Two JOC theologians from Lille: Pierre Tiberghien and Palémon Glorieux


This paper seeks to analyse the contribution to the development of the JOC and Specialised Catholic Action by two outstanding Lille theologians, Pierre Tiberghien and Palémon Glorieux.

In Part I, we will look at the historical context in France that influenced JOC founder, Joseph Cardijn, and his links with the northern French city of Lille – then part of the Archdiocese of Cambrai – which predated the foundation of the JOC.

In Part II, we will consider the role of Mgr Pierre Tiberghien, longtime chaplain to the French Association of Catholic Youth (ACJF), who accompanied the transformation of the Lille ACJF into a federation of specialised movements.

Finally, in Part III, we will examine the contribution of Mgr Palémon Glorieux, a founding JOCF chaplain, who became a leading theologian of the movement and eventually rector of the Catholic University of Lille.

I. Cardijn, Lille and the sources of the JOC: From Lamennais to the Sillon

The sources

As Cardinal Achille Liénart[1] of Lille once noted, Cardijn drew heavily on French sources. “He had reviewed the history of all the previous movements, including their strengths and weaknesses: l’Avenir, Montalembert, de Mun, les Cercles ouvriers (Worker circles), the Sillon, the A.C.J.F.,”[2] Liénart recalled.[3]

Indeed, Cardijn often cited the influence of Félicité de Lamennais (1782-1854), the founder of the journal L’Avenir in 1830, which set forth a vision of a Church founded on freedom and a new Gospel-inspired alliance with the people, particularly the poor.

Although Pope Gregory XV condemned some of Lamennais’ writings in 1832, his influence lived on through his disciples. The lay leader, Charles de Montalembert, made a great impact in Belgium at the Catholic Congress of Malines in 1863 speaking of “a free Church in a free state.”[4] In 1837, Henri Lacordaire re-established the Dominicans in France, an order which would eventually develop close relations with the JOC.[5] Although too young to join the Lamennais group, Society of St Vincent de Paul founder Frédéric Ozanam, whose father Jean subscribed to L’Avenir, was also greatly influenced by these ideas.[6]

During France’s Worker Revolution of 1848, Lacordaire and Ozanam helped launch a new journal L’Ere Nouvelle that, like its predecessor, sought to “reconcile” the Church with the emerging industrial, democratic world of the nineteenth century. Significantly, Ozanam became one of the earliest proponents of a conception of “lay apostolate” understood as a role specific to lay people of transforming the world in line with the Gospel. In Lille, one of Ozanam’s greatest followers, Philibert Vrau, later laid the foundations for a health care system and helped found the Catholic university.[7]

In another link with northern France, Cardijn credited the philosopher, Alphonse Gratry, born in Lille, as one of his major inspirations. As early as 1864, Gratry wrote of “reading the signs of the times.”[8] Prefiguring Cardijn’s see-judge-act, he proposed a three-step inductive approach starting with understanding reality, followed by reflection and resolution or decision-making.

Another Ozanam disciple, Léon Ollé-Laprune, a philosopher at the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure university college, further developed Gratry’s ideas.[9] Reworking Aristotle’s understanding of the prudential decision-making process, Ollé-Laprune wrote in 1896 that it was necessary to “see clearly, judge and conclude” upon the actions necessary to combat social problems.

Inspired by Ollé-Laprune, Marc Sangnier[10] and a group of students from Stanislas College in Paris began to launch “cercles d’études” or “study circles” combining Gratry and Ollé-Laprune’s inductive approach with the sociological enquiry methods of Frédéric Le Play (1806-1882).[11] One of their first projects was to launch a magazine Le Sillon, which eventually became the name of the movement that emerged from their study circles. Its objective was to educate young people in grassroots democracy, which they defined as maximising “la conscience et la responsabilité” (the conscience/consciousness and the responsibility) of each person. Twenty years later, Cardijn would borrow from this “méthode d’éducation démocratique” (method of democratic education) as the basis for the JOC “see-judge-act method.”

Cardijn’s links with Lille

Cardijn also had many personal links with Lille, which can be traced to 1903 when, as a seminarian, he began to correspond with the “democratic priest,” Fr Paul Six, who helped promote the Sillon through the magazine, La Démocratie Chrétienne (Christian Democracy), which he founded in 1894 together with another priest, Fr Gaston Vanneufville.[12] It regularly featured articles on the development of Sangnier’s movement and it may be that Cardijn first learned of the Sillon from Six or his magazine.

