URGENT moves to
reform the Roman Curia are expected to be made following the massive attacks on it by several Bishops in the Vatican Council.
At the weekend, Connell experts were predicting that the leading Curial Cardinals would themselves approach Pope Paul with proposals for changing the procedures of the Congregations and other offices.
They felt that only speedy moves to Meet the Pope's own wishes for reform of the.Curia would forestall a direct approach to the Pope from the Bishops themselves,
Last Friday's blistering attack on Curial methods by Cardinal Frings of Cologne ex.pressed the finger and frustration which many Bishops feel.
The unprecedented interruption of the Cardinal's speech by a burst of' applause and the volume of clapping—forbidden by Council rules—when he ended left no doubt that he had the full support of a great many of the Couneil Fathers.
By contrast. the applause for Cardinal Ottaviani's, defence of the Curia waS lukewerm. One American expert remarked fecetiously: The applause for Cardinal Ottaviani seemed to come from a different part of the aula." Another added: The applause for Cardinal Ottaviani was strong but it came from few hands."
Cardinal Frings and Cardinal Ottaviani were speaking on the final day of disetission on Chapter I of the schema on Bishops and the Government of Dioceses. The chapter deals with relations between Bishops and the Roman Congregations and the two-day debate largely resolved itself into attack on and defence of the Curia.
But it was not until tilmust the end of the debate that the climax was reached. The clash between Cardinal Trines and Cardinal Ottaviani produced what several Council Bishops described to me as "the most dramatic day of the Council so far."
Catdinal Frings, who is almost corn nletely blind, spoke in a deceptively caltn voice, almost on a monotone.
He started off by speaking of his "strong amazement" at the statement piade recently by Cardinal Browne (whom he named) suggesting that the issue of the vollegiality of bishops had not been approved by the Council but must wait for a definitive response from the Theological Commision.
HERE Cardinal Frings was touching on a matter which has caused bitter controvereey outside as well as inside the Council.
On October 30, in one of five test-votes taken to determine the mind of the Fathers, it was decided by 1,808 votes to 336 that the body of bishops succeeds the college of Apostles and with the Pope at its head enjoys full and supreme power over the universal church.
Since then. some members of the "I heological Commission have been saying that this vote does not bind them in their revision of the schema. A great deal of bitterness has been caused by this attitude and Cardinal flrowne's remark h in summing up the debate were widely resented.
His remarks, Cardinal brings went on tit say with some sarcasm. seemed to insinuate that the Theological Commission had at its disposal sources of truth unknown to the other Council Fathers.
Such effiservaiions, he added significantly, seemed also to lose sight of the fact that the Commissions are there to function only as tools of the General Congregations (that is, the daily meetings of the full Council) and to execute the will of the Council Fathers.
Then Cardinal Frings turned his attention to the Curia. He said that a sharp distinction should he drawn between its administrative arid judical proeedures and this distinction should be extended to all its fields of operation, including the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (whose secretary is Cardinal Oitaviani), Then Cardinal Frings came to the most dramatic moment of his speech. Speaking very deliberately, he declared that the procedures of The Holy Office were out of hart-tinny with nuidern times. They were a source of harm to the faithful and a source of scandal to those outside the Church.
He declared that no Roman Congregations should have authority to accuse, judge and condemn an individual who has had no opportunity of defending himself. With all due reverence and gratitude for the devoted individuals who spend their lives in the difficult work of the Holy Office, he felt its methods should be basically revised.
He proposed that the number ol Bishops working in Curial offices should be greatly reduced. No Bishop. he said, should be consecrated Bishop just to tumour him or the office he holds. If a Man is consecrated niShop, then he should be Bishop and nothing else.
No-otte, he added, was ordained to the priesthood as a mark of honour or gratitude. Many of the tasks of the Roman Curia could he performed by laymen SO efforts should he made to use fewet bishops and priests and more laymen in its work.
A S the applause for -CI Cardinal Frings died away, many eyes were turned towards Cardinal Ottaviani, who was listed as a speaker for the same morning.
