The world scene of Catholic Action
(The Editors, i.e. Paul McGuire and John Fitzsimons
Catholic Action is in being.
Its task is essentially the task of the apostolate. It teaches all nations. In all nations now it moves. In some there appear its first social effects. One may see the beginnings, here and there, of a new Christian commonwealth. That transformation of society for which the Holy Father pleaded, begins. This book is less a study of the principles of Catholic Action (for these, there is Civardi's admirable Manual of Catholic Action) than of Catholic Action in being, of the experience of Catholic Action.
The immediate task of Catholic Action is not to transform society, but to form consciences. The transformation of society can only appear as an effect of transformed consciences. If consciences are rightly ordered, there will be right order in society. If our institutions are disordered and perverted, it is because our moral values are perverse and disordered. Society is composed of men and women. Its moral health depends upon their moral health. Catholic Action is a mission to men and women. It seeks to extend to them the meaning, the peace, the order of Christ our Lord, so that all things may be restored in Him.
The phrase Catholic Action has been widely abused, even amongst Catholics. It is not political action, it is not economic action, it is not merely an intensification of the devotional life. It is the action of the Church on the world. And it marches.
Consider one instance.
In the years immediately after the World War, the Christian position throughout the industrial provinces of Belgium appeared desperate. The age-old Christian life and culture of the Belgians was being submerged in urban industrialism. The conditions of life and work were appalling. The old social ties that had held men to the Church were dissolving, and it hardly seemed possible that Christian virtue could survive in that environment. It was estimated that nine in ten of the children who went into the mines and the mills were lost to the Faith within a few months.
Three men decided to act. A young priest and two young laymen, workers, came together. They made up their minds that they would live their Faith and put it into practice in their families, among their friends; that they would conquer themselves, conquer their families, conquer their comrades of the factories, conquer all their comrades of the working-class, conquer Belgium, conquer for Christ.
They are doing it.
There were three of them. In 1920, there were two hundred of them. In 1925, six hundred delegates from branches of the organisation they had founded attended their Brussels Congress. In 1930, there were six thousand delegates at Namur. In 1937, more than eighty thousand young men and women of the working-classes, all under twenty-five years of age, representatives of their comrades in the factories, the mines, and the mills of twenty-four different countries, came to their Paris Congress.
That is the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne, J. O. C., the Young Christian Workers. It is one phase of Catholic Action. It is the workers' division of the youth section of Catholic Action. It is raising the Cross in the most sordid and dehumanised of all man's battlefields. It promises even to transform that grey, bitter world into which the masses of men-made proletarians have sunk. Deep in the coal-mine with us works Christ our King proclaim the great banners of the Flemish miners. He and they are transforming that world in which the industrialised masses were trapped, that soured, pitiless world of the mills and the mines and the factories. For even there, grace will work with men who co-operate with grace.
Catholic Action has existed since that moment when our Lord gave a Mission to His first Apostles. Catholic Action, as we understand it to-day, is not a new thing, but a new technique, a new method of approach to the people of a changed world.
It is a reinsistence, a reaffirmation, of the laymen's part in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church. The Church, the whole Church, is to teach all nations. The layman to-day is reminded of his part in that charge and mission.
It is plain that the methods which served in the old, pre-industrial societies cannot serve the needs of this new world into which we have come, this world of huge, teeming populations, of vast new barracks-cities, of fantastic wealth and even more fantastic poverty, this world has destroyed the old traditions and the settled ways of life, which has wrenched men away from the old close-knit communities in which they found some measure of social and economic security, which has thrown them into a social and economic and moral maelstrom. For the masses of the industrial countries (and almost all countries are now industrialised) the whole shape of life has changed. There has never been so abrupt and remorseless a change in all human history. Even now, we are only beginning to understand the effects on men's minds and morals of that change.
