Not all accounts of Vatican II, 1962–65, recognize that the 200 carefully selected non-Roman Catholic Observers had a considerable influence on the Council and on its major documents about the Church, Church unity, liturgy, the Jews and religious freedom. Their impact is assessed both by Roman Catholic theologians like Congar and Willebrands and Observers such as Bishop Moorman and Robert McAfee Brown together with comments Karl Barth later made on some of the documents in his discussions with Pope Paul VI and others, including Ratzinger and Rahner in Rome. An attempt is made to explain how the Observers had the influence they did. One conclusion is that they helped the Council evolve from what could have been a purely domestic affair and a rubber-stamping exercise dealing with 70 documents, already prepared by the Curia, and Commissioners appointed by the Pope, into a genuinely ecumenical, deliberative, debating and decision-making council of the worldwide Church.
Impact! What impact? To ask who influenced what at Vatican II may seem inappropriate. The intention behind all the debates on all the subjects dealt with at the Council was to reach a consensus. Everyone could be listened to. No one would be condemned. Unlike previous councils, Vatican II issued no anathemas. The remarkable outcome was that, even on highly contentious subjects like Human Rights,1 the 2,500 bishops from every continent came to a common mind with near unanimous agreement on what to say in most of the sixteen documents. It would, therefore, be wrong to apportion credit or blame for anything stated in the decrees of this ecumenical council. The convictions of each were accepted by all, or nearly all. The documents tell us what the Roman Catholic Church, after discussions in Council, now believes. Those who were there would report: ‘This is what was agreed.’ Fifty years on, few of the participants2 are still with us, should we wish to know more.
But fifty years on we non-Roman Catholics can share with all Roman Catholics in the ‘reception of Vatican II’.3 To do this we need to know what difference our representatives, those appointed by our respective world communions to be observers, made to the Council. We learn from their reports and from the various histories that they not only observed the Council – and from the front seats in the basilica – but were actively involved in discussions and seminars with the bishops and periti and sometimes also with the Pope. What impact did these have on the documents and the way the Council operated? Learning from the past we can contribute to the future. For inspired by the good experience of Vatican II, the World Council of Churches at its subsequent Assembly at Uppsala in 1968, dared to hope that one day all Christians could join together in genuinely ecumenical or universal Council,4 which could lead us all into the future as a visible expression of the ‘one, holy catholic and apostolic Church’ we long for every time we recite the creed.
Vatican II is more than the sum of its documents. It was a very special ‘event’, a deep and open encounter between divided Christians and a life changing ecumenical experience. So, first some general impressions of the impact the observers had just by being there. Then follow some case studies of a sample of the documents for which the observers felt a special concern.
The Impact of the Observers: First Impressions
Yves Congar tells us that he was moved to tears when he first saw the observers. They were seated in the front row in places of honour at the Council: ‘The presence of thirty-seven observers5 from the non-Roman Catholic Christian Communions is one of the most important elements in the conciliar situation’, he said.6 He tells us in his Journal7 that as often as possible he sat with the observers and had long conversations with his Lutheran friend, Oscar Cullmann, one of the Council’s special guests. Johannes Willebrands, who had been very active in recruiting observers from the different world communions, told the Anglican bishop John Moorman: ‘The presence of observers here is very important. You have no idea how much they are influencing the Council.’8 Pope John, who had invited them to the Council, told them: ‘I feel a source of encouragement in your presence.’9 Some of the bishops were less enthusiastic, and there was some suggestion that the observers should not be invited to the fourth and final session, but they were. Agostino Marchetto is one of those who thinks that many other accounts exaggerate the role of the observers and perhaps also of the theologians and seeks to put the record straight.10 For him it was vital to maintain that Vatican II was just another Catholic Council. It wasn’t. It was more catholic!
