There was more bad news for Cardijn on 17 October 1960.
The Rome-based members of the PCLA had already met in October to discuss and decide upon the organisation of the work of the commission.
Now Cardinal Cento announced that three sub-commissions were to be created to study three themes: evangelisation, social action and charitable action, with Cardijn appointed to the first of these commissions.
But from Cardijn’s point of view, how could such a division of tasks be reconciled with his vision of lay apostolate transforming the whole of lay life? It was a compartmentalisation that risked reducing evangelisation to its spiritual dimension and confining social and charitable action to their temporal dimensions.
Moreover, it completely contradicted the “incarnational” approach that Cardijn had defended and presented to Pope John just nine months earlier:
“The formation of the disciples of Christ, from whatever social rank, includes this authentic lay apostolate, which will become increasingly urgent and must reach the whole of humanity,” Cardijn had argued.
“And the more we invite the faithful to seek the means to incarnate and realise this spirit, the more the Church will raise up the militants and the apostles that the new world needs in order to be truly animated by the spirit of Christ,” he wrote.
How could lay people be formed to grasp such a mission if the task of evangelisation was to be separated from social and charitable action?
Moreover, at a practical level in terms of the work of the PCLA, Cardijn now found himself sidelined if not excluded from the important work of the social and charitable action sub-commissions.
Nor was Cardijn alone in his concerns. In his history of the drafting process, Ferdinand Klostermann would later write somewhat cryptically of the creation of three sub-commissions: “This division was later to prove a source of difficulty for the commission.”
Achille Glorieux, Histoire du Décret ‘Apostolicam Actuositatem’ sur l’Apostolat des laïcs” in A. Glorieux, R. Goldie, Y. Congar, H.-R. Weber, G. Hasenhüttl, J. Grootaers, M-J. Beccaria, P. Toulat et H. Küng, L’Apostolat des Laïcs, Décret “Apostolicam actuositatem” (Sous la direction de Y. Congar), Séries Unam Sanctam 75, Cerf, Paris, 1970, 91-140.
Ferdinand Klostermann, “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, History of the text,” in Herbert Vorgrimler (editor), Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Volume III, Herder and Herder, 1969, 273.
Joseph Cardijn, Priests and the social doctrine of the Church (Archives Cardijn 1299) (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)