On 20 November 1962, two overlapping groups of bishops, many of whom were linked to Cardijn and had met him during his visit to Rome, addressed two petitions to Pope John XXIII on the twin themes of the world “ad extra” and the Church.
Stefan Gigacz writes:
Although it is not possible to definitively establish a link with Cardijn’s visit, which concluded on 20 November, it is highly suggestive that the next day, two overlapping groups of bishops, including several whom Cardijn had just met, addressed petitions to Pope John via Cardinal Cicognani dealing with the twin themes of world and Church.
At least eight of the first group, namely Himmer, Larrain, Ancel, Angerhausen, Marcos McGrath, Cooray, Helder Camara and Bernard Yago, were all closely linked to Cardijn.
Citing the pontiff’s own insistence that the problems of the world have always been in the heart of the Church and appealing for solutions based on the dignity of man and the Christian vocation, they called for the establishment of a secretariat or commission that would discuss the role of the Church ‘ad extra’ in responding to ‘the most important issues of today’s world.’
The same day the second group of eleven bishops addressed another letter to Cicognani calling for greater clarity in the organisation of the work before the Council and proposing that the next session of the Council should begin with a discussion on the Constitution on the Church. Overlapping with the signatories on the first letter, this group included Camara, McGrath,
Larrain and Cooray as well as another three Jocist bishops, Jean Zoa, Pierre Veuillot and Maurice Baudoux.
In any event, it is clear that lobbying for the Council to adopt a twin focus on Church and world was making significant progress.
In addition to the 160 elected bishops, John XXIII added nine appointed members bringing the total number in each commission to twenty-five.
Although there was no Jocist ‘ticket,’ the results revealed a significant representation of movement-linked bishops in nearly every Commission.
This was particularly so in the all-important Doctrinal Commission on Faith and Morals (Doctrinal Commission) and in the Lay Apostolate Commission (LAC), which now had the clumsy, formal title of Commission on the Apostolate of the Faithful, Press and Public Spectacles [sic], each of which each included at least eight such bishops.
Gabriel-Marie Garrone, longstanding proponent of the JOC Joseph Schröffer, who participated in the IYCW Rome pilgrimage in 1957 Alfredo Scherer, a JOC supporter from Brazil Paul Emile Léger, a Canadian proponent of the SCA movements André-Marie Charue, who had links with the Belgian JOC back to 1924 Marcos McGrath CSC, Holy Cross father and JOC patron in Panama Maurice Roy, pioneer JOC chaplain, cousin of Quebec JOC founder, Henri Roy
Bishop Georges Pelletier, Canadian bishop closely linked to the SCA movements
Lay Apostolate Commission
Manuel Larrain, pioneer of Specialised Catholic Action in Chile Franz Hengsbach, bishop of Essen, seat of the German JOC/CAJ Jacques Ménager, bishop responsible for Catholic Action movements in France John E. Petit, an English bishop close to the YCW Joseph Blomjous, of Dutch origin, supporter of the SCA movements in Tanzania Paul Yu Pin, JOC pioneer in China before coming to Formosa (Taiwan) Gerardus De Vet, director of (Specialised) Catholic Action, Breda, Netherlands
René Stourm, an early JOC chaplain in France
This gave the Jocist bishops close to a third of the numbers in each of these commissions, with the former responsible for the future Lumen Gentium, and both responsible for the eventual Gaudium et Spes.
Other members of the LAC also supported the JOC and Specialised Catholic Action to varying extents, including Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, the Salesian archbishop of Santiago, who admired Cardijn, Emilio Guano, a former International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS-Pax Romana) chaplain from Italy, as well as Castellano and Luigi Civardi from Italian Catholic Action.
The Doctrinal Commission also included Vienna Cardinal Franz König, who had known Cardijn for decades particularly through the Pax Romana network.
A notable absentee in the LAC, however, was Cardijn’s Belgian ally, Charles-Marie Himmer, whose nomination had been opposed by Suenens, who confirmed this in a 16 October 1962 letter to Veronica O’Brien of the Legion of Mary:In any event, the 65 Belgian missionary bishops are behind me – which is not the case for the seven here (i.e. the seven diocesan bishops)… I felt this in De Smedt’s manoeuvres which aimed to place Himmer on the list of candidates for the Catholic Action Commission (i.e. Lay Apostolate Commission). I told him privately that I did not agree with the idea but he publicly returned to the charge for him to be included on our list.