Ultramontes. I met so many Christians with whom I could not only speak candidly and seriously, but also join in hearty laughter, that I could not think without pain of certain dwarfs in our own theological backyard. Any optimism about the future is automatically excluded. But calm brotherly hope is called for, together with a willingness in the meanwhile to conduct in both great and small affairs a thorough housecleaning of our own.13
Ecumenical influence and the documents of Vatican II
Sacrosanctum Concilium14(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
This was the first Council document to be agreed and according to that expert commentator, Massimo Faggioli, a key to understanding the Council as a whole. It set the tone of ‘the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II’,15 not least by stating in the opening sentence that one aim of the liturgical reform is ‘to encourage whatever can contribute to the union of all who believe in Christ; and to strengthen whatever serves to call all people into the embrace of the church’. Here the non-Roman Catholic observers certainly had an impact but without having to argue their case. The sixteenth century Reformers, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer and others, had spoken for them. John Calvin, for example, had argued in his Institutes that prayers should be in the language of the people. He complained at the ‘unbridled licence of the papists, who, after the apostle thus openly decries it, are not afraid to make their wordy prayers resound in a foreign language, of which they themselves often understand not one syllable, and do not wish others to understand either’.16 He went on to urge that the celebration of communion should take place at least every Sunday17 and should always include preaching18 and the cup should be restored to the laity, for ‘half the Supper’ has been ‘either stolen or snatched … from the greater part of God’s people’ and regarded as ‘a special property to a few shaven and anointed men’.19 Rome at Vatican II responded positively to all these concerns even if had taken four hundred years to do so!
This was not, however, a simple case of yielding to Protestant and Anglican criticisms. What had been happening even before Vatican II was a growing ecumenical ‘convergence in celebration’20 encouraged by the liturgical and Ressourcement21 movements. The Council gave an enormous boost to liturgical renewal in all churches with a result that today there can be great similarities between the texts of communion in Roman Catholic, Anglican and many Protestant congregations. Leading bishops at Vatican II, like Cardinal Alfrink and Cardinal Bea, were, as one might expect, fully aware of the ecumenical significance of the changes they were encouraging.22 They would be helped just by the presence of the observers, not only in the debates but at the mass with which each day’s session began. The observers would not be permitted to receive communion but the reasons for their exclusion were becoming less clear, day by day. They still need a convincing explanation.23
Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation)
Here again it would be possible to attribute the revisions of the Council of Trent’s understanding of Scripture and tradition and their relationship to the influence of the Ressourcement theologians and Rome’s capacity for self-renewal without any help from those outside. Joseph Ratzinger, for one, was in this instance delightfully honest and gracious. He was honest enough to admit that the biblical arguments used to support the dogma of 1854 on the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary were weak and had led to an equally insecure appeal to tradition, and he paid tribute to Karl Barth and dialectical theology for the new emphasis on revelation centred on Christ.24 He noted that when the first draft of the Schema on Revelation had been presented, Émile de Smedt, Bishop of Bruges and later Vice-President of the Secretariat for Unity, said such a document would destroy all hope of ecumenical dialogue and of coming together with ‘our separated brethren’.25 And Anglican Observer, Bishop J. R. H. Moorman, quotes Cardinal Liénart of Lille: ‘What is said here of inspiration and inerrancy is at once offensive to our separated brethren in Christ, and harmful to the proper liberty required in any scientific procedure.’26 He also cites the learned ex-Anglican scholar, Christopher Butler, then President of the English Benedictine Congregation and a member of the Doctrinal Commission, whose wise words have too often gone unheeded: ‘Let us not be afraid that our scholars may be lacking in loyalty to the Church and to traditional doctrine … What we want is not the childish comfort which comes from averting our gaze to the truth, but a truly critical scholarship which will enable us to enter into dialogue with non-Catholic scholars.’ Some of these ‘non-Catholic scholars’ were present at the Council. Among them Oscar Cullmann,27 Kristen Skydsgaard and my own Oxford New Testament Professor, George B. Caird.28