In an important speech reported in La Démocratie Chrétienne, Sangnier explained the difference between the Sillon and its conservative rival, the Catholic Association of French Youth (ACJF), founded in 1886 by Albert de Mun. Whereas the ACJF targeted “all the elements of Catholic youth” and “all its groups,” the Sillon, Sangnier said, aimed to reach “the elite of working youth” and operated as “a single group” based on its study circles. The Sillon also sought to reach a broader audience of age groups as well as women and children and even those whom it characterised as “opponents.” In contrast, Sangnier painted the ACJF as a youth project or oeuvre but which lacked any specific structure or method for exercising influence on what he characterised as “hostile milieux.”[13]

Although Sangnier did not mention it, the early ACJF also rejected Le Play’s enquiry method for being overly “sociological” and failing to have sufficient regard for Church doctrine. In general, in the terminology of the time, the ACJF’s aim was to “defend” the Church rather than to reach out to those whom the Church had not touched.

While the Sillon in Paris developed separately from the ACJF, in Lille it emerged from different tendencies within the older movement. Thus, from 1904, the journal A la Voile, which was originally an ACJF magazine, began to describe itself as the “regional organ of the Sillon du Nord.”[14] Meanwhile, across the border, Cardijn was already in contact with a Sillon team in Liège and eagerly looking forward to its planned launch in the Malines archdiocese in 1906. The following year, in the summer of 1907, Louvain sociology professor, Victor Brants,[15] a critical disciple of Le Play, sent him on a study trip to Lille and the north of France. There, for the first time, Cardijn met with Six and other social movement leaders, including Léon Harmel, and visited active Sillon study circles.

“At Lille and Roubaix, we had the pleasure of taking part in meetings of Sillon study circles,” Cardijn later told Sangnier, “where we saw those young people, students, workers and employees, loving one another more than brothers, working together to develop their consciences and to exercise their responsibilities.”[16]

During the same trip, Cardijn obtained a copy of Sillon counsellor Louis Cousin’s book, Vie et doctrine du Sillon[17] (Life and Doctrine of the Sillon) and attended the Semaine Sociale (Social Week) at Amiens, where he met Marc Sangnier and other Sillon leaders.

This period coincided with the Sillon’s growing difficulties with the Church. Indeed, Coadjutor Archbishop François-Marie-Joseph Delamaire of Cambrai had begun to attack the Sillon for “pushing minors into politics and constraining the Church’s field of action,” its allegedly “unhealthy fear of the encroachment of religious authority” as well as “the unconscious but real propagation of the socialist movement.”[18]

The solution, Delamaire argued, was for its leaders to act “like rank and file soldier(s) obeying orders in the face of enemy fire.”[19] Sangnier sought in vain to respond to Delamaire’s attack, marking the beginning of the end for the Sillon.

Unsurprisingly, these events captured the headlines of the Catholic press. Almost immediately, Cardijn was called back to Brussels, where Cardinal Mercier now decided to end his university studies and send him to teach Latin at a rural minor seminary, where he remained until 1912.

Vanneufville, who was now working in Rome for the French Catholic newspaper, La Croix, sought to intercede in vain on the Sillon’s behalf. On 25 August 1910, Pope Pius X wrote to the French bishops condemning the movement’s democratic doctrines and methods, accusing it of “escaping” hierarchical jurisdiction and calling on Sangnier and other leaders to resign and place the movement under the control of diocesan bishops. The Sillon leaders did indeed resign but few agreed to work under the (mostly conservative) bishops, resulting in the closure of the movement.[20] Meanwhile, Cardijn remained providentially insulated from the fallout of its demise.

Yet, once appointed as vicar in the parish of Notre Dame at Laeken near Brussels in 1912, Cardijn began to launch study for young workers, working closely with the trade union leader, Victoire Cappe,[21] and the 17-year-old, Fernand Tonnet,[22] who had both been trained in the educational methods of the Sillon, until war interrupted these early efforts.

In 1919, Cardijn and Tonnet re-launched their new movement specifically for young male workers, the Jeunesse Syndicaliste (JS) (Young Trade Unionists) while Cappe and others developed a parallel movement for young female workers, Joie et Travail (Joy and Work). Developing the Sillon vision and methods, the JS evolved into the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne (Young Christian Workers). Expanding quickly, it soon ran into tensions with the Belgian equivalent of the ACJF, the Catholic Association of Belgian Youth (ACJB), which had been founded in 1912, reproducing the tensions in France between the Sillon and the ACJF.

In 1922, following a series of bitter conflicts in which Cardijn’s new movement was accused of “splitting the Body of Christ” on class lines, the JS finally agreed to join the ACJB on condition that it could maintain its internal autonomy. Cardijn was almost certainly in contact with Lille during this period although few details appear to have survived. Similarly, this evolution of the ACJB certainly did not escape the attention of the ACJF, least of all in neighbouring Lille.

When the JOC was threatened with closure by Cardinal Mercier in 1924, Cardijn sought to appeal directly to Pius XI. Here, Cardijn’s biographer, Marguerite Fiévez, credits Vanneufville with helping make possible Cardijn’s historic March 1925 meeting with Pius XI, who contrary to expectations, enthusiastically approved the new movement. In a further sign of the significance of the links with Lille, one month later in April 1925, Six joined the first JOC national congress in Brussels.