In this new world, all old things were threatened. The ancient order of Christendom had been shattered, and the soul of Christendom, its belief in Christ, seemed doomed to die. The traditional organisation of the Church, which had been shaped to the needs of the apostolate in the old societies, no longer sufficed for the new. New instruments, new methods had to be found to reach the proietarianised masses. If the Faith was to survive amongst those masses, it must be preached to them anew. And preached in places and amongst men to whom the priests of the Church no longer found access. The priest cannot go into the mine, the factory, the office, the store, to work and live amongst the people as he had been able to work and live amongst them in the communities of a simpler world. So the apostolic task has come, with new emphasis, to the laity who are already living and working amongst the peoples of the mines, the factories, the offices, the exchanges and marts, and all the provinces of a secularised society.
Catholic Action is an apostolate. Its end is to win men to Christ as men were won to Christ by Peter and Paul. It is a social apostolate. It seeks to restore right order in society, to recreate society. But its action is not political. The breaking societies of the West cannot be renewed by political or economic panaceas. It is a moral sickness from which the body of society suffers, and it will not be cured by local plasters upon local symptoms. Politics, economics, are phases of human behaviour, but human behaviour is inevitably determined by the values which men hold, by their sense of right and wrong. The social crisis and its economic and political manifestations are effects of wrong values, of the long confusion of right and wrong. It is the task of Catholic Action to restore in men the values of Christ, the meanings of Christ: to set society right by setting right the men who compose society. As Catholic Action grows, as it restores the Christian community, the bond of charity finds active expression in the institutions and organisations which proceed from Catholic Action. The great co-operative organisations of the Belgian peasants and the Belgian working men, the Boerenbond and the League of Christian Workers, with their community services for education, for banking, for assurance, for buying, for selling, are social effects of Catholic Action. They point the way to a new social order; they are, obviously, the beginnings of a new Christian social order, but they are to be seen as effects, not as the particular end of Catholic Action. Catholic Action restores society by converting it to Christ ... it restores all things in Him.
How else are they to be restored?
In every part of the world it seeks to extend the Kingdom of Christ. Nowhere yet has it achieved its mature forms. It is in process of formation, of development. It is not a piece of machinery which can be erected here, there, and anywhere by a process of manufacture, to the design of a blueprint. Catholic Action belongs to life. It is a thing that grows. What is growing is a new community, a new society, a Christian society. This chapter describes it in growth and the experience of growth.
In some places and amongst some peoples it is more advanced; it grows faster than amongst others. We have given particular attention in the body of the book to the more advanced forms of Catholic Action in their national structures and in the life of their units, because we believe that the experiences of the advanced forms will have lessons for the less advanced. Though each country must find its own best local methods, it is apparent that certain experiences are likely to recur in Catholic Action everywhere: these deserve universal attention. In the search for right methods, the right technique, the experience of those who have formed their methods and technique is constantly suggestive and useful. We have been concerned to describe certain achieved models here.
Each country, each milieu, each local group must modify its methods and ultimately shape its technique and its organisations according to its own needs, its native temperament and traditions, its human climate. But each, of course, will adhere to the fundamental principles of Catholic Action which are common just as the Faith and Order of the Church are common. There is Catholic unity. There is also diversity according to the local needs of men.
There is an obvious diversity, for instance, in the circumstances of men even within a single parish. There will be men who work in factories, artisans, labourers, transport workers, students, the middle classes, men who employ, men who are employed. Each of these men is to be an apostle in his own milieu, to his fellows in the factory, the office, the running-sheds, the schools; with each there will be different problems to solve, different methods to use. In the advanced forms of Catholic Action there is need for specialisation, determined by the milieu, the environment of the apostolate.
The principle of specialisation indeed is implied in the most elementary forms of Catholic Action. There is Catholic Action for men, Catholic Action for women, Catholic Action for young men, Catholic Action for young women. The differences of age and sex are immediately recognised. Further, the Holy Father has indicated the need for specialisation according to vocation when he has said that the apostle to the working-man must be the working-man, to the employer the employer.
