Canonical mission and hierarchical mandate

Note 6 - Canonical mission and hierarchical mandate

On 5 March 1961, Cardijn composed Note 6, which he entitled “Reflection on the note “DE MISSIONE CANONICA ET MANDATO HIERARCHIAE” of Rev. Fr. Papali O.C.D.”

In this he sought to dispel some of the (many) misconceptions surrounding the meaning of “canonical mission” and “mandate” that were then in circulation and to present his own conception of how these terms applied to the JOC and other Specialised Catholic Action movements.

In relation to “canonical mission,” he asks: “Could the meaning of this term not be extended to a mission which of itself belongs to lay people in the Church, which is proper to them, but the organisation of which is mandated by the Hierarchy?”

In other words, lay people have a mission of their own without the need for any sort of superadded canonical mission. On the other hand, the term was applicable to organisations which had been mandated by the local bishop or bishops.

Secondly, he insisted that any hierarchical mandate granted to a Catholic Action organisation was limited to the “mission confided.”

“It does not give a monopoly, nor does it give an international organisation a power above the power of the local Hierarchy,” he insisted, repudiating the accusation made by then-Bishop Léon-Joseph Suenens of Brussels that the movements were seeking a monopoly.

Rather, ” it is more an order of mission, than an encouragement or an approval, in order to officialise a private mission and to guarantee it to the subordinated hierarchies, who maintain all their power of jurisdiction and to stimulate the members of the organisation,” Cardijn explained.

Nor was this a personal mandate.

“As a general rule, the mandate as the mission is given to the organisation as such; to the leaders named as such, the ordinary leaders, the leaders and members only participate in a relative manner, depending on their authority, their competency and their activity in the movement,” he continued.

“The mission or the mandate increases the responsibility of the leaders and members and is a stimulant to vigilance and the spirit of conquest and sacrifice.

“This mission or mandate officially inserts the apostolate and the organisation within that of the Church and makes it an apostolate of the Church, an apostolic institution of the Church,” he concluded.

As clear as Cardijn’s explanation was, it was not easily accepted by his opponents.

SOURCES

Original French

Joseph Cardijn, Note 6 – Mission canonique et mandat hiérarchique (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, Note 6 – Canonical mission and hierarchical mandate (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Suggestions for Bishop De Smedt

Bishop Emile-Joseph De Smedt

In March 1961, Bishop Emile-Joseph De Smedt of Bruges consulted Cardijn on the drafting of a proposed pastoral letter on “the priesthood of the faithful.”

And he does not fear to correct De Smedt, characterising one phrase as simply “erronée” – erroneous or incorrect.

Whereas De Smedt appears to have mentioned “les fidèles” or “the faithful”, Cardijn insists on speaking of the “lay faithful.”

In typical fashion, he is concerned that ordinary people will be able to understand the document, questioning terms such as “ministerial” as in “ministerial priesthood.”

Nor does he approve of the term “corporation” used by De Smedt to distinguish between the “corporation of priests” in the Church and the “corporation of all the baptised.”

He emphasises the “missionary apostolate.”

And he insists that priests are “animators” and “not just administrators.

Specialised Catholic Action

Also highly significant is Cardijn distinction between Specialised and General Catholic Action

Specialised Catholic Action is concerned with “the whole of life, all the problems of life,” he says.

On the other hand, he views “General Catholic Action” as a “coordination of all Specialised CA organizations.”

Moreover Catholic must be more concerned with having an “impact” than providing “services,” Cardijn argues, adding characteristically that it must be organised “at the parish, diocesan, national and international level.”

“Shouldn’t more importance be given to studying its development” he asks in conclusion.

SOURCE

French original

Joseph Cardijn, A la lecture d’un texte (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, On reading a document (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Bishop Emile-Joseph De Smedt (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)