Vanneufville played another key role in 1928 in helping engineer the appointment of Achille Liénart, who had collaborated with the Sillon while studying in Paris, as bishop of Lille.[23] In 1935, it was once again Vanneufville who assisted Cardijn to obtain letters from Secretary of State, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, and the Autograph Letter from Pope Pius XI, officially recognising the JOC as “authentic Catholic Action.”[24]

In fact, Vanneufville was one of three priests in Rome known as the “three Italians of Tourcoing,” all of whom had also studied at Sacre Coeur College there and belonged to the Franciscan Third Order.[25] The second, Mgr Jules Tiberghien (1867-1923), had studied in Rome and took on a range of Vatican roles dealing with social and international issues.[26] The third, Mgr Louis Glorieux (1867-1925) became the Rome correspondent for La Croix. A strong Sillon supporter, he had interpreted for Marc Sangnier at his first meeting with Pope Pius X in 1903.[27] 

If Cardijn developed a close friendship with Vanneufville, the theologians, Pierre Tiberghien and Palémon Glorieux, had even closer links with Jules Tiberghien and Louis Glorieux to whom they were directly related.

II. Pierre Tiberghien (1880 – 1963): From the Sillon and the ACJF to the JOC

Given the early links between Cardijn, the Lille pioneers and the “Tourcoing Italians”, it is no surprise that ACJF chaplain, Pierre Tiberghien, would take a keen interest in the developing JOC. Born in Tourcoing just north of Lille in 1880, he too had studied at Sacre Coeur College before entering the Saint Sulpice seminary in Paris in 1901. He then went to Rome to study for a Licence in Biblical Studies and a Doctorate in Theology, drawing him into the circle of his Tourquennois compatriots.[28]

Tiberghien was ordained in 1906 – the same year as Cardijn. In 1908, he began a 47-year career teaching moral theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of Lille. The same year, he began to collaborate with Eugène Duthoit in organising the recently founded Social Weeks.[29] He would also later play a key role as a teacher at the Ecole Missionnaire du Travail (Missionary Labour School), where Mission de Paris founder, Fr Henri Godin became one of his greatest protégés.[30]

Although attracted by the thought of Maurice Blondel,[31] a disciple of Ollé-Laprune and Gratry with close links to several Sillon leaders, Tiberghien continued to regard St Thomas Aquinas as “the philosopher most appropriate for our time.”[32]

Tiberghien had also witnessed the development of Le Sillon from close quarters. “A close friend of Mgr Six and his followers, whom the latter had formed… as a result of his proximity to the so-called ‘democratic priests’,” he belonged to what people then referred to as ‘the soul of the Sillon’,” recalled Pierre Bayart.[33]

Tiberghien later characterised the Sillon as “the first effort by Catholics who had become aware that the era of Christendom was definitively over and that we had entered the ‘Modern Era’.”

The problem was that “in addition to their boldness of views,” the Sillon leaders “lacked a sure theological foundation, which could have enabled them to develop in their own field,” he lamented.[34]

In a bid to help resolve the Sillon’s difficulties with the bishops, Tiberghien published an article, Dépendance et Libérté (Dependency and Liberty), which sought to outline a solution. “It is clear that this article was the first of the new line, namely a plea in favour of a solution that prefigured that of Catholic Action,” Pierre Bayart later commented.[35]

Having hoped that the Sillon would agree to hierarchical “dependency,” Tiberghien regretted its closure in the wake of Pius X’s letter.[36] The same month, August 1910, Archbishop Delamaire appointed him as diocesan chaplain for the ACJF in Cambrai.[37] He retained this post in the new Diocese of Lille created in 1913. Henceforth, he remained diocesan chaplain until 1944, except for during World War I.

Even before the Sillon folded, many ACJF leaders had begun to adopt some of its educational methods, including Le Play-style social enquiries. Working with Lille president, Adolphe Delmasure,[38] Tiberghien sought to move the ACJF towards the Sillon’s social approach. Although they preserved the ACJF’s “Piété, Etude, Action” (Prayer, Study and Action) triptych, they emphasised study and action. Like the Sillon before, the ACJF under Tiberghien and Delmasure gave increasing priority from 1920-24 to reaching young workers, albeit not as a separate movement.[39] 

Their work paralleled the emergence in Belgium from 1919 of the Jeunesse Syndicaliste (JS) or Young Trade Unionists, which was to join the ACJB and become the JOC. In light of Cardijn’s links with Vanneufville and Six, Tiberghien must also have been aware of these developments. Nevertheless, he appears to have initially shared the ACJB’s reticence regarding the JOC.