This is not an emphasis upon differences in economic and social status. It does not confirm class-divisions. It recognises the fact of these differences, and its influence in the work of conversion, and it recalls to each man his responsibility to those about him. The employer has no familiar understanding of the workers' milieu, and he has neither the opportunity nor the experience to make a successful apostolate in it. Similarly, the worker is hardly likely to bring Christ to the employers. He is not himself one of them. The underlying principle of specialisation is this: if the world is to be won for Christ, then each one of us must strive to win his own little world, the world of his daily communications and intercourse. He must win himself, he must win his family, he must win the men and women with whom he is, day by day, in association: the people he works with, plays with, eats with, travels with, all his little world. If each Catholic is winning his own little world then the whole world is being won. And how else can it be won?
So far from this specialised action confirming class distinctions, it is, in fact, the one way to overcome them: for as each class grows in knowledge and understanding of a Faith made common to all classes, so the common obligations are stressed and enforced with common sanctions. Catholic Action is theologically based on the doctrine of the Mystical Body: we are members, one of another. It is only in the realisation of that transcendent fellowship that the true social unity may be achieved.
For the diversity of men, diversity of methods; but it is a variety in unity.
The layman possesses a part in the hierarchy of the Church, but his action in the apostolate depends upon a specific mandate from his Bishop. Everywhere, Catholic Action is dependent upon and subject to the Bishop. It normally possesses a parochial basis, but it is sometimes, when circumstances require, organised upon a diocesan basis. Of the six divisions of Catholic Action in Italy, Catholic Action for men, for women, for young men, for young women, for men University students and for women University students, the first four are organised on the basis of parochial sections; but the fifth and the sixth are organised on the basis of diocesan sections. Circumstances everywhere must determine the order, and the Bishop is always the judge of circumstances, the giver of order.
When one turns to the whole world-scene, one finds considerable local variations within the defined frame; and it is well to recall that hardly anywhere has a completed structure as yet appeared. Catholic Action, one repeats, is an affair of growth, belonging to life. Its growth is ordered, its final form is determined; but the stages of its growth vary from place to place and according to the local human climate. Even in Belgium, where the general structure is more elaborated than in any other country, a Central National Council, the crown of the pyramid, is not yet created; while in the United States, it has been found necessary to establish a central national executive, a National Conference of Catholic Welfare, with its National Councils of Catholic Men and of Catholic Women, before the subordinate organisations are much developed. The vast extent and the variety of the American scene imposed this need for a central clearing-house and bureau: in the narrower stage of Belgium, where each organisation is in frequent association, formal co-ordination has not yet been found urgent.
Growth, development according to need, has been the governing principle everywhere. Mercantile Liverpool is one problem; a Vicariate in Uganda is another. In both the end is to establish the reign of Christ: the methods must vary.
All societies to-day are in dissolution. In China, India, Africa, as well as in Europe and the Americas, the impact of the modern spirit, armed with modern ideologies and modern techniques, has been decisive. Even the immemorial civilisations of China and India are breaking under that alien blow.
Societies and cultures break, but societies and cultures are born. It is natural and necessary for men to live in community, and communities are informed by the values which prevail amongst their members. This is at once an age of heroic dangers and of hcroic opportunities for the Christian. For, if the old Christendom is disappearing, he has the task to shape new Christendoms throughout the whole world. It is his task in Catholic Action.
It requires an heroic temper in him. At Brussels, in the black winter dawns, one may see the young workmen and the young working girls coming each morning, in their overalls, to Mass; before they go to their factories and their shops and their mills, they receive Christ in the Eucharist, to carry Him with them into that bitterly drab, dehumanised life of theirs which He and they are fighting to transform. One can hear them answer the priest in the dialogue of the Mass. The liturgy, the social prayer of the Church, is the soul of their social movement, as it must be the the soul of all Catholic Action. And in Holland^ on some nights of the year, one may see the girls of the Grail, which is the Dutch Catholic Action for young women, walking two by two, in every street of every village and town and city, praying for the people who live in the houses of the streets. And in Paris, in those industrial suburbs that were lately the most anti-Christian corner of Europe, one may see the League of Christian Workers, founded only two years ago from boys and girls of the J.O.C. who had married. Because they are married, and because a man and his wife are one, they conceive the family as the militant unit of Catholic Action. In their first eighteen months, each of the original Jocist families has converted on an average four other families. If we can conceive the Christian courage and resolution which these working-class families possess, then we can understand what is required of us all.
