10. The apostolate proper to lay people

A whiff of modernism

‘Forty years ago, it was suspect to speak of the lay apostolate in many Church circles. It had a whiff of modernism,’ marvelled a French bishop as the Third Session of the Council discussed a schema on that controversial subject for the first time in history.[781]

Indeed, the 1913 Catholic Encyclopaedia only contained two references to the term, both in relation to disciples of Frédéric Ozanam, one of whom was Léon Ollé-Laprune.[782] Sillon counsellor, Louis Cousin, was perhaps the first modern writer to attempt a theology of lay apostolate.[783] As late as the 1930s, it was still uncommon in French Catholic literature to find mention of ‘lay apostolate,’ which combined two terms that hitherto appeared incompatible in a Church ‘built on the foundation of the apostles.’[784]

Although Cardijn developed his own theology of lay apostolate during the 1930s and the World Congresses on Lay Apostolate mainstreamed the term, he had struggled to make an impact on this point in the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate (PCLA). By the end of the Council, however, three key conciliar documents had adopted his conception of a specifically lay apostolate ‘proper’ to lay people. This occurred first in Lumen Gentium §31 in Chapter IV on the role of the laity.

The opening sentence of Apostolicam Actuositatem §1, drafted by the Lay Apostolate Commission of which he was a member, repeated the point in terms even closer to Cardijn’s own insistence on ‘the proper and irreplaceable (lay) apostolate.’ Similarly, Gaudium et Spes §43 acknowledged that secular activity belonged ‘properly’ albeit not exclusively to lay people.

This chapter therefore endeavours to trace how this evolution occurred. It begins with a brief overview of a key JOCI document drafted by Cardijn in February 1963 setting out the Jocist vision of lay apostolate. Secondly, it examines the contribution of the Jocist bishops and periti to the drafting process for Lumen Gentium, with its path-breaking chapters on the People of God (Chapter II) and the Laity (Chapter IV).

Thirdly, it considers the development of Apostolicam Actuositatem in which Cardijn had a much greater personal involvement both as peritus and as Council Father. It concludes with a brief examination of Cardijn’s role as a cardinal at the Fourth Session, where he presented two written interventions on lay apostolate and the role of the priest in promoting it.

A. The JOC vision of lay apostolate

Although Laïcs en premières lignes had a wider reach when published in June 1963, Cardijn, Marguerite Fiévez and the JOCI also compiled another highly significant document for their conciliar advocacy. Entitled ‘Quelques propositions concernant l’apostolat des laïcs,’[785] its 31 roneoed pages were divided into six short chapters, organised in point form for the convenience of readers. Published in February 1963, it was translated into several languages, including into English as Some proposals concerning the lay apostolate solicited by several bishops.

While the bishops who requested it are unnamed, Larrain, Camara and Tavora, who had met Cardijn during the First Session, were likely among the instigators. At this time, Cardijn had still not been appointed to the LAC. Hence, the urgent need for a document outlining his positions. Indeed, Cardijn’s own copy of the document is marked as having been sent to Larrain and de Araujo Sales of Natal, Brazil, both of whom were already members of the new LAC.

Alongside this, Cardijn’s archives contain a list of over 100 ‘évêques amis’ (bishop friends) dated 19 December 1962 to whom an earlier JOCI document had been sent. These included Schröffer and Hengsbach from Germany, de Araujo Sales and Larrain as well as Cardinal Léger from Montreal, Canada, all of whom would be actively involved in the commissions drafting the schemas on the Church and on the lay apostolate.[786] Members of the LAC also likely received the document as indicated by a copy in the archives of another member, French bishop Jacques Ménager.[787] Ever respectful of episcopal authority, Cardijn ensured that his own bishop, namely Suenens, received a copy, despite the latter’s antagonism.[788]

The proposals

Although presented as a collective proposal of the JOCI, it is easy to identify those sections that were primarily or exclusively drafted by Cardijn, particularly those on lay apostolate, Catholic Action, and the relationship between priests and laity.

Chapter I: The lay apostolate in general

This first and most important group of proposals bear Cardijn’s imprint. These called for a systematic effort by the whole Church to make understood ‘the necessity and importance of the lay apostolate for a Christian solution to the most urgent problems facing the world,’ which was to be backed up by a ‘solemn declaration’ of the Council confirming this.

Proposals 3 and 4 encapsulated the essentials of Cardijn’s conception of lay apostolate:

That the Council urgently invite all the laity to work for the Kingdom of God in their daily life, as a requirement of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation which they have received; and that the Church give them the explicit mission to ‘construct a world such as God wants,’ according to the words of Pius XII.

That these solemn declarations specify the exact content of the lay apostolate, for which the lay people are indispensable and irreplaceable in the Church, that is, in their daily temporal life, in the human milieu in which they are providentially placed – family, profession, civic life, cultural institutions, etc.[789]

Emphasising these points, the document added that ‘in religion – as in the Church – the worship, the sacraments, the liturgy, the interior life and the ethics are inseparable from the apostolic mission of the whole Church, of all its members and of all men.’ Moreover, the lay person ‘must have a vision of the mission of the Church, in which the whole apostolic mission, personal and collective, is profoundly inserted,’ the document added. This clarified the layperson’s relationship with the Church and was based on ‘two essential poles’ recognisable as the Sillonist conscience-responsibility binomial:

a) the responsibility proper to the lay man in his earthly mission, in the solution of human problems;

b) his filial dependence, free and conscious, on the authority of the Church, as a Christian charged with an apostolic mission.[790]

The final proposal called for the establishment of a new ‘Roman dicastery’ to be ‘responsible for instigating this conception and this expansion of the lay apostolate in the Church’ and for ‘actively promoting the formation that is indispensable to the laity if it is to carry out its mission and its own apostolate in temporal life.’

Chapter II: Catholic Action

Although the document did not discuss whether the term ‘Catholic Action’ was still appropriate, it stridently defended the Jocist concept of (Specialised) Catholic Action, which had a mission to fulfil ‘in the formation of a laity which will bear witness and exercise an influence, not only amongst persons but also in the heart of milieux, structures and institutions.’ It proposed:

That the value and the privileged place of Catholic Action be recognised in the whole Church, in all dioceses and that the whole of the clergy sincerely seek to promote it as a leaven which must penetrate and transform every aspect of today’s world.

This was partly a response to Suenens, who continued to campaign against the ‘monopolisation’ of Catholic Action. Moreover, it was necessary to reiterate that the Jocist concept of Catholic Action differed fundamentally from the Italian Catholic Action model, which remained the reference in many quarters.

Chapter III: The lay apostolate in the worker milieu

The intent of this chapter was well summarised in its third proposal as: ‘That in every diocese and in working class parishes priority be given to the development of Catholic Action movements and organisations which are specialised for this milieu.’

Chapter IV: The priest and the laity

Again, these proposals were classic Cardijn, emphasising the need for priests to give priority to the formation of laity and to developing a partnership model of work based on ‘the respective missions of the priest and the laity.’ Moreover, formation was also vital for the priests themselves in ‘their own role as animators and educators of the laity’ and not only in their seminary training but also later when ‘engaged in the ministry.’[791]

Chapter V: The laity and under-development

The proposals in this section were generally more relevant to Schema XIII. Indeed, the document’s emphasis on ‘civic, social and religious formation’ for lay people was eventually reflected in various paragraphs of Gaudium et Spes, namely §75 (civic and political formation), §68 (economic and social formation), §87 (religious formation).

Also highly significant was the proposal to organise ‘in the different neighbourhoods of the parish… small communities which would consist of action groups in order to resolve problems and take apostolic action,’ a clear reference to the small or basic Christian or ecclesial communities that would blossom after the Council.

Chapter VI: The parish and religious life

This last section was also classic Cardijn, emphasising the role of the parish itself in missionary outreach to local communities:

That a generalised effort be undertaken, amongst new communities of Christians as well as old, to revitalise the parish and adjust it to the most urgent needs of today’s world, in a kind of ‘aggiornamento,’ clear and positive, thanks to the active collaboration of the laity.

That this reform be made, particularly, on the following points:

– Religious instruction

– that religious instruction not be confined to an exercise of knowledge of Christian doctrine; sticking to the letter of elementary catechism, but that it be an education for Christian life according to the requirements of the Gospel. Consequently, there must be a place for the Social Doctrine of the Church.

– that this religious instruction be, above all, an apprenticeship starting from life.[792]

Ménager’s reaction

Many of the above proposals were indeed followed to a greater or less extent in both Lumen Gentium and Apostolicam Actuositatem, although sometimes not without considerable struggle.

One of the more surprising reactions, however, came from French Bishop Jacques Ménager, who had been Secretary-General for Catholic Action in France from 1958-61, and played an important role in Schema XIII. Overall, Ménager was sympathetic to Cardijn, the JOC, and the see-judge-act method although most of his personal experience came from the Action Catholique Générale de Femmes (Women’s General Action Catholic) movement rather than the specialised movements.

Yet in handwritten, signed comments on his copy of the JOCI document, Ménager commented that ‘the notion of the apostolate underlying these texts on [Catholic Action] is gravely incomplete.’ Everything was ‘oriented towards the transformation of the temporal order’ whereas there was also ‘and more fundamentally the participation in the proper mission of the Church, ‘evangelisation.’ Traditio fidei, Conformio fidei,’ he wrote.[793]

He made these comments despite several explicit references in the JOCI document, stating clearly that Specialised Catholic Action should be developed ‘within an overall policy of long-term evangelisation’ (Chapter II). Indeed, it said that ‘top priority’ should be given to the ‘worker milieu’ within the Church’s overall ‘policy of evangelisation, using all the adapted means of carrying out a living penetration by the missionary Church’ (Chapter III).

It also called for ‘constant collaboration’ between hierarchy and lay leaders ‘in a search for the best means of evangelising the temporal world in which the laity must ensure the presence of the Church.’ It warned that the social doctrine of the Church would never be spread if ‘the clergy in general do not evangelise [parishioners] in a concrete and practical fashion’ (All in Chapter IV), that ‘religious formation outside of life does not encourage evangelisation’ (Chapter V) and called for religious instruction based on ‘an authentic theology and a solid evangelical spirituality’ (Chapter VI).

The fact that Ménager, a JOC sympathiser albeit heavily involved with the parish-centred non-specialised General Catholic Action movement, still had difficulty with the Jocist approach, illustrated the challenges that lay ahead in the drafting of the schemas on the Church and on lay apostolate.

B. The drafting of Lumen Gentium

The Jocist influence in the Doctrinal Commission

As we have seen, the Doctrinal Commission on Faith and Morals (the Doctrinal Commission/DC), which succeeded the Preparatory Theological Commission, included a particularly strong representation of bishops close to Cardijn and the movements, beginning with Garrone, McGrath, the Canadians Roy, Léger and George Pelletier, the German Schröffer, the Brazilian Alfredo Scherer as well as the Belgian Charue.

Nor can the decisive roles of the periti be overlooked. As noted previously, Gerard Philips had – at Suenens’ instigation – prepared a new alternative draft for the preparatory schema on the Church, which was widely circulated during the First Session. [794]

Once the Doctrinal Commission began its work, however, it quickly appointed a sub-commission of seven members comprising Cardinal Browne (representing Ottaviani) and Archbishop Pietro Parente, who were the only ‘conservatives,’ as well as Léger, König, Charue, Garrone and Schröffer, all close to Cardijn and the Jocist line. Moreover, Charue had chosen Philips as his advisor, while Garrone had Daniélou then later Congar, and Schröffer called upon Thils then Moeller.

The Philips text

It was the Group of Seven, as the Doctrinal Commission was known, that chose Philips’ text as the basis for the new draft of the Schema. As historian Jan Grootaers observed, this text was itself the result of collaboration between a group of theologians that included Congar, Rahner and McGrath.[795]

Nor was this text, also known as the Belgian schema, the only alternative schema. Parente had drafted one. So too had Schröffer with a group of German theologians, several groups of French bishops, including one led by Jean de Cambourg, another promoter of Catholic Action,[796] another by Elchinger, a third by Feltin and the Paris region bishops, plus a Chilean-led schema under Silva Henriquez, McGrath and no doubt Larrain. Once again the Jocist influence here was prominent.

Towards a chapter on the laity

In any event, the Philips text already included a chapter on the laity (Chapter III), which as Grootaers noted, was the only one that corresponded almost completely to the equivalent chapter in the preparatory schema (Chapter VI, De laicis) drafted by the preparatory Theological Commission.

