Rev. Ralph Wiltgen: The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II
September 29 to December 4, 1963


Throughout the preparatory stages of the Council, the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary was alternately treated independently and as a chapter of another schema.

In January, 1963, following the close of the first session, the Coordinating Commission ruled at its first meeting that the schema “on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, is to be treated independently of the schema on the Church.” Because of this decision, the schema was reprinted and distributed to the Council Fathers, together with eleven others, before the second session. The only difference was in the wording of the title. Originally the title had read, “On the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Men”; now it read, “On the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.” An additional note on the title page specified that “the text will be changed only after suggestions are made by the Council Fathers.”

When the German and Austrian Council Fathers received their copies of the schema, they asked Father Rahner to prepare comments on it for presentation at the forthcoming Fulda conference.

According to Father Rahner, whose written comments were distributed to all participants in the conference, the schema as then drafted was “a source of the greatest concern” for himself and for Fathers Grillmeier, Semmelroth, and Ratzinger, who had also examined it from a theological point of view. Were the text to be accepted as it stood, he contended, “unimaginable harm would result from an ecumenical point of view, in relation to both Orientals and Protestants.” It could not be too strongly stressed, he said, “that all the success achieved in the field of ecumenism through the Council and in connection with the Council will be rendered worthless by the retention of the schema as it stands.”

It would be too much to expect, continued Father Rahner, that the schema on the Blessed Virgin could be rejected as simply as the schema on the sources of revelation. It should therefore be urged with all possible insistence” that the schema on the Blessed Virgin be made either a chapter or an epilogue of the schema on the Church. ‘This would be the easiest way to delete from the schema statements which, theologically, are not sufficiently developed and which could only do incalculable harm from an ecumenical point of view. It would also prevent bitter discussion.”

Father Rahner contended further that the schema as it stood used “tactics which objectively are not honorable,” since “it declares that there is no intention of defining new dogmas, and at the same time presents certain teachings as though they already belonged to the doctrine of the Church, although they are not as yet dogmas and, from a modern theological standpoint, cannot become dogmas.”

What he attacked especially was the schema’s teaching on the mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the title “Mediatrix of all graces,” which it gave the Blessed Virgin. This teaching was not proposed as a dogma of faith, but rather as a doctrine commonly held by Catholics. Although the teaching was supported by many pronouncements of the ordinary teaching authority of the Church, especially by recent papal encyclicals, “this doctrine must nonetheless be carefully pondered anew,” for the schema would have “great influence on Mariology and on the devotion of the faithful to Mary.” If the word “mediation” were to be used at all, it must be most clearly defined.

Father Rahner painstakingly listed for the German and Austrian Council Fathers precisely what he felt should be changed or omitted in the existing schema. The whole substance of the schema, he contended, could be stated “without stirring up these difficulties and dangers." And he suggested by way of conclusion that “the bishops of Austria, Germany and Switzerland” should consider themselves “forced to declare openly” that they could not accept the schema in its present form.

The Fulda conference adopted his suggestions with one major exception. He had been opposed to leaving the title “Mediatrix” in the text. But the proposals eventually submitted to the General Secretariat of the Council by the Fulda conference read as follows: “By far the greater part of the Council Fathers of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia are not absolutely opposed to retaining the words ‘Mediatrix’ and ‘mediation’ in the schema. However, it seems desirable that the expression, ‘Mediatrix of all graces’ should not be used.” These expressions, the Council Fathers explained, would raise the problem as to how the Virgin could be the Mediatrix of the sacramental graces flowing from the very nature of the sacraments themselves, “a question which might well be avoided.” They added, nevertheless, that the Theological Commission should weigh the reasons given by the minority for excluding the terms “Mediatrix” and “mediation” from the schema altogether.

The proposal officially submitted by the Fulda conference to the General Secretariat of the Council also quoted from Protestant writings. Bishop Dibelius, of the German Evangelical Church, was quoted as saying in 1962 that the Catholic Church’s teaching on Mary was one of the major impediments to union. Other German Protestant authorities, such as Hampe and Kiinneth, were quoted as saying that the Council Fathers in Rome should remember that they would be erecting a new wall of division by approving a schema on Mary. Therefore, these writers had concluded, the Council should either keep silence on the subject, or reprehend those guilty of excesses. More moderate Protestant writers, such as Meinhold and Kiel, were quoted as expressing the hope that, if the Council treated of the Blessed Virgin Mary at all, it would do so in the schema on the Church, since then “a new approach could be made to the doctrine on the Blessed Virgin.”