The JOC: Transforming the milieu

All this changed in August 1926 when he travelled to Belgium to attend the Second National Study Week of the JOC. This proved to be such a profound “story of a conversion,” that Tiberghien henceforth divided his working life into “two periods, one before and the other after the launch of Catholic Action by Mgr Cardijn.”[40] 

“The basis of Catholic Action as conceived and launched by Mgr Cardijn,” Tiberghien later wrote, was “the discovery of milieux of life,” that provided the organisational platform for the development of “Specialised” Catholic Action.

“He observed – and this was his original discovery – the immense importance of the milieu of life in order to ensure this flourishing,” Tiberghien observed.

“I can still hear, as I did during those first days, Cardijn’s ardent words telling us about young workers, who upon leaving and suddenly plunged in one blow into a milieu of life for which they were not all prepared and which degraded them instead of helping them to flourish,” Tiberghien remembered. “It was like a lightning bolt for many of us.”

This notion of transforming the “milieu” (literally “environment’) was clearly key to Tiberghien’s understanding of the JOC. Young workers were effectively submerged in the brutality of the factories. As Pius XI later expressed it in Quadragesimo Anno, “dead matter emerged from the factory ennobled,” while workers there were “corrupted and degraded.”

From a Thomist perspective, this degradation prevented “human flourishing,” which, as American philosopher, Joseph Wawrykow, has written, was “central to the intellectual enterprise of… Aquinas.”[41] Having grasped this, Tiberghien returned to Lille to become one of the greatest advocates for the JOC and other specialised Catholic Action (youth) movements, which had begun to sprout in Belgium.

Indeed, Tiberghien appears to be the source of a phrase that Cardijn would make famous in the JOC. “We must change the water in which the fish swim” rather than taking it out of the water in which it lives. “Take the fish out of the water and the fish dies,” he often warned.[42]

“The JOC does not detach its militants from their milieu,” Cardijn repeated in 1946, citing the Lille ACJF chaplain, “because as Canon Tiberghien said, ‘it doesn’t want to take the fish out of water but rather aims to purify the latter’.”[43]

As a Thomist moral theologian and philosopher, Tiberghien was evidently familiar with St Thomas’ Aristotelian-inspired analysis of the virtue of prudence into three parts, which Ollé-Laprune had summarised as “see clearly, judge well and conclude.” In his 1916 book, La philosophie morale de Saint Thomas d’Aquin (The Moral Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas), the Sillon counsellor and philosopher, AD Sertillanges,[44] then stationed at the Dominican convent, Le Saulchoir, recast this in terms of seeking counsel, judging and acting.[45] 

Tiberghien thus evidently also grasped the philosophical roots of the JOC method, which from 1925 had started to become known as the “voir, juger, agir” or “see, judge, act.” Henceforth, he began to reinterpret the ACJF “prayer, study, action” slogan in jocist terms. “Are we going to study real life in order to see what is happening and to reform it,” he asked, proposing to move away from the doctrinal study orientation that had previously prevailed.[46]

Convinced by all he had learned, Tiberghien now became a passionate apostle of the JOC. “I can still hear Canon Tiberghien from Lille challenging Canon Leynaud from Caen before the assembly,” Bishop Georges Béjot, an early JOC chaplain from Belfort later recalled.[47] “‘So, Fr Leynaud, have you taken the leap yet?’ He had to wait another year before he received a positive answer.”[48]

Theologian of Specialised Catholic Action

Tiberghien’s efforts were clearly appreciated by Cardijn, who often reproduced citations and articles from the former in his chaplains’ newsletter, Notes de Pastorale Jociste. In one extract, criticising “a bad definition of Catholic Action,” Tiberghien repudiated a conception of Catholic Action as having as its object “the perfection of Christian life and the legitimate defence of the rights of the Church.”[49] Rather, genuine Catholic Action as proposed by Pius XI, meant “conquering secular milieux where the priest cannot be present and where lay people alone are able to act,” Tiberghien insisted.

Nevertheless, as Quebecois priest and JOC chaplain, Roland Potvin, later pointed out, Tiberghien still seemed to interpret Pius XI’s famous definition of Catholic Action as “a participation of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church” in a narrow sense as an extension of that hierarchical apostolate.[50] 

“For all these authors, Catholic Action or the apostolate of the laity was not a proper apostolate, specifically different from the properly hierarchical apostolate. In their view, in the Church there was only one apostolate, that of the hierarchy, and any other form of apostolate activity could only be envisaged under the angle of the hierarchy,” Potvin warned, contrasting this with Cardijn’s insistence on the specific and proper apostolate of the laity.