This comprised seven sections as follows:

1. Principles

2. The universal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood

3. Who are the laity

4. Rights and duties of lay people

5. The objects of their apostolate

6. The forms of their apostolate

7. Laicity and laicism

In light of Cardijn’s difficulties in the PCLA, it is striking to find that the Philips text already referred both to lay people ‘assuming their own (proper) responsibilities’ as well as to the action of Catholics ‘in life and in civil society’ for the ‘consecration of the world,’ although he had reservations about the latter expression.[797] Overall, Philips’ views were thus reasonably close to those of Cardijn on this issue, a major factor in enabling the battle to be won.

Restructuring the schema

In April 1963 Philips and Congar further revised this draft chapter. No doubt, the greatest change regarding De laicis, however, emerged at the CC meeting in July 1963 when Suenens proposed to split the contents of the Philips chapter on the laity. According to this proposal, part of the original content was to be incorporated into a new Chapter II on ‘The People of God in General’ while the remainder would be included into a revamped Chapter IV on ‘The Laity in Particular.’[798]

The proposed new structure of the schema (at that stage) was as follows:

Chapter I: The Mystery of the Church

Chapter II: The People of God in General

Chapter III: The Hierarchical Constitution of the Church

Chapter IV: The Laity in Particular

Chapter V: The Call to Holiness in the Church

As Grootaers pointed out, the idea for such a division was ‘in the air’ at the Council and had also been proposed by bishops from Germany, Holland, France and Canada, with the episcopates of the latter two countries dominated by Jocist-formed bishops. Nevertheless, Grootaers credited Belgian College rector, Msgr Albert Prignon, with suggesting it to Suenens. The outcome was that the restructured schema resulted in ‘a fundamental reorientation of the ecclesiology that would put an end to the pyramidal vision of the Church.’[799]

Typically, Suenens had bypassed the Doctrinal Commission with his new proposal, just as he was attempting to do with his proposed new draft for Schema XIII. Naturally, the Doctrinal Commission, including Garrone, reacted cautiously if not negatively to Suenens’ proposal. The question was: if Suenens was trying to impose his ‘doctrinal’ approach on the drafting of Schema XIII, what was he trying to achieve with respect to the schema on the Church?

Significantly, Suenens also introduced his new proposal just weeks after the publication of Cardijn’s Laïcs en premières lignes, the orientation of which he had also sought to undermine. It is not clear what impact, if any, this had in the sequence of events. What is certain, though, is that Cardijn’s own ecclesiology implied a wholesale inversion of the ecclesiastical pyramid, in effect placing lay people at the top (front) with the hierarchy in their service. In this light, Suenens’ proposal to place the chapter on the People of God ahead of the chapters on hierarchy and laity can be viewed as a compromise that largely preserved the ecclesiastical pyramid within the People of God.

Nevertheless, it was also a victory for the Jocist forces who, as we have seen, had long advocated such a vision of the Church. Whatever Suenens’ motivations, the Doctrinal Commission insisted on making its own examination of his proposal.[800]

The Second Session

Paul VI opened the Second Session of the Council on 29 September 1963 with a long speech emphasising that the Church needed to look ‘towards the workers, toward the dignity of their person and their labours’ as well as ‘to the mission which may be recognised as theirs – if it is good, it is Christian – to create a new world of free men and brothers.’[801] Although he did not use the terms ‘laity’ or ‘lay apostolate,’ this by implication endorsed what Cardijn, who was now present as a peritus, called the ‘proper’ and specifically ‘lay apostolate.’

Debate on the draft schema De Ecclesia began on 30 September 1963. As usual, the Jocist bishops were at the forefront. Cardinal Jaime de Barros Camara of Rio de Janeiro called for a declaration of solidarity ‘with the great masses of the poor and suffering people throughout the world.’[802] Gerlier made a similar declaration backed by Himmer.[803] In another significant early contribution, Cardinal Henriquez Silva, on behalf of 44 Latin American bishops, endorsed the plan to split the existing chapter on the laity into two chapters along the lines of the Suenens proposal.[804]

The chapter on the laity

The state of the schema

Discussion on the draft Chapter III on the laity began on 17 October 1963. As the Catholic News Service (CNS) reported, it was the first time that the topic of the laity had become a major subject of debate at an Ecumenical Council.[805]

The extent to which the section on the laity already reflected a perspective close to that of Cardijn was obvious from the contemporary CNS summary. The draft chapter on the laity emphasised the ‘positive’ content of the concept of the ‘layman,’ who shared ‘in the mission of the Church in the world in order to sanctify the world from within.’

It proclaimed ‘the layman’s participation in the priesthood of Christ,’ which was ‘priestly, by participation in the sacramental life of the Church; prophetic, in his witness to Christ and the preaching of Christ in his milieu, particularly in his family; kingly, in his bond with the victory of Christ over sin through the sanctification of his life and his surroundings…’ No longer presented as one who listens passively to the word of God,’ the layman possessed an ‘ever-keener insight into the Faith and its applications to the concrete problems of life’ and ‘his own proper share in the Church’s mission for the salvation of the world.[806]

While these notions were not the exclusive province of the Jocist forces, the formulation of many paragraphs in the Congar-revised Philips draft contained unmistakable traces of their influence. Nevertheless, the text also bore the imprint of a sharp spiritual-temporal conceptual division, emphasising that the lay person also had ‘clear-cut religious duties as well’ although it recognised that ‘most of all, (the lay person) must be outstanding in the environment where he lives and exercises his profession.[807]

Meanwhile, it had now been formally decided to split the draft chapter into two, with the new Chapter II becoming ‘The People of God’ while the new Chapter IV on ‘The Laity’ followed the re-numbered Chapter III on the bishops.

The debate

French Bishop Louis Rastouil, a pioneer of Specialised Catholic Action and the Mission Ouvrière, was the first to speak, calling for a ‘fuller treatment of the priesthood as realised in bishops, priests and laymen.’[808] Archbishop Marcel Dubois, another SCA promoter, emphasised that the term ‘People of God’ was not just a poetic figure but ‘an actual reality.’[809]

Cardinal de Barros Camara called for a clearer explanation of how the laity shared in the priesthood of Christ. ‘We should not forget that we are dealing with laymen in the concrete,’ he added. Meanwhile his auxiliary, Bishop Candido Padin, founder of the Juventude Universitária Católica (JUC) in Brazil, insisted that the hierarchy too formed part of the People of God.[810]

Cardinal Léon Duval of Algiers pointed out that ‘in carrying out their apostolate, the laity do not need to leave their ordinary milieu.’[811] Echoing both Cardijn and Pius XI, he emphasised that ‘each one in his own place and according to his own possibilities is an apostle.’

Similarly, De Smedt noted that ‘the consecration of the laity’ demands that ‘the whole of life be directed to God.’ ‘The mind, the body, and all the tools of one’s labour become sacred in their efforts to show how a genuine Christian lives in practice,’ he emphasised.[812]

In another speech betraying strong Jocist and even Sillonist influence, Maziers from Lyon noted that ‘the laity can contribute to the work and purpose of Creation or how in practice they are to fulfil their special functions in the world.’[813] Like Cardijn and other Jocist French bishops, he insisted on speaking of Christ as ‘CREATOR AND REDEEMER’ and hence the participation of the laity in both aspects.[814] In a direct shot at Suenens’ conception of evangelisation, he warned that the existing draft seemed ‘to separate concern for the temporal and evangelisation of the world in the lives of lay people.’[815] Perhaps to appease the Belgian cardinal, he also endorsed the latter’s desire for a ‘less abstract’ drafting of certain sections.[816]

Larrain – ‘repeating the already much repeated,’ as CNS noted – added that greater emphasis should be placed on the ‘prophetic function of the faithful, their role as evangelisers through the living testimony of their Christian lives.’[817] Other Jocist bishops also sounded warnings. McGrath said that its description of laymen made them appear ‘like little acolytes, with the laity at the base of a clerical pyramid subject to everyone.’[818]

Ménager added that ‘the lay auditors found the text disappointing because it struck them as being negative, clerical and juridical.’[819] Striking a different note, the conservative Argentine Cardinal Caggiano, along with many others, emphasised the need to clearly differentiate between the priesthood of the faithful and that of the hierarchy.[820]

Suenens’ intervention, however, only served to highlight the gulf that separated his views from those of the Jocist bishops. Stating that this was ‘the age of the Holy Spirit,’ he recalled the charisms given to people in the early Church. ‘Charisms without hierarchical direction would be a source of disorder, but any government of the Church which would ignore charisms would be poor and sterile,’ he warned.

He called for the chapter on the laity to ‘be revised with more emphasis on the freedom of the children of God in the Church’ in a dig at the involvement of the hierarchy in Catholic Action. On the other hand, he also called for ‘an increase in the number of lay auditors, with representation on a broader international basis,’ including women who constituted ‘half of the world’s population.’[821]

Tavora’s intervention

As a peritus, Cardijn was unable to intervene. Nevertheless, he found a way to introduce his ideas in collaboration with the former Brazilian national JOC chaplain, José Tavora, whose own intervention in the debate was apparently drafted largely if not wholly by Cardijn himself. Indeed, Cardijn’s archives contain a typewritten draft of Tavora’s original text, marked as Note 19 in the former’s inimitable red pencil.[822]

Moreover, the text itself is classic Cardijn, insisting from the opening line on ‘the greatest importance’ and the ‘essential mission’ of the laity for the Church and ‘for the salvation of the whole human race.’ This mission arose not from any lack of priests and/or religious but from God’s call to all people ‘from the beginning of the world’ as part of God the Creator’s plan, the Cardijn/Tavora text continues:

This divine and human vocation, which was given to all lay people from creation, even though rejected by Adam’s sin, was not abolished by the offence to God; however, by the institution and realisation of the Incarnation and the Redemption it is ‘marvellously reformed’ (as the Church says in the Offertory of the Mass); this, with the help of God and the Church, through baptism and confirmation all supernatural graces and help, by all their brothers in the Church and the world helps them to understand and fulfilling the Kingdom of God and establishing God’s People.[823]

This task, which included the development of science and technology and the unification of the world’s people, also required increased dialogue and collaboration between laity, priests and religious, as well as between young and old, workers and bosses, in the building up of the Kingdom and promoting peace and unity, Tavora’s text argued.

Whereas many other interventions, even from Jocist-oriented bishops, appeared to have been ‘sprinkled with holy water,’ to recall Chenu’s phrase, Tavora’s intervention highlighted the practicalities – and difficulties – of lay life.

Tavora’s amendments

Cardijn also drafted a series of ‘emendationes’ (amendments) for Tavora based on his intervention.[824] Phrased in question form, these explained the purpose of the changes:

Isn’t there some way to bring out the indissoluble link that exists between the divine and human mission given by God to the whole of humanity from the moment of Creation, and that given to all the faithful and particularly lay people by Christ and in the Church?

Couldn’t the Schema give greater emphasis to the first mission in which the second is incarnated? I believe that this would not be so difficult and that this insistence would respond to the primordial aspiration of our era, namely to once again appreciate the mission of each person who must build a worthy world for all of humanity?[825]

Nor did Cardijn limit the Tavora proposals to the chapter on the laity. Regarding relations with the hierarchy, he proposed that these ‘should be placed in the light of the universal mission given by Christ to His Church,’ which was to ‘teach all peoples,’ and to ‘bring the good news to the poor.’ The ‘original unity of this pastoral mandate’ and the ‘unity of objective’ was ‘one flock and one shepherd.’[826]

Cardijn writes to Philips

The Cardijn/Tavora amendments at the Second Session evidently did not achieve their objective. Two months later, on 14 February 1964, Cardijn therefore sent an updated series of proposed amendments in his own name to Glorieux at the LAC. Glorieux responded immediately, endorsing their contents but advising that the subject matter was the responsibility of the Doctrinal Commission. If he simply forwarded Cardijn’s proposals to the DC, they risked being shelved, Glorieux warned, suggesting that Cardijn send them to Philips in his new capacity as co-secretary (with Tromp) of the DC for their next meeting in March 1964.[827]

Cardijn’s proposals again insisted on his classic themes, including the ‘condition of the People of God,’ ‘the mystery of the Redemption,’ the ‘mission of the Incarnate Son of God,’ but also ‘the mission of the Holy Spirit.’

‘Isn’t there a way to bring out the plan of God in the mystery of creation and redemption to respond to this spirit of the modern world?’ he asked. This ‘indissoluble link between the double mystery’ could be highlighted from the beginning of the chapter ‘De Mysterio Ecclesiae’ and referred to in all the schemas of the Council, he urged.[828] Emphasising human participation in the work of ‘creation and redemption,’ the ‘mission of the Church’ as a whole, ‘the vocation’ of the people, he even sought to introduce his ‘divine origin, divine mission and divine destiny’ trilogy.[829]

Characteristically, Cardijn proposed to introduce the chapter on the laity with reference to the concrete fact that there were 500 million lay people in the Church as against two million priests, while there were one billion Christians of all denominations among a world population of three billion. Hence, the primordial importance of the lay apostolate. This was Cardijn’s Three Truths dialectic once again. In vain, however, as there appears to be no record of any reply. In any event, Philips was already under huge pressure with the Third Session less than seven months away and hundreds of other propositions to consider.