Barth was relatively pleased with the document. It did not solve the complex problem of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, but then Protestant scholars had not solved that either. All earlier references to two sources of revelation had been dropped.29 Barth would know that even as the Council was in process the Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches was wrestling with this issue in Montreal 1963 and being helped now by very strong Roman Catholic input from biblical scholar Raymond Brown.30 As is often noted, some Protestants were discovering ‘tradition’ and ‘traditions’ just as Roman Catholics were rediscovering the Bible. What delighted Barth most of all was the fact that, whereas prior to the Council, Roman Catholics were told not to read the Bible, now they were told they must read it.31 The subsequent adoption in many churches of the Common Lectionary based on the three-year cycle of lections in the Missal, makes it even easier for many of us to study the same texts together. And Barth, when too ill to attend church, got the benefit when he listened to Roman Catholic and Protestant sermons each Sunday on Swiss Radio and discovered that the effect of Vatican II and the liturgical and ecumenical movements meant that the preaching was better and rarely sectarian.32
Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church)
People in my own Reformed tradition are especially delighted that here the Church is no longer identified with the hierarchy as in the expression still sometimes used by Anglicans, ‘X entered the Church’, meaning that he or she became ordained, not that they were baptised. The Council document begins with Christ, the light of the world, and then proceeds to all the people of God before commenting on the hierarchy and the possibility of greater collegiality. This wasn’t quite what the Curia and others who prepared the opening drafts intended, but it was what materialized after many strenuous debates.33 It is of course important to realize that all sixteen Vatican documents are about the Church, her nature and her mission, her relationship to other faiths and to the so called ‘modern world’. So there are other documents on ‘The Pastoral Office of Bishops’, ‘Religious Life’, ‘Priestly Formation’, ‘The Ministry and Life of Priests’ and ‘The Apostolate of the Laity’. Here I can only focus on what would generally be agreed to be the key text, Lumen Gentium.
If we are looking for clear evidence of non-Roman Catholic impact, then we find it where it might be least expected, in what the Council says, or decided not to say, about Mary. The Council Fathers were more evenly divided on this subject than on any other issue. That great Roman Catholic ecumenist, Yves Congar, issued warnings against ‘galloping mariology’.34 Ottaviani sought advice on what the Orthodox reaction might be to any further statement on the Virgin Mary and was told – according to Congar – ‘they are quite content to venerate the Theotikos and would not be pleased with dogmatic texts: we have not recovered from the difficulties created by the Assumption!!!’35 And Congar, who had a good relationship with Visser’t Hooft, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, would not be surprised when his friend wrote in his Memoirs: ‘the proclamation … of the bodily assumption of Mary made the impression that the Roman Catholic Church took no account of the convictions of other Christian churches’.36 The initial question at the Council was whether to include the Blessed Virgin in a document about the Church or make her the subject of one entirely devoted to her. The votes on 29 October 1963 were inconclusive: 1114 in favour of incorporating Mary in a document about the Church, 1074 in favour of a separate document.37 The Council’s ideal was unanimity.38 Its minimum requirement, a two-thirds majority plus the Pope’s approval. Congar sensed in his Journal, ‘this morning’s vote marks a first “parting of the ways”.’39 But at such a juncture, I would argue, it is possible that the known views of non-Roman Catholics, including the Orthodox, who prefer devotion to Mary to dogmas about her, tipped the balance. In the formal exchange between two Cardinals, Cardinal König argued that embracing Mary in a document about the Church would make ‘possible a convergence with both the Oriental and Protestant traditions’.40 Some sensed that Max Thurian of Taizé, one of the Observers and author of a recent study, Marie, mère du Seigneur, figure de l’Eglise, was nodding his approval.41 König and his supporters won the argument. ‘The blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and the Church’, became chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
Against those who wanted to proclaim Mary as Mediatrix or co-Redemtrix, the opponents had the New Testament in their favour. Lumen Gentium recognizes this, though it notes: ‘in the church the blessed Virgin is invoked by the titles of advocate, benefactress, helper and mediatrix.42 This, however, must be understood in such a way that it takes away nothing from the dignity and power of Christ the one mediator, and adds nothing on to this.’43 The document ends with a plea to theologians and preachers to study the Holy Scriptures, the holy fathers and doctors and liturgies of the church and to ‘sedulously avoid, both in what they say and what they do, anything that might lead our separated brothers and sisters or any other people into error concerning the true teaching of the church’. The Council clearly recognized that what we say about Mary is an acutely sensitive ecumenical issue.