This is the temper of Catholic Action.
Catholic Action is in being, literally, from China to Peru. In one place, as we have said, it is more advanced than in another. In one place appears the beginning of a new Christian social order. In another, one sees but the first movements of the mind, the imagination and the will. But no great social movement in all history has grown as this is growing. One may see in it the fact of our time most charged with significance for the future.
We have not, within the limits of this book, hoped to picture the whole world-scene. We have given individual chapters to the development of Catholic Action in three European countries, those in which the forms seem most developed; but the world at large is beyond our scope.
Nevertheless, in this chapter we may glance here and there, both for the sake of the whole impression and to recognise those local variations which reveal the flexibility of Catholic Action.
The essential structure of Catholic Action appears with a kind of classic simplicity in Polish Catholic Action. There are four national federations, of men, of women, of young men, and of young women, co-ordinated in the parish by Parish Catholic Action, in the diocese by the Diocesan Institute, and in the nation by the Central Institute. The Central Institute has a general direction of the Diocesan Institutes, and the Diocesan Institutes have a general direction of the Parish Catholic Action Councils. Each National Federation, in the matters proper to it, directs its own Diocesan Leagues (also affiliated to the Diocesan Institutes), and its Diocesan Leagues direct their Parish Associations (also affiliated to the Parish Council). There is thus a twofold coordination of all the constituents: through the new national federations and through the ecclesiastical organisation of diocese and parish.
This may be taken as a typical structure for national Catholic Action. It is as yet far from achieved in every country, though some, like Italy, have elaborated it.
How does this Polish organization function?
Throughout all the National Federations there is, each year, a national programme provided by the Bishops: e.g., for the sanctification of the family, the education of the family, the reign of Christ in the schools.
Within the Parish Associations, active campaigns of formation are constantly developed. Each Association meets at least every second or third week, to study Catholic Action, to organise social activities, to intensify religious life, with monthly Communions and with retreats. Parochial houses for Catholic Action are established, with libraries. In the young men's associations, particular attention is given to their formation for the rural life, and (since service is inevitable) for their military life.
The Diocesan Institutes provide special courses for the priests in Catholic Action, and each year the Diocesan Leagues reassemble in a Eucharistic Congress.
The Central Institute directs the national campaigns of the year, convenes the national conferences, produces the necessary literature, acts, in brief, as a General Staff to the whole movement.
Catholic Action in China has had its formal development in the reign of the present Pontiff; but, as early as 1912, the Unio Actionis Catholicae Sinarum had been established, with general headquarters in Tientsin, with a first branch at Shanghai under the leadership of Mr. Lo Pa Hong, later to be President-General of Catholic Action in China (the great Catholic layman who was murdered in 1937 as he went on one of his countless errands of charity). With him was associated Mr. Tsu, brother of Bishop Simon Tsu. Within a year, branches were spreading throughout the interior missions, especially in those of Shansi Province.
During its first period, Chinese Catholic Action was especially concerned to resist the proposals to establish Confucianism as the national religion and as the basis of national education.
It is distinctly worth noticing that this first development of Chinese Catholic Action was prompted by Chinese priests, eminently Father Philip Wang and Father Peter Tch'eng.
The second phase of Chinese Catholic Action opened in 1928, when the Holy Father congratulated the Chinese people on their unification, recognised the Nanking Government, and urged the faithful to develop in Catholic Action their service to their Church and their country.
An immediate impetus was given. National headquarters were established in Peiping, and in 1929, the National Council of Catholic Young Men and the National Council of Catholic Women were established, and a Review of Catholic Action was founded.
