By Desmond Fisher
pROGRESSIVE bishops were depressed this week when Cardinal Browne and Cardinal Ottaviani seemed to indicate that the conservatives were determined to stand out to the end against the progressives' interpretation of collegiality.
Pope Paul himself is believed to be strongly in favour of the idea of establishing some such body as the proposed " Senate." This would show that collegiality is a fact.
It would also ensure that the power of the Curia over individual bishops would be effectively curbed.
The Curia would then become the instrument of the Senate and not a sort of superior body. using the Papal primacy and its own position as the arm of the Pope to justify their out-of-date methods and unfair procedures.
It is being said here that Pope Paul will regard the Vatican Council as a success if collegiality and the senate idea are accepted. and if the schema on ecumenism and particularly the section on the Jews are taken up this session. In fact, the Ecumenism Schema is next on the agenda and should be taken up not later than Monday next.
" With the Senate established, probably very soon, and the Ecumenism Schema debated, the Council will have done its most important work," one American expert assured me.
" From then on the bishops can make much quicker progress, even if they never have another council session. The Senate would operate as a sort of permanent council executive, meeting once or twice a year in Rome to transact business." The result of this shift of emphasis means that less attention is being paid now to the actual schemata under discussion.
The " progressive " bishops are more concerned to get the idea of collegiality expressed in a positive form, such as by the Senate. rather than in waiting for Cardinal Ottaviani's commission to submit its final text defining collegiality in principle. This is the behind-the-scenes struggle which explains the subtle nuances in Council speeches and the efforts being made outside the Council to influence the Pope to intervene. Earlier the Council had ended discussion of chapter 2 of the scheme dealing with the duties and rights of coadjutor and auxiliary bishops. The chapter laid down that when a bishop is too old or too infirm to administer his diocese, he should decide on " voluntary and meritorious retirement." If the diocese was too big to govern properly it should be divided.
By virtue of his office, the chapter declared, a coadjutor bishop had all the powers and faculties belonging to the VicarGeneral and the Ordinary might not reserve any of these faculties to himself.
The chapter then went on to lay down norms for the relationship betwen bishops and their coadjutors and auxiliaries. It ended by recommending that bishops who resign should be provided with a
pror pension or appointment to some fitting office. The Council decided on a standing vote to close discussion on this chapter. It also decided to refer to the Commission on Canon Law, chapter five of the schema, dealing with parochial boundaries.
Moving on to chapter three of the schema, which deals with the controversial question of national episcopal conferences, the Council soon ran into strong differences of opinion. The chapter is of wider importance because it is national conferences which will provide representatives — probably their presidents — on the proposed "senate" and will also nominate new members and consultors to the Roman Curia, Three U.S. cardinals spoke on the first morning (Tuesday) of this debate, and the basic division of opinion on the issue in the Council became quickly apparent. Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles declared that bishops should not be compelled to join such conferences and its decisions should have no juridical standing. Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis took the opposite view. He said that national episcopal conferences were an essential element in the decentralisation of the Church and in dealing with the social and moral problems of the day. A middle position was taken by Cardinal Meyer of Chicago who felt that the decisions of the conference should be binding only on matters which the Holy See had referred to it for discussion and decision. Presidents of the conference should be elected by secret ballot. Cardinal Gracias of Bombay spoke on similar lines saying that no decision should be reached on whether the conference should have juridical status. Each conference should be allowed to determine this for itself since opinions were so divided on the matter.