The Pope was less sedulous. Despite the fact that all reference to Mary as ‘Mother of the Church’ had been dropped from final documents presented to the Council,44 Paul VI insisted on making his own announcement. In what became known as ‘the Black Week’ of Vatican II, the Pope altered a number of agreed statements in the Decree on Ecumenism and went on to ‘declare’ and ‘decree’ that Mary is ‘Mother of the Church’. The ever sensitive Yves Congar simply records in his Journal: ‘What is the content [his emphasis]. What does it mean?’ And he adds: ‘The observers had a very bad impression of these last two days and of this final act’, and quotes Oscar Cullmann and Edmund Schlink in support. He prints in bold capitals: ‘THE SEPARATED BRETHREN HAVE GONE BACK TO HAVING DOUBTS ABOUT US.’45 It was not a good day for Ecumenical Councils if carefully argued decisions could be so easily overruled by one man, even if he is pope.
Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism)
Of all Council concerns, the question of ‘the restoration of Unity’ is most obviously the one where the ‘separated sisters and brothers’ should be listened to. They were, but not without some difficulties of Rome’s making. After the opening conferences of those parts of the modern ecumenical movement that eventually became the World Council of Churches in 1948 and 1961,46 Pope Pius XI in the Encyclical Mortalium Animos of 1928, forbade any Roman Catholic involvement. This embargo was reaffirmed more gently in Humani Generis, 1950. All this, scarcely a decade before Pope John XXIII, in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (1959), announced the calling of an Ecumenical Council to which, he soon made clear, non-Roman Catholic theologians would be invited. No wonder that when the Council met some of the bishops had never heard the word ‘ecumenical’ being applied to other Christians!47 Roman Catholic theologians like Yves Congar would have loved to attend the Life and Work Conference at Oxford in 1937 or the Faith and Order Conference in Edinburgh that same year, or the first two Assemblies of the World Council of Churches at Amsterdam 1948 and Evanston, near Chicago, in 1954, but were not permitted to do so.
the well-known and widely regretted attitude of the Roman See towards union movements of the past and present. It was and is needful for someone somewhere to make a stand against excessive claims of all church movements, and assert that the union of the churches is a thing which cannot be manufactured, but must be found and confessed, in subordination to that already accomplished oneness of the Church which is in Jesus Christ.48
What was the real nature of this new World Council of Churches? Was it an attempt to set up a centre of unity which would be able to offer an alternative to the only effective centre of world-embracing unity which has existed so far, namely the Roman Catholic Church?49
Such readiness to question and a shared concern about Christ’s Church made it possible for Congar and nine other Roman Catholic theologians to join in secret and confidential discussions at the Istina Centre in Paris with ten people from the World Council led by Visser’t Hooft. They first met in 1949. There followed in 1952 the Catholic Conference on Ecumenical Problems, again partly led by Congar but joined now by Father, later Cardinal, Jan Willebrands and his Dutch colleague Fr Frans Thijssen.50 Many of their discussions centred on themes common to the World Council’s Assemblies and Faith and Order Commission.
So, when Church unity became an agenda item at Vatican II, what impact did the non-Roman Catholic observers have? Again, it is not possible to prove that, because they were there, such and such a decision was written into a document but the following claims seem plausible.