Moreover, it appears that reservations about Tiberghien’s theology already existed, including over his 1945 book, L’Action catholique, Expériences passées vues d’avenir (Catholic Action: Past experiences and prospects for the future) in 1945.[51] Reviewing the book, Cardijn noted that “people had warned me against its publication.”[52] Thus, while Cardijn “unreservedly applauded a man who has always appeared to be an example of frankness… and realistic understanding,” he also distanced himself from Tiberghien’s conception of Catholic Action.[53] 

For Tiberghien, Catholic Action belonged primarily “to the religious order.”[54] But Cardijn rejected any such limitation. “I would never write,” Cardijn noted, “that ‘Catholic Action is an apostolate and that the temporal field belongs to civil society organisations.’ To me, the proper field, the field of action of Catholic Action is the temporal, lay life, the secular milieu, the secular regime,” he emphasised.[55] In a “confidential” 1951 letter to Archbishop Emile Guerry of Cambrai, Cardijn again expressed similar fears over what he viewed as Tiberghien’s exaggeration of the division between spiritual and temporal spheres.[56]

Tiberghien himself appeared to allude to these differences. “Catholic Action renews all the problems that it tackles and immediately discovers the inadequacy of the solutions with which we have been content,” he wrote in an article cited in 1948.[57] “The issues have all been raised but they are far from having been resolved. This work will continue slowly and the present generation will not see the end of it,” he concluded in a fitting epitaph to his own contribution.

In retirement, Pierre Tiberghien continued to promote the JOC and movements of Specialised Catholic Action to whose development he had so greatly contributed. He died on 4 November 1963 in the middle of Vatican II, too soon to learn that the Council would adopt many of the ideas he had championed.

III. Palémon Glorieux (1892 – 1979): From the JOC to Vatican II

In fact, Tiberghien’s younger colleague Palémon Glorieux, nephew of the “Tourcoing Italian” Mgr Louis Glorieux, was one of those who would promote those very ideas at the Council.

Born at Bray sur Somme on 8 March 1892, Glorieux, like Tiberghien, studied at Sacre Coeur College, Tourcoing. He also followed him to Rome where he studied at the French seminary before completing doctorates in philosophy and theology at the Gregorian.

Ordained in 1915, he was exempted from military service because of a heart condition. Since the war made it impossible to return to Lille, he was appointed as a curate in the worker parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Paris, where he first became involved with the working class. There, “25 years ahead” of the curve, he underwent “the same crucifying experiences as Fr Godin, the co-author with Yvan Daniel, of ‘France, pays de mission ?’ (Is France a mission country?), the book which caused such a stir when it was published in 1943,” as Fr Gérard Mathon[58] noted in his funeral oration for Glorieux in 1979.[59] 

Glorieux finally returned to Lille in 1919, where he was appointed professor of theology at the new Major Seminary alongside two other future bishops and JOC pioneers, Louis Liagre[60] and Liénart.[61]

Founder-chaplain of JOCF or Girls’ JOC

Following the visits of Six and Tiberghien to Belgium in 1925 and 1926, Glorieux and Liagre made personal contact with Cardijn during the latter’s visits to Lille in 1927. On 8 December, they launched a JOCF team at Lesquin, believed to be the first female JOC team in France.[62] Within a year, Glorieux had also become the first JOCF chaplain for the “federations” of Lille and Lille-Ouest.

In this capacity, he exercised a strong influence on the early JOCF leaders. “I have read the testimonies of those women whose faith and hope he had supported,” recalled Mgr Leman in his funeral homily, “and they movingly illustrated what priestly grace is capable of achieving in a person.”[63]

“It was through the JOC that I discovered Christ,” reads one testimony cited by Mgr Leman. “When Mgr Glorieux speaks, one has the impression that Christ was a living person. In this way, confidence came to replace fear and this certainty of God’s love has remained a great cause of peace and joy in my life.”

Dominican theologian, MD Chenu,[64] also affectionately recalled Glorieux’s work, which he compared to a “charism of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church.” This, at a time when the JOC was still “somewhat suspect, even with Cardijn in Belgium.”

“Allow me to mention the day in 1930 when the very first team of JOC chaplains, which was then under development in the North, came to seek lodging and counsel at the Saulchoir convent,” Chenu wrote.[65] “Along with Glorieux, also present were Fathers Liagre, Dewitte, Tiberghien and Fr Guérin, who came expressly from Paris for the meeting.”[66]

“I still vividly remember immediately grasping our communion in conviction (of the significance of) an insight, the radical nature and extent of which we would gradually come to understand. Today it seems quite commonplace but it was completely new at that time,” Chenu observed.

“It was through such events that I came to appreciate the link between the theologian, medieval specialist and the JOC chaplain in my friend Mgr Glorieux, who was always so discreet about his own role,” Chenu concluded.[67]

Theologian of the JOC

Indeed, it was as a theologian of the JOC that Glorieux perhaps made his greatest impact. In a series of articles published in La lettre des aumôniers (“Letter to chaplains”) of the French JOC, he developed the outline of a theology of the laity.