Nevertheless, the question deserves to be raised: were the Cardijn/Tavora proposals simply lost in the mass of other amendments or were there more theological reasons for ignoring these proposals? Here it is difficult to ignore the contrast between Cardijn’s theology emphasising creation and redemption on one hand and Philips’ traditional dichotomous spiritual-temporal approach.

With his involvement in the World Congresses on Lay Apostolate, Glorieux was well aware of these differences in Cardijn’s and Philips’ approaches. Moreover, the French bishops themselves had submitted similar amendments couched in a theology of creation and redemption. In suggesting that Cardijn send his proposals to Philips, perhaps Glorieux was communicating the fact that the only way to achieve his objectives was to bring on board Philips (and indirectly also Suenens), a vain hope.

Lumen Gentium

The People of God and the baptismal vocation

Despite these disappointments, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, was adopted by the Council Fathers at the Third Session of Vatican II and promulgated by Paul VI on 21 November. Overall, there was much to be pleased about. Without discounting the contribution of Suenens and many others, the Jocist and SCA bishops and periti had achieved many of their aims. While they often differed among themselves, these bishops and theologians formed a large part of the core of the conciliar progressive majority. In contrast, many (although certainly not all) bishops associated with Italian Catholic Action, such as Ruffini, remained steadfastly with the conservative minority.

The inclusion and placement of a chapter on the People of God (Chapter II) was rightly acknowledged as a revolution in the Church’s perception of itself, a battle to re-orient the Church that owed much to Lamennais and his school. Similarly, the Specialised Catholic Action movements played a decisive role in bringing forth a corresponding emphasis on the baptismal role of the laity as members of a priestly people and sharing in the prophetic, priestly and royal functions of Christ. These changes revolutionised the Church’s self-perception.

The lay apostolate proper to lay people

The fact was that achieving a chapter on the laity (Chapter VI) was unprecedented in an ecumenical council document. Even more significantly, the term ‘lay apostolate,’ combining two previously mutually exclusive terms, appeared for the first time. Although the term had nineteenth century roots, there was no denying the role of Cardijn and the Specialised Catholic Action movements in mainstreaming it.

Moreover, the notion of lay apostolate itself had evolved enormously. During the 1930s, Luigi Civardi, the Italian theorist of Catholic Action and Council Father, had insisted that ‘lay people are not able to exercise a genuine apostolate properly speaking,’ and that the lay apostolate was therefore ‘auxiliary’ and ‘subordinated’ to the hierarchical apostolate.[830]

Now, however, Lumen Gentium (§33) proclaimed that the lay apostolate was ‘a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself,’ adding that ‘through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself.’

Even more importantly from Cardijn’s point of view, the Constitution (§31) finally recognised the ‘proper’ vocation of the laity in life and the world in terms closely approximating his own:

[T]he laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.[831]

As Edward Schillebeeckx noted, this was a great advance from the preparatory schema which had simply characterised lay people as those who ‘had not been called… to the consecrated hierarchy or to the religious life’ but who pursued holiness ‘according to their own path, including secular activities.’[832]

Similarly, in an evaluation of Cardijn’s conciliar role, his successor as JOCI chaplain, Marcel Uylenbroeck, commented that it was ‘undoubtedly the first time that such an official document of the Church insisted on the proper character of the lay apostolate:’

We know how much Cardinal Cardijn has ardently defended what he called ‘the proper apostolate of the lay person as a lay person’. If now the Council underlines this so clearly, is it not because the ‘Message of Cardijn’ has progressively made its way in the universal Church…[833]

But if Cardijn played an enormous role in achieving this recognition of the role of the laity, Uylenbroeck notes that there was a corollary to this. This was ‘another truth’ highlighted by Lumen Gentium (§32 and §37) that ‘the JOC, particularly through the action of its founder, had highlighted since its beginnings,’ namely the ‘fraternal collaboration’ that ‘was essential for the Church, between lay people and the pastors of the Church (Hierarchy and clergy).’

Tribute also must go to Philips, who despite his differences with Cardijn, certainly played a key role, particularly given Suenens’ own reluctance to recognise a specific role for the laity, as did Congar.

C. The drafting of Apostolicam Actuositatem

The Lay Apostolate Commission: A new dynamic

In parallel with the drafting of Lumen Gentium, the Lay Apostolate Commission (LAC) continued working on its own schema, albeit much reduced in scope with important sections hived off to Schema XIII and the schema on the Church.

During the First Session, Cento had called a preliminary meeting of the new body on 22 November 1962 just days after Cardijn’s visit to Rome. Participants included Castellano, Larrain, Hengsbach, Ménager, Guano and Glorieux.[834]

At this point, the PCLA schema, known as the ‘1962 Schema’ and finalised in June 1962 comprised 272 articles, which were reprinted virtually unchanged in early 1963.

[835] The new LAC, however, was now ‘an organ’ of Vatican II with the mission of

‘implementing its intentions,’ as Glorieux noted, meaning that the drafting was now under the control of the Council Fathers and free from previous constraints.[836]

Moreover, the new dynamic meant that most subjects addressed by the PCLA now needed to be completely reconsidered by the LAC. Even the title became a point of new contention with some LAC members preferring ‘the participation of the laity in the mission of the Church.’[837] The only point on which there was no dispute, Glorieux noted wryly, was that the extreme worldwide variety of situations of lay people required that ‘great freedom be left to the bishops to organise the apostolate.’[838]

The name: Faithful versus laity

Although the commission responsible for the schema was commonly known throughout the Council as the ‘Lay Apostolate Commission,’ its formal title was the ‘Commission for the Apostolate of the Faithful; for the Editing of Printed Material and the Mass Media’ or, in a more literal translation from the Latin, ‘Commission on the Apostolate of the Faithful, Press and (Public) Spectacles.’[839]

As well as lumping lay apostolate together with mass media, there was a clear theological difference in the Commission’s new name referencing ‘the apostolate of the faithful’ (fidelium), concerning all the baptised, rather than ‘the apostolate of the laity’ (laicorum) as with the Preparatory Commission. Glorieux lamented that the change was made without consultation.

So, he approached Felici, the Council Secretary General, in September 1962, seeking to replace the word fidelium by laicorum. According to Klostermann, Felici replied that the word ‘laity’ had an anti-clerical ring, and that the word fidelium made it clear that the schema referred to the Catholic faithful rather than to Christians of other confessions.[840]

But the change was ‘regrettable,’ Glorieux commented, because the word laity had been used throughout the preparatory period in its ‘current sense.’ Moreover, he and Cento made known that the use of the word ‘faithful’ in this context directly contradicted one conclusion of the Preparatory Commission, which was to distinguish between the word ‘faithful,’ meaning ‘every baptised person’ and the word ‘laity,’ referring to ‘those who did not embrace religious life and did not enter the priesthood.’ However, Glorieux admitted that the issue was not simple.[841]

It was too late to change, however, and in practice the commission continued to be known somewhat defiantly as the ‘Lay Apostolate Commission’ (LAC). Nevertheless, it was a clear reminder of the distance still needed to obtain conciliar recognition of the laity and the lay apostolate.


There were now twenty-five members of the conciliar LAC, plus Cento as president and Achille Glorieux as secretary. As noted previously, eight of these were either former JOC or SCA chaplains or had actively promoted these movements as bishops: Larrain, Hengsbach, Ménager, Petit, Blomjous, Yu Pin, De Vet, all of whom had been elected by the Council and Stourm, the only one appointed by Pope John.

Others who were sympathetic to many of Cardijn’s positions without necessarily being disciples included Silva Henriquez (vice-president), Samoré, who was Substitute at the Secretariat of State, Guano, Castellano, De Araujo Sales and Laszlo. This meant, in effect, that there was close to majority support for Cardijn almost from the beginning of the Commission’s work.[842] In November 1963, the election to the LAC of Helder Camara and the Spaniard Manuel Fernandez-Conde further strengthened Cardijn’s hand.

Little representation among the periti

The periti appointed during the First Session remained dominated by the Italians. These included John XXIII’s encyclical team of Pavan, Ferrari-Toniolo, Quadri and Tucci, who promoted the Cardijn method in Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris. In addition, there were the canonist Aurelio Sabattani, Sebastian Lentini and an Italian American, Luigi Ligutti, who played a major role in the US National Catholic Rural Life Conference.[843]

The French periti were Joseph Géraud, a Sulpician priest based in Rome, Jean Daniélou, the Jesuit theologian, usually regarded as conservative by the Specialised Catholic Action movements but nevertheless sympathetic, and Jean Rodhain, the ex-JOC chaplain, founder of Secours Catholique and later president of Caritas Internationalis.

Also, members were the American labour priest, George Higgins, Anton Ramselaar, a Dutch pioneer of Jewish-Christian dialogue, Cyril Papali, an Indian Carmelite involved in Hindu-Christian dialogue, Ferdinand Klostermann, the Austrian Catholic Action chaplain, and Johannes Hirschmann, a German Jesuit professor of moral and pastoral theology.

Although Rodhain had been a JOC chaplain, he now worked in the field of charitable action, and took part in the Charitable Action sub-commission of the PCLA, of which he was the only French survivor, as he wrote to Liénart on 26 December 1962. As a result, ‘neither General or Specialised French Catholic Action are represented among the Lay Apostolate experts,’ he added. ‘And this worries me,’ he continued, insisting on the desirability of appointing ‘a French priest residing in France and specialising in Catholic Action.’[844]

The periti had only ‘a very accessory role,’ Rodhain wrote, ‘and it may be that the Roman authorities responsible for the allotment of experts attribute no importance to this absence.’ On the other hand, ‘it may also be that, when the lay leaders of Catholic Action become aware that even their national chaplains have been ‘forgotten’ from this list of Commission Experts… they – like me – will end up astonished and worried,’ he warned.[845] Particularly noticeable was the absence of Congar.

Rodhain’s complaint drew a swift response from Liénart, who immediately proposed Msgr Jean Streiff, then secretary-general for the French bishops’ Commission on Lay Apostolate and Catholic Action, resulting in the latter’s appointment as a peritus in March 1963. Evidently, bishops from other countries had similar concerns. Thus, from the Second Session, the addition of more periti with SCA movement experience, including Englishman Msgr Derek Worlock, and of course Cardijn himself, helped to re-balance the LAC.

Cardijn’s appointment

Meanwhile, Cardijn’s absence from the initial list of periti provoked consternation from Camara and surely others. Both Cento and Glorieux appear to have been taken by surprise by this omission causing Cento ‘to take several measures’ to obtain his appointment.[846] The mere fact that Cento had to make more than one effort offers insight into the level of opposition to Cardijn’s appointment that evidently existed.

Did Suenens play a role in either Cardijn’s absence or his eventual nomination? Certainly, as we have seen, Suenens had acted to prevent the election of Cardijn’s ally, Himmer, to the LAC. Given his hostility to the work of the PCLA on Catholic Action, as well as his theological and methodological disagreements with Cardijn, he had no reason to facilitate Cardijn’s participation and every motivation to block it.

The lay auditors

The first and only lay auditor appointed for the First Session in 1962 was the French philosopher, Jean Guitton, who had belonged during the early 1920s to the Sillon-inspired Equipes sociales founded by Robert Garric. A year later at the Second Session Guitton and Veronese would become the first lay people to address the Fathers, albeit not during a formal session of the Council.

Although another eleven – all male auditors – were appointed at this time, only one – Auguste Vanistendael – had a Jocist or SCA background, and none were female. By the same token, nor was the Legion of Mary represented, despite its worldwide success.

For the Third Session, however, i.e. after the election of Paul VI, Patrick Keegan, JOCI president Bartolo Perez, and Marie-Louise Monnet from the MIAMSI movement for professionals and business people, were among another fifteen auditors named. Legion founder Frank Duff was also included as part of an effort to broaden representation. Another six women religious were also appointed as ‘lay auditors.’

Two more auditors from SCA movements were added for the Fourth Session in 1965, namely Gladys Parentelli from the MIJARC movement for young farmers and Walter von Loe for the corresponding adult movement (FIMARC). Lastly, there was a Mexican married couple, Jose Alvarez Icaza and Luz Longoria Gama, from the Christian Family Movement (CFM), also a Cardijn-inspired movement.

Thus, the Jocist and SCA movements had a significant albeit minority presence among the auditors while others including French auditor, Henri Rollet, were close to Cardijn.