The topic before the thirty-seventh General Congregation, held on September 30, the first working meeting of the second session, was the revised schema on the Church. As the first speaker on this topic, Cardinal Frings, of Cologne, stated that it would be most fitting to include in the schema on the Church everything pertaining to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Among other considerations, such action would do much to foster dialogue with the separated Christians. The Cardinal pointed out that his stand was endorsed by sixty-five German-speaking and Scandinavian Council Fathers.

Cardinal Silva Henriquez, of Santiago de Chile, was the first speaker on the following day. Speaking in the name of forty-four Latin American bishops, he said that devotion to the Virgin Mary in those countries at times went beyond the bounds of Christian devotion. If a separate dogmatic constitution were adopted on the Virgin Mary, it would be difficult for the faithful to relate the doctrine contained therein to the doctrine on Christian salvation as a whole. He therefore supported Cardinal Frings’ proposal that Catholic teaching on the Blessed Virgin be included in the schema on the Church. The same morning, Archbishop Gabriel Garrone, of Toulouse, speaking on behalf of “many French bishops,” also supported Cardinal Frings’ proposal. The theological image of the Church, he said, would be completed by the inclusion of all teaching on the Blessed Virgin in the teaching on the Church as a whole. Moreover, this would prove an antidote to devotional excesses, since the Virgin would not appear to be outside the providential plan of salvation, but rather as participating therein.

Two days later, Benjamin Cardinal de Arriba y Castro, of Tarragona, took the floor on behalf of sixty bishops, most of them from Spain. He argued that, contrary to what had been suggested at previous meetings, it would be preferable to adopt a separate schema on the Blessed Virgin, because of the importance of the Mother of God in the economy of redemption. However, if it should be decided to include this text in the schema on the Church, then an entire chapter should be devoted to it, preferably the second.

On October 4, the hierarchy of England and Wales circulated a letter drawing attention to a “draft for a chapter or epilogue on the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be included in the constitution on the Church.” This draft had been prepared as a substitute for the existing schema by Abbot Christopher Butler of Downside, Superior General of the English Benedictines, “on the principle that the Council, especially in view of the ecumenical orientation set before it by the Holy Father, should as far as possible base the full modern Catholic understanding of Our Lady, including the dogmas defined in 1854 and 1950, on Holy Scripture and on the traditional evidence preceding the East-West rupture. If fifty Council Fathers endorsed this substitute schema, according to a new procedural rule, it could be presented to the Cardinal Moderators, who would then be obliged to transmit it to the Coordinating Commission for consideration and a decision.

A booklet dated October 4 was circulated by the Servites (Order of the Servants of Mary) suggesting, among other things, that, if the reference to the “titles” of Mary was to be retained in the schema, then more than one such title should be given; in addition to the title of Mediatrix used in the schema, the title “Coredemptrix” would be appropriate.

Another booklet, bearing the same date, was circulated by Father Carolus Balic, a peritus on the Theological Commission, citing many reasons for retaining the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary as a separate document. Numerous Council Fathers were quoted, including Cardinal Spellman, who had asked in a written intervention whether the schema could pass over in silence titles like Coredemptrix, Reparatrix, and others used by the Supreme Pontiffs, simply “because they would be rather difficult for Protestants to understand.” The Cardinal was opposed to this sort of reasoning, he said, because “the task of the Ecumenical Council is to teach the members of the Church, rather than those outside of it.”

On October 17, Cardinal Silva Henriquez officially submitted his own substitute schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fie was aware, he said, that the hierarchy of England and Wales had also proposed a text. The one that he was submitting was intended simply as a help in producing the definitive text.” Four days later, he circulated another draft, explaining that it had been produced by the Chilean bishops by combining their own schema with that of Abbot Butler and also with that of Canon Rene Laurentin of France, one of the periti.

On October 24, the Cardinal Moderators announced that so many Council Fathers had requested the inclusion of the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the schema on the Church that a debate on the motives for and against such a proposal would be held that morning. Rufino Cardinal Santos, of Manila, Philippines, spoke first, giving reasons why the two schemas should be treated separately. “I humbly beg the Cardinal Moderators not to allow the vote to be taken on this question immediately,” he said, “but to grant a suitable amount of time to the Council Fathers for pondering over the matter and giving it prudent consideration.” Cardinal Konig of Vienna, a member of the Theological Commission like Cardinal Santos, then stressed the advantages of uniting the two schemas.