These articles were collected in a series of books. The first, Corps mystique et apostolat (Mystical Body and Apostolate), published in 1933 was published in several languages. Several others were also translated, including into Chinese: Le Christ et sa religion (Christ and his religion), Paul apôtre du Christ Jésus (Paul Apostle of Jesus Christ), Notre chef le Christ (Christ Our Leader), Sois fier ouvrier (Worker Be Proud) as well as into Polish (Paul apôtre du Christ and Pour mieux servir (To better serve). “Slim in volume and easy to read,” these books nevertheless achieved great success, Mathon noted.[68]

“Their objectives were as diverse as the needs for formation required appropriate tools,” he added. “For the jocists, who like many lay people then, were ignorant of Scripture, he wrote outlines of the Old Testament: Fils de David, fils d’Abraham (Son of David, Son of Abraham) and of the Gospels, Notre chef le Christ (Christ Our Leader) and the Paulinian corpus: Paul apôtre de Jésus-Christ (Paul, Apostle of Jesus Christ) and the early Christian community: Vu et vécu : L’Église en ses premiers débuts (Seen and Lived: The Earliest Beginnings of the Church).

“For people whose religious baggage had been limited to answers from the little catechism, it provided a general presentation of the faith and the meaning it gave to their existence: Enfant de Dieu, membre du Christ (Child of God, Member of Christ), Sois fier, ouvrier (Worker Be Proud), or Paysan, tu es fils de Dieu, (Farmer, You are a Son of God),” Mathon argued.

Several of Glorieux’s books were targeted to jocist chaplains. “Our priestly ideal – as former jocist leaders – was to continue as jocist chaplains for our whole lives,” Félix, a JOC leader who became a priest, said much later. “Moreover, we were strongly influenced by the publications of one of our professors, Fr Glorieux: Paul, apôtre du Christ (Paul, Apostle of Christ), Corps mystique et apostolat (Mystical Body and Apostolate).”[69]

Glorieux’s book, Ars artium (The art of arts), could even be regarded as a manual for JOC chaplains. In another book, Dans le prêtre unique (In the Only Priest), Glorieux developed a theology of the priesthood of lay people that he nevertheless preferred to characterise as “the priesthood of all the faithful.”

“Thus, he always attempted to raise questions by each time establishing a new ecclesiological framework that alone was able to deal with it,” explained Mathon. In effect, “the emergence and development of Specialised Catholic Action could not fail to fracture the ecclesiological frameworks in which most priests had then been trained.”[70]

Another small book, Pour commenter l’Evangile (Discussing the Gospel), presents a series of questionnaires dealing the most well-known Gospel passages. On the other hand, Sois fier ouvrier expounds a theology of human dignity that is very close to the way the subject is approached in Part I of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, Gaudium et spes.

Other books by Glorieux also anticipated Vatican II. “Dans le prêtre unique (1938) and L’Église à l’oeuvre (The Church at Work) (1939) already laid out several issues that would become key points at the Council, including the linkage between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood, on one hand, and the articulation of traditional structures (parishes and good works) with movements, on the other hand.”

Historian Louis Preneel also credits Glorieux with having a major influence on Cardijn’s own theology, particularly his articles on Le problème de l’Eglise (The Problem of the Church), published in La Vie intellectuelle in 1929, Vol. 2, 196-218 and 964-986, Vol. 3, 452-472).[71]

Glorieux deepened his reflection on this theme in his 1934 articles in Lettres aux aumôniers, republished as Corps mystique et apostolat and Cardijn reworked these ideas in several articles. Drawing on this, Cardijn set out in 1935 “the three truths[72] that enlighten the problem of young workers around the world, writes Paul Wynants.”[73] Glorieux’s writings were thus of enormous significance for Cardijn and, as we will see below, for the drafting of Gaudium et Spes.[74]

Fittingly, Glorieux’s last book relating to the JOC was his 1946 biography of Henri Godin, another Lille JOC chaplain.[75] Again like Tiberghien, Glorieux had taught Godin at the Ecole Missionnaire and was greatly influenced by his illustrious student.

Conciliar theologian

In parallel with all this, Glorieux continued his ground-breaking research on medieval theology. Some of his views on Aquinas drew fire from theological colleagues. Nevertheless, under Liénart’s protection, he avoided major problems with the Holy Office. Glorieux became dean of the Faculty of Theology at the Catholic University of Lille from 1943-48. In 1949, he was appointed as rector, a post he occupied until 1958.

He continued to publish on lay apostolate and Catholic Action issues, beginning with his 1944 book L’appel universel de l’Église (The Universal Call of the Church). In 1960, with Vatican II in preparation, he published Le Laïc dans l’Église (The lay person in the Church), which further developed the concept of the priesthood of the laity (sacerdoce des laïcs) and the “Christian people.”

