The secretary general of the special synod of Roman Catholic bishops that ended here yesterday said today that a "deep consensus" had been reached on controversial church reforms of the Second Vatican Council 20 years ago and that it was the conclusion of the bishops that the council's reforms should be enhanced, not resisted.
Belgian Archbishop Jan Schotte, secretary general of the synod that brought together 165 leaders of national bishops' conferences and other prelates for two weeks of meetings under the direction of Pope John Paul II, denied that there had been any deep disputes between rival factions, which many liberal Catholics had said they feared.
Schotte spoke at a press conference called to release the synod's 13-page relatio finalis, or final summary, of its discussions on the merits and problems of the Second Vatican Council, known popularly as Vatican II, which was held between l963 and 1965 during the papacies of John XXIII and Paul VI.
The summary indicates that the synod concluded with a compromise, offering something to traditionalists -- who complain that Vatican II has eroded church orthodoxy, discipline and the "mystery" that lies behind it all -- and progressives, who have embraced the changes it brought to liturgy, the increased power and responsibility it gave local churches and its emphasis on the modern church's need to take up the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
As a compromise it was embraced by all, according to church officials here who stressed that the vote on the final document was overwhelmingly in favor, even though specific votes of protest or lack of support were kept secret.
"There has been full consensus among us regarding the need to further promote the knowledge and application of the Second Vatican Council, both in its letter and its spirit," the summary said, in a key statement that underlined the basic compromises that established a final consensus and allowed bishops of many points of view to return home proclaiming the victory of Vatican II.
To counter what it called misinterpretations of the "true" meaning of the decisions and documents produced by Vatican II, the synod called for the application of a vast "pastoral program" in the churches "for years to come" to better explain the council and its message.
The synod also recommended development of a universal church catechism -- an authoritative compendium of teachings -- to form at least a model for the regional cathechisms worked out by local churches since Vatican II to relate to their individual needs and cultures.
Another major act of the synod, approved by the pope, was an expression of the need to further study the basis in theological and canon law for the national conferences of bishops that have emerged as new centers of power in the church since the doctrine of "collegiality," or sharing of authority among pope and bishops, was underlined by Vatican II.
The summary was prepared as an advisory message to the pope but, in a break with tradition, John Paul ordered that it be published immediately. Observers said his intention was to make clear that the long-rumored disputes among the church hierarchy had been exaggerated.
The bishops' summary said that "unanimously and joyfully we verify that the council is a legitimate and valid expression and interpretation of the deposit of faith as it is found in sacred scripture and in the living tradition of the church."
In the past, traditionalists argued about the need to adhere to the letter of Vatican II's documents. Progressives who sought to take the advanced reforms further cited a broader "spirit" of the council. The lumping together of both in the synod's summary underlined the compromise agreed to here.
That reservations remained in the church about some of the results of Vatican II was made clear, however, from the summary's suggestions that the council had produced both "light and shadows."
"Although great fruits have been obtained from the council, . . . in truth there certainly have been shadows in the postconciliar period, in part due to an incomplete understanding and application of the council, in part to other causes," the summary said without being specific.
Vatican sources said the "shadows" included over-politicization of some priests, the "theology of liberation" that has grown out of Vatican II's teaching on the church's relations with modern world problems, and the growing independence of many local churches and bishops from the traditional centralization of authority in Rome.