First, had the non-Roman Catholic communions decided not to send observers, the Council fathers would not have devoted so much time to the restoration of a unity which other churches did not want.51 The Baptists were the only major world communion that did not send an observer, though the Orthodox initially took a little persuading.52 They had been invited to Vatican I but declined to come, partly because of the imperious way in which Rome summoned them: ‘we beseech, admonish and pressingly exhort you to come to the said General Synod.’53 This was no way for a pope to address his fellow patriarchs who at best will accept him canonically as only ‘first among equals’. And had the observers who came all been negative in their comments, that too would have stymied further discussion. With few exceptions – and Congar is quite candid in naming some54 – the observers became enthusiastic spokesmen for the Council and needed to be for some of the congregations in the world communions they represented still needed persuading, as Lutheran George Lindbeck55 and others discovered. The observers had been selected by their respective communions because they were ecumenically committed and in many cases active in the World Council of Churches. They were not therefore typical of all Anglicans, Methodists, Lutheran, Reformed and other traditions. The eight representatives of the Anglican Communion tended to be on the ‘catholic’ rather than ‘evangelical’ wing of their Church.56
Secondly, though the Observers had no voice in the actual debates, they had their regular Tuesday meetings with some of the bishops and the periti, and numerous opportunities for informal discussions in the coffee bars and hotels in Rome. They then had at least two very powerful spokesmen in the Council: Augustin Cardinal Bea, one-time confessor for Pius XII, close colleague of Pope John XXIII and the first President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (1960–8), and Johannes, later Cardinal, Willebrands, close friend of his fellow Dutchman, Visser’t Hooft,57 first General Secretary of the wcc. Willebrands was Secretary of the aforementioned Catholic Conference for Ecumenical Questions (1952–62) and then Secretary to the Unity Secretariat. He did much of the recruiting of Observers and ensured that they could not only observe but actively participate. Both men have rightly become the subjects of several major studies58 and a glance at the indexes in The History of Vatican II and in Congar’s Journal will amply demonstrate how influential they were. It is significant that both came from countries where ecumenism was a live issue. Bea from Germany, the land where the Reformation began, and Willebrands from Holland, where the major church, but not by any means the majority church, is the Reformed and where ‘those Dutch Catholics’ were in the sixties famous or notorious as Rome’s avant-garde reformers.
Thirdly, Vatican II was not primarily a Reunion Council and never claimed to be. Barth was among the first non-Roman Catholics to appreciate this59 and for this reason was less disillusioned with the sometimes slow ecumenical advances of the Council than his friend Hans Küng, who had written prematurely about the The Council and Reunion.60 Once we too accept that the Council’s prime concern was its own internal renewal or what Pope John preferred to call aggiornamento, bringing up to date, then we can appreciate that what Rome was asking from the Observers was help in being a better Catholic Church. Seen in this way, Unitatis Redintegratio reads as a great response to prayers that a Roman Catholic, Paul Wattson, promoted when he ‘founded’ the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 1908. At the time this ex-Anglican convert was urging us all to ‘return to Rome’. The document never mentions ‘return’, though some of the Fathers did, including England’s future Archbishop Heenan. Congar was shocked: ‘Heenan, he spoke at length to say little. HE SPOKE IN TERMS OF A RETURN ’ [Congar’s emphasis].61 The Council did assert there is ‘the one and only church’ but she is not completely identical with the Roman Catholic Church as she now is. This one Church ‘subsists in the catholic church as something she can never lose’.62 The ecumenical movement is commended for its share in ‘the many efforts that are being made in prayer, word and action, to attain that fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires’. The same detailed paragraph encourages dialogues through which, when wisely led, ‘everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and life of each communion.’ It concedes, too, that ‘the divisions among Christians prevent the church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her.’63 In short, for all the strong claims that Rome is still making for herself, she cannot be fully ‘catholic’ without us. And in the Council itself, with Roman Catholic bishops from all round the world and representatives of the major world communions, Rome was never more ‘catholic’, in every sense of the word, than she was then.
But in case we get carried away by a facile optimism which is too easily shattered, the Pope’s interventions in the so-called, ‘Black Week’, 14–21 November 1964, of Vatican II, serve as a cautionary tale. They showed how not to do dialogue. The Council Fathers wanted to commend us, Anglicans and Protestants in particular, for our love of the Bible. ‘Calling upon the holy Spirit, they find God in the scriptures as speaking to them in Christ.’64 Quite right. We do! But the Pope and the Curia said we cannot possibly find God in that way and altered ‘find’ to ‘seek’. In dialogue we need to take the other’s faith seriously or it becomes a dialogue of the deaf.
