Towards consecration of the world

In an eight page typed document dated 10 December 1960 and entitled “Votum de laicis eorumque loco in Ecclesia,” (Vote on the place of lay people in the Church,” Congar sought to summarise his views in response to the Theological Commission’s outline schema on the Church.

The Church’s primary mission was the salvation of all people, Congar noted.ù

However, it also possessed a secondary mission, as he explained:

“A secondary mission of the Church (deriving from the primary mission to which it was connected): tends towards ‘consecration of the world,’ thus influencing the temporal social order a) to accord with God’s justice and charity, as far as possible, and b) ordained to God,” Congar wrote.

Each person participated in this second mission in accordance with their own state in life, Congar continued. The mission of the hierarchy was to move and direct, he noted.

However, the role of the laity was to act as a “leaven the dough, because unlike priests and monks, the lay faithful live fully in the world, were engaged in issues and thus were able to act to direct human affairs towards and for God,” Congar wrote.

Monopoly of Catholic Action?

Congar also noted the controversy that had arisen from Bishop Léon-Joseph Suenens article alleging that reserving the term Catholic Action for certain organised kinds of the lay apostolate tended to create an impression that these organisations had a monopoly over the field of Catholic Action.

Congar thus sought to set out a series of criteria for Catholic Action.

“Catholic Action existed when the hierarchy, 1) Accepted that any enterprise or work of the faithful that was undertaken either voluntarily or at the instigation of the hierarchy, fulfilled at least in part some functions that had been given to the heirs of the apostles whom the Lord had sent to “teach all nations.”

2 °) Took upon themselves to cooperate with this organisation or movement and

3° ) consequently, it gave it more specific and more active guides and studies.

“In this way, the organisations or movements of Catholic Action joined with the action and directives of the hierarchy (directives that were not despotic but policy and philosophical principles) with Catholic lay people directly and immediately responsible.”

SOURCE

Yves Congar, Votum de laicis eorumque loco in Ecclesia (Archives Gerard Philips, 154, Leuven)

Members of secular institutes are the only genuine lay people!

Another interesting comment from Congar, who had been talking to Mgr André Baron, the rector of the French church in Rome, Saint Louis des Français:

“He spoke to me a bit about the atmosphere. He is no longer on the commission for the laity but on the one for Religious.

“He told me that Opus Dei, which is spreading fantastically, is also spreading its own view according to which members of secular institutes are the only genuine laity!” Congar wrote, astonished.

Indeed, it was a view that Cardijn too would have completely rejected.

Congar adds, however, that Mgr Baron was full of praise for Cardinal Paolo Marella, who had just completed his term as nuncio in France (after also serving in Australia and New Zealand), and who therefore “had a good understanding and supported the French approach.”

Another potential ally at the Vatican!

SOURCE

Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, ATF Press, 2012, 25-35.

Yves Congar, Mon Journal du Concile, T. I, Cerf, Paris, 2002, 43.

Catholic Action a ‘non-doctrinal’ matter

Sebastian Tromp S

While Cardijn worked away in the Prep Com on Lay Apostolate, Yves Congar joined the corresponding Theological Commission.

To Congar’s disconcertment, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani opened the 15 November plenary meeting announcing that there were to be five pre-determined sub-commissions to look at the various proposed schemas.

“We will be told what the members of the Commission have said and we may express our opinion, but it is not a question of writing a treatise,” Congar noted in his diary.

“We must confine ourselves to specific and necessary points,” he added, explaining the limitations on his own role as a theologian in the commission, limitations that evidently also applied to Cardijn in the PCLA.

More positively, Congar notes that the Commission will be unable to commence work on “matters of social morality” because the drafting of an encyclical for the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum is under way.

Intriguingly, he also adds that in the view of the conservative Dutch Jesuit, Fr Sebastian Tromp, who was the secretary to the Theological Commission, “Catholic Action and the laity are almost entirely PRACTICAL questions to be dealt with by a non-doctrinal commission created ad hoc.”

What this would mean for the Prep Com on Lay Apostolate was not clear.

SOURCE

Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, ATF Press, 2012, 25-35.

Tromp, Sebastiaan Peter Cornelis (1889-1975) (Huygens Ing)

What a performance!

Cardijn’s friend and colleague, the French Dominican theologian, Yves Congar, who had just launched his own conciliar diary, has left us a colourful if not positively disdainful description of the launch ceremony for the newly constituted preparatory commissions:

“What a performance!” Congar wrote. “Papal gendarmes or Swiss guards in full uniform everywhere. The actual arrangements were impeccable. But what ceremonial, what a display of pomp! We were shown into a tribune, where I went and sat beside Fr de Lubac. The whole length of St Peter’s has been fitted out with tribunes, armchairs. A fantastic equipage of fellows in crimson uniforms, Swiss guards in helmets, holding their halberds with proud bearing. All the colleges in Rome have been mobilised and there were certainly a good ten thousand people present. Why? What a waste of time!

“At about ten minutes past eleven, the Credo was intoned and the Pope came in on foot. It was a good moment. But then the Sistine choir sang a theatrical “Tu es Petrus’: mediocre opera. The 10,000 people, the forty cardinals, the 250 or 300 bishops, said nothing. One only will have the right to speak. As for the Christian people, they are there neither by right nor in fact. I sensed the blind door of the underlying ecclesiology. It is the ostentatious ceremonial of a monarchical power.

“The Pope read a text in Italian which I did not fully understand, but which seemed to me very banal…

“Alas! After giving his blessing (alone, always alone, to the 10,000, the 300, the 40…), the Pope got up and departed, enthroned on the sedia;- stupid applause. The Pope made a gesture as if to say: alas, I can do nothing about it,” Congar concluded.