The Commission begins

The LAC’s first full meeting took place on 5 December 1962.[847] Glorieux presented a relatio summarising several difficulties arising from the preparatory schema:

a) Baptism and confirmation are not the basis of a specific apostolate of the laity;

b) The range of lay activities made it difficult to extract general principles;

c) Lay people were unable to take part in the LAC although contacts were made with various International Catholic Organisations (ICOs);

d) The threefold division of the preparatory schema (which Cardijn had severely criticised) undermined the unity of the apostolate.[848]

It was an important synthesis, which helped spotlight an issue that had prevented the LAC from adopting Cardijn’s conception of the ‘specific role of the laity.’ Since they were not specific to lay people, the basis of this role could not be baptism and confirmation. What then was the basis of understanding of the specific role of the laity?

There could be no answer to this conundrum as long as the discussion remained theoretical and focused on the Church, Cardijn would have said. Nor did discussion of preaching the Word, or of charitable and social action help since these tasks were common to all members of the Church. Only by looking outward towards the world where people live out their lay lives would this specific role of the laity slowly become clearer. In this sense, the parallel work on Schema XIII was also of decisive importance.

A decree on the apostolate of the laity

At the end of November 1962, the Central Commission communicated its decision to the LAC that the four fascicles of the schema on lay apostolate, now known as Schema XII, needed to be considerably shortened.[849] Soon after, it announced that the schema was no longer to be a constitution but would henceforth become a ‘Decree on the Laity,’ a title that the LAC successfully sought to have changed to ‘Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity,’ in a sign of its dissatisfaction with the limits that had been imposed.

However, the battle was far from won as the CC now directed the LAC to focus its work on ‘general principles’ under three major headings:

a) the apostolate of the laity in the service (actio) of the reign of Christ;

b) the apostolate of the laity in charitable and social works;

c) societies of the faithful, based on a schema for a ‘Decree on the Societies of the Faithful’ which had been prepared by the Preparatory Commission for the Discipline of the Clergy and Faithful.[850]

If possible, this restructured plan was even worse than the original division of work in the PCLA. Fortunately, it was abandoned in January 1963 at the urging of Pavan, who warned that it failed to recognise ‘the specificity of social action.’[851]

Moreover, there was still no mention of the role of lay people in life and the world. More positively, the CC requested the LAC to work closely with the Doctrinal Commission (DC) on the chapter on the laity planned in the schema on the Church. Finally, the LAC was to work with the DC in a Mixed Commission on the new schema, then known as Schema XVII, the future Gaudium et Spes. Everything else that had been included in the draft Constitution was to be set aside for a planned Directory for the Apostolate of the Laity[852] to be finalised after the Council, which at that point was not certain to last beyond 1963.

A revised outline

In line with this, the CC decided to retain the original structure of the preparatory schema based on the division into direct and indirect evangelisation that Cardijn had so strenuously opposed:

1. General principles of evangelising action

2. The apostolate directly extending the kingdom of God: To be shortened

3. Charitable action: To be shortened

4. Social action: To be reduced to the essentials with the rest going to Schema XVII (XIII).[853]

Nevertheless, some progress was made at the LAC meeting on 14-19 January 1963, i.e. prior to Cardijn’s joining the Commission, when the section on general principles was reworked into four parts:

1. The various modes of the apostolate for all baptised (including individual apostolate, apostolate by milieu and organised apostolate)

2. The order to be observed, including relations with the hierarchy, mutual coordination, etc.

3. Some particular current problems of the lay apostolate

a) Conditions of life: Youth, men, women, families…

b) Fields of action: World of work, culture, Marxist-dominated milieux, problems of public morality, public life, the international milieu and the international level.

4. Formation for the apostolate.[854]

This showed that several of Cardijn’s priority concerns had begun to be addressed, despite his absence, particularly the addition of a fourth section on formation. Reference was now made to the ‘conditions of life’ and to various fields, such as the world of work. Nevertheless, the conception of ‘milieu’ remained rather confused, with references to Marxist and international milieux at variance with the concept of social milieu defended by the SCA movements. Most significantly, the starting point remained ‘the apostolate of all the baptised’ with no reference to the specifically lay apostolate.

Evidently, there was still a long way to go. However, in February 1963, Cardijn finally received his ‘billet’ (ticket) appointing him as a peritus, enabling him to attend the next LAC meeting from 4-10 March 1963.

Cardijn joins the LAC

According to Glorieux, the March 1963 meeting of the LAC marked the transition to a genuine conciliar dynamic where the participants, including both bishops and lay auditors, the various debates and documents on liturgy, the Church and even ecumenism and on the evolving Schema XIII, all gradually began to have an impact. But it was heavy going.[855]

The first subject of discussion was a new draft of the first section on general principles, which had been simplified. These principles were ‘well accepted’ overall, according to Glorieux. Contention began with the section on the associations of the faithful, which had been drafted by a Mixed Commission of the LAC and the Commission for the Discipline of the Clergy and the Faithful.

Although the text had been ‘appreciably improved,’ according to Glorieux, it nevertheless led to a ‘very animated discussion’ between those who emphasised a distinction between ‘associations of the faithful’ such as confraternities and Third Orders and ‘the organisations of the apostolate envisaged in the schema.’[856] But Cardijn himself did not enter this debate and finally the paragraph concerned was deleted from later versions of the schema.[857]

Note 18 – Formation

No doubt in preparation for this first meeting, Cardijn prepared a new Note 18. Dated March 1963, this was entitled ‘Schema Constitutionis,’ after the title of the schema under revision, even though it had now been downgraded to a decree. It was also perhaps indicative of the limited information transmitted to Cardijn prior to his appointment as peritus.

In this extremely brief note, he simply emphasised formation ‘appropriate to the lay states of life’ and for ‘priests, religious men and above all religious women in charge of the formation of lay people for their apostolate in their life, their milieux and institutions of life.’[858]

Young people and migrants

Cardijn’s first recorded oral intervention on 7 March dealt with the subject of youth. Citing the views of various lay groups, Ménager had proposed that there should be a special number in the schema dealing specifically with young people.[859] The response from the drafting committee was that it would be better and easier to deal with youth in the new proposed chapter on formation. Cardijn opposed this, arguing that ‘young people would feel offended since they already had a legitimate claim to be adults, a view that would eventually prevail in §12 of the final decree devoted specifically to young people.[860]

Later the same day Cardijn also intervened in support of a proposal by Yu Pin that specific mention should be made of migrants.[861]

Catholic Action

Cardijn’s second intervention came three days later on 10 March in the discussion on Catholic Action. As we saw in Chapter 6, the CC had refused to accept Suenens’ earlier proposal to change the draft sections dealing with the ‘four notes’ of Catholic Action, which had been articulated in part around the Sillon conscience-responsibility binomial. Now, however, a new set of objections arose that Ménager explained well in a 16 March 1963 letter to Larrain, who was unable to attend the meeting.

‘We met very firm and strong opposition from all the Anglo-Saxons backed by the English and German-speaking periti (except the Austrians),’ Ménager wrote. The problem was that inserting a special chapter on Catholic Action would give it ‘pre-eminence and privilege’ with respect to other forms of apostolate as well creating the impression of a ‘pressure group’ implying an effort by the hierarchy to exercise ‘temporal influence,’ which would smell of ‘clericalism.’[862]

Although Ménager did not mention it, this objection was also shared by the JOC in English-speaking countries, including Keegan, who may have been influenced by the Australian crisis following the politicisation of Catholic Action movements by its head, BA Santamaria and his anti-communist industrial-political organisation, the Catholic Social Studies Movement, which had sought to eliminate communist influence in trade unions and the Australian Labor Party.[863]

Cardijn made two proposals during this discussion. First, he suggested that it would be better to explain the reasons that the hierarchy needed to support Catholic Action initiatives rather than simply to cite papal authority in support. This proposal was not accepted. Secondly, he pointed out that the JOC did not use the term Catholic Action, even though Pius XI had commended it as a perfect type of Catholic Action.[864] Ultimately, Apostolicam Actuositatem in §20 did recognise that Catholic Action organisations may also go under ‘other titles.’

In a compromise, the text was moved to a new chapter entitled ‘The various forms of organised apostolate,’ leaving it up to local bishops to choose the forms they judged best suited, although this reservation too was ultimately dropped.

The advantage of this compromise, according to Ménager, was that ‘agreement was reached contrary to the conception of His Eminence Cardinal Suenens, who had returned to the attack in quite a violent manner, writing to several bishops of the Commission demanding that the term “Catholic Action” become a generic term designating all forms of lay apostolate in the narrow sense, practically removing the option of bishops to choose between various possible forms of apostolate based on the needs of their dioceses.’[865]

Cardijn’s participation

As the above examples illustrated, Cardijn’s oral interventions at the LAC meeting were relatively limited, perhaps because of his advancing deafness. Nevertheless, he had clearly expressed his views in his preparatory notes, in Laïcs en premières lignes, the French edition of which was available by June 1963, and in the proposals of the JOCI. The Jocist bishops too had begun to take up many of his concerns. As the successive new drafts of the schema emerged, however, he again took up his pen.

The 1963 schema

Following the March meeting, the newly revised schema – the ‘1963 schema’ – was transmitted to the CC, which in turn presented it on 22 April to the dying Pope John, who sent it for printing in preparation for the Second Session. Now reduced to 47 printed pages, it was roughly a quarter the size of the 1962 schema. Once Paul VI confirmed that the Council would continue, a 34-page fascicle of ‘observations on the schema,’ including from the newly appointed lay auditors, was also prepared.

The progress achieved between the 1962 and 1963 schemas can perhaps best be appreciated by a side-by-side comparison of their provisions.

1962 Schema1963 Schema
General introductionGeneral introduction
Part I: General notions
1. The laity in the apostolate of the Church 2. Relations of the laity with the Hierarchy 3. The role of the priest in the apostolate of the laity 4. The apostolate of the individual 5. Lay people serving the Church in special positions 6. The family as a subject of the apostolate 7. The organised apostolate 8. Mutual coordination 9. The apostolic spirit 10. The education and preparation of lay people for the apostolate

Part I: The apostolate of the laity in general
Title I: The various modes of the apostolate
Ch. 1. The apostolate to be exercised by each person Ch. 2: The organised apostolate
Title II: The order to be observed
Ch. 1: Relations with the hierarchy Ch. 2: Mutual coordination
Title III: Some issues of the lay apostolate requiring particular attention by the Church
Ch. 1: The apostolate of the laity in various conditions of life Ch. 2: Fields of action that are particularly important in the present circumstances
Title IV: The formation of the laity for the apostolate

Part II: The apostolate of the laity in the service of the direct promotion of the reign of Christ
Title I: The forms of organised apostolate: 74 articles
Ch. 1: The apostolate of the laity in the various ecclesial communities
Ch. 2: Catholic Action
Ch. 3: Other forms of the apostolate tending to directly promote the reign of Christ
Title II: The different forms and domains: 77 articles
Ch. 1: The apostolate of the word Ch. 2: The apostolate of the family Ch. 3: The apostolate of youth Ch. 4: The apostolate in one’s own professional and social milieu Ch. 5: The lay apostolate in international milieux Ch. 6: The participation of the laity in the apostolate for the promotion of Christian unity Ch. 7: The apostolate in milieux subject to materialism and marxism Ch. 8: The apostolate of the laity in the mission areas of the Church Appendices: Culture, public morals, means of social communication, right use of leisure.
Part II: The apostolate of lay people in particular

Title I: The apostolate of the laity in directly promoting the reign of Christ
Ch. 1: The apostolate of the laity in the various ecclesial communities
Ch. 2: Various forms of the apostolate tending to directly promote the reign of Christ

Part III: The apostolate of the laity in charitable works: 36 articles
Ch. 1: The nature and field of charitable works Ch. 2: Justice and charitable works Ch. 3: The obligation of charitable action Ch. 4: Charitable action and the apostolate of the laity Ch. 5: Individual charitable action Ch. 6: Organised charitable action Ch. 7: Formation of the laity for charitable action
Title II: The apostolate of the laity in charitable action
Introduction Ch. 1: Nature of charitable action Ch. 2: Various forms of charitable action
Part IV: The apostolate of the laity in social action: 85 articles
Title I: Social action in general
Chap. 1: Lay action to direct and perfect the natural order Chap. 2: Relations of the laity with the hierarchy Chap. 3: Forms of social action Chap. 4: The formation of the laity Chap. 5: The glorification of God and the supernatural perfection of the faithful
Title II: Social action in particular
Chap. 1: The family Chap. 2: Education Chap. 3: The condition of women at work and in social life Chap. 4: Economic and social life Chap. 5: Social order Chap. 6: Science and art Chap. 7: Civic life or order within the state Chap. 8: The international or universal order
Title III: The apostolate of the laity in the temporal field
Introduction Ch. 1: The action of laity in perfecting the temporal order Ch. 2: The relations of the laity and the hierarchy in the temporal order Ch. 3: The formation of the laity for temporal action


In Part I, a clear shift was visible from an initial reference in 1962 to ‘the laity in the apostolate of the Church’ towards an identification in 1963 of ‘the apostolate of the laity’ themselves, particularly in relation to their ‘conditions of life.’ With respect to relations with the hierarchy, a new section was added on ‘mutual coordination’ by the laity themselves in line with Cardijn’s own suggestion and the Jocist model.

