A dutch newspaper headlined the close of the most recent session of the Vatican Council this way: “Pope Closes Session of Saddened Council.” It was a Roman Catholic paper, and its headline called forth a dozen questions. The phrase “saddened council” evoked vivid memories of the surprising final week of the session, a week of severe crisis. A veritable shock wave was felt when the news came out that the schema on freedom of religion was to be postponed until a following session. A petition to get the schema approved at this session was signed by a great number of council fathers. But the effort failed when the Pope himself decided to put the schema to a vote only after the council was called into its fourth session.

That this schema on religious freedom had become a point of intense controversy was well known. The American desire for a forthright proclamation clashed sharply with the views of the Italian and Spanish bishops. Many bishops felt that this matter more than any other called for a clear and decisive statement; they wanted the outside world to sense no hesitation at Rome on this particular issue. These bishops rightly supposed that the world was not anxious about what the council might say about Mariology but was most eager to bear what the Roman church was going to say about freedom of religion. This was why the postponement of a decision on this schema was received with such bitter disappointment. For these bishops the papal decision was simply inexplicable.

In the second place, there were the last-minute papal changes in the schema on ecumenicity, changes that markedly narrowed the schema’s ecumenical outreach. Besides this there was also a papal addition, a nota explicativa, which high authority heavy-handedly ...

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