The second phase of the unfolding of Vatican II was the Preparatory Period which ran from November 1960 through to the very eve of the Council’s opening on October 11,1962. During it ten commissions prepared texts for discussion and approval when the fathers assembled in St. Peter’s for the Council proper. It was also the period when the rules for the conciliar deliberations and decisions were drawn up. I have discussed the preparation of the Council in a long chapter in the first volume of the five-volume History of Vatican II, under the title, “The Struggle for the Council during the Preparation of Vatican II (1960-1962).” My title indicates that in the course of the preparation distinct and even contrasting views of what the Council should do and should say became clear and, after revealing themselves here and there in the work of the commissions, openly confronted one another during meetings of the Central Preparatory Commission which had the task of supervising the preparatory work, of reviewing the documents prepared by the various commissions, of recommending emendations, and of judging whether the texts should be submitted to Pope John XXIII for his approval as an agenda for the Council. Although the preparatory commissions had been encouraged to form joint subcommissions to deal with matters that fell under the competence of more than one commission, not much collaborative work was undertaken.
The Preparatory Theological Commission (PTC) in particular resisted the idea that it had to collaborate with other commissions, particularly not with the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (SPCU) which the PTC dismissed as a mere “information-bureau” for non-Catholic bodies. The PTC reserved all doctrinal matters to its exclusive competence and pledged, in turn, not to involve itself in practical matters. Only the preparatory Liturgical Commission and the SPCU refused this separation and did not hesitate to engage the doctrinal issues that underlay their work. As the commissions began their work in November 1960, certain documents reveal already different visions of the Council.
The following documents illustrate some of these differences:
The plan for the Council drawn up by the Holy Office;Holy Office Plan for Vatican II
The questions proposed to the preparatory commissions; Questions for the Preparatory Commissions
Four brief outlines of documents to be prepared by the PTC; Brief Outlines 1960
Fr. Yves Congar’s counter-proposal for a conciliar agenda; Congar’s plan for the Council
An unpublished paper of mine on the initial work of the PTC; Preparatory Theological Commission
An essay of mine originally published as “The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and the Preparation of Vatican II,” Centro pro Unione Semi-annual Bulletin, 50 (Fall 1996) 11-17. SPCU amd Preparation of Vatican II