The invasion of Manchuria and the troubles of those years inevitably interfered with the normal development of Catholic Action, but the work of formation went steadily on; and on the first day of 1934, Catholic Action entered upon its formal life with the proclamation of the General Statutes of Chinese Catholic Action. They had been approved in Rome by the Congregation of Propaganda Fide the previous month. Father Paul Yupin, then teaching at Propaganda College in Rome, returned to China to become Director-General of Catholic Action and Bishop of Nanking. Social Weeks were at once organized for the studies of lay-leaden, and courses of study were organised throughout the provinces. The Catholic press of China was reformed, enlarged, and new periodicals were founded. There was an immediate multiplication of diocesan and parish councils. A Catholic Action Week was organised at Hankow in October, 1934, which closed with a great Eucharistic procession. Catholic Action Weeks are something of a feature of the Chinese movement. A remarkable one was held in Canton in 1937.
The National Catholic Action Congress at Shanghai in September, 1935, attended by delegates from every part of China, marks a stage in the Church's advance. At this Congress, Lo Pa Hong reviewed the work of Catholic Action in the city and district of Shanghai. Fourteen hundred and thirty-five meetings had been held for pagans, and more than seven hundred thousand of them had come to listen. Fourteen thousand meetings had been held for catechumens, and six hundred and thirty-two thousand had been instructed. Members of the Catholic Action Association had themselves baptised two hundred and seventy thousands of people.
Chinese Catholic Action is in five divisions, under the General Council of Catholic Action in all China. The Men's Division is organised in national, diocesan, and parochial councils. The Young Men's Division is similarly organised and adds to the structure its Council of University Youth, while from its various sections depend the sections of the Diocesan Boys' Associations and the Young Men's Study and Gymnastic Associations, as auxiliaries of Catholic Action. The Women and the Girls' Division includes the Women University Students, and the Young Women's Study and Gymnastic Associations. The National Study Associations depend directly on the Apostolic Delegate through the Central Council. The Associations for Social Works are organised in cach diocese under the Diocesan Councils. The structure, on the whole, closely resembles the Italian structure, but there is a special emphasis on social works: for in social works is manifested the bond of charity, and in charity is the way of conversion. In 1937, Chinese Catholic Action had one hundred thousand members, many of them trained catechists who go out amongst the people in their week-ends, to the villages, the hospitals, the prisons.
Chinese Catholic Action is organised for three major activities: (1) Christian Formation of the members of Catholic Action; (2) Missionary Activity amongst the Pagan Population; (3) Social Activity.
Under Social Activity are included: (1) Christian Education by the foundation of Catholic educational institutions and by scholarships for poor students; (2) the practice of Charity (in Shanghai, for instance, there are eight large Catholic hospitals, nineteen dispensaries, four orphanages, one the largest in China, two homes for the aged, one mental hospital; and resources available for immediate relief in times of flood, famine, pestilence); (3) defence of the rights of the Church, of freedom of conscience, of religious education; (4) to promote Catholic co-operation in the reconstruction of the State and in the promotion of right social order. Catholic Action has been consulted by the Government, and it has given assistance proper to its responsibility as an element in China's life; (5) to promote a Catholic Action Press (e.g., the Official Bulletins of the different Divisions of Catholic Action and a Review of Catholic Culture which circulates widely amongst all the intellectual classes of China).
How far all this work is interrupted by the chaos into which China has been lately thrown it is difficult to know, but the temper of Chinese Catholic Action promises a harvest in those white fields.
Catholic Action in Peru has developed chiefly from the existing organisations, the sodalities and the confraternities and the organisations of men and of women, as it has in Brazil and Venezuela. In Brazil now appear the specialised youth organisations ; Young Christian Workers and Young Christian Students and Young Christian Bourgeoisie, influenced by the Belgian models of the Jeunesse Ouvière Chrétienne and the Jeunesse Etudiante Chrétienne and the Jeunesse Indépendante Chrétienne / these are spreading in most of the South American countries, as they are in the motherlands, Portugal and Spain.
