A wonderful article from Crisis Magazine noting the support for a Catholic state—surely the ideal form of government—within the documents of Vatican II.
For many people, Alfredo Ottaviani—head of the Holy Office (later the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) from 1952 to 1968—is the epitome of intransigent, pre-Vatican II Catholicism. He is what the Council had repudiated and moved beyond, or so it is supposed. Indeed, the sentiment expressed by the motto of Cardinal Ottaviani’s coat of arms, Semper idem (“Always the same”), would seem worlds away from Vatican II aggiornamento. And yet Ottaviani played an important role in the Council. He was the chair of the theological commission both in the preparatory stages and during the Council sessions. This made him rather influential, although his influence was considerably mitigated by prelates and periti who opposed his views.
Ottaviani’s clashes with the “progressives” at the Council are legendary. Among the most acrimonious of these was with the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Josef Frings, who, in the course of a speech to the Council fathers on November 8, 1963, denounced the methods of Ottaviani’s Holy Office as “unsuitable for the times” and a “scandal.” Yves Congar reports that after this Ottaviani “got into a great temper” and, when it came his time to speak, retorted that Frings’s comments proceeded from ignorance, “not to call it something else.”
Ottaviani’s Speech at the Lateran
I shall have more to say about the Council later. In the meantime I would like to go back a little further, to 1953, nine years before the Council’s opening. On March 2 of that year, in the context of a celebration of the fourteenth anniversary of Pius XII’s election as pope, Ottaviani delivered a paper in the aula magna of the Lateran University in Rome with the title “Chiesa e Stato: alcuni problemi presenti alla luce del magistero di Pio XII” (“Church and State: Some Present Problems in the Light of the Magisterium of Pius XII”). His remarks would cause something of a stir. According to Joseph Komonchak, the French and Irish ambassadors to the Holy See expressed their concerns to its officials about Ottaviani’s speech. Writing with obvious agitation in Il Mondo the following month, Italian historian and politician, Gaetano Salvemini stated that he rejected Ottaviani’s principal theses sic et simpliciter. And in the U.S., The New York Times and Time magazine both published stories on the event at the Lateran….
Rather than running through all the details of Ottaviani’s speech—a valuable exercise, but one for another occasion—I shall go right to its heart. He explains upfront that his main concern is with countries in which the vast majority of the population is Catholic. As examples, he mentions Spain and Italy. But Ottaviani is also describing what he sees as the ideal, which, evidently, would include a population with an absolute Catholic majority. He advances three principal theses. I shall state each one together with a summary of the reasoning behind it.
The state should publicly profess the Catholic faith. People living together in society are no less under God’s authority than are individuals. The society’s political leaders, then, ought to recognize this sovereignty publicly. This by no means entails that the Church and state are identical. As Ottaviani puts it, the Church, like the state, is a società perfetta, a “perfect society,” that is, the Church, in the supernatural sphere, is a complete community; but she is not a state, which is a complete community in the natural sphere.
Legislation should be informed by Catholic moral principles. This, says Ottaviani, follows straightforwardly from the first principle.
The state should defend the people’s unity in the Catholic faith. Granting false religions rights that are equal to those of the Catholic religion threatens the people’s unity in the true faith. And the latter, Ottaviani holds, is a good that the state cannot neglect.
Retrieved July 14, 2015 from http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/vatican-ii-followed-ottaviani-on-church-and-state