In an eight page typed document dated 10 December 1960 and entitled “Votum de laicis eorumque loco in Ecclesia,” (Vote on the place of lay people in the Church,” Congar sought to summarise his views in response to the Theological Commission’s outline schema on the Church.
The Church’s primary mission was the salvation of all people, Congar noted.ù
However, it also possessed a secondary mission, as he explained:
“A secondary mission of the Church (deriving from the primary mission to which it was connected): tends towards ‘consecration of the world,’ thus influencing the temporal social order a) to accord with God’s justice and charity, as far as possible, and b) ordained to God,” Congar wrote.
Each person participated in this second mission in accordance with their own state in life, Congar continued. The mission of the hierarchy was to move and direct, he noted.
However, the role of the laity was to act as a “leaven the dough, because unlike priests and monks, the lay faithful live fully in the world, were engaged in issues and thus were able to act to direct human affairs towards and for God,” Congar wrote.
Monopoly of Catholic Action?
Congar also noted the controversy that had arisen from Bishop Léon-Joseph Suenens article alleging that reserving the term Catholic Action for certain organised kinds of the lay apostolate tended to create an impression that these organisations had a monopoly over the field of Catholic Action.
Congar thus sought to set out a series of criteria for Catholic Action.
“Catholic Action existed when the hierarchy, 1) Accepted that any enterprise or work of the faithful that was undertaken either voluntarily or at the instigation of the hierarchy, fulfilled at least in part some functions that had been given to the heirs of the apostles whom the Lord had sent to “teach all nations.”
2 °) Took upon themselves to cooperate with this organisation or movement and
3° ) consequently, it gave it more specific and more active guides and studies.
“In this way, the organisations or movements of Catholic Action joined with the action and directives of the hierarchy (directives that were not despotic but policy and philosophical principles) with Catholic lay people directly and immediately responsible.”
Yves Congar, Votum de laicis eorumque loco in Ecclesia (Archives Gerard Philips, 154, Leuven)