History of 'Dei Verbum'

Author: Fr. William Most


The discussion extended over all four sessions.

1. At first session, they were deadlocked on the matter of one or two sources of revelation. John XXIII therefore created a special joint commission representing both tendencies, to draw up a new text, which was given out in May 1963.

On August 9, 1963 Bishop Schröffer of Eichstätt, Germany, a liberal on the Theological commission told the bishops who were coming to the conference at Fulda that the revised form was "the result of a laborious struggle", and was just a compromise. He said that no more concessions could be achieved. He sent along a letter from Rahner, backed by Grillmeier, Semmelroth and Ratzinger saying that it was "a peaceful compromise which avoids many causes of division, but which therefore avoids mentioning many things concerning which additional doctrine would be welcome. So the Fulda conference asked that the new schema should be discussed at the Council not at the start of the second session but later. So it was not listed for discussion at all.

But at the end of the second session the European Alliance managed to get four new members on the Theological Commission.

The text had, "successfully skirted the difficult problem of defining whether the whole of revelation was or was not contained in Sacred Scripture" (W, p. 177).

P. 177: Bishop Compagnone of Anagni said they must not deviate from the doctrine of Trent and Vatican I, which said tradition was more extensive than Scripture. "Although the majority did not consider it opportune to introduce this teaching in the text, care should be taken to avoid giving the impression that the Council was turning its back on earlier decisions."

Council of Trent in DS 1501: "This general Council of Trent. . . seeing that this truth and discipline are contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received from the mouth of Christ Himself by the Apostles, or from the Apostles themselves under the dictation of the Holy Spirit [and] have come down to us handed down as it were, [This Council] following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it [this Council] accepts and venerates with equal devotion and reverence all the books of both the Old and the New Testament, since God is the author of each, and the tradition pertaining to both faith and morals, as orally given by Christ or dictated by the Holy Spirit, and kept in continuous succession in the Catholic Church." P. 179: "'Pope Paul on September 14, sent the following quotation from St. Augustine: 'There are many things which the entire Church holds, and they are therefore correctly believed to have been taught by the Apostles, even though they are not to be found in written form. ' For some reason, the question was never brought up at any of the meetings of the Commission on October 1, 4, and 6. A long and heated discussion took place on the proposal of the 111 Council Fathers, and the decision was finally reached on October 6 to retain the text unchanged."

P. 179: "The point at issue in Article 19, on the historicity of the Gospels, was the phrase 'true and sincere things about Jesus' An amendment prepared by the International Group was submitted by 158 Council Fathers to reword the phrase to read 'true and sincere history' or 'true historical narrative.'". . . But again the Theological Commission decided not to change the text.

P. 180: A solution to the problem of Article 9 was submitted to Pope Paul by Archbishop - now Cardinal - Florit, of Florence. . . . He suggested that Pope Paul reconvene the commission and ask it to reconsider carefully the necessity or the opportuneness, of stating explicitly in the schema that not every Catholic doctrine could be proved from sacred Scripture alone. The thorny problem of whether tradition contained more revealed truths than Scripture was an altogether different question and would not be touched on. . . . He proposed, therefore, the addition of these words to Article 9: 'Consequently, not every Catholic doctrine can be proved from Sacred Scripture alone.'"

P. 180: Complaints were also submitted to Pope Paul concerning Article 19, and it was known that he himself felt the phrase 'true ad sincere things' to be unconvincing and unsatisfactory. . . . .

P. 181: In a letter dated October 18 to Cardinal Ottaviani. . . the Secretary of State enclosed further observations of Pope Paul on the three disputed articles and informed the Cardinal of the Pope's decision to reconvene the commission. . . . This letter had been dictated by the Pope himself on October 17.

P. 182: After some discussion and balloting the Commission decided to add to Article 9 the words: 'Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws its certainty about everything which has been revealed.'

P. 182: "With regard to article 19, Cardinal Cicognani advised the Commission that Pope Paul regarded the words 'true and sincere" as insufficient. . . . It was then suggested that the historicity of the Gospels should be asserted without equivocation earlier in the same paragraph; this would preclude any ambiguity concerning the words 'true and sincere', which could then be retained. This solution, which achieved the purpose intended by the Pope and also contained the substance of his proposal was voted upon and adopted. . . to read as follows: 'Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels. . . . whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ. . . really did and taught for their eternal salvation."

On Nov. 28 the Constitution was accepted 2344 to 6. The Pope at once promulgated it.