As the Council neared...

During the period of preparations for the Council (November 1960 Summer 1962), ten commissions drafted texts for the bishops to consider. When finished, they were brought before the Central Commission [CPC], a body that was supposed to have certain supervisory functions and in particular to review the prepared texts, propose amendments to them, and decide whether to recommend to Pope John XXIII that they be placed on the conciliar agenda. That they came to the CPC simply as they were completed, in no particular order, reinforced the impression that no unifying purpose had guided the preparation of the Council. Because most of them were practical and flew very close to the ground, the criticism began to be heard that if these texts were representative of what the Council would do and say, it would greatly disappoint expectations. As for the doctrinal texts prepared by the Theological Commission, they provoked rather lively discussions in the CPC that anticipated the debates of the first session of the Council in 1962. All in all, many people began to ask Hans Kngs question: Can the Council Fail? (His article with that title was translated and published in, 12 (1962) 269-76; if you make use of Questia, it can be foundhere.)Here arepagestaken from my chapterin volume I of theHistory of Vatican II, on the last stages in determining the conciliar agenda and on spreading apprehension about what it might accomplish or fail to accomplish. Cardinal Suenens plan for the Council, drawn up at the direction of Pope John can be foundhere, andhereis the radio address that Pope John gave exactly a month before the Council was to open, a text in which the influence of Suenenss proposal seems evident.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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