By JOHN YOUNG
When the bishops assembled for the start of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, they were presented with a number of schemas prepared by the Holy Office (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). The majority of the bishops were not happy with them, so Pope John XXIII agreed to their request that the work be done again.
Many bishops wanted a more pastorally toned style likely to have wider appeal, a style that they considered would resonate better with non-Catholics, as with those Catholics who would feel alienated by a clear-cut, dogmatic presentation. So new papers were prepared and became the basis of the final documents issued by Vatican II.
Those rejected schemas have been translated into English by Fr. Joseph A. Komonchak (copyright 2012). There are five: Sources of Revelation; Defending the Deposit of Faith; On Chastity, Marriage, the Family, and Virginity; On the Church; and On the Christian Moral Order.
In this article I want to indicate the contrast between those documents and the ones finally issued by the Vatican Council II. The overall impression I get is of a directness in the rejected documents that is often lacking in the later ones. They are less diffuse and more hard-hitting.
I’ll concentrate here on the document titled: Draft of a Dogmatic Constitution on Chastity, Marriage, the Family, and Virginity. It contains many statements of unpopular but important truths which are even more pertinent today than they were then. Not that the final texts of the council contradicted these: they didn’t, but they often presented them less completely or with less sharpness.
Let us take some examples.
The document states that because God is the absolute Lord of man’s life and its integrity, “Attempts to change one’s sex, therefore, when this is sufficiently determined, are wicked…also to try to unite the human germ cells of each sex in a laboratory, even if this is done without violating modesty and chastity and solely for the sake of scientific progress” (n. 4).
A footnote to n. 4 quotes the words of Pope Pius XII to the First Roman Synod in 1960: “. . . direct sterilization, whether permanent or temporary, whether of the man or the woman, is illicit in virtue of the natural law from which the Church herself, as you know, has no power to dispense.” (This implicitly rules out the pill, a matter on which Vatican II made no pronouncement, leaving it to Paul VI, who reaffirmed it in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.)
The document states: “With supreme loathing, furthermore, the Sacred Synod knows how many and how great are the detestable onslaughts today against chastity, by which in countless manifestations of today’s culture, even if under the pretext of play, recreation, science, art, or praiseworthy beauty, souls redeemed by the blood of Christ are in fact constantly and almost everywhere, even within the family, being encouraged and even handed over to evil” (n. 6).
St. Thomas Aquinas is quoted approvingly for saying that impure touches and embraces and lustful kisses “…are mortal sins insofar as they are ordered towards mortal sins, because something, even if it is good in general, is mortal insofar as it is ordered towards mortal sin” (n. 7, footnote 2).
The following blunt statement is made regarding homosexual acts: “Today the vice of homosexuality is quite widespread. Not only is simple horror at this most foul vice missing, but the claim is being made that it should be praised and presented as the mark of a loftier love and higher culture” (n. 7, footnote 21).
While recognizing and insisting on other ends in marriage, the document declares, “. . . the primary end of marriage is only the procreation and education of children” (n. 11). This is backed up by a number of references to previous pronouncements of the Magisterium.
The primacy of the father as head of the family is taught and explained. “Although as human persons the man and the woman have the same dignity before God and enjoy full equality of rights in the matters that constitute the essence of the marriage contract, still the man naturally presides over the whole family, over the wife as the companion to be especially honored and loved, and over the children who are to be nourished and educated” (n. 25).
The schema says it is “…mistaken to state that civil authority itself never has the power to punish adulterers, and indeed with an equal penalty for both men and women” (n. 22).
Several paragraphs are given to the defense and explanation of the doctrine that celibacy chosen for the love of God is superior to marriage, while maintaining at the same time that “. . . the dignity of marriage and of the Christian family can never be sufficiently praised” (n. 37). Speaking of “. . . errors spread and propagated concerning the character of marriage and of sacred virginity,” the schema declares that “…compelled by harsh necessity, [the Church] renews the severe condemnation once uttered by the Sacred Council of Trent against those who dare to maintain that the marital state is to be preferred to the state of virginity or celibacy, and she also seriously rejects the view of those who claim that the bond of celibacy today is obsolete, indeed impossible today, exceeds the competence of the Church, and should be relaxed according to the will of the subject” (n. 38).
All five schemas make interesting reading, but there is no space to deal with them here. I will just note one thing in the schema called Defending the Deposit of Faith. In n. 49 of this document it is clearly stated that Adam and Eve were real individuals from whom the whole human race has descended. Original sin “…proceeds from the sin truly committed by the one Adam and which is transmitted to all by generation, and which is in each person as his own.”
In general, there is a stronger emphasis in these provisional schemas on doctrine, less on the application of doctrine to current conditions.
Would it have been better had these first schemas been retained? I think it is impossible to say. Less debate would have occurred as to the meaning of the texts, and that would have been a definite plus — although a careful reading of the Vatican II documents will resolve almost all the alleged ambiguities.
The documents actually issued surely have a greater appeal to most non-Catholics because of their manner of presenting the Catholic faith; and this is important in furthering true ecumenism. In any case, those early drafts are well worth reading
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(John Young is a graduate of the Aquinas Academy in Sydney, Australia, and has taught philosophy in four seminaries. His book The Scope of Philosophy was published by Gracewing Publishers in England in 2010. He has been a frequent contributor to The Wanderer on theological issues since 1977.)