Indeed, Suenens was ‘very isolated among the Belgian bishops on account of his ideas of the lay apostolate,’ as Congar noted, although he remained undeterred in his campaign against the alleged ‘monopolisation’ of Catholic Action.
Promisingly, every other commission also included a Jocist presence.
Bishops and Government of Dioceses
Emile Guerry, another French JOC pioneer Pierre Veuillot, previously in the Holy See, connected to France’s Mission ouvrière
Discipline and Sacraments
Alexandre Renard, Liénart protégé, involved in the Ecole Missionaire du Travail in Lille
Discipline of the Clergy and the Christian People
Guillaume Van Zuylen, bishop of Liège, Belgium Agnelo Rossi, JUC/JIC chaplain from Brazil François Marty, JOC/JAC chaplain in France Thomas Cooray omi, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Gerard Huyghe, bishop of Arras, another Liénart protégé and promoter of SCA Jean Janssens SJ, the Jesuit Superior General and close friend of Cardijn
Guy Riobé, bishop of Orleans, JAC chaplain and promoter of JOC and ACO Jean Zoa, bishop of Yaoundé, Cameroon, former JOC chaplain Cardinal Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, a Cardijn disciple since the 1930s
Henri Jenny, Sillon sympathiser from Lille, and auxiliary bishop to Guerry at Cambrai Joseph Malula, JOC chaplain from Congo Kinshasa Enrique Rau, former national chaplain of JOC Argentina Bernardo Fey Schneider, former national chaplain of JOC Bolivia Seminaries, Studies and Catholic Education Ramon Bogarin, JOC founder in Paraguay Denis Hurley omi, Cardijn disciple from South Africa Emile Blanchet, participated in 1950 JOC Internationale congress, Brussels Justin Simonds, Melbourne co-adjutor and long-time JOC supporter
Christian Unity Emile-Joseph De Smedt, former JOCF chaplain and close to Cardijn
Cardijn had only been back a month from the first plenary meeting of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate (PCLA) in Rome but he was already on the move again, this time to Africa for an important leaders training session of the International YCW.
Before leaving, he hurried to complete two more notes for the Commission numbered as Note 2 and Note 3. Note 3, entitled “Quelques réflexions et suggestions (A few reflections and suggestions) and dated 15 December 1960, offered a detailed response to the PCLA’s proposed plan of work.
Note 2, again entitled simply “L’apostolat des laïcs” (The apostolate of lay people) and dated 16 December 1960, explained what Cardijn characterised as the “two essential, primordial and inseparable aspects” of the lay apostolate, namely “its relationship with God, Christ and the Church; with the plan of God in the work of Creation and Redemption,” and on the other hand “its relationship with the fundamental problems of man and the world, with their influences and their depth, in their total dimension.”
Seeking theological counsel – but not in Brussels or Louvain
Before sending these notes to the PCLA, Cardijn therefore sought to get feedback from a trusted confidant and theologian, namely Mgr Désiré Joos, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Tournai in the industrial south of Belgium. Why Mgr Joos rather than say Mgr Gerard Philips, a recognised expert on the theology of the laity at the University of Louvain whom Cardijn had previously consulted?
Cardijn does not explain of course. Nevertheless, he had previously come into (theological) conflict with Philips during the preparation and holding of the Second International Congress on Lay Apostolate in Rome in October 1957 where the latter was a keynote speaker. Moreover, Philips appeared to have allied himself with the Malines-Brussels auxiliary, Bishop Léon-Joseph Suenens, who had also criticised Cardijn’s approach.
Indeed, Suenens had published a major 1958 article in the Belgian Jesuit journal, Nouvelle Revue Théologique, entitled “L’unité multiforme de l’Action catholique” (The multiform unity of Catholic Action) in which, without mentioning Cardijn, he accused the Specialised Catholic Action movements of seeking a “monopoly” of Catholic Action.
Mgr Désiré Joos and Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer of Tournai
Cardijn’s choice of Mgr Désiré Joos from Tournai was therefore highly significant. Just 20km from the northern French city of Lille, Tournai lies in the middle of the coal mining belt that extends across Belgium and into France.