When he rose after two other speakers had gone to the microphone. there was complete silence in the auta. He appeared to be very angry, his face grim and his gesticulations very animated. But allowances must be made for the Italian style of oratory and expression.
Cardinal Ottaviani said he was departing from his prepared notes to answer the eriticism that had been made in the I. onacil that MOrn ;lig, He protested "most strongly" against the condemnation of the Holy Office.
It should not be forgotten. he said, that the Prefect of the Holy Office was none other than the Sovereign Pontiff hirnself.
This is a frequently-used argument by defenders of the Curia who suggest that when they act with authority of the Holy Father all their actions have his full knowledge and approval.
Cardinal Ottaviani said that the criticism fohmillated came from "lack of knowledge, not to use a Stronger term, of the procedures of this Sacred Congregation." He declared that no-one was ever accused, judged and condemned without a thorough previous investigation carried on with the help of competent consultors and experienced specialists.
Besides this, all decisions of the Holy Office were approved by the Pope personally and thus such criticisms are a reflection on the Vicar of Christ.
Referring to the five test-votes. Cardinal Ottaviani said the points voted on were drawn up by the Council Moderators. He thought they should have been submitted to the Theological Commission for careful study. The Commisskin, he said, would have been able to perfect certain expressions and eliminate certain obscurities.
He said that those who proposed the collegiality of the Bishops proceeded in a vicious circle since they presumed that the Apostles existed and acted as a collegial body.
From the collegial character of the Apostolic College they deduced the collegial character of the body of 13ishorts. But even learned and experienced professors of Sacred Scripture would admit that this thesis had no solid foundation in the Sacred Books.
Defending collegiality. he declared. entailed sonic limitation of at least the exercise of the universal Primaty of the Roman Pontiff. The fact was, he concluded, that Peter only had responsibility for the whole flock of Christ. It was not the sheep who led Peter but Peter who guided the sheep,
As Cardinal Otlaviani ended maul,' Bishops left their places to throng the aisle and coffee bars to discuss the clash. Journalises waiting outside soon heard the news and there was a great air of eeciternent during the press briefings following the session.
UTHER speakers in the
debate on this chapter also attacked the centralisation of power in Rome and demanded more power for individual bishops and for national and regional episcopal conferences.
Their main point was that the power of a Bishop should be regarded as his by consecration and not by derogation from Rome. Some speakers, however, defended the need for the Curia as eyniholising the universal nature of the Church arid catering for its global needs.
One theologian put the controversy in a pithy way by saying: "The problem is whether the right order should be the Pope, the Curia and the Bishops, or the Pope. the Bishops and the Curia."
Many speakers spoke of the need for a "senate" or central council of Bishops. Cardinal Koenig of Vienna suggested that it should consist of the chairmen of national conferences and other members of the Hierarchy and should meet once or twice a year in Rome.
Other bishops felt there .should he a permanent group of pastoral Bishops in Rome, Nerving for short periods of time on a rotational basis.
Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna felt that the Council could do no more than make suggestions or recommendations about a "senate" and the matter must be decided by the authority of the Pope himself. There was a suggestion made outside the Council that Cardinal Lercaro may have been speaking for the Pope in this matter.
b a right to co-government wiishp thothes Pope, then he in turn has an ohlivution to recognise this right, and thus he would no longer have full jurisdiction. "Eminent Fathers," he concluded dramatically. "let us beware."
But Archbishop D'Souza of Bhopal. India, declared that decentralisation Would create no danger for unity. The Bishops of today. he said, are not so terribly dangerous. In fact, there was never a time when the bonds between the Bishops and the Pope were closer.
The question of what powers national coeferencee of bishops should get were briefly mentioned but this has a separate chapter of its own and is certain to cause animated debate, in the introductory debate. however, Cardinal Koenig said that the Council should proceed cautiously aud prudently in this matter. Fruitful results could be obteined when national conferences had only moral, not .juridical, authority over individual bishops.
In anv case, he felt, national conferences should be allowed greater freedom of action.