Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Innovators' Initiative At The First Session

Back to our discussion of Vatican II.

Last time, we set up the two major forces at the Council, namely, the Rhine group of bishops, who were looking to change Church doctrine on not a few issues, and the Curia, who were wanting to preserve doctrine from change.

We had also previously mentioned the reactions to Pope John's summons to the Council and how Cardinals Lienart and Frings of the Rhine group developed a strategy for the opening session. Let's delve into that a bit more.

All of our commentators agree that a mammoth amount of effort went into the Council's preparatory work. The central preparatory commission, to which Amerio was a consultant, was organized in July of 1959 and worked pretty much non-stop until the Council opened in 1962. In a nutshell, they sent out questionnaires to the world's bishops, sorted and classified their responses, then set up lesser commissions to draw up schemas (drafts) that would be presented to the Council for consideration.

Moreover, the Roman synod, also convened by Pope John, and whose texts were promulgated in January of 1960, was meant in every way by the Pope to "prefigure and anticipate" the deliberations of the Council itself, per his allocution of June 29, 1960. Amerio describes it as being compared to the provincial synods held by St. Charles Borromeo prior to the Council of Trent. He points to the Pope's orders that the synodal texts be immediately translated into "all the principal languages" as an indicator that "it was intended to play an important exemplary role."

What did the Roman synod produce? A whole bunch of stuff that re-affirmed Catholic doctrine and liturgical practice at every level. Everything from a Tridentine-esque push for clerical discipline, to Latin in the liturgy, to condemnation of all liturgical creativitiy by the celebrant, to the necessity of baptism for infants was covered. How is it that such an allegedly important event was so thoroughly forgotten? Amerio himself had to get the texts of the synod from secular public libraries as there were no copies to be found in diocesan or curial archives.

Consider Blanshard's evaluation of this "little council," as he called it. "If this was meant to be a dress rehearsal for the main council, it did not presage anything remotely resembling free speech." Not that free speech has anything to do with being Catholic, but Blanshard takes exception to the whole proceeding on the grounds that Pope John "instead of giving the clergy of Rome any real opportunity to discuss and revise their own . . . rules in an open assembly, imposed upon them . . . a new constitution of 770 articles, corrected by himself, regulating their conduct. . ."

Note Pope John's involvement there. Blanshard blasts him for these "trivial and traditional restrictions" and as a sign that he "clung to the old absolutist traditions that . . . give the priests in a synod no authority against their bishops." How much of this fits with the post-conciliar picture of Blessed John?

MacEoin is as bad as Blanshard in his view of the synod, which he was painted as an alternative to the Council in which bishops would be "maneuvered into rubber-stamping decisions made in advance by the Curia." The synod "tamely accepted a rehash of the long-sanctioned articles of war." Said war, by the way, being that between the Church and the post-Reformation world.

If you've read Vatican II's documents, you know that the synod is not cited even once. If you've been Catholic for the last 50 years, you also know that nobody has paid any attention to what it said. Between it and Veterum Sapientia, what do you get? Lots of pre-conciliar stuff, sponsored by The Good Pope, that was relegated to the dustbin of history.

How did this happen?

Well, it all goes back to the strategy of Cardinals Lienart and Frings. See, the first things that were distributed to the Fathers at VII were two lists, one of all the participants and the other of all those who had been part of the original preparatory work. The Fathers were then given a ballot to write down their choices of candidates for the ten major commissions that would to the actual drafting at the council now that all this preliminary stuff was over. The list of the preparatory commission members, though, didn't go over well in some circles. As Wiltgen describes the situation, "But since all preparatory commission members originally had been appointed to office by the Holy See, some Council Fathers resented this list." The bitterness over the so-called "Curial list" is odd for anyone paying attention since, as Amerio says, "nobody can better present a document other than those who have studied, refined, and finally drafted it." Everybody was still free to vote anyway, so it wasn't like there was some kind of restraint on the voters.

When the time came for folks to actually cast their votes, things got weird, courtesy of Cardinal Lienart.

Per Mr. Brown:

As soon, therefore, as the first session was called to order, Cardinal Lienart of France moved a recess so that the council fathers could meet in national groups, discuss possible candidates, and agree on those whom they wished to represent them. Cardinal Frings . . . immediately seconded the motion, which was overwhelmingly adopted, and no sooner had the council begun than it recessed for a long weekend. Over that weekend, the various national groups of bishops met, submitted their own nominations for a revised slate of commission members, and were thus able to secure representation on commissions which, even though still dominated by conservative chairmen and vice-chairmen (basically irrelevant given the resulting commissions' make-ups), now had membership representing currents of opinion from all parts of the world.

(B)ecause the motion succeeded, the council was able to become a genuine council of the whole church, rather than reflecting viewpoints regnant only in the southern portion of the Italian peninsula.

Just as an aside, we've already mentioned, and we'll see more later, as to how Brown's last sentence here is a complete lie, given the large support that the International Fathers would get from non-Italian groups, especially Latin America.

Anyways, Brown's account of these events, differs a bit from what Amerio recalls. He relates Lienart, after being refused permission to speak, as having "seized the microphone, thus violating due legal process." This really doesn't matter. It happened. The commission votes were delayed. Once the Rhine group had the chance to block vote their candidates and do a little politicking among the other bishops, it was all over. Per Wiltgen, "Eight out of every ten candidates put forward by the European alliance received a commission seat."

How much negotiating went on in all this is open for speculation. We do know from Wiltgen's book that at least one African bishop had felt duped. He stated that "(I)n exchange for African support for all alliance candidates to the Theological Commission (the most important one of all and upon which the alliance gained 50% of the elected representatives), the alliance would support all African candidates to the Commission on the Missions." Somehow, though, only three of the nine African nominees made it on.

Wiltgen sums up these two major preliminary victories by the innovators thusly, "After the 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."

With all these shenanigans, it's difficult to understand MaEoin's complaints about conciliar procedure and his portrait of the Curia as well-nigh Masonic in their machinations. He spends about six whole pages griping about "procedural defects" and "inadequate machinery," with all kinds of "elements that were manipulated to thwart its (the Council's) purposes." Of course, he has to admit that these "elements" and such are long-standing items in conciliar history and aren't new to the picture at all. That doesn't really matter, though, as we see that anything that serves to promote innovation is good, while anything belonging to the Church's traditional practices is bad.

We see then the full blossoming of the Rhine strategy and how it shifted the axis of the Council towards the Rhine group. With considerable, often majority, membership on the commissions that controlled the drafting of the documents, they had essentially locked down the Council itself.

Next time, we'll discuss the third major victory for the innovators, which will lead us into our discussion of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the constitution on the liturgy. We close now with the following item from Amerio, who relates a story from Jean Guitton. Apparently, Cardinal Tisserant, a Rhine group member, had showed Guitton a picture of His Eminence and six other cardinals. Tisserant commented, "This picture is historic, or rather, symbolic. It shows the meeting we had before the opening of the council, when we decided to block the first session by refusing to accept the tyrannical rules laid down by John XXIII."

Make of that what you will, dear reader.

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