Part II evidenced the beginnings of a shift from the Suenens-style ‘direct/indirect’ evangelisation underpinning of the 1962 draft towards a conception of ‘the apostolate of the laity in particular’ in the 1963 draft. The new Part II also specifically referred in the new Title III to ‘the apostolate of the laity in the temporal order,’ which replaced Part IV of the 1962 draft on ‘the apostolate of the laity in social action,’ the content of which was moving to Schema XIII.

Again, this certainly reflected the influence of the Jocist forces, who had insisted with Cardijn on the importance of action beginning with the life experience of the laity. Still very ecclesially-focused, the 1963 draft nevertheless constituted a step forward from the 1962 schema, progress that was largely driven by the Jocist network.

Observations from the Second Session

The LAC met several times during the Second Session, which took place from 29 September – 4 December 1963. On 3 October, Cento called the Commission together to discuss the observations received. Based on its meetings on 8, 10 and 15 October, Hengsbach prepared an update for the Council Fathers.[866]

However, the extended debate on the schema on the Church, the urgency of the discussion on ecumenism as well as other proposed corrections to the schema meant that a full debate in aula was not yet possible. Nevertheless, on 29 November, the LAC requested the opportunity to present a brief update to the Council Fathers in view of calling for further observations on the new draft. This was done by Hengsbach on 2 December.

Cardijn’s observations – Note 20

Although Cardijn and the Jocist leaders worked very hard leading up the Second Session, he had still not prepared his own critique of the 1963 schema, a gap he filled with a new Note 20 dated 25 January 1964.[867]

Here he again emphasised God’s creation of the whole world and our human and divine mission, proposing a new paragraph on Christ’s mission, which offered an important insight into his theology:

This primary mission, the divine and the human nature, man refused through original sin and actual sin. Nevertheless, God, in his divine love for and confidence in humanity, never abolished this primary mission. The Old Testament continually repeats, praises and exalts this, and the Church commemorates it each day in the Offertory of the Holy Mass, saying: ‘O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it….[868] (Cardijn’s emphasis)

In effect, Cardijn’s whole theology of lay apostolate was derived from this conception of humankind sharing in God’s mission from the beginning of creation. This God-given mission applied to all people, Christian or not.

It was a positive, creative mission, not simply reparatory or redemptive. At one level, it was a restatement in theological terms of Ollé-Laprune’s philosophical conception of each human person having a mission in life.

Understood in this way, the mission of each person depended simply on their human nature. It did not derive from a share in the mission of the hierarchy except in the sense that this encompassed the human and divine mission of the people. Nor did it even depend on baptism and confirmation.

Moreover, this conception of the (simultaneously human and Christian) mission of the human person also formed the foundation of Cardijn’s understanding of lay apostolate.

Thus, he insisted again on the irreplaceable (irrepressibili) specifically ‘lay’ apostolate of lay people, which was ‘different from that of priests and religious, namely the apostolate of their own lay life, in married and family life, in working life, in social life and in national and international life.’ Not only did the clerical or religious apostolate differ from the lay apostolate but it also depended on it, just as the celebration of the Mass depended on the human work that first made the bread and wine.

This was also why, in Cardijn’s conception, lay people were ‘in the front line,’ an approach that completely overturned existing conceptions of a lay apostolate dependent on the hierarchy. And it is easy to see why Cardijn’s proposals proved so difficult for the Council Fathers, including even some of his supporters, to accept.

Although these were the most significant theological points that Cardijn made, he did not stop here. In other proposed changes, he emphasised the growing awareness of people around the world resulting from better communications, the specific formation needs of young workers, and the need for milieu-based organisation.

Strikingly, he also recommended special attention to orphans, and all those suffering from physical, psychic or social handicaps.[869] In Cardijn’s conception of lay apostolate, even the poorest, especially the poorest, had their own creative and redemptive missions to fulfil.

A Roman Centre on the lay apostolate – Note 21

In January 1964 Cardijn also prepared a series of reflections concerning the establishment of ‘a Roman Centre for the Apostolate of Lay People,’ expanding the suggestions he had made during the preparatory period.[870]

Although the 1962 schema had addressed this in general terms, most LAC members proved ‘extremely reticent,’ Glorieux recorded, because, they said, most apostolates took place at a diocesan and national level.[871] Any international body should therefore have a consultative rather than a directive role and include lay people. On this point, Cardijn shared similar fears, which dated back to Pizzardo’s efforts in the 1930s to create an overarching international centre for Catholic Action.

Cardijn therefore insisted that the proposed centre ‘should have a role of information, formation, liaison and animation,’ informing Church authorities on ‘current trends, problems and experiences’ as well as communicating ‘inspirations and suggestions from the Hierarchy to lay leaders.’ As such, it would become ‘the summit of dialogue’ between laity and hierarchy in the Church.[872]

Once again inverting the hierarchy-laity relationship, Cardijn rejected the notion of a centre as ‘the Secretariat of the Hierarchy for controlling or supervising the laity.’ Rather, it should be ‘(a) a secretariat of the laity for the Hierarchy, and (b) a secretariat of the laity in view of collaboration with other institutions and organisations outside the Church.’ It needed to be ‘the expression of the apostolate of lay people in the Church, based on the continents and races – for youth as well as for adults – for the various milieux of life and modes of lay life.’

It should not be a ‘superstructure’ or, ‘umbrella body imposed from outside or artificially’ but ‘a peak body, a summit supported by a real and palpable base,’ Cardijn argued. It should ‘not impose itself from on high’ but ‘grow based on the existing and living lay apostolate’ with leaders rising ‘from the base, in full submission to the Hierarchy.’

Its primary focus should be the development of educational material beginning ‘from life and its problems which are the raw material of the apostolate,’ using methods of formation based on the ‘discovery of responsibilities’ and on ‘enquiries, facts, experiences, achievements in life’ rather than ‘theoretical ideas.’

‘Formation must take place based on the method of dialogue and the search for Christian solutions in life,’ Cardijn added. In this light, the role of the centre would be primarily to ‘help, sustain, unite, make known the initiatives taken by others, rather than organising these itself.’

Hence, the need to launch a ‘loyal consultation’ with the major existing lay apostolate organisations on the relevance, role, conception and operation of the body as well as potential candidates.[873]

The 1964 Schema and the vocation of the laity

Following the Second Session, the LAC again confided the task of preparing a shorter third schema – the 1964 schema – to the Rome-based experts. Abandoning the division into ‘general’ and ‘particular’ parts of the 1963 schema, the new plan adopted a two-part framework:

a) A new doctrinal introduction on the vocation of the laity to the apostolate, based on a proposal by the French bishops;

b) Various forms and fields of the apostolate, and finally the order to be observed.[874]

The drafting team completed their work during the last week of January 1964. The major change in this French-inspired plan was the emphasis on the vocation of the laity, a key concept in Cardijn’s theology and in his book, Laïcs en premières lignes.

Equally important here was Liénart’s report on the Deposit of Faith presented to the Coordination Commission a year earlier on 21 January 1963, which was so important for Schema XIII. This was articulated around humankind created in the image of God with a divine origin and destiny and appeared to be based on Cardijn’s ‘divine origin, divine mission and divine destiny’ trilogy.[875] Moreover, Tavora had adopted the same framework in his Cardijn-drafted Second Session speech.

But this was far from enough to satisfy the JOC founder. With the Council expected to end at the Third Session, it was time for a last-ditch effort to improve the schema.

Preparing for the Third Session

In the Third Session planned for September – November 1964 conciliar discussion needed to address the major schemas on the Church, Schema XIII, religious liberty, etc. It was expected that there would be little time for discussion of the lesser schemas including the lay apostolate schema.[876]

In this scenario, the 1964 schema would not be discussed as such but a series of ‘proposals’ would be presented for conciliar discussion and later referral to the Canon Law Reform Commission. Now that the 1964 plan was much shorter, it was also proposed to include various unused sections from the 1962 schema in a separate ‘directory’ on lay apostolate similar to the directory then planned for Schema XIII.[877]

Based on this, a new draft schema was completed and sent to LAC members and experts on 25 January 1964. At its next meeting from 2-12 March 1964, the LAC accepted the new draft as the basis for its discussion. However, they concluded that it would be impossible to limit themselves to preparing a simple series of ‘proposals’ for discussion. On the contrary, they argued, there was now an expectation among the Fathers that a full schema would be discussed.

The plan

The outcome, characterised by Glorieux as ‘decisive,’ was a new suggestion from the

Jesuit Roberto Tucci, who proposed to re-organise the schema as follows:


Ch. 1: The vocation of the laity

Ch. 2: The communities and milieux of life

Ch. 3: The ends of the apostolate

Ch. 4: The associated forms

Ch. 5: The order to be observed.[878]

This plan, which was accepted by the LAC, took it several steps closer to the Cardijn conception with its emphasis on the vocation of the laity, the reference to the various milieux of life, organised forms of apostolate as well as the relegation of relations with the hierarchy to the end of the schema. On the other hand, the titles on formation that Cardijn had fought hard for and had been included in the 1963 schema had disappeared, necessitating yet another battle.

To implement the plan, the LAC established five new sub-commissions. The Commission now included several new members and experts, including Helder Camara as well as Derek Worlock, who had worked closely with the YCW, and particularly with Keegan and a group of former YCW leaders who met regularly and were known as ‘The Team.’ Each sub-commission therefore included at least one or two members who had worked closely with the JOC and SCA movements (names in bold) as well as others who were sympathetic.

1964 plan1Sub-commission members2
Part I: The vocation of the laity to the apostolate
Ch. 1. The participation of the laity in the mission of the Church Ch. 2. The apostolate to be exercised by each and all Ch. 3. Formation for the apostolate
Necsey Ménager Fernandez-Condé Guano Moehler Lentini Worlock Papali Bogliolo
Part II: The communities and milieux of life
Ch. 1: The fields of the apostolate Ch. 2: In the family Ch. 3: In ecclesial communities Ch. 4: In the milieux of life Ch. 5: The groups open to all
Morris Yu Pin Camara Stourm Gutierrez Ligutti Fernand Boillat Claude Leetham
Part III: The goals to be achieved
Ch. 1: The goals of the apostolate and distinctions Ch. 2: The conversion of man and his progress towards God Ch. 3: The temporal order to be restored in a Christian manner Ch. 4: Charitable action towards our neighbours

Castellano Larrain Babcock De Araujo Sales Quadri Ferrari-Toniolo

Part IV: The organised forms
Ch. 1: The importance of organisation Ch. 2: The various forms of organised apostolate Ch. 3: Catholic Action Ch. 4: Associations of the apostolate should be appreciated by all
Herrera y Oria Petit Laszlo De Vet Civardi Cardijn Klostermann Piovesana Streiff Dalos
Part V: The order to be observed
Ch. 1: Relations with the hierarchy Ch. 2: Pastors and the apostolate of the laity Ch. 3: Mutual cooperation Ch. 4: Cooperation with other Christians and non-Christians
Cousins O’Connor Hengsbach Da Silva Ramselaar Higgins Géraud Johannes Hirschmann SJ
Final exhortation

Those Romans’

Despite this progress, Cardijn remained unsatisfied. The Roman drafting team continued to frustrate him, as the Canadian Bishop Remi De Roo later recalled:

Cardinal Cardijn confided to me that he never fully succeeded in getting ‘those Romans’ to grasp the true nature of Specialised (meaning the apostolate of like to like) Catholic Action. They failed to grasp how it was directed primarily towards the transformation of society through Gospel values. It was not meant to be oriented towards the strengthening or promotion of Church structures as such. I remember him bemoaning the fact that in the commission in which he participated during the Council, he had found it practically impossible to get the members to understand the true nature of Catholic Action.[881]

Indeed, Cardijn offered an uncharacteristically harsh evaluation of the 1964 draft in his Note 24.[882] ‘I regret that the text had to be so condensed that it does not allow for insisting on the primordial importance of certain forms of lay apostolate and the formation for this,’ he wrote. ‘I fear that a number of people will be disappointed,’ particularly working youth,’ he lamented.