On the following day, a letter signed by five Eastern-rite Council Fathers was circulated, pointing out that “among the Orientals united to the Apostolic See, as well as among those separated from it, the Blessed Virgin Mary is very greatly honored,” and urging the Council Fathers to vote in favor of an independent schema on Our Lady.

A rebuttal to all arguments in favor of combining the schemas was circulated on October 27 by Servite Bishop Giocondo Grotti, of Acre Purus, Brazil. As for the argument that a special schema should not be devoted to Mary because she was a member of the Church, the Bishop pointed out that she was not like other members; “because of her singular mission and singular privileges, she should receive singular treatment.” Turning to the argument that a separate schema on Mary would be taken as defining something new on Mary, the Bishop pointed out that the Council Fathers had many schemas before them, and no one claimed that those schemas were defining anything new. Another objection, he recalled, was that more honor would be given to Mary than to Christ. But from the text of the schema it was clear that Mary was “neither above nor against Christ.” He added that abuses in the devotion to Mary were not an argument against a separate schema, but rather in favor of it, since in a separate schema the truth could be more clearly presented. Bishop Grotti then asked: “Does ecumenism consist in confessing or in hiding the truth? Ought the Council to explain Catholic doctrine, or the doctrine of our separated brethren? . . . Hiding the truth hurts both us and those separated from us. It hurts us, because we appear as hypocrites. It hurts those who are separated from us because it makes them appear weak and capable of being offended by the truth.” Bishop Grotti concluded his rebuttal with the plea, “Let the schemas be separated. Let us profess our faith openly. Let us be the teachers we are in the Church by teaching with clarity, and not hiding what is true.”

On October 29, a vote was taken on the following statement: “Does it please the Council Fathers that the schema on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be so arranged that it may become Chapter 6 of the schema on the Church?” When the votes were counted, there were 1114 in favor of combining the two schemas; the required majority was only 1097. Father Rahner—and the European alliance—had won by a margin of seventeen votes.
"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
September 29 to December 4, 1963


One of the arguments offered by the European alliance toward the close of the first session for the rejection of the schema on the Church was that it made no mention of the diaconate. Chapter 3 of the schema contained merely one paragraph on bishops and one on priests.

At the conference of German-speaking Council Fathers held in Munich on February 5 and 6, 1963, the discussion centered around an alternate schema prepared by Monsignor Philips and Father Rahner. In this draft, the section on the priesthood was lengthened, and two paragraphs added on the diaconate and the minor orders. The text was officially submitted to Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Ottaviani in mid-February, 1963, and the section on deacons was incorporated in the revised official schema; the section on minor orders was not included.

One of the sentences in the new paragraph read: “Although today in the Church, the diaconate is generally considered to be only a step on the way to the priesthood, this has not always been the practice, nor is it everywhere the practice today.” The revised text provided further that “the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy wherever the Church may consider this expedient for the care of souls.” It would be up to the competent ecclesiastical authorities to decide whether such deacons were to be bound by the law of celibacy or not. A footnote accompanying the text pointed out that something similar had been presented for consideration at the Council of Trent on July 6, 1563.

This addition to the schema on the Church was strongly contested when this last revision was made by the Theological Commission. Asked to comment on the revised schema on the Church for the benefit of the Council Fathers assembled in Fulda, Father Rahner devoted thirty-three lines in defense of the fourteen lines on the diaconate, stating that it was most desirable, in spite of certain objections raised, that the section on deacons should be retained in its entirety. His commentary was accepted verbatim by the Fulda Fathers, and officially presented to the General Secretariat of the Council prior to the opening of the second session.

The topic was raised in the Council on October 4 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, of New York. After expressing general satisfaction with Chapter 2 of the revised schema on the Church, he argued against the retention in it of the section concerning the diaconate. The matter, he said, was a disciplinary one and should not, therefore, be included in a dogmatic constitution. As to whether it should be treated in any other constitution, he felt that it should not, and he proceeded to explain his position.

In the first place, he said, deacons would have to be adequately prepared for their functions. In many places, however, it was scarcely possible, or even impossible, to establish seminaries for candidates to the priesthood. How, then, could other houses be provided for deacons? Again, if those men who were already deacons were to remain so permanently, there would automatically be fewer priests. The idea of a permanent diaconate had originated mainly with liturgists, who wished to restore ancient practices without taking modern conditions into account. With the passage of time, he pointed out, the diaconate as a permanent rank in the hierarchy had in fact become obsolete. No steps, therefore, should be taken to restore it without careful consideration of the reasons leading to its abandonment. The role of the diaconate in the modern Church was being fulfilled by many lay religious, members of secular institutes, and lay apostles who were living lives of service to the Church; one of the purposes of the Council, he recalled, was precisely the fostering of the growth of this type of lay activity.

