope John at a public audience granted after he had watched the morning meeting of the Council on closed-circuit television. Explaining the activities of the Council Fathers, the Pope said: “The business at hand is not to make a careful study of some old museum or of some school of thought from the past. No doubt this can be helpful—just as a visit to ancient monuments can be helpful—but it is not enough. We live to advance, appreciating at the same time whatever the past has to offer us in the line of experience. But we must move ever further onward along the road which Our Lord has opened up before us.” And to make sure that there should be no misunderstanding as to his meaning, he added, “The Christian life is not a collection of ancient customs.”

On the previous Sunday, both by action and by word, he had expressed himself in favor of the vernacular. It was the fourth anniversary of his coronation, and the faithful of Rome as well as the Council Fathers were present at a celebration in St. Peter’s. Speaking in Latin to the Council Fathers, the Pope said: “This should be the common language used by prelates of the Universal Church when communicating with . . . the Apostolic See, and it should be regularly used at Council meetings.” After greeting them in Latin, he said, he would switch to Italian, “especially since it can be more easily understood by very many of those present, that is, by the people, who have come together here in great numbers to honor the anniversary in the pontificate of their Pastor and Father.” This was the very same argument that the missionary bishops had been using for the introduction of the vernacular in the Mass.

Pope John spoke at length in Italian on the merits of the Ambrosian Rite, in which Cardinal Montini of Milan was celebrating the anniversary Mass in honor of the Pope that day. He pointed out that, in externals, the Ambrosian Rite Mass appeared different from the Latin Rite Mass, but that this external difference was no obstacle whatsoever to the “sincere fidelity to Rome” of the Catholics of Milan. These words provided encouragement to bishops from Africa and Asia who had been advocating in the Council not only the introduction of the vernacular in the Mass, but also the adaptation of the Mass and other religious functions to the local culture.

As Pope John put it, “It is only natural that new times and circumstances should suggest different forms and approaches in the external transmission and presentation of doctrine. But the living substance is always the pure, evangelical, and apostolic truths with which the teachings of our Holy Church perfectly conform.” Missionary bishops took this to mean that the Pope supported their stand.

Because the Rules of Procedure contained no provision for limiting the number of speakers who might address the assembly on a given chapter, the Council moved along very slowly during its first month. Numerous complaints and suggestions were lodged with Council officials, causing Pope John to authorize the Council Presidency to call for a vote of closure when a topic appeared exhausted. On November 6, the day on which this new faculty was announced, it was immediately put to use, since by this time as many as seventy-nine speakers had addressed the assembly on the second chapter of the first schema. Two other methods of speeding up the Council were also adopted about this time: less important schema chapters were discussed as a unit, and groups of Council Fathers had representatives speak for them.

For their own instruction and guidance, the Council Fathers began to form groups, on either linguistic or nationalistic lines, and many of them met at a specified time and place each week. One of these groups was the Conference of German-language Council Fathers, which met each Monday evening in the residence of Cardinal Frings to determine policy for the coming week. It counted among its nearly one hundred members all the bishops of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Scandinavia, Iceland, and Finland, as well as many missionary bishops and superiors general of German, Austrian and Swiss ancestry. And its forte was that it not only united for the sake of discussion, but also nearly always acted as a bloc.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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