Fievez’s confidential remarks

Deeply upset by Suenens’ modus operandi (as well as his “notorious” views on Catholic Action and lay apostolate, Marguerite Fiévez wrote a confidential note recording the way in which Suenens’ opposition to Cardijn’s text was made known to him, not directly but through intermediaries, including Cardijn’s adjunct as international chaplain of the YCW, Marcel Uylenbroeck.


These handwritten notes date from March 1963. They refer to the differences of opinion between Cardinal Suenens and Mgr Cardijn, on the occasion of the publication of the latter’s book “Laics en Premières Lignes”.

As is customary, Mgr Cardijn had submitted the proof of his book to the archdiocese in order to obtain the Imprimatur. As it turned out, Cardinal Suenens didn’t share Mgr Cardijn’s views on the laity, Catholic Action, etc. (it was common knowledge), so the Cardinal saw fit to ask Mgr Cardijn indirectly for changes to the text submitted for ecclesiastical censorship.

It happened as follows:

The censor, Mgr Ceuppens, called Abbé Uylenbroeck, Mgr Cardijn’s assistant, to Mechelen to inform him of the points to be changed, inviting him to obtain these changes from Mgr Cardijn. Cardijn would no doubt accept them better in a conversation with his deputy, and above all, the Cardinal would not be implicated.

Cardijn was very surprised and saddened, both by the Cardinal’s desire to obtain changes which affected his own conception of Catholic Action, and by the procedure employed, which in a way deflected responsibility.

Leaving the same day for a tour of Germany, he refused to act without thinking.

The first two points of the handwritten notes are nothing compared to the disarray that had seized him:

  1. Suffering: first time (that he had disagreed with hierarchical authority on the essentials of his thinking)
  2. Apostolate of my whole life (he couldn’t see the possibility of changing anything essential in his text, without denying what he had always affirmed and for which he had been unconditionally supported by the Popes and numerous bishops and theologians).

Please consult the files relating to the edition of the work, for the precise points in dispute.

On his return from Germany, Cardijn went to Mechelen on April 8, where he was once again shocked by the apparently cordial and fraternal welcome he received from the Cardinal, who embraced him, denying that there was “anything” between them.



Archives Cardijn 1777

1963 03 15 – Fiévez – Confidential note