Warning against ‘the alienation of certain milieux’ from the Church’s message, he argued that their problems could only be solved by lay people organised in their own milieux. ‘Can one say that General Catholic Action – the apostolic organisation which corresponds to it – is adequate to form, cause to act and organise the young workers?’ he asked frankly. ‘Isn’t it cheating and losing young workers to tell them that any sort of group is adequate?’

‘Similarly, the promotion of young people is one of the signs of our time,’ he added. ‘It would be good to highlight this in the text so as to invite young people (boys and girls) to become conscious, capable and desirous of taking up all their responsibilities so as to fully assume their mission for the building of a new world.’

The world of work, its decisive importance as well as efforts to ensure the security and dignity of all workers were also ignored as was the non-Christian context, Cardijn feared. ‘Isn’t it necessary to emphasise the plan of creation, renewed by that of the redemption, to bring out the mission of the Church, the Christian and man in the world?’ he asked. ‘Would not failure to do so amount to offending the non-Christian, by beginning with Christ and the Church?’

On the other hand, starting from life, work and leisure created ‘confidence and friendship’ and facilitated ‘the discovery’ of the Christian faith and the Church, he argued.[883]

These were tough questions – also relevant to Schema XIII – that seriously exposed the shortcomings of the new text.

A more uplifting schema

Cardijn was still far from happy in September 1964 as the Third Session began, calling in Note 26 for a ‘more uplifting’ schema. ‘The Schema must bring out more the apostolate proper to lay people as lay people, the apostolic value of their lay life, their lay activity, in lay milieux and institutions, in the lay world of today and tomorrow,’ he insisted yet again.[884]

This apostolate could not be fulfilled by priests and religious. Moreover, ‘nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of every thousand of the world population are lay,’ he noted. Even among the 400 hundred million Catholic lay faithful, their religion remained ‘separate from their lay life.’ And if this was not clear enough, he listed various fields of ‘lay life,’ namely ‘family, professional, economic, social, cultural, civic, private and public, national and international; sciences, arts, technology, leisure, displacements, pleasures, vacations, advertising, information, trade, teaching, etc.’

Yet as we have seen, not only the Roman drafters but some of the French bishops as well as Philips and Suenens were unable to accept such an apparently secular view of the lay vocation. Perhaps this was why Cardijn again insisted that ‘[a] new world is a world that understands and realises its whole divine mission: ‘instaurare omnia in Christo,’ ‘consecratio mundi’.’

Meanwhile, now that Part I focused on the vocation of the laity, he called for the Prooemium (Introduction) to make concrete reference to the ‘decisive’ issues of life and society that provided the stage on which the laity exercised their apostolate from local to international levels.

He insisted that all have an apostolate, Christians as well as non-Christians, and that this extended to ‘all areas of life’ in response to the ‘innate’ necessity and obligation that arose from both the orders of creation and redemption and ‘the commandment to love.’

This was why apostolic formation’ needed to be ‘given during the age of vocation,’ he explained. Youth was the decisive age when young people were ‘formed or deformed in the meaning of human life,’ he emphasised.

Hence the need for ‘active’ formation in which ‘young people themselves determine their vocation and become conscious or their responsibilities and capacities,’ he insisted. Clearly, much remained to be done.

The Third Session

Cardinal Cento finally introduced the debate on the lay apostolate schema on 6 October 1964, recalling that the subject was closely related to Pope John’s pastoral goals for the Council, emphasising that ‘the laity are the Church.’[885] Hengsbach presented the content, highlighting the connection between the LAC’s work and Chapter IV of the schema on the Church. Moreover, much material prepared by the PCLA had been transferred to Schema XIII.[886]

Cardijn had been in Rome since 13 September and he stayed until the end of the debate on the lay apostolate schema on 13 October. As a remarkable series of interventions by the Jocist bishops make clear, he was not idle during that period. Virtually every point that Cardijn himself had made in his various notes was now taken up by one or more of these bishops.

Although some convergence would be unsurprising, the similarities with Cardijn’s own notes as well as the complementarity between the various interventions strongly suggest coordination among themselves.

The Jocist bishops intervene

There were 144 interventions in the debate including both oral and written contributions, plus fourteen received prior to the Third Session, including twelve in the name of episcopal conferences.[887] Once again, the Jocist bishops punched well above their numerical weight.

De Roo, speaking on behalf of fifteen Canadian bishops, was the first Jocist bishop to intervene, with a draft of his speech in Cardijn’s archives strongly implying that the latter was consulted.[888] He stressed two essential elements, beginning with the vocation of the Church and of Christians in which creation and redemption were united, resulting in a twofold calling a) to continue and complete creation through work, industry, science, etc., and b) to raise this human calling to the level of the apostolate, thus uniting the natural and supernatural aspects.

The second aspect which was the goal of the lay apostolate, De Roo noted, was on one hand to spread the Kingdom of God and on the other to lead the whole of creation towards its goal.[889] ‘Creation has a Christian value and Christ does not add to this value but represents the summit,’ De Roo continued. Lay people also had a duty ‘to complete Creation, and therefore, to s’engager [expressed in French] in temporal activities.’ Their apostolate should therefore not be confused with that of the hierarchy, he argued.[890]

Paul Charbonneau, another Canadian ‘friend of the JOC,’ followed with an intervention that also bore the imprint of Cardijn’s influence, particularly in his insistence on ‘the irreplaceable importance of the laity’ and ‘their special task… rooted in their state of life… [that] cannot be done by others.’[891] Lay people ‘must incarnate Christ in the world,’ he said.[892]

Bishop Mauro Rubio Repullès, former Spanish JOC national chaplain, called for the introductory chapter to include a ‘pastoral and sociological description of the lay state’ including its spiritual and secular dimensions as well as an explanation of the nature of the apostolate including its secular or civilising activity. This was evidently a bid to counter Suenens’ critique of the SCA movements. Like Cardijn, he called for bishops, priests and religious to devote themselves to the promotion of the lay apostolate.[893]

Another ‘friend of the JOC,’ Indian Eugene D’Souza explained that St Ignatius of Antioch’s aphorism ‘nothing without the bishop’ did not mean that everything had to be the initiative of the bishop but simply that nothing should be done contrary to or bypassing the bishop. Otherwise, where would the freedom of God’s children be? Slamming clericalism, he asked why lay people could not represent the Church in international organisations or diplomatically.[894]

De Smedt next lauded the see-judge-act method for the formation of young people and linked it to the need for the lay apostolate schema to respect religious freedom in a speech foreshadowing Cardijn’s own intervention on religious liberty at the Fourth Session.[895]

For Archbishop Léon-Etienne Duval of Algiers, speaking on behalf of all the North African bishops, the apostolate was ‘above all dialogue with all people.’ The non-baptised are not deprived of grace, he added, hence, ‘let us not unduly separate nature and supernature,’ he proposed.[896] In these circumstances, the twofold theological foundation of the lay apostolate particularly needed to be shown, he argued. First, Christians were linked to those of other religions in many aspects of life, including culture, morality and intellectual pursuits, and secondly, the Church as a mystical reality was not limited to its visible boundaries, he added.[897]

Owen McCann from South Africa criticised the schema as lacking inspiration. What was needed was a clear explanation of the apostolate along with a practical daily application of it, acknowledging the maturity of the laity and their sense of responsibility. Attention should also be given to preparation of priests to accompany the lay apostolate, he added.[898]

In a further echo of Cardijn, McGrath noted on behalf of thirty Latin American bishops that 99% of all members of the Church were lay people, emphasising the importance of baptism and confirmation as the basis of their mission and their participation in the ‘one priesthood of Christ.’[899] Several others insisted on baptism and confirmation as the basis of the universal priesthood and the lay apostolate, including Liénart, who insisted on the need for priests to form lay people for their apostolate.[900]

In his explanation of the special call of the laity in the modern world, Larrain noted that ‘God’s voice must be heard in the voice of the times.’ It was ‘the hour of the laity,’ he said.[901] However, to avoid ‘angelicism,’ the lay apostolate needed to be ‘incarnated,’ he argued, without being limited to the temporal sphere.[902]

In phrases that echoed Cardijn, Larrain noted that the lay person ‘is naturally present in the world,’ and ‘it is there that he finds salvation.’ Thus, the apostolate of the milieu was ‘the way towards a cosmic vision of the redemption of the world.’ This was how the Church moved into a ‘state of mission,’ Larrain said, emphasising that ‘we are no longer in the era of Christendo.’[903]

Henri Donze delivered another significant intervention, complaining that the schema was not directed enough at lay people, understood as ‘a social being, living in a milieu’ that formed their attitudes. It was necessary ‘to reach the total reality of life and modify the milieu from the inside,’ he argued.[904] Similarly, the former Canadian national YCW chaplain, Bishop William Power, insisted on the lay apostolate by ‘insertion in the present reality through daily reality and social and civic responsibilities.’[905]

Regarding the proposed Roman centre on lay apostolate, Cardinal Heenan and Bishop Padin proposed that it should be constituted on a different pattern from other dicasteries, with lay people as its primary members.[906]

Finally, Guerry intervened. ‘The schema distinguishes two objects of the lay apostolate, namely evangelisation and the Christian animation of the temporal order,’ he stated, ‘but it also simultaneously affirms the unity of these two forms in the Christian conscience’:

It therefore offers the logical application in the practical order of the principles enunciated in De Ecclesia, namely distinction and unity of the temporal and supernatural orders in God’s plan, and the double mission of the Church, namely proclamation of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ and the animation of human society by bringing it the plenitude of light and life of which the baptised must be the carriers.

The testimony of the lay person thus takes place:

a) In the order of creation as a citizen of the temporal order, which, considered in itself is not an apostolate strictly speaking. However, it becomes so in the manner in which the lay person lives out their commitment.

b) In the order of redemption, the Christian witnesses to his faith by words and acts among the non-Christians with whom he exercises his activities in the temporal order.

The schema should better bring out the distinction of levels as well as the unity in the conscience of the Christian, the autonomy of the earthly city and the transcendence of the Church at the service of the human race.[907]

While Cardijn may have expressed it differently, this amounted to an important endorsement of his basic theological approach by a leading conciliar bishop.

Suenens vs Liénart

Not to be denied, Suenens took the floor, again insisting that the term Catholic Action should be given a more general meaning or replaced. A specific historical form of Catholic Action appeared to be privileged, he argued, to the detriment of other forms of apostolate.[908] But times had changed. Lay people were more active and conscious of their role in the Church. New forms of lay apostolate had emerged. Protesting his ‘love for lay people,’ he begged the Council not to impose ‘overly restrictive and uniform categories.’ Have faith in the ‘freedom of the Holy Spirit,’ he concluded.[909]

Once again, Liénart responded first, backing the need for the schema to make special mention of Catholic Action as ‘participation in the hierarchical apostolate’ as proposed by Pius XI and endorsed by his successors.[910] In a particularly brutal response, Padin stated that opening up Catholic Action to any kind of apostolate would amount to formalism. ‘If we are only here to discuss words, then we could also discuss the appropriateness of titles such as the Society of Jesus or the Holy Office,’ he said. ‘There are other offices that are holy and also other societies of Jesus,’ he remarked pointedly.[911]

Clues to Suenens’ opposition on these points can be found in a document in his archives, labelled (by him) ‘Remarks by several lay people on the Schema “De apostolatu laicorum”.’

According to the unnamed authors, the schema risked falling into ‘a legalism that endeavours to account for a form of Catholic Action legitimate and valuable in 1930, but now outdated in the facts in many countries.’ Although not named, this certainly referred to the JOC. The only movement mentioned by name was the French Action Catholique Ouvrière, the influence of which, according to the authors, was only too evident in the paragraph concerning the spirit of the apostolate.

The document also noted ‘the crisis of Catholic Action,’ as Comblin had done in his book Echec de l’Action catholique?, as well as its ‘tribulations.’ It would therefore be ‘dangerous’ to endow it with ‘the prestige of the Council,’ the document argued.[912]

Although the authors remained anonymous, Suenens clearly believed these views represented a considerable body of opinion. Thus, in a debate where prelates from every continent took up the defence and promotion of Cardijn’s vision of lay apostolate and Specialised Catholic Action, Suenens offered him not a single word of support.

Keegan’s intervention

In contrast, Paul VI made his backing for Specialised Catholic Action very plain. This was undoubtedly a major factor in the pontiff’s choice of Patrick Keegan, first international president of the JOC and now the secretary-general of the emerging World Movement of Christian Workers (WMCW) as the auditor who would address the Council Fathers.

Intriguingly, Suenens’ archives contain an undated copy in French of the draft speech that Keegan eventually delivered on 13 October as the first lay person to address a General Congregation of an Ecumenical Council.[913] Immediately afterwards is a note in parentheses indicating that ‘the text will be read in English or Spanish.’[914] This implied that the choice of who was to make the intervention was not made until very late in the drafting process.