This was followed in 1963 by his ecclesiological treatise, Nature et mission de l’Église : un guide pour l’étude de l’Eglise (Nature and Mission of the Church: A Guide to the Study of the Church). Here, Mathon points to “a quite remarkable parallel” between the last part of Glorieux’s book and “the themes that in 1964 and 1965 were among the hottest points of conciliar debate: The Church and the Christian Churches, The Church and Non-Christian religions, Dealing with Civil Society (a traditional issue), and Dealing with Culture and Progress (the novelty that the Constitution Gaudium et Spes would tackle).”[76]

When the Council opened in October 1962, Liénart appointed Glorieux as his theological adviser and personal secretary. Although it is difficult to separate Glorieux’s ideas from Liénart’s, one early report for the Council proposed that the schema on the Church in the world should emphasise the “dignity of man” as a “child of God,” created in “the image of God,” called to participate in the divine nature. It should explain his “origin and destiny,” his vocation to grow, multiply and master the earth in the light of his ultimate “supernatural vocation.”[77] Here again, we find a striking similarity with Glorieux’s earlier ideas, which had influenced Cardijn.

During the Council, when Cardijn was marginalised by his own bishop, Cardinal Suenens, he did not hesitate to call on Glorieux and Cardinal Liénart in an effort to make his message heard and to defend the JOC model.[78] Just as JOC pioneer, Fernand Bouxom carried the JOC “from the suburbs of Lille to the Bourbon Palace,” Palémon Glorieux transmitted the theology of the JOC from the parishes of Lille to St Peter’s Basilica.


Working with Cardijn, the JOC, the Missionary School of Labour, the Catholic University of Lille as well as with other Lille intellectuals including Eugène Masure, Roger Hasseveldt, Pierre Bayart and Joseph Delos as well as Cardinal Liénart, moving from the Sillon and the ACJF to the JOC, Pierre Tiberghien and Palémon Glorieux contributed to making the Diocese of Lille a centre of influence for Specialised Catholic Action, not only for France but for the whole world.

Stefan Gigacz

[1]        Achille Liénart (1884-1973): (Accessed 27/03/2020).

[2]        The Association catholique de la jeunesse française or Catholic Association of French Youth was founded in 1886.

[3]        Achille Liénart, Hommage au Cardinal Cardijn, 27/03/1966: Archives Cardijn 1086.

[4]        Charles Forbes René de Montalembert (1810-1870), Catholic Encyclopaedia 1917: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[5]        Jean-Baptiste-Henri Lacordaire (1802-1861), Wikipedia: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[6]        Antoine Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), Wikipedia: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[7]        Philibert Vrau (1829-1905), Catholic Encyclopaedia 1917: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[8]        Alphonse Gratry (1805-1872): (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[9]        Léon Ollé-Laprune (1839-1898): (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[10]        Marc Sangnier (1873-1950): (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[11]        Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play (1806-1883), Wikipedia: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[12]        Yves-Marie Hilaire, “Les abbés Six et Vanneufville et la revue La Démocratie Chrétienne (1894-1908), in Revue du Nord (1991) 290-291: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[13]        Le Sillon et l’alliance des Maisons d’Education Chrétienne, in La Démocratie Chrétienne, octobre 1903, N° 6, 328-329.

[14]        Jim Kennedy, L’Association catholique de la jeunesse catholique dans le diocèse de Lille, Revue du Nord, 1978, T. 208, 90.

[15]        Victor Brants (1856-1917), (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[16]        Joseph Cardijn, Bienvenue à Marc Sangnier (5 February 1921): (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[17]        Stefan Gigacz, “The Sillon and the YCW,” 1997: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[18]        From a press cutting found in Cardijn’s copy of La vie et doctrine du Sillon.

[19]        Ibid.

[20]        Pius X, Our Apostolic Mandate, 25 August 1910: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[21]        Victoire Cappe (1886-1927): (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[22]        Fernand Tonnet (1894-1945): (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[23]        Nadine-Josette Chaline, “Le catholicisme social dans le Nord au début du XXe siècle,” in Revue du Nord (1991), 309.

[24]        Joseph Cardijn, “Mgr Vanneufville et la JOC,” 196:—vanneufville-et-vermeesch (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[25]        Chaline, 307.

[26]        Jules Tiberghien, in André Caudron, Lille Flandres, Dictionnaire du Monde Religieux dans la France Contemporaine, Beauchesne, Paris, 1990, 446-447; Jules Tiberghien, Wikipedia: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[27]        Caudron, 259-260.

[28]        Pierre Bayart, Souvenirs, A la mémoire de Monseigneur Pierre Tiberghien (1880-1963), undated, 6-7.

[29]        Kennedy, 88.

[30]        Henri Godin (1903-1944), Cardijn Priests: (Accessed 25/03/2020).

[31]        Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy: (Accessed 25/03/2020).

[32]        Caudron, 448.

[33]        Bayart, 9.

[34]        Pierre Tiberghien, Mes cinquante ans de vie socialeUn témoignage, Extrait de La Chronique Sociale, N° 2, April 1952, 12p.: 5.

[35]        Bayart, 10.

[36]        Caudron, 448.

[37]        Kennedy, 88.