At the next General Congregation, Cardinal Dopfner answered some of Cardinal Spellman’s objections. As for seminaries for the training of deacons, they would not be necessary; it was a question of “sacramentalizing functions that already exist,” not introducing new ones. Those who were already trained for these functions, or were exercising them, he said, like married catechists in mission lands, should receive the corresponding sacramental grace to help them carry them out more perfectly.

In conclusion, he pointed out that the purpose of the text was “simply to give a dogmatic basis for a permanent diaconate and to open the door to a further examination of the question.”

Cardinal Suenens, of Belgium, also proceeded to refute Cardinal Spellman’s objections. Because the diaconate was sacramental, it pertained to the very constitution of the Church and must be treated on a supernatural level, he said. Certain functions in the Church should be entrusted only to those with the necessary supernatural grace. God had established certain ministries and graces, and these ought not to be neglected in building up a Christian community; the community had a right to them. The Cardinal rejected the contention that a married diaconate would undermine priestly celibacy or result in a decline in vocations. The diaconate itself was a gift of divine grace and would strengthen Christian communities, thereby aiding the growth of the Church.

Cardinal Suenens asked, in conclusion, that a vote be taken at the end of the discussion in order to determine the consensus on the subject, Archbishop Bernard Yago, of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, suggested that the Council Fathers might be interested in hearing a voice from Africa on this matter. He supported the establishment of a permanent diaconate; deacons could play an important role, especially in missionary countries, since many communities seldom saw a priest. To the objection that a practice dating from the first centuries of Christianity and long since discarded should not be revived, he replied that Africa was in fact experiencing its first century of Christianity.

Archbishop Paul Zoungrana, of Ouagadougou, Upper Volta, accepted the principle of a permanent diaconate, but he argued that a married diaconate would be altogether undesirable in West Africa. A strong reason for insisting on celibacy, he said, was that the modern world needed a firm witness to the possibility of a life of chastity. However, since circumstances might suggest that a noncelibate diaconate was more useful in some regions, episcopal conferences should be able to obtain the necessary powers from the Holy See to dispense with the obligation of celibacy.

Cardinal Bacci, of the Roman Curia, spoke out against the principle of a married diaconate; it was both inopportune and dangerous. If the law of celibacy were relaxed for deacons, the number of priests would certainly decline, since youth “would choose the easier way,” Moreover, if the Council waived the obligation of celibacy for deacons, the plea would soon be heard that the same should be done for priests.

Bishop Jorge Kemerer, of Posadas, Argentina, addressed the assembly in the name of twenty bishops from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and various mission lands. “Something serious must be done,” he said, “to solve the great and urgent problem of the shortage of priests around the world.” Although theoretically there was one priest for every 6000 souls in Latin America, in fact “nearly every diocese has many parishes with a single priest caring for 10,000, 20,000, or even 30,000 souls!” The solution was not to import priests from abroad, he said, since the population of Latin America was close to 200 million and was expected to be double that by the end of the century. “What we need is the restoration of the order of the diaconate in the hierarchy, without the obligation of celibacy.”

He then made this earnest and eloquent appeal: “The restoration of the diaconate is our great hope. And it is the wish of many bishops in Latin America that you, venerable Fathers, do not deprive us of this hope when the matter comes up for a vote. The door is already open. If among you there are some who do not wish to enter, we shall not force you to enter. But we earnestly beg of you not to close the door on us, because we do want to enter. Allow us, please, to do so!” His plea was received with applause.

Archbishop Custodio Alvim Pereira, of Lourengo Marques, Mozambique, spoke on behalf of thirty-eight bishops from Portugal. He said that, if a candidate did not have the knowledge required of a priest and was not celibate, he was not fit for the diaconate; if, on the other hand, he did possess that knowledge and was celibate, he should become a priest. He contended that it was generally agreed that a married diaconate would undermine priestly celibacy.

Bishop Jean Gay, of Basse-Terre and Pointe-a-Pitre in the French West Indies, supported the restoration of a permanent diaconate, but he felt that a married diaconate would present difficulties. He recalled that Canon 17 of the Council of Trent had been designed to restore the minor orders in the Church and said that the present Council offered an opportunity to carry out such a step. Married men in minor orders could help in the liturgy, in Catholic Action, in catechetics, and in administrative work. The restoration of minor orders, he said, deserved attention, “and should be given a place in the schema alongside the diaconate.”