Its bishop was Charles-Marie Himmer (photo above), originally from the neighbouring Diocese of Namur, who had been a JOC and Specialised Catholic Action chaplain from the 1930s. As a bishop, he had already made himself known for his closeness to the working class.
In 1952, he had organised a Social Week that began with an enquiry carried out in every parish of the diocese into the “economic and social problems” in each parish. Addressing JOC chaplains at the conclusion of this enquiry, he took as his subject “Le problème ouvrier” (The worker problem), emphasising the importance of the work of the JOC in educating young workers to enable them to face up to the issues that had emerged.
“J’ai pratiqué à plein la méthode de Cardijn : voir, juger, agir,” Bishop Himmer also said on another occasion. “I fully practised the method of Cardijn: see, judge, act.”
“J’y suis resté fidèle, et j’y crois toujours,” he continued. “I have stayed faithful to it and I still believe in it.”
So it’s little surprise that he would also choose a vicar-general cut from the same jocist cloth. Thus, Mgr Joos, who served as Himmer’s vicar-general from 1954 to 1977, was also responsible for the Specialised Catholic Action movements in the diocese.
Mgr Joos was therefore clearly a man in whom Cardijn had great confidence and who shared his vision of the lay apostolate, particularly among workers.
“You are aware that I am a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity in preparation for the next Ecumenical Council. I had to take an oath to maintain secrecy concerning all the documents I receive – and I believe this also applies to the meetings,” Cardijn wrote, clearly vexed by these restrictions.
“However, I need to consult with people more competent than myself or seek the assistance of collaborators in relation to many issues,” he continued.
“I am not able to type and I don’t understand Italian!” he lamented. “Moreover, other collaborators are also bound to the same secrecy as I am!”
“Given these circumstances, could I ask you to read and evaluate the next two notes that I would like to send to the Commission soon,” Cardijn requested. “I also enclose the first note which I sent earlier prior to the meeting that took place last November.
Cardijn’s twin concerns: Church and world
Apologising for several repetitions in the notes, Cardijn now moved to the crux of his concerns, namely “the relationship of the lay apostolate with God, with Christ, the Church and the Hierarchy in the Church; and on the other hand, the relationship with the problems to be solved by the laity and the apostolate of the laity in our modern world.
“This second relationship is often overlooked, if not ignored, particularly in the statements and definitions. Is there a way to overcome this?” Cardijn asked. “This problem really haunts me.”
Behind his polite language, Cardijn was in effect accusing the PCLA was ignoring the world and focusing only on the Church! What kind of conception of the apostolate of the laity could there be that ignored this issue?
“The Council is a unique opportunity which will not come again for a long time,” Cardijn warned. “And by then, the problems will have been solved either by us or despite us.”
Although he does not name Bishop Himmer, we can surmise that Cardijn also wanted Mgr Joos to relay these concerns to his bishop to the extent that this was possible without compromising Cardijn’s oath of secrecy.
“By the time you receive this letter,” Cardijn concluded, “I will have left for Africa where I will remain until 24 or 25 January. On 30 January, I need to be in Rome for the second session of the Commission. However, the note needs to reach the secretariat without delay (by December 22, it seems!). Could you entrust your precise remarks to Mademoiselle Fiévez who will take care of the sending the documents once the typing is finished?
“But after my return from Africa, perhaps I could see you for a moment just before my departure for Rome and discuss all this with you again.
Please excuse me for bothering you in this way. But you will me doing me a great service. And if in your view my request seems to contradict the oath that I have taken, please feel free to reject it,” Cardijn wrote.
On 26 October 1959, Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer of Tournai, a long-standing proponent of the JOC and Specialised Catholic Action, wrote to Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal DomenicTardini, with his reflections for the Ante-Preparatory Commission.
He first sought clarification on “moral” issues, particularly marital questions. He also raised the issue of using vernacular language in the mass and the use of more appropriate scriptural readings.
Finally, he sought clarification of the notion of Catholic Action, which had been under challenge in various quarters.
“Rogatur ut conceptus actionis catholicae a Pio XI traditus elucidetur et servetur ad rite secernendam hanc apostolatus laicorum formam nostris temporibus maxime adaptatam ab aliis speciebus apostolatus in quibus laici sese devovent.”
Rough translation based on Google
It is requested to clarify the concept of Catholic Action that Pius XI regarded as especially adapted to our times for the promotion of the apostolate of lay people…