Congar was often quite critical of Pope Paul VI. He said he made ecumenical gestures but did not have the ecumenical theology to sustain them. Barth was more sympathetic. He appreciated the enormous burden of office that the pope carried and the conflicting pressures that he was subject to. He was also pleased that the Pope had read some of his books!65
Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions)
Vatican II is justly commended for what the Roman Catholic Church began to say about other faiths and about the Jews in particular.66 It is also criticized for what it failed to say. Here I want just to note that it was non-Roman Catholics and one man in particular, Jules Isaac, who, possibly, did more than anyone to put Jews on the agenda. I quote the expert commentator on this document, John Oesterreicher, himself a convert from Judaism: ‘That Jules Isaac’s visit had a lasting effect on the Pope cannot in my opinion be doubted. Yet it is doubtful if his was the decisive influence.’67 What we also know is that when Roman Catholic districts were canvassed about subjects for the Council’s agenda, only 3 of 81 in Germany mentioned ‘the Jewish question’ as a priority.68 This Pope really cared and Jews made full use of his sympathy.
In 1960 a delegation of 100 Jews from the United States came to Rome to thank Pope John for all he had done to save Jewish lives before and during the War.69 In June that year, a French professor, Jules Isaac, presented the Pope with a dossier of proposals that he hoped the Council might deal with. Pope John handed this on to his trusted colleague, Cardinal Bea. Thus pressurized, the Council faced two further challenges: what to say about the Jews and where to say it.
Moreover, the church which condemns all persecutions against any people, mindful of its common inheritance with Jews and motivated not by political considerations but by religious charity of the gospel, deplores feelings of hatred, persecutions and demonstrations of anti-Semitism directed at the Jews at whatever times and by whomsoever.72
Fifty years after the Council debates, such a generalizing statement seems terribly bland and evasive. Pope Paul VI’s later visit to New York, ‘the world’s largest Jewish city’, did not go down well. American Jews noticed that the Council only ‘deplored’ anti-Semitism. It did not ‘condemn’ it as an earlier draft had said. Rabbi Gittelsohn of Boston felt what was said by the World Council at New Delhi in 1961 was much better. Responsibility for Christ’s death belonged to ‘our corporate humanity, not to one race or community’.73
Why is the most grievous, the fundamental schism – the opposition of Church and Synagogue [Romans 9–11; Ephesians 2] – not dealt with here, but only spoken of as the relation of the Church to Abraham’s stock in the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions?75
And earlier in Church Dogmatics Barth had declared: ‘Even the modern ecumenical movement suffers more seriously from the absence of Israel than of Rome or Moscow.’76 He said this in 1959 before the Second Vatican Council committed Rome to the ecumenical movement and before the Russian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches in 1961.
Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Freedom)
‘Error has no rights’, was Rome’s traditional view,77 so how did the bishops come to state: ‘This Vatican synod declares that the human person has the right to religious freedom’ and that ‘no one should be forced to act against his conscience in religious matters’?78 Answer: because of strong pressure from the World Council of Churches, the American churches, Roman Catholic and Protestant, and a little help from that famous ex-Anglican who is often said to have been so influential throughout the Council, Cardinal Newman, and his views on the supreme authority of conscience.79 It also helped to view the question in a new way – not as a contest between Truth and Error – but from a deeper understanding of ‘the dignity of the human person’, seen as ‘a concern of which people of our time are becoming increasingly aware’.80
John Courtney Murray, an American Jesuit who was writing about this issue on religious liberty long before the Council convened. His ideas were rejected by Rome as too avant-garde, and for years he was forbidden to speak or write on the topic. He somehow got to Rome and became the resource person on religious liberty for the entire Council.84
McAfee Brown was pleased with the document: ‘it met all our concerns and today its role as part of official Catholic belief is uncontested.’ But two eminent Protestant theologians, Karl Barth and Stanley Hauerwas,85 and a number of French Roman Catholic bishops regard it as theologically weak.86 Religious liberty can have a firmer theological foundation than that afforded by the American Constitution or the United Nations Charter.
