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Vatican II
Holy Spirit Interactive: Vatican II: A Walk-Through - Other Problems

Vatican II: A Walk-Through - Other Problems

By the close of the third session, in November of 1964, the Council had voted in favour of two Constitutions and three Decrees. The Constitutions were those dealing with the liturgy and with the Church; the Decrees were on Oecumenism, on the Eastern Churches, and on "Means of Communication" (dealing with modern mass media, such as the Press, cinema, radio and television; this Decree was generally regarded as excessively clerical, abstract and unworthy of its important subject).

Of the schemata outstanding at the end of the third session, the principal ones were those dealing with priests and seminaries, religious, the missions, the "pastoral duties of bishops, "Divine revelation, and "the Church and the Modern World." Intensive and prolonged drafting, debating, amending, further debating followed by further amending, have marked the path of each of these topics. They have also manifested the will of the Council that everything possible must be done to make this the Council of renewal in the Church.

Among the outstanding topics, those contained in Schema 13 command the greatest interest. For this is the schema on the Church in the modern world. The Council must show that in its debates it is not moving on the abstract plane; the Church is in this world, committed to it by a divine commission. Of all the topics discussed, probably none has been more widely awaited. No schema has passed through more stages, none has suffered greater amendment. This schema is entrusted to two commissions working together -- the Commission for Theology and the Commission for the Lay Apostolate. In February 1965 the revised text (that is, the text in its fourth form) was examined by the mixed commission, and a further meeting was to be held before the text was to be sent to the bishops. In this text there are stated the questions and problems that the modern world puts to the Church, and the fields in which it seeks the Church's co-operation. Then the text outlines the things on which the Church is competent to pronounce, while a brief analysis of history shows how mistakes have been made in the past when the Church became involved in political systems. Under the headings of anthropology, sociology and cosmology, the text then details the attitude of the Church to the modern world.

The extreme complexity of these problems is shown by the fact that seven distinct sub-committees are at work. These sub-committees deal with:

  1. the basis in theology;
  2. the general manner of presentation;
  3. the question of man's presence in society;
  4. marriage;
  5. social and economic questions;
  6. peace and war -- including nuclear war and disarmament; and finally
  7. questions of modern culture.

During the third session, many other important issues were raised. Among them were the declaration on religious liberty, and a further declaration concerning those who are not Christians (including a declaration on those who belong to the Jewish faith).

These declarations were returned for further revision, and action for approval was postponed until the fourth session.

The question of mixed marriages was also raised (that is, marriages contracted between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians). The Council Fathers decided to submit this question to the Pope for a ruling, and expressed the hope that this ruling would be given in advance of the promulgation of the reform in Canon Law. While the general question of marriage is included in the schema on the Church in the modern world, Pope Paul VI has reserved to himself the decision as to whether any change should be made in the teaching of Pope Pius XI (which was repeated by his successor, Pope Pius XII) concerning means of birth control. Pope Paul enlisted aid from distinguished theologians and doctors to assist him in forming his judgement on this question.

Next: The Final Session

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