CONCILIAR PROCEDURE and order of business is a matter of the greatest importance for the outcome of Vatican II. Formal decisions on procedure are capable of deciding in advance, to an important extent, about actual concrete matters. It can be a matter of procedure whether a question is dealt with in one way or another way, or even whether it is dealt with at all. It is indisputable that much of the method of procedure worked out for Vatican II was in many respects imperfect, and to some extent more suited to some sort of Roman diocesan synod than to an ecumenical council with serious discussion on its hands. Procedure had to be altered several times during the Council by the Pope. But even this had its advantages. If, for instance, the original standing orders had included an article providing for closure of debate, this would probably, with memories of Vatican I, have been interpreted as a Curial check on freedom of discussion. After the Council itself had discovered how, what with the large number of the Fathers and the contributions they made, a discussion was apt to work itself to death, they were glad to accept a procedural amendment in this sense. There are, of course, various questions about the proceedings which have still not been sufficiently clarified. In dealing with the questions set me here, I shall be as frank as I need to be, but without damage to the conciliar secret.
Article 39 of the Council's standing orders lays down that in general congregations and on the commissions (apart from elec