In any event, it was clearly a collective effort by the auditors and their collaborators, including Worlock in particular, as the Australian priest John Maguire later recalled.

[915] Moreover, Keegan was ‘very keen not to so insult the bishops that they would rather have another person talk to them.’ He was also ‘aware that some of the most important work at the Council was not done necessarily in the speeches – anybody can grandstand in a speech, he said, but it’s how you talk to people on the ground,’ Maguire noted.

Indeed, the conservative Cardinal Ruffini congratulated Keegan after his speech, saying ‘Pat, thank you for not destroying us.’[916] On the other hand, Australian Archbishop Guilford Young criticised him for not being more critical! Keegan responded that he was not speaking in his own name but in the name of the auditors. ‘It was the first time a layman had been asked to speak at a Council,’ Keegan told him. ‘I was not going to slam the door in the face of any future ones.’[917]

This background illuminated both Keegan’s character and his approach. It also explains what has been described as a ‘relatively bland speech.’[918] According to Ian Linden, Paul VI himself vetted the speech, demanding inclusion of a phrase referring to the ‘laity’s submission to the hierarchy.’ In fact, Keegan’s draft had referred to ‘the autonomous activity of laypeople in the temporal sphere’ although the word ‘autonomous’ was replaced by the word ‘responsible’ in the final version. Nevertheless, there is no reference in the text to ‘submission.’ Instead, Keegan offered ‘loyal cooperation.’[919]

In a further subtle assertion of lay independence, Keegan introduced his speech with the Sillonist binomial, stating that he was ‘very conscious of our responsibility at this historic moment to try, however inadequately, to voice the sentiments of the faithful laity throughout the world.’

Keegan’s main concern, however, was to emphasise the need for formation and of the role of movements and organisations in providing that formation:

How are the vast majority of Catholics to be made aware of their apostolic responsibility to bear witness in their daily life, as members of a family, as members of the community of the Church and of the whole community? This is the challenge for all those who bear responsibility for Christian formation…

It is here that we see the first role of our organisations.

Clerics too had a vital role in this formation. It was ‘the priest who equips us spiritually to ‘consecrate the world’,’ Keegan argued, pointedly adopting a phrase that Philips had described as ‘not very clear for a Council.’[920]

Keegan’s speech was thus a careful and subtle exposition of lay apostolate as conceived by Cardijn and the SCA movements. Significantly, he made no mention of the term ‘Catholic Action’ that was anathema to himself and to many English-speaking bishops. However, he encapsulated the essentials of the Specialised Catholic Action approach insisting on the ‘single mission’ that bound clergy and laity.

To the extent that he had also won over conservatives like Ruffini, he had left Suenens isolated.

Towards the final 1965 draft

Although many criticisms of the schema were harsh, their effect was ‘constructive,’ giving rise to a series of ‘happy corrections’ over the coming months, as Glorieux observed.[921] Among the most important aspects here was the ‘clericalism’ of the 1964 text, which still referred eighteen times to the dependency of the laity on the hierarchy.

Cardijn’s criticisms that it no longer contained a chapter on formation (later rectified in a new Chapter VI) or a specific section on youth (leading to the new §12 in the final decree) were also taken up. While more emphasis was sought regarding the ‘individual apostolate,’ the Fathers indicated, contra Suenens, their desire to maintain the article on Catholic Action (§20 in the decree).

In fact, work on a new draft began even before the discussion in aula had finished.

By 5 November, a new outline divided into six chapters was ready:


Ch I: The vocation of the laity to the apostolate

Ch II: The ends to be achieved (formerly Ch III)

Ch III: The various fields of the apostolate (formerly Ch II ‘Communities and milieux of life’)

Ch IV: The various forms of the apostolate (formerly ‘The organised forms of the apostolate’)

Ch V: The preservation of the proper order

Ch VI: Formation for the apostolate (New)


Another fifteen previous articles were put aside for eventual treatment in a schema to be entitled ‘Societies of the Faithful in Canon Law’ or ‘The Laity in Canon Law.’ Based on this, the LAC drafting subcommittee prepared a new draft that was circulated on 27 November 1964.

A new Chapter on formation – Note 28

At this stage, the new Chapter 6 existed only in point form. In fact, a Roman team prepared a first draft of this, which was circulated to the LAC. The responses were so negative that the draft was quickly abandoned. A second four-page draft was compiled by Fr Bogliolo. At last, Cardijn’s reaction was positive. ‘This is a very good text!’ he wrote in Note 28.[923]

‘I would really like ALL future educators, seminarians, novices, priests, religious, missionaries, fiancés, spouses, parents, future bosses, trade union leaders and party leaders etc. to receive this instruction and to study it together,’ he wrote. However, Cardijn added, it still needed to be ‘improved and completed in several aspects.’

In a remarkable document, he outlined a comprehensive guide for redrafting it:

Do not separate natural, temporal, professional, family, political formation from religious and spiritual formation (and vice versa). Make a clear distinction between teaching and formation for life, but never separate them; teaching is a monologue, formation is a dialogue. Do not separate the content or the matter from the formation, from the method or the manner of giving it: the method… must start from life, the real, the facts: see, judge, act.

Formation must link and unite all aspects of life… It must be given throughout the whole of life but above all during the age of education for life, choice of life, vocation: from 14 to 25 years, to be able to form adult, authentic apostles, in true life, the true milieux and problems of life…

Never separate the mystery of the creation (and the mission given to man at the creation) from the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption; but on the contrary inculcate the sense of responsibility, mission with respect to this double mystery: the plan of God is unrealisable without the free and voluntary collaboration of man, in creation, in redemption; the two are inseparables.

Seek together the true, the human, the good, love, the divine, in Time and in Eternity.[924]

Ultimately it proved providential that Chapter VI had been added so late in the drafting process as it now gave Cardijn a relatively unhindered opportunity to set forth his vision of formation, which clearly had a major impact.

Understanding the see-judge-act

He was also critical. Bogliolo had failed to grasp the import of formation in the Jocist sense. The draft was too ‘abstract,’ ‘very paternalistic’ as well as misunderstanding ‘the existentialist aspect of life,’ Cardijn complained.

It was necessary to emphasise that lay people ‘must make an effort to form themselves’ and that they acquired this formation ‘in the exercise of the apostolate, in realising it together, in reflecting together, in helping each other, in seeking themselves to nourish their apostolic life in prayer and the sacraments, in study and reflection, in listening to the problems and aspirations of the world,’ he insisted.[925] People needed to discover ‘their own milieu of comrades, neighbourhood, school, leisure, etc.,’ he repeated yet again. They needed ‘to learn to act,’ not simply develop a ‘sensus catholicam et apostolicam.’

To achieve this, associations were necessary in which ‘lay people themselves help each other in their action and apostolic formation.’ In small groups with their companions and friends, they needed to ‘examine the methods and results of their apostolic action and search together in the Gospel to judge their own daily lives.’ In this respect, Bogliolo’s draft was ‘very confused’ setting out a highly doctrinal approach to the see-judge-act method:

The ‘method’ see, judge, act, as it is described in the chapter is far from authentic, it is reserved for the formation of Christians engaged in temporal action, in order that they themselves find the concrete solutions starting from doctrinal principles that they have been ‘given.’

In effect, even the see-judge-act could thus be subverted by the old doctrinal approach. In response, Cardijn set out his own understanding of the method:

All lay Christians need to be formed for an apostolic life of ‘discovering’ the world in which they live (milieu, other persons, conditions of life, mentalities and attitudes to life). (SEE), (to discover in faith the thought and the active presence of the Lord with respect to this situation of life (JUDGE), to discover starting from the concrete call that Christ addresses to them in the world and in the Church (ACT). All these discoveries are made in a team (Church cell) and the response to the call of Christ is possible thanks to the mutual support and fraternal collaboration…

What was required was ‘a method of progressively forming and perfecting oneself with others and through action,’ Cardijn proposed:

Since formation for the apostolate could not consist only in theoretical instruction, it was necessary to learn gradually and prudently from the beginning of the formation process, to see all things, to judge, and to act in the light of faith, to form and perfect oneself with others in act.[926]

This phrase had a decisive impact being adopted almost verbatim in §29 of the final decree:

Since formation for the apostolate cannot consist in merely theoretical instruction, from the beginning of their formation the laity should gradually and prudently learn how to view, judge and do all things in the light of faith as well as to develop and improve themselves along with others through doing, thereby entering into active service to the Church.[927]

Similarly, §30 of the decree lauded the Jocist review of life:

Their [lay groups and associations] members meet in small groups with their associates or friends, examine the methods and results of their apostolic activity, and compare their daily way of life with the Gospel.

But the partisans of a doctrinal approach were not to be denied either with the text insisting that ‘in addition to spiritual formation, a solid doctrinal instruction in theology, ethics, and philosophy adjusted to differences of age, status, and natural talents, is required.’[928]

Transforming life or the temporal order?

Still not satisfied, Cardijn returned to the fray a day later on the formation issue in Note 28 entitled ‘Questions, reflections, suggestions’, dated 6 January 1965.

EVERYTHING depends on formation for the apostolate of both priests and lay people. And this WHOLE is the whole future of the Church and humanity,’ he emphasised, underlining the whole sentence.[929]

‘There is only one general formation for the apostolate, which is inseparable from the religious and moral sense, and which must be provided by leaders in the family, school, professional, civic milieux,’ he argued.

This process of formation was long and required ‘patience, humility and perpetual recommencement.’ It must be ‘rooted in life, in acts, among comrades, among ‘the others’ with whom we are united by God,’ which required ‘great confidence, great faith and great love.’

‘We are the replacements for God in the indispensable formation for lay people to spread his Kingdom on earth as in heaven, in time as in eternity,’ Cardijn concluded. But his emphasis on the continuity between the temporal and eternal made no impact. The drafters and/or the LAC members remained preoccupied with rendering ‘the Church present and active in the midst of temporal affairs.’[930]

At least the see-judge-act method itself had been correctly presented.

Improving the other chapters

Cardijn also sent further reflections, of which perhaps the most striking was the contrast between the changes he had requested in 1964 and the relatively minor changes that he still sought.[931] Great progress had been achieved.

Regarding Chapter III, he sought more clarity on the term ‘ambitus’ or ‘milieu,’ which was used in a confusing variety of senses. Clearer and more concrete directives were necessary regarding the apostolate in the various milieux. Again, he insisted on the need to organise from local to global levels within each milieux in order that ‘leaders who understand life and problems at the grassroots could represent it at international level.’

In Chapter IV, he insisted on ‘the absolute necessity of the organised or associative apostolate’ since only in this way would it be possible ‘to influence and transform both milieux and persons.’ While completely respecting personal choice, there was ‘an absolute necessity to unite’ in order to become ‘apostles working together in free but indispensable communities.’

Concerning Chapter V, he again highlighted ‘the mission of the clergy and religion in the formation and support for the apostolate of the laity.’

‘I am convinced that the weakness or insufficiency of the lay apostolate is attributable to the lack of collaboration on the part of clergy and religious,’ he said. A complete reform of clergy education was necessary, he added.[932]

In relation to cooperation with other Christians and non-Christians, he noted that it was ‘no longer possible to separate lay people based on their religious convictions.’ Hence the need to inculcate ‘a missionary and ecumenical mentality’ beginning with young people, particularly from the period of entry into the workforce and adult life. Lay people could not simply be united among themselves ‘as if in a ghetto.’ They needed to ‘be a leaven within the mass of the milieu’ in which they had ‘a splendid mission.’

January 1965: The nature of the apostolate

Three weeks later, the full LAC met from 25-29 January 1965 to review the updated texts and to prepare drafting guidelines for the final version to be presented at the Fourth Session. Hirschmann, Papali and Tucci were appointed to complete this by eliminating repetitions, adding citations and improving the style.

One major point that still required clarification was the nature of the apostolate, which had been left open in Lumen Gentium. According to Glorieux, this issue split the LAC from the beginning.[933] The question was whether the term ‘apostolate’ should be used narrowly with respect to ‘direct evangelisation and the sanctification of people’ or whether it could also be used in a more general modern sense as applying to the ‘Christian renewal of the temporal order.’

From Cardijn’s point of view, this was a false debate because it wrongly framed the issue in terms of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ evangelisation (a primacy of the spiritual approach), a categorisation that he had long sought to replace with his transformational approach framed around creation and redemption. As we have seen, Guerry in his intervention during the conciliar debate also endeavoured to reconcile the two theological approaches.

To resolve the issue, the LAC appointed Ménager and Klostermann to prepare a note for the commission, with additional contributions from Möhler and Daniélou.[934] Here it is relevant to recall Ménager’s comments concerning what he regarded as the exclusively ‘temporal’ approach of the JOC. In a sign of continuing difficulties, the issue was further discussed at the Schema XIII Mixed Commission meeting from 29 March to 7 April.