We have no record of Cardijn’s own feelings about the ceremony but Congar’s comments probably offer a good proxy – except that the JOC founder would, as always, have sought to focus on the positives of the event.

Moreover, Cardijn would have quickly latched onto the fact that among the large number of bishops and priests who were present, he did have allies, beginning with Congar.

These allies, whose presence is noted by Congar, also included the sociologist, Canon Fernand Boulard, the Belgian Dominican, Jérôme Hamer, Cardijn’s publisher Jean-Pierre Dubois-Dumée as well as Cardinal Liénart, Archbishop Emile Guerry and Gabriel Garrone, the latter of whom who had written a book explaining the concept of Specialised Catholic Action and defending it from critics including the Belgian, Léon-Joseph Suenens, an auxiliary bishop in Cardijn’s own diocese of Malines-Brussels.

SOURCE

Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, ATF Press, 2012, 25.

Need for a “clear view of the world”

On 24 September 1960, Yves Congar sent a 17-page untitled document to Fr Tromp and and other members and consultor commenting on various schemata of the Theological Commission.

“He urged that the Council undertake its view with a clear view of the world in which the Church was living: where one of every four people was Chinese and one of every three was under Communist domination, where divided Christians were nurturing hope for reunion, where practical atheism and technocracy were prevalent, where colonialism and paternalism were rejected, where women were seeking to advance themselves,” writes Joseph Komonchak.

“The schemata compendiosa, on the other hand, appeared to have been written for the world in which the First Vatican Council met.”

“He criticised their emphasis upon formal questions of authority, neglect of the substantive content of the Gospel, primarily negative view of the contemporary world, abstract and scholastic style, omission of crucial current issues, and lack of ecumenical interest.”

SOURCE

J.A. Komonchak, Chapter III, The struggle for the Council during the preparation of Vatican II, in Giuseppe Alberigo and Joseph Komonchak (ed.), History of Vatican II, Vol. II, Peeters, Leuven, 1995, 233-34.

Theological Commission

The initial members and consultors of the Theological Commission were named in three tranches, concluding on 16 September 1960.

Members of the Commission with experience of the JOC and/or other Specialised Catholic Action movements included:

Bishop Lionel Audet, auxiliary of Quebec Archdiocese, who was also president of the Catholic Action Commission of the Canadian bishops;

Bishop Joseph Schroffer of Eichstätt, Germany, who had participated in the 1957 JOC Pilgrimage to Rome.

Archbishop Alfred-Vincent Scherer of Porto Alegre, Brazil, was also sympathetic to the movement there.

There were also two Belgian theologians in the Commission both from Louvain:

Mgr Lucien Cerfaux had been a chaplain to the JUC, the Specialised Catholic Action movement for university students;

Mgr Gerard Philips had been a chaplain to the Flemish YCS movement and had often worked with Cardijn although he did always see eye to eye with the JOC founder.

Among the consultors, the French Dominican Yves Congar had worked closely with the JOC since the early 1930s while his confrere Michel Labourdette was also close to the movement.

The French Jesuit, Henri de Lubac, had been in close contact with the French JEC (YCS).

Fears of a ‘pre-fabricated Council’

Cardinal Tardini’s announcement that much of the Council’s work would be done by correspondence even before the bishops met in Rome immediately raised fears.

Belgian Dominican Jérôme Hamer reported Tardini’s comments in a letter to Yves Congar on 7 November 1959:

“The Cardinal gave us to understand that a great part of the work prior to the Council could take place by correspondence, thus shortening the presence of the Fathers in Rome. Here is the outline he presented:

a document prepared in Rome by one of the preparatory commissions to be named; sent to the bishops;

registering their reactions (refusal, simple acceptance or with amendments); redaction of a new document or reworking of the previous one;

finally, meeting of the Fathers in the Vatican to take a stance on a document that has already been reworked and would have received an initial rather general approval in the way indicated above.”

Congar recorded his reaction in a margin note on the letter:

“It’s a prefabricated Council. It’s the procedure followed for the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. This wouldn’t be a real Council!”

SOURCE

Joseph Komonchak, The antepreparatory period (JA Komonchak)

Yves Congar: Five areas of work

Among the first to realise the Council’s potential was the theologian, Yves Congar, who had begun to work with Cardijn and the JOC during the early 1930s, giving retreats to JOC leaders at the Saulchoir, the Dominican convent then located at Kain, near Tournai in Belgium.

Subsequently, Congar continued to work closely with the JOC and other Specialised Catholic Action movements, culminating in his publication in 1953 of “Jalons pour une théologie du laïcat.” This was later translated into English as “Lay People in the Church.”

Nevertheless, his work had also attracted the attention of the Holy Office, the Vatican body responsible for doctrine. Along with several colleagues, he had been banned from teaching. As a result, he was transferred to Jerusalem at his own request and later sent to England and was eventually assigned to Strasbourg, where Archbishop Weber was more open to him.

Congar therefore took a keen interest in Pope John’s announcement of a Council. Within three weeks of its announcement, in mid-February 1959, he wrote suggesting five areas of work that thought the Council would do well to focus on (Giuseppe Alberigo, “The Announcement of the Council: From the Security of the Fortress to the Lure of the Quest,” in Alberigo-Komonchak, I, 35).

These included:

  • Confirming the unity of the Church
  • Promoting pastoral activity,
  • Reasserting the spiritual vocation of the human person
  • Combating doctrinal error and
  • Completing the work of Vatican I a century before.