Bishop Paul Sani, of Bali, Indonesia, told a press conference that on an ordinary Sunday in Flores it took a priest a half hour to distribute Holy Communion. “This annoys the congregation,” he said, “and we could use some help from deacons here.” Nevertheless, he said, “I am not in favor of a diaconate by Orders. This may have been well and good in the first centuries, when the Church was not yet organized. But many of the functions performed by ordained deacons in the early Church are today performed by teachers, catechists, and church board members.” Ordained deacons, moreover, would have to be paid salaries for performing services similar to those rendered gratis by church board members. “This would be a blow to the lay apostolate movement, in which people render their services spontaneously and without remuneration.”

The Bishop was especially concerned with the fact that the sacrament of Orders, by which the diaconate was conferred, imprinted an indelible mark on the soul of the recipient. “But if an ordained deacon is involved in a scandal or a village quarrel, what will you do with him? People will no longer come to him to receive Communion. And linguistic, cultural, property, and family ties make his transfer from one parish to another more or less impossible. So his services cease, but you must still continue to support him.” On the other hand, a diaconate by jurisdiction, or faculties, was much more suited to mission needs. “Bishops or ordinaries in charge of dioceses should receive faculties or jurisdiction from the Holy See to appoint an individual or individuals, married or unmarried, on a temporary basis, to do the work or perform the functions of deacons on specific occasions.” The Bishop said that lay brothers, as well as catechists, whether married or not, and other married men, should be eligible to the diaconate, but always on a temporary basis. He believed that, if lay brothers were given priority in serving as deacons, that would change their role in the mission apostolate and would result in an increase in vocations to the brotherhood.

Other Council Fathers, however, insisted that the diaconate must be conferred by the sacrament of Orders, so that the deacon in performing his duties might receive the grace of that sacrament. Bishop Ermann Tillemans, a Dutch-born missionary on the island of New Guinea for thirty-four years, was of this opinion. “Having an unordained catechist or layman teaching the faith is not the same as having an ordained man. The ordained man will have the help of the grace of his ordination.”

In conformity with the suggestion made earlier by Cardinal Suenens, an exploratory vote was taken on October 30 to determine the thinking of the assembly. The Council Fathers were asked whether the schema should be revised in such a way as to take into consideration the opportuneness of restoring the diaconate as a distinct and permanent grade in the sacred ministry, depending upon its usefulness for the Church in particular places. The vote prescinded from the question whether deacons would be allowed to marry.

The result of the exploratory vote was a 75 per cent majority in favor of establishing the diaconate as a permanent and distinct grade in the
sacred ministry.
"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
September 29 to December 4, 1963


In the schema on the Church that was presented to the Council Fathers during the first session, Church membership was divided into three categories with a chapter devoted to each: hierarchy (i.e., bishops and priests), religious (i.e., members of religious orders and congregations), and laity. When the Council called for a revision of the schema, the Coordinating Commission in January, 1963, ordered that these three chapters should be retained, but changed their sequence: hierarchy, laity, and religious. Less than one month later at Munich, the German-speaking bishops asked that the chapter on religious be considerably shortened, and that it more explicitly identify the perfection sought by religious as “nothing else but the perfection sought by all Christians.” These views, favored by the European alliance theologians, became so strong in the Theological Commission that the chapter on religious was changed to “The Vocation to Sanctity in the Church.”

At the last minute, in early July, Cardinal Suenens succeeded in having the Coordinating Commission partially alter its orders of January, and call for an additional chapter on “The People of God.” This chapter, which carefully avoided the word “member,” was to be so phrased as to include not only Catholics, but everyone who in any way might be called a Christian. By July, however, it was much too late for the already revised schema to be revised once again, since it had to be sent through the mails to the Council Fathers for their study without further delay. The solution was to print a footnote informing the Council Fathers that, “according to a recent ruling by the Coordinating Commission,” the chapter on the laity would be divided into two parts, constituting Chapter 2 on the People of God, and Chapter 4 on the laity. The phrase “the People of God” had been copied from the first page of the rejected schema of Cardinal Ottaviani and his Theological Preparatory Commission.

