Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, Part XXIX

Wednesday 20 November 1963

Yet more explanations of the modi [amendments] and votes on Chapter II on the Liturgy. We are fed up with it! If they retain the same procedure of modi and votes, we will NEVER get to the end when it comes to the De Ecclesia [‘on the church’], and a minority of four hundred Fathers could block the text. That would present us with an unbearable Third Session.

Thursday 21 November 1963

Msgr. Marty told me that today the election of six new members for the Commissions would be proposed, four to be elected, and two to be chosen by the Pope. The purpose of the operation: to modify the make-up of the Commissions in line with the spirit of the Council. But that will also have the effect of weighing them down!!!

Mass in Croatian: it is the Roman Mass but in a Slav language. During this Mass, singing in unison by strong male voices, accompanied by the organ. These chants have a serious and somewhat nostalgic style. They are in the style of German choral singing, and it seems to me that the synthesis between Slavism and Romanism is matched by a synthesis between that itself and the Germanic sense of choral singing. It is at the same time very Balkan and very Central European. How deep and interesting the human being is everywhere!! How one, and yet how different. It wants to be itself, quite simply, to be what it conceives itself to be.

Felici announced that, in order to speed up the work of the Commissions, the Pope, in response to numerous requests, had raised the number of members of the Commissions to thirty. Thus, five new members will be needed, except for the Eastern congregation, which will have only three new members and the Secretariat twelve.

The Council will elect four members and the Pope will appoint one, except for the Liturgical Commission, which has finished its work.

The presidents of the episcopal conferences are to convene their conferences and indicate three names for each Commission (six for the Secretariat), who can be voted for in the General Congregation. To be submitted to the secretariat before Monday. These lists will be distributed to the Fathers on Wednesday and the election will take place on Thursday.

After these elections, the Pope will grant the Commissions the right to ELECT a new vice-president and a new secretary in addition to the existing ones.

A list was then read of the thirty-one names of those who have asked to speak, and have yet to be heard, on ecumenism in general. It will be impossible for them all to be heard!!!

Then yet another relatio [report] on the modi called for in the liturgy. What a bore! However, it is a question of things that are important: mother tongue in the sacraments and in the liturgy. I have not been much interested in the liturgical question at the Council, but one cannot do everything: I have not even got the time to READ all the post every day, and even less time in which to reply to it.

Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council, pp. 436, 441-442. For previous posts in this series, simply enter “Congar” in the search box in the upper right. The 1100-page book can be purchased from Liturgical Press.


  1. I have been reading the whole journal in English. If Vatican II was a council of continuity, the resistant minority missed that. It is a journal recording tortuous procedures and nearly overwhelming resistance to what was believed to be not only innovation but heresy. And so the battle lines and tactics continue.

    1. @Halbert Weidner – comment #1:
      Granted, I finished reading Congar’s journal more than a year ago, but my response is 180 degrees different from yours.

      There was vigorous debate and some resistance (a lot of it from the Curia–some things never change 🙂 ), but when it came time to vote, the fathers reached overwhelming consensus on most questions.

      Although I haven’t studied their histories, I’m guessing the same pattern held true for Vatican I and Trent. And certainly the account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts suggests that this may be a very ancient pattern that I’d suggest is evidence of the Spirit at work.

  2. Have read his book at least twice completely through and some chapters many times.
    Would agree that there was some initial pushback (and differences at times on certain topics that extended throughout the council) but the book actually is a very good and thorough history that council discussions were open, direct, and allowed for all positions. Committees did at times reach the point you state but then the central committee, various episcopal conferences, even the pope would propose a way forward.
    But, this system (which may appear like factions, etc. actually surfaced comprehensive and documented proposals that, when voted on, received overwhelming majorities (which is what Paul VI was looking for). Not sure that I would put the Council of Jerusalem in any of these comparisons.
    Vatican I – no, no comparison. This council saw a group depart before the final vote on infallibility and a good number who avoided that vote completely. It was not an open council but controlled by Pio NoNo.
    Trent – read O’Malley’s book on Trent….it stretched over 20 years; was not in Rome so as to appear balanced and even-handed; was significantly impacted by the times (so, influence of kings, others who drove episcopal votes). To a degree like VII, but set up so that theologians in open session debated and educated the council fathers on each subject; then, proposals were drawn up and voted on before heading to Rome.

    So, in some ways no comparison between Trent and VII.

  3. I wonder if what Congar refers to as “Mass in Croatian” was not, in fact, a celebration of the Roman rite in Old Slavonic, the “Glagolitic Mass”? It was one of the Roman Rite usages not outlawed by the Council of Trent.

  4. That was certainly the Mass in Church Slavonic.
    The language used in Missal was Croatized Church Slavonic, so, although arhaic, it was probably well understood. There was also a custom in coastal areas of Croatia to respond in vernacular, although it was deemed as an abuse.
    There was an article on NLM about the Glagolitic Missal some time ago.

    Another interesting fact is that Glagolitic priests were mostly married, at least to the 17th century, for the later dates I’m not sure.

  5. “A minority of four hundred Fathers could block the text.”

    If four hundred Council Fathers disapprove of a text, perhaps it should be blocked.

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