Vatican I: A Look Back at an Unfinished Council (2)

April 21, 2020

150 years ago, the First Vatican Council opened under the leadership of Pope Pius IX: FSSPX.News is going back over the history of the Council which was the theater of opposition between liberals and ultramontanes, at the end of which the dogma of papal infallibility was proclaimed.

We are at the end of 1869, the First Vatican Council just opened on December 8. After two weeks during which was exposed the rift between supporters and opponents of a solemn definition of pontifical infallibility, the examination of the first draft of a dogmatic constitution was discussed on December 28, 1869.

The schema, which sought to condemn the multiple errors deriving from modern rationalism, was drawn up by Frs. Schrader and Franzelin, two Jesuits recognized for the quality of their work on ecclesiology.

Nevertheless, the proposal distributed to the Council Fathers was very badly received at first: it was criticized for developing an unclear thought and for using an aggressive tone. It was considered to be too certain regarding points which remained freely disputed.

“We must bury this schema with honor,” said Msgr. Thomas Louis Connoly, a Capuchin religious who became Bishop of Halifax, Canada, who was also a fervent defender of the cause of Catholic schools in his country.

It should be noted that criticisms also came from several Italian bishops known for their adherence to Roman doctrines. In any case, the freedom of tone and the quality of the debates were of a nature to reassure those who predicted that the bishops would have little say, and that the dogmatic definitions would be made by acclamation ...

On the other hand, on the side of the organizers of the Council, the feeling was different. Pope Pius IX, while making it known that “the appearance of the first debates caused him some concern,” did not want to do anything that might suggest that the deliberations were not entirely free.

Cardinal Filippo De Angelis, camerlengo and deputy president of the Council, lamented to whomever wanted to listen: “The Council seems to be made up only of the left!”

On January 10, 1870, after six sessions, the presidents announced that the schema would be returned to the deputation on faith to be reworked. In the meantime, the schemas on ecclesiastical discipline would be dealt with. Perhaps they would find there grounds for agreement allowing some breathing room to rebuild unity, before resuming the debates on the more disputed questions.

To be continued...