[38]        Adolphe Delmasure (1890-1978), (Accessed 25/03/2020)

[39]        Kennedy, 95.

[40]        Tiberghien, Mes cinquante ans, 3.

[41]        Joseph Wawrykow, Aquinas on Human Flourishing, NDIAS Quarterly, 2011: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[42]        Romeo Maione, Discover Cardijn, 1982: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[43]        Joseph Cardijn, Le problème du milieu, Rome, CIP, April-May 1946 in Archives Cardijn, 1839

[44]        Antonin Sertillanges, Wikipedia: (Accessed 25/03/2020).

[45]        AD Sertillanges, La philosophie morale de Saint Thomas d’Aquin, 2e édition, Félix Alcan, Paris, 1922, 218: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[46]        Pierre Tiberghien, L’Action Catholique, Expériences passées vues d’avenir, Editions Comprendre, Lille, 1945: 18-19.

[47]        Georges Béjot, (Accessed 25/03/2020).

[48]        Georges Béjot, Un évêque à l’école de la JOC, Editions ouvrières, Paris, 1978: 37.

[49]        Pierre Tiberghien, Une mauvaise définition de l’Action Catholique, in Notes de Pastorale Jociste, November 1933, 22-23. Extracted from Pierre Tiberghien, Comment on noie le poisson, in Nos oeuvres, 06/07/1933.

[50]        Roland Potvin, Le contenu propre de l’Action catholique, in Action catholique ouvrière, June 1952: 236-237.

[51]        Pierre Tiberghien, L’Action catholique, Expériences passées vues d’avenir, Editions Comprendre, Lille, 1945: 254.

[52]        Joseph Cardijn, “L’Action catholique,” in Notes de Pastorale Jociste, February-March 1946, N° 3: 59-60.

[53]        Cardijn, “L’Action catholique.”

[54]        Tiberghien, L’Action catholique: 49.

[55]        Cardijn, L’Action catholique.

[56]        Cardijn to Mgr Emile Guerry, 25/10/1951: Archives Cardijn 1086.

[57]        Notes de Pastorale Jociste, August-September 1948: 170.

[58]        Gérard Mathon, editor of the encylopaedia “Catholicisme,” succeeded Glorieux as the dean of the Faculty of Theology at the Catholic University of Lille.

[59]        G. Mathon, Eloge funèbre de M. l’abbé Mathon, in Eglise de Lille, N° 14, 20/07/1979: 324.

[60]        Bishop Louis Liagre (1993-1955): (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[61]        Cardinal Achille Liénart (1994-1973), Wikipedia: (Accessed 24/03/2020).

[62]        Caudron, Palémon Glorieux: 260.

[63]        Mgr Leman, Homélie aux funérailles de Mgr Glorieux, in Eglise de Lille, N° 14, 20/07/1979: 321-323.

[64]        Marie-Dominique Chenu (1895-1990); Wikipedia: (Accessed 25/03/2020).

[65]        The Dominican convent and theological college, Le Saulchoir, was then located at Kain, near Tournai in Belgium and not far from the French border near Lille. (Accessed 25/03/2020).

[66]        Liagre, Dewitte were chaplains of the JOC at Lille while Georges Guérin was the founder-chaplain of the French JOC.

[67]        MD Chenu, Témoignage: la ferveur des renouveaux, in Mélanges de Science Religieuse, XXXVIIe année, N° 3, September 1980: 131-159.

[68]        G. Mathon, L’oeuvre de Monseigneur Glorieux, in Mélanges de Science Religieuse, 37th Year, N° 3, September 1980: 153.

[69]        Cf. L. N. Berthe, J.O.C. je te dois tout, p 43, cited by Mathon in L’oeuvre, 154.

[70]        Mathon, L’oeuvre, 154.

[71]        Louis Preneel, “Kerkbeeld en kerkbeleving in de publikaties van Cardijn,” in Cardijn, un homme, un mouvement. Cardijn, een mens, een beweging. Handelingen van het colloquium. Actes du colloque Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve, 18-19/11/1982, Leuven, 1983: 48-55.

[72]        A reference to Cardijn’s Three Truths dialectic. Joseph Cardijn, The Three Truths, 1935: (Accessed 25/03/2020).

[73]        Paul Wynants, Palémon Glorieux, in Le Maitron: (Accessed 26/03/2020).

[74]        Stefan Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council: The jocist network at Vatican II, Ph.D. thesis, University of Divinity, 2018, Ch. 9.

[75]        Palémon Glorieux, Un homme providentiel: l’abbé Godin, Bonne Presse, Paris, 1946.

[76]        Mathon, L’oeuvre, 155.

[77]        Liénart, “Rapport à la Commission de Coordination, 21/01/1963.” In Achille Liénart, “Vatican II.”

Mélanges de Science Religieuse, Volume 33, Numéro Supplémentaire, 90-92 (1976).

[78]        Gigacz, The Leaven in the Council, Ch. 9.