Vatican II: A Genuinely Ecumenical, Truly Catholic, Free-Reforming Council?
Was it? No, this is claiming too much. But it is true to say that on all three counts, ecumenism, catholicity and freedom to debate, it evolved from a rather shaky and uncertain start and sets a base line for better councils to come.
It might just have been a Roman Catholic affair but Pope John’s invitation to non-Roman Catholic observers and detailed coverage by the world’s media helped to make it more ecumenical as a concern not only for other Christians but for the oikumene, ‘the whole inhabited world’. The 2,500 bishops came from every continent, making it the most geographically universal council ever held. Rahner spoke of discovering what it means to be a world Church.87
Congar wrote of Catholics becoming more catholic.88 This process was aided by celebrations of the Mass in different styles from different cultures. The Council opened its doors to those who had previously been shut out, formerly censured theologians like Congar and Courtney Murray were now asked for their advice. And the Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants and Pentecostals who had once been urged to repent and return to Rome, were now graciously invited to sit in places of honour and be consulted. This Council was pastoral in tone. Unlike Trent and Vatican I it did not anathematize those who disagreed.
It was free and reforming, feeling its way to new formulations through strong debates, numerous discussions and conversations. For bishops who had not read much theology since leaving seminary it was also an open university where you could listen to de Lubac or Cullman, Greek Orthodox ecumenist Nissiotis, or Suenens, talk with brothers from Taizé, and be informed about the issues under review. Originally it looked as though it would only be a rubber-stamping operation,89 with seventy documents prepared by the Curia and Commissions largely selected by the Pope. The bishops soon made it clear this is not what they had come for. The Council became a Council and took its time. Popes John and Paul sometimes intervened but they did not control. Nor did the Curia get its own way. And on many disputed questions, the presence and conversations with observers tipped the balance, as we saw in the case of what to say and not say about Mary or religious freedom.90
Earlier Councils, including Trent, claimed they were directed by the Holy Spirit.91 This one certainly was. Many of the participants believed that. John XXIII opened a door in the Vatican so the Holy Spirit could come in and the observers,92 too, were drawn in and became part of the Council. Dare one add, members of the Church catholic! The different disciples of Christ were ‘all together in one place’, as in Acts 2. Suenens wrote of A New Pentecost?93 If so, then, Alleluia!
Karl Barth‘Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation’ and ‘Conciliorum Tridenti et Vatican I Inhaerens Vestigiis’ in Ad Liminapp. 25–6 43–55.
W.A. Visser’t Hooft‘The ecumenical mobilization of the Roman Catholic Church’ in Memoirs (Geneva: World Council of Churches 1973) pp. 318–39 322.
Karl BarthAd Limina p. 23 wanted assurance that these were only ‘pious invocations’ not dogma and might this qualification be applied to all Mariology including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption?
Cuthbert ButlerThe Vatican Council The Story Told from Inside in Bishop Ullathorne’s Letters (London: Longmans1930) pp. 93–4 citing Mansi 1c 1255; George B. Caird Our Dialogue with Rome p. 2.
Bernard McCabe‘American Jews and Vatican II’New Blackfriars 47 (1966) pp. 229–37; ‘Resolution on Anti-Semitism’ in The New Delhi Report (London: scm 1962) p. 148.
BarthAd Limina pp. 39–40. Barth found the Declaration ‘absolutely terrible’ and scolded Küng for not preventing this ‘monstrosity’ but did not explain why: Letters 16 September 1966; Stanley Hauerwas ‘The divided mind of Dignitatis Humanae’ in A Better Hope (Grand Rapids mi: Brazos 2000) pp. 109–16.
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, , pp. Barth 39–40. Barth found the Declaration ‘absolutely terrible’ and scolded Küng for not preventing this ‘monstrosity’, but did not explain why: Letters, 16 September 1966; Stanley Hauerwas, ‘The divided mind of Dignitatis Humanae’, in A Better Hope(Grand Rapids, mi: Brazos, 2000), pp. 109–16.