The Bishops of Holland: ‘The Sense of the Council’ III

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

  1. J. Harduin, Conciliorum collection regia maxima, Paris FR, 1715, Vol. II, col. 71.

The Bishops of Holland: ‘The Sense of the Council’ II

What did the Holy Office find so threatening about the encyclical of the Dutch bishops that Cardinal Ottaviani felt the need to confiscate it from the bookshops of Rome? Here for the first time in English is the second installment of the complete text of their encyclical, promulgated on Christmas Eve, 1960, translated by Janice Poss of Los Angeles from the French, Le Sens du Concile: Une Réforme Intérieure de la Vie Catholique. Read Part I.

Chapter II: The Sense of Faith in the Ecclesial Community and Hierarchical Direction

Revelation and Faith

The revelation of God in Christ is the gift of the personal self of the living God who makes himself known and intimately experienced in personal gesture, by which he comes to meet man, inviting him to living communion with himself. This is why the salvific reality of revelation, addressed to men and women, is not understood solely by divine acts of salvation that are historically dated (“public revelation”) but also by the interior word of God, in and by the grace of faith, or “the light of faith”, by which we can personally perceive in our heart the gracious offer of God’s salvation. This is the “salve of the heart”, of which spoke the apostle St. John, who made in a way “faith by hearing” or the truth preached about salvation can be equally perceived by the believing heart.1 Continue reading

  1. I Jn 2:20-27.

The Bishops of Holland: ‘The Sense of the Council’ I

Several times [during the preparatory meetings], resolutions to abolish the Congregation of the Holy Office outright were brought to the floor. In the sessions that took place last June, after Cardinal Ottaviani had ordered that the Italian translation of a pastoral letter on the Council written by the Dutch bishops be withdrawn from circulation, the Indian cardinal—vehemently supported by Cardinals Doepfner, or Munich; Koenig, of Vienna; and Lienart, of Lille—came to the aid of Cardinal Alfrink, of Utrecht, by informing the Holy Office, and the Roman Curia in general, that while ecumenical councils usually ended with someone in schism, this time, for once, it would not be the outsiders, because they happened to represent not merely the majority of the Church but the senior pars, and they expressed their disdain for the freemasonry (a nasty word in European ecclesiastical circles) of Italian prelates, who have held the Church in thrall for too long.

—Xavier Rynne, The New Yorker, October 20, 1962

What did the Holy Office find so threatening about the encyclical of the Dutch bishops that Ottaviani’s minions had to confiscate it from the bookshops of Rome? Here for the first time in English is the complete text of their encyclical, promulgated on Christmas Eve, 1960, translated by Janice Poss of Los Angeles from the French, Le Sens du Concile: Une Réforme Intérieure de la Vie Catholique.

St. Catherine's Cathedral, Utrecht
Continue reading