By April 1961, the reflections and contributions of other members of the PCLA as well as other relevant organisations were coming in.
Attentive as always, Cardijn responded carefully to the issues raised, as Note 7 on “Religious formation and support for Catholic Action leaders” illustrates.
“The COPECIAL notes rightly emphasise the necessity of a very profound religious, apostolic, supernatural formation for all leaders who are engaged at local, regional, national or international level; and also on the necessity of sufficient aid to guarantee their perseverance,” citing approvingly a paper submitted by the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Lay Apostolate, a semi-official body created following the first World Congress on Lay Apostolate in 1951.
“The notes also signal the importance of belonging to Secular Institutes,” Cardijn continued, before turning to his more substantive comments in which he appears to be more critical of the positions of the COPECIAL.
“It is necessary first to insist on the duty and the possibility of the Catholic Action movements to give this formation and to ensure this aid,” Cardijn argued, emphasising the role of the movements in providing such formation.
“These movements would not be movements of Catholic Action if they neglected or under-valued the profound religious formation of their members, a fortiori of their (men and women) leaders, whether the latter are volunteers or fulltimers at whichever level of the movement,” he added.
Secondly, it was “important to note that ‘extension workers’ are not the only international fulltime leaders,” he noted, referring to those movement workers and volunteers who left to promote and develop their movements in other countries and continents.
“The members of the International Executive Committees, Bureaux and Secretariats are the first to bear fulltime apostolic responsibilities,” highlighting the importance of their roles.
The leaven in the dough
Thirdly, this formation needed to be provided at every level:
“This formation which goes progressively from the base to the summit, is the only one which guarantees contact with life and needs of the mass and places the leaven in the dough, and not beside or above it.”
It must therefore “be one of the principal preoccupations of the Catholic Action movements, their leaders and chaplains, to continually seek to improve, to renew and to adapt this formation,” he continued.
Fourthly, he insisted on the importance of the role of lay leaders, particularly warning against the usurpation of those role by lay leaders who belonged to secular institutes whose role necessarily had to remain discreet.
“In general, the leaders do not know if a member, militant or leader of a movement belongs to a Secular Institute,” he said. “They must not know. They are not obliged to reveal their belonging to an Institute, either to leaders, or chaplains.
“If it is done, it more as a gesture of personal confidence with respect to a chaplain or a leader, or for practical reasons; however it is not because they are obliged juuridically or morally. Those who receive this information personally are bound by secret. They cannot use this belonging to a Secular Institute to confide a charge or a function in a Catholic Action movement.”
Rather, it was “the movement alone which decides the choices of its leaders and the influence that they exercise.”
“The assistance of the Secular Institute belongs on another level; it can never replace that of a Catholic Action movement and must always and everywhere be as discreet as possible,” he said.
The role of members of secular institutes was more in the nature of a counsellor, he concluded.
“The problems of counsellors belonging to Secular Institutes, as to Religious Congregations is different from that of (men and women) leaders,” he said.
Joseph Cardijn, Note 7 – Formation religieuse et soutien des dirigeants d’Action catholique (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)
Joseph Cardijn, Note 7 – Religious formation and support for Catholic Action leaders (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)