In this way, the number of chapters in the schema on the Church was increased from four to five. The schema structure and content were now precisely what the German-speaking bishops had called for in their official resolutions taken at Munich in February of that year, when they had studied a five-chapter substitute schema on the Church prepared principally by Monsignor Philips of Belgium and Father Rahner of Germany. The other chapters indicated in the footnote of Cardinal Suenens were: Chapter 1: the mystery of the Church; Chapter 3: the hierarchical constitution of the Church; and Chapter 5: the vocation to sanctity in the Church.

Examination of the two chapters on the laity and on the People of God, discussed as a unit—and not altogether without confusion—as a result of the last-minute change, began at the forty-ninth General Congregation, on October 16.

Bishop Wright of Pittsburgh spoke on the historical and theological importance of the chapter on the laity. “The faithful have been waiting for four hundred years,” he said, “for a positive conciliar statement on the place, dignity and vocation of the layman.” He found fault with the traditional notion of the laity as defined in Church law as being too negative; the layman was defined as “neither a cleric nor a religious.” Once the Council had declared “the theological nature of the laity,” he said, “the juridical bones of the Church would come alive with theological flesh and blood.”

Abbot Godefroi Dayez, President of the Benedictine Congregation of Belgium, also drew attention to the faulty definition of the laity in the schema. According to the text, “the Sacred Council in using the word ‘laity’ understands it to mean those faithful who, through Baptism, have been united to the People of God. They serve God in the ordinary state of the Christian faithful . . . But they belong neither to the hierarchical rank, nor to the religious state sanctioned by the Church.” The Abbot contended that this definition was incorrect. Strictly speaking, he said, the laity formed a group separate from the clergy, but not separate from religious. For many in the religious life—nuns, brothers, certain monks— were in fact members of the laity, even though they were members of religious orders. “Unfortunately, many do not know that the religious life is neither clerical nor lay, but is based on a special charism.” He called for the insertion of a new passage in the text which would state that the layman was a “noncleric.” Moreover, the text should distinguish between the laity in general, those members of the laity who were in religious orders, and those who belonged to secular institutes.

Cardinal Meyer of Chicago contended that the text was “neither adequate nor realistic, because it neglects two fundamental facts.” Instead of speaking only of the graces, gifts, and privileges of the People of God, the schema should also emphasize that “we are all sinners as members of a fallen race,” and that “even after our entrance into the Church, we remain aware of our weakness and have lapses into sin.” The difficulties in living a good Christian life, the Cardinal said, sprang from both internal and external sources. The internal source was the tendency to evil in man’s fallen nature, combined with his actual lapses into sin. The external source was the devil, as was abundantly clear from Scripture. (Cardinal Meyer thus became one of the few Council Fathers to refer to the devil.) Therefore, he said, if the Council document was to reach the hearts of men, weighed down by a sense of sin and moral incapacity, a new paragraph should be inserted in the text to describe the Church as the home of the Father of Mercies, where the sins of the prodigal son were forgiven.

The U.S. bishops were particularly concerned that the schema should make specific mention of racial equality. Bishop Robert Tracy, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, speaking in the name of 147 United States bishops, said that a reference to racial equality by the Council would bring consolation to people around the world who were deprived of rights and liberties, and subjected to sufferings and discrimination, not because of any transgression on their part, but simply because they belonged to a certain race. Although only countries such as the United States, South Africa, Rhodesia, and to some extent, also, Australia, were generally affected by racial problems, said Bishop Tracy, “their repercussions and effects today are international and are therefore proper matter for conciliar concern. We therefore ask,” he concluded, “that a solemn dogmatic declaration on the equality of all men, with respect to nation and race, be included in the chapter on the People of God.” His proposal was greeted with applause, and incorporated in the final text.

Cardinal Siri, of Genoa, took exception to the footnote on the first page of the chapter on the laity which announced that the Coordinating Commission had recently decided to make two chapters out of it, one on the People of God, and the other on the laity. He said that he was very much in favor of the Biblical expression “People of God” but opposed to devoting a separate chapter to it. “From such a chapter, it might be inferred that the People of God can subsist, or can achieve something, even without the Church. That would be contrary to the teaching that the Church is necessary for salvation.” This proposal, however, was not supported, and the order indicated in the footnote was adopted.

The examination of the chapter on the laity stretched from the forty-ninth General Congregation on October 16 to the fifty-fifth General Congregation on October 24. In that time 82 speakers had addressed the assembly: 13 cardinals, 1 patriarch, 16 archbishops, 49 bishops, and 3 superiors general. The chapter was sent back to the Theological Commission for a further revision.
"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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