VATICAN Council Fathers at the weekend opened the V debate on what may prove to be the crucial issue before them, the project on the Church itself, entitled De aclesict. It cannot be completed by tomorrow (Saturday) and will be resumed next September, when the second session opens.
Many Fathers want the approach to this subject to be pastoral and missionary, rather than juridical, in tone. This emphasis has been struck in debates on other topics.
De Ecelesia covers the nature of the Church, the mystical body, the members of the Church, and salvation for non-Catholics.
The Council Fathers will seek to clarify the function of the Bishops, stressing "the bond of charity uniting the Sovereign Pontiff with them, and not only their juridical dependance on him".
They will also discuss the layman's right and duty, in the civic sphere, to exercise—independently of the hierarchy—his baptismal role of establishing Christ's reign on earth. This will be distinguished from Catholic Action proper, which is subordinate to the hierarchy.
Cardinal Bea has pointed out that the emphasis within the Church has shifted from the nature of the Papacy, the hierarchy, and the Church's mission of salvation, to the episcopate, the laity, and the missionary spirit of the Church.
Council Fathers have sharply criticised a statement in the draft project that the authority of the State is subordinate to that of the Church. In relations with atheistic and anti-Catholic States, it is argued, the Church should be firm, but realistic. While ready to face persecution, she does not have to invite it.
One of the Fathers said on Tuesday that, while sending messages to the faithful in those countries to show them they are not alone. the Church must avoid "any kind of meddling" which "might make their condition worse".
There are two schools of thought. One maintains the Church's superiority, and that the State must adjust to the Church. The other sees the Christian operating as an individual within the civil community.
Cardinal Godfrey and Bishop Holland have spoken in this debate, which has a bearing on last week's discussion about the project on unity with the Eastern Churches (U110111111sint), which was criticised for harsh, legalistic approaches.
In the end, the Fathers passed it, but decided that it should he merged with two other decrees yet to be passed. These are (1) the decree on Chapter XI of De Ecelesia; and (2) the draft on ecumenism prepared by Cardinal Bea's Commission.
Meanwhile, the Fathers agreed on a draft calling for theological, liturgical. juridical, psychological and practical steps to be taken to narrow the gap between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Churches, Archhishop -Heenan and Bishop Dwyer spoke in this debate.
The Fathers faced the task c f formulating established truths in a form in keeping with the traditions of the Oriental Church rather than in scholastic terminology.
It was pointed out that the Eastern Christians received their faith from the Apostles, and owe nothing. historically or psychologically, to the Latin Church. Before the latter existed, there were Patriarchs at Alexandria, Jerusalem and Constantinople. The Council Fathers have voted this week on a series of Amendments to the Introduction and First Chapter of the Liturgy Project.
By Wednesday night, they had agree d, with overwhelming majorities, on amendments relating to the language of the liturgy, the revision of liturgical books, the adoption into the liturgy of local tradition, the competence of bishops to adapt the liturgical books.
Other issues decided on included the importance of liturgical study in seminaries and theologates, and the sacramental reasons for lay participation in the liturgy. There is an outside chance that a final vote may be taken on these matters before the session ends, in which case the faithful at large would know tomorrow what the Council has decided on these vital topics.
Pope John appeared at his window just before mid-day on Wednesday to greet the Cardinals and Bishops who thronged St. Peter's Square in hundreds to wish him a speedy and complete recovery.
DE ECCLESIA : See Page 15