The Argentine and Chile have the basic structure in their Associacions National de Hombres Catolicos, Liga de Damas Catolicos, Liga de la Juventud Femenina Catolica, Federation de la Juventud Catolica.
In each of these, and in all the South American countries, Catholic Action is in formation (as, indeed, it is everywhere). The problems of distance, of race, of the varying levels of cultural life in countries like the Argentine are, of course, tremendous ; remote rural dioceses have needs and circumstances quite other than those of the great urban centres; but the Junta National is gradually extending its campaigns in the far Andean lands and in the great pastures of the centre and south.
South America is a special challenge to Catholic Action; it is a continent of the future, and it is a continent which has been frighteningly neglected in the past. Bolivia, for instance, with a population seventy per cent Indian has practically no religious instruction. It has one priest to twenty-five thousand of its inhabitants. Legislation has encouraged divorce and the breaking-up of the old family life. On the evidence of other countries, we may expect Catholic Action to produce a special virility here, for it succeeds most where the case is most desperate.
India has four million Catholics in its population of three hundred and eighty millions. In India, as in China, the harvest is white, if there were the reapers. It has been agreed that the Church in India could at once employ five thousand more priests, within its existing organisation and for its present members, if the priests were available. This situation obviously calls for the immediate and active co-operation of the laity with the clergy in the apostolate.
Since it was established in 1930, the All India Catholic League has organised annually the All India Catholic Congresses. These consider the major themes of India's life: the problems of the depressed classes, of the family, the propagation of Catholic principles in the Indian situation to the various castes, the contribution of Catholics to civic and social life. The League promotes study- weeks in the different provinces, and it seems to offer the framework for a national Catholic organisation; it is the one Pan-Indian movement amongst Catholics, and it reveals, in Archbishop Goodier's words, "a common life in the Catholic Church in India which becomes more manifest every year".
In Malabar and Madras the Federation of Young Men of India is essentially an organisation of education for Catholic Action, with its weekly study-circles, each with a maximum membership of twelve. The groups are appearing, too, in Bangalore.
In 1937 the Bishops of the Province of Calcutta announced a scheme for Catholic Action. "We came to the conclusion," says the Archbishop of Calcutta in his Pastoral of April 14th, 1937, "that the solid basis of Catholic Action ought to be laid in our schools; and we unanimously decided to draw up a plan according to which our Catholic Youth should be prepared for their future apostolate."
The students in each school are divided into three sections, Senior, Middle, and Junior. Each Section is composed of Circles of six to ten members. Each Circle has its Leader, drawn from students who have had some previous preparation in the Sodality, and who have been given some preliminary formation. He becomes the President, and each Circle also has its Secretary, its Treasurer, and a Moderator recruited from the school staff. A suitable meeting-room and a library is provided, and each Circle meets at least twice a month, but preferably each week.
A systematic programme of spiritual, intellectual, and social formation has been provided for each section.
This work in the schools may be called Pre-Catholic Action. Catholic Action itself in the Province of Calcutta is co-ordinated and directed by the Catholic Association, with a development of the Circle method throughout the Parochial groups and such extra-Parochial groups as the vocational organisations, the teachers, the nurses, the stenographers, shop-assistants, clerks, and workmen.
The Parochial groups are to co-operate in catechetical work, in recovering the lapsed, in disseminating literature and forming libraries, in study clubs, in work for the Missions, in aiding conversions, in the works of mercy, in making parish census, in liturgical action, in the extension of education, in Church Extension, in the Legion of Decency, and "in all works whatsoever of a spiritual nature for the love and glory of God and for the help and enlightenment of ourselves and our neighbour.
The extra-Parochial groups are, of course, concerned with the special problems and opportunities of their vocations.
