This is the third and final installment of the first-ever translation of “the banned pastoral letter,” the document of the bishops of Holland to their people in preparation for the Council. Cardinal Ottaviani of the Holy Office had the Italian translation banned from the bookshops of Rome in the weeks leading up to the Council. The translation is by Janice Poss. See Part I and Part II.
Chapter III: The Ecumenical Council
The sense of faith and the council
Against this backdrop we understand more clearly what a council is. What passes more or less imperceptibly in the life of people of God under the daily teaching, pastoral care and administration of the global episcopate in communion with the pope, receives from a council a particular expressive form. A general council is then a concentration of grace in action visible from the Holy Spirit, that we send to the Head of the Church, Christ. The Holy Spirit ‘recalls’ to us what Christ did and taught when he lived on the earth. Under this aspect the council is like a sacrament: a sacred sign of the action of the Holy Spirit in the doctrinal magistrate and in the pastoral direction of the Church. Strictly speaking, the council is an act of ecclesiastical hierarchy and an act only of this hierarchy: this is an authoritarian, prophetic, and normative judgment, an act of authority, to what participates in principle as the representatives of the jurisdictional function in the Church, that is to say the hierarchy, always sustained by grace of which Christ provides it and possessing the discernment to distinguish the collective conceptions of believers of earthly hopes and human considerations not always exempt from sin. This power of discernment, gift of the Spirit, permits, not only to define the truth of faith, but to again fix ecclesiastic organization, to direct ecclesial and liturgical life, to formulate the exigencies of Christian life in confrontation with the world and its problems. From antiquity it was clear that a council was as such “the business of the bishops”, as what was said at the start of the Council of Ephesus.1 But what preceded showed sufficiently that this Episcopal activity presupposed the entire faith life of the lay community. This was not only in a general manner, but in particular in the immediate preparation of a council. Continue reading
- J. Harduin, Conciliorum collection regia maxima, Paris FR, 1715, Vol. II, col. 71. ↩