The final outcome based on the ‘observations of several Fathers’ was the drafting of a new phrase included at the end of §2 of the final decree:

They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelisation and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardour of the spirit of Christ.[935]

In effect, this solution synthesised the two approaches. On one hand, the first sentence was closer to Ménager’s and Suenens’ conception of the lay apostolate than to Cardijn’s and the JOC’s conception emphasising the inseparability of the two dimensions. On the other hand, as Glorieux noted, it applied the term ‘apostolate’ to the whole of this activity, which certainly went further than Suenens. Moreover, the second part of the paragraph emphasised the incarnational aspect, acting ‘within the world like a leaven.’ In this way the decree endeavoured to reconcile the two tendencies.

Nevertheless, Cardijn was more successful in having his approach accepted in §29 of Chapter VI.

However, the lay person should learn especially how to perform the mission of Christ and the Church by basing his life on belief in the divine mystery of creation and redemption and by being sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God and who urges all to love God the Father as well as the world and men in Him.

Formation along these lines ‘should be deemed the basis and condition for every successful apostolate,’ §29 concluded.

D. Cardinal Cardijn

It was also during this meeting that the announcement came that Paul VI was making

Cardijn a cardinal. Worlock captured the atmosphere:

Came the day when it was announced that he had been made a Cardinal; and when he turned up for a Commission meeting that afternoon, clad in his old black cardigan over his cassock, we took him to the Commission President’s table and sat him next to Cardinal Cento. Without his hearing-aids, he beamed down at us through his rimless glasses. Work continued but at last we enlivened things by signalling that the time had come to make his intervention.

He took from his pocket his two ear-pieces, set them in place, rose to his feet and, without obvious reference to the matters under discussion, delivered an enthusiastic address on the mission of like to like and the importance of the role of working youth in their own milieu. By that stage in the Council we knew it almost by heart but we cheered him on until exhausted he sat down in his chair…[936]

It was a fitting climax to Cardijn’s participation at the LAC from which he had initially been excluded only two years previously. But it highlighted his difficulties as he aged, limiting his capacity to participate while even his disciples grew tired of his refrains. Nevertheless, ‘the decree would not have been written without him,’ Worlock recognised.

In March, the LAC checked the revised text and Cardinal Cicognani ordered on 28 May 1965 that the final 70-page draft be printed.

The importance of the lay apostolate

As a cardinal, Cardijn hoped for a greater role, as did his supporters, including Paul VI. The reality, however, was that the conciliar process was too far advanced to allow for any further major changes. This did not prevent him from trying.

In a note written in June as an aide-memoire for his audience with Paul VI on 19 June 1965,[937] he lamented that ‘the need and importance of the lay apostolate’ had ‘not been inculcated into the faithful.’ The principal reason for this was that ‘priests, religious are not convinced of this importance and need,’ which was because seminaries and novitiates failed to so insist. Nor did priests and religious themselves learn through ‘practical methods of formation.’[938]

‘Would it not be opportune to insist STRONGLY on these questions, either on the occasion of the opening or the closing of the Fourth Session?’ Cardijn asked. But there was nothing of this nature in any of Pope Paul’s speeches on these occasions.[939]

During the same audience, he also presented the pope with a proposal for a ‘Call to the youth of the world.’ Here Cardijn was more successful and the Council issued a ‘Message of the Second Vatican Council to Youth’ on 7 December 1965.[940]

In another note, Cardijn relayed to Paul VI that many lay apostolate movements feared that the proposed Roman Secretariat for the Lay Apostolate would become ‘a cause of blockages (arrêt), wardship (tutelle) or deviation.’

‘They desire that the voice of those who work ‘at the grassroots,’ in daily life and the milieux of daily life, be heard before one commences experiences that could be discouraging.’[941] Even before the decree was adopted, these lay leaders were already afraid that the new dicastery would be co-opted by Rome.

Lay apostolate

At this point Cardijn still hoped it would be possible to intervene in aula on the lay apostolate and the priestly ministry but Felici advised him that no further discussion was planned on these themes. Undaunted, Cardijn prepared two interventions he submitted in written form.

The content of his address on ‘Lay Apostolate’ (Note 29) is particularly telling, addressing the points he felt were the weakest in the schema. Many people had requested that the Council provide ‘clear and precise declarations and directives in language they are able to understand,’ he began.

Others had asked him to beg bishops and priests ‘to help us to understand the apostolic value of our daily life, to persevere ‘in good times and bad times’ in our apostolic responsibilities, in our milieux, in our ordinary lives because we want to make known their apostolic value.’ To do this, they wanted the Church to promote ‘living and active methods that will help us to discover… and spread this value.’

It was vain to simply rely on purely spiritual or doctrinal approaches, Cardijn warned. ‘During the sixty years I have lived with young workers, I have never met any who are immediately concerned with spirituality and moved by supernatural ends, nor are they concerned with the doctrinal fundamentals of the apostolate,’ he stated. ‘This only comes after a long period of moving forward together.’

Yet ‘we cannot transform the world without them,’ he insisted. ‘THEY are the Church in the world of today, together with their families, as well as their influence in all the key posts of national and international life but most of all at the grassroots, in ordinary and daily life.’

To form lay apostles, then, priests needed to be convinced of the ‘fundamental truth’ that:


is the lay (secular) life of lay people, the problems of that life, at every level: local, regional, national and international;

is the divine value of this life to implement the work of God and Christ, in order to transform life and the world;

is a transformation that must take place with, by and in Christ and the Church, with the resources of the Church (prayer, sacraments, etc.) but which are incarnated in the affairs of the world, the institutions of the world, in view of the inseparable goals that are the happiness of humanity and the glory of God.[942]

This was Cardijn’s incarnational, life-centred answer to the ‘primacy of the spiritual’ approach that still seemed to inspire Ménager and some French bishops, the ‘direct/indirect’ evangelisation approach promoted by Suenens and ‘the participation in the hierarchical apostolate’ approach of Italian-style Catholic Action.

‘If the Council wishes to proclaim this truth and clearly indicate the means for realising it, if the Council shows that it believes in lay people, in their capacities, in their generosity, their vocation and their mission, the lay apostolate Popes – from Pius XI to Paul VI will rejoice,’ Cardijn concluded.

Such was the message that Cardijn wished to deliver to the Council Fathers and that he desired the Decree on Lay Apostolate to convey.

The Fourth Session

Promulgation of Apostolicam Actuositatem

The Fourth Session opened on 14 September 1965. Six days later, on 20 September Hengsbach presented the various chapters of the schema for voting, resulting in overwhelming approval. Nonetheless, Council Fathers still proposed 4000 further amendments or modi. These were examined by the six sub-commissions of the LAC, which reduced them to 655 questions, leading to 150 modifications. Among the last to be considered were several ‘emphasising the subordination of the apostolate of the laity to hierarchical supervision,’ Klostermann noted, in a powerful indication of the struggle that raged right to the end.[943] A final vote on the corrections to each chapter took place on 9 November.

On 18 November, the Fathers voted on the text as a whole, which was adopted with 2340 votes for and only two against, the fewest dissenting votes for any schema, truly a remarkable success.[944]

Four days later, addressing a group of mainly francophone bishops from Belgium, France and Luxembourg, Paul VI explicitly acknowledged Cardijn’s role in achieving it:

[F]or the first time in the history of the Church, the Council has just dedicated a decree to lay people and their apostolate. Now, it is a matter of implementation. The laity, faithful and devoted to the Church, We know, has your full confidence, well deserved for the ardent zeal that is particularly visible among the ranks of Catholic Action. Yes, the good seed sown half a century ago by several generous pioneers and particularly by a young Belgian priest, has truly delivered a hundredfold.[945]

So evident was Cardijn’s contribution to Apostolicam Actuositatem (and to the Council in general) that the pope had no need to mention his name. Looking back to the Proposals paper that Cardijn and the JOCI had prepared in February 1963, their achievements were all too clear. Indeed, the opening sentence of the decree incorporated Cardijn’s very conception of ‘the proper and indispensable role’ of lay people in life and in the world rather than with the piety and charitable works approach with which the Preparatory Commission had begun in 1960.

The Roman Centre

By now, however, Cardijn himself was already preoccupied with the implementation of the decree’s provisions in §26 for a ‘special secretariat… for the service and promotion of the lay apostolate.’ As he had proposed, this was to focus on sharing information about various programs, promote research into problems arising in the field as well as ‘assisting the hierarchy and laity in their apostolic works with its advice.’

Importantly, it also added that ‘the various movements and projects of the apostolate of the laity throughout the world should also be represented in this secretariat, and here clergy and Religious also are to cooperate with the laity.’[946]

Former JOCI vice-president Betty Villa later recalled these provisions as one of Cardijn’s key achievements.[947] In an audience with Paul VI on 8 November, Cardijn delivered a detailed note on how the proposed centre should be implemented.[948] He repeated that it should be the ‘centre of dialogue between Hierarchy and Laity.’ It should not attempt ‘to control or supervise the laity’ but function as ‘a secretariat of the laity for the Hierarchy.’ Above all, it should be ‘the emanation of the apostolate of the laity in the Church’ and ‘not a superstructure, created far from the realities of the apostolate at the grassroots,’ as he had earlier proposed.

Leaders should come from the movements and be able to speak in their name as well as being nominated by the Holy See. The centre should thus represent ‘the grassroots’ in what amounted to a democratised version of the old COPECIAL. As Cardijn foresaw, the struggle to achieve this would continue well after the Council. Even to 2018, the provisions in §26 or lay movements to be ‘represented’ in the new secretariat remain unimplemented,[949] underlining the radicalness of Cardijn’s proposal.

E. The Pact of the Catacombs and the Pietralata Message

Meanwhile, Camara wished to ensure that the Council’s commitments to the poor would not be in vain. He therefore proposed two concelebrated masses to ‘reach out to the people’:

(It will be) a concelebration in Cardijn’s cardinal’s church involving twenty bishops from around the world (the difficulty will be to select them). All others will also be invited. A Mass specially dedicated to workers. Delegations from neighbouring countries will come. Workers from Rome will come. In the midst of the Mass, we will take a solemn oath, more concrete and binding than that of Cardijn. The minimum that we will promise will be to renounce our purple habits and the title of Excellency… After the mass, we will have coffee in confraternity with the working class.

Another concelebration (will be held) at St Mary’s at Trastevere, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Rome… Twenty bishops from the whole world (again, the difficulty will be to choose them), perhaps around Cardinal Lercaro or Patriarch Maximos IV, who is the protector of the Group of the Poor, which is a little suspect in the eyes of the Holy Office.

We will invite poor people from the neighbourhood…[950]

Camara wrote to Cardijn to this effect on 17 September.[951] Before responding, Cardijn consulted with his colleagues, including Fiévez, Jacques Meert and Uylenbroeck, who reacted cautiously concerning the proposal to take an oath modelled on Cardijn’s commitment to the working class. Nevertheless, the two events went ahead in slightly amended form.

On 16 November, the Group of the Poor held its mass at the Domitilla Catacombs, with forty participants, many of them also former Jocist and other SCA chaplains. Here they signed the Pact of the Catacombs, adapting Cardijn’s vow to devote his life to the working class by committing themselves to evangelical poverty:

We will try to live according to the ordinary manner of our people in all that concerns housing, food, means of transport, and related matters.

We renounce forever the appearance and the substance of wealth…

We will not possess in our own names any properties or other goods, nor will we have bank accounts or the like…

As far as possible we will entrust the financial and material running of our diocese to a commission of competent lay persons…

Accordingly, we will make an effort to ‘review our lives’ with them; we will seek collaborators in ministry so that we can be animators according to the Spirit rather than dominators according to the world… [952]

The second mass took place the next evening – 17 November, the eve of the promulgation of Apostolicam Actuositatem – at Cardijn’s titular church of St Michael Archangel in Rome’s working class Pietralata district.[953]

In another message, the participants witnessed to the value of their experiences as Jocist chaplains discovering ‘the extent to which lay people are keen to understand their own proper role in the world as sons and daughters of the Church’ and their capacities for ‘apostolic responsibilities’:

Our hope is that all our brothers in the episcopate become increasingly conscious of the possibilities of the laity, and particularly the worker laity, hope of the Church at the heart of the world today.

‘This in particular,’ the bishops said, ‘is the experience, unceasingly renewed across the continents, of an authentic JOC.’[954] It was also an eloquent testimony to the efficacy of the JOC’s incarnational approach to bringing the Good News to the poor.


1Glorieux 1970: 122-123.

2Glorieux 1970: 121.

Other footnotes to be added.