In Ceylon, the Catholics are about one-tenth of the population. Ceylon has grown towards Catholic Action with remarkable effect in recent years. The Catholic Union of Ceylon co-ordinates the Diocesan Unions. Nearly every parish has its youth organisations for young men and young women; many parishes have study- circles and libraries. Vocational groups have been organised; the Post and Telegraph Catholic Association, the Colombo Workers' Union, the Columbia Municipality Catholic Guild, the Catholic University Students' Union, for instance.
The Catholic Social Guild of Ceylon was formed in 1936. Its organ Social Justice (remarkable for its survey of the problem of poverty in Ceylon) has a circulation of 73,000 in the Singalese edition, and of 36,000 in the English. Its campaigns by radio, lectures and debate, by the dissemination of series of leaflets in all three languages of the islands, are tireless. It has promoted a campaign for the living wage and for better housing; it has co-operated with Government in a land-settlement scheme; it has actively supported the Fishermen's Welfare Unions; it has founded Workers' Rest-Houses. It has insisted always on an integral Catholicism as the one ultimate and certain solution of the social problem; it has recognised that Christianity may be preached in good works as well as in good words.
In Japan, too, the thing appears. In many dioceses, youth activities have been federated, with weekly study- circles on religious evidences, with annual study-weeks on the cultural problems, and with an annual retreat. No general organisation for men yet exists, but vocational groups are formed throughout the country. Thus, there is an Association of Catholic Artists (much is hoped in Japan from a "cultural" apostolate). Nippon Shimaika (the Association of Sisters) gives formation to women for Catholic Action. Ake no hoshi (the Morning Star) is chiefly concerned with social works.
In 1930 a Central Office of Catholic Information was established, and it now publishes one weekly and three reviews. Particular attention is given in Japan to the Apostolate of the Press. Throughout the country, groups of students are organised to propagate it in their areas.
In Asia and in Africa, Catholic Action is in its formative stages, but everywhere the essential temper begins to appear. In South Africa, the Catholic African Union was founded in 1927, as a federation of the Catholic Farmers' Union, the Catholic Women's Association, the Catholic Young Men's Association, and the Catholic Teachers' Union. It is essentially concerned at this stage with the formation of leaders, the study of the Church's social doctrine, and the development of a specialised action, the apostolate of like to like for the spiritual conquest of each social milieu. It is very well worth notice that it provides a common ground for blacks and whites, and is breaking the old prejudices by meetings in common.
In the missionary provinces of Africa, the problems have their own peculiar flavour. Thus, in East Africa, where the Bishops have adopted a scheme already working in Shire, leaders are selected in each native village, who are especially charged with the care of their fellows. They lead the villagers in daily public prayer, they are active in social education, in promoting hygiene, and occasionally they are charged to administer mild fraternal corrections. They settle domestic difficulties, and they are active to defend the traditional family and village life. These laymen are often remote from their priests, but each Sunday the leaders of neighbouring villages gather under a district president for their own formation; and each visit of the missioner is a period of vigorous training for the black militants of East African Catholic Action.
In Uganda, the leaders are brought together each year for a period of retreat and of study under the Bishop. In West Africa, Dahomey has set up Catholic Action. Committees for Catholic Action have been elected at each mission-station, whose work is to co-ordinate and control and help all the existing activities: the Catholic Mothers and the Catholic Youth, for instance.
Amongst the native populations of French North Africa, organisations like the J.O.C. and the J.O.C.F. (the Young Christian Workers) form an integral part of the French J.O.C. and the French J.O.C.F.
In this book it will be noticed that we insist on the social nature of Catholic Action, upon its influence on the life of communities. This element is of especial importance in Africa, in that tribal culture which prevails almost everywhere amongst the negro peoples. Thus, the Vicar-Apostolic of Dahomey has written:
"This form of organisation (the parish structure) is needed in Africa more than elsewhere, because an individual when outside a group counts for little."
Where the traditional community survives, as it does in many parts of Africa, Catholic Action seeks to preserve its proper strength and its characteristic culture. Where, as in most parts of our western world, the traditional Christian community has been broken, it is the task of Catholic Action to restore a true community, because "an individual when outside a group counts for little."
In Europe, the traditional communities survive chiefly amongst the peasant peoples of the centre and the east. Here, on the eastern marches of Europe, the conflicts between the Eastern civilisations and the West have surged for a thousand years; and now, too, they experience the crisis and conflict of old and new.
Poland is, in many senses, the country most remote in Europe from that liberal-capitalistic mentality which gives its characteristic tone to the western countries. The influence of the French Revolution did not much penetrate there. It is a country of patriarchal manners. Catholicism is the religion of the State. It has two chief avocations: agriculture and the army. The influence of the Reformation has been eliminated from the national life. She stands, Europe's bastion, against that dark tide in the east, where the Third Byzantium has risen against Christ.
Three-fourths of her people are Catholics, but of five rites: Byzantine, Slav, Armenian, Greek Catholic and Latin. Catholic Action was first organised amongst the Latins in 1923. In 1926, it was extended to the whole country. In 1929, its study was made obligatory in all seminaries. In 1930, the Central Institute of Catholic Action for all Poland was set up at Poznan. Its purpose was to form the laity for Catholic Action, to co-ordinate all activities throughout the country, and to found Diocesan Institutes. In 1934, the definitive forms, which we have described, were stabilised for the whole country.
In Czechoslovakia, faced with acute racial and political problems, progress has been slower. The chief developments have been in the youth organisations: the Orol (Eagle), the S.K.M., and Omladina (Youth).
Orol is a devotional and social organisation. Its chief spiritual work is the General Communion on each first Friday. It conducts popular lectures, study-clubs, and sporting and physical-culture associations. It is very strong numerically, and organised in three divisions: schoolchildren up to twelve years of age, adolescents up to sixteen, and the ordinary members who commonly remain in the organisation until about thirty.
S.K.M. (Sdruzeine Katolickej mlasleze . . . the Association of Catholic Youth), which was founded in 1911, appears to be evolving rapidly towards Catholic Action. It emphasises intellectual formation, with its study-circles and courses of lectures.
Omladina, like S.K.M., has an age limit of about twenty- five. It is concerned chiefly with cultural formation, with libraries, publications, lectures, study-circles and so on.
It seems that Catholic Action is growing, especially, from S.K.M. and Omladina. The idea of specialisation according to milieu already appears in S.K.M.
Amongst the Catholic Croats of Jugoslavia, the youth movements make headway, too. The Crusaders, founded in 1929, consist of masculine and feminine sections, with a National Chaplain common to both. In the Sections or Fraternities is developed spiritual, moral, social instruction : the method is the method of EnquSte (the enquiry method developed by the Jocists, which promises to be, in most places, the basis of education for Catholic Action). The Crusaders carry on a vigorous house-to-house propaganda and they are active in the distribution of papers and literature. They organise national congresses and pilgrimages, not only for their own members, but for the Catholic population generally. There is complete specialisation for the student sections, and specialisation for the workers and the agrarian sections is now developing. The Crusaders are from sixteen to thirty years of age, with junior sections for children. The organisation is parochial, diocesan, and national, with headquarters at Zagreb.
Specialisation also appears in Hungary, where the peasant organisations are developing a Catholic Action appropriate to the peasant milieu.
In Switzerland, specialisation also extends to the racial and lingual divisions. Italian-speaking Switzerland is organised on the Italian model, the French types of organisation appear in the French-speaking cantons, while German-speaking Switzerland has long been influenced by the characteristic developments of Catholic Social Action in Bavaria and the Rhineland.
Roumania is of special interest, for it is the first example (as yet) of Byzantine Catholic Action. Both the Latin and the Oriental Rites exist, but the State gives juridical recognition only to the Oriental Rite. There have been determined campaigns since the War to establish the Orthodox religion as the one State religion, and in 1929, Agru (Associatiunea generala a romanilov uniti) was organised amongst the Catholic Byzantines as a defence. In 1933, the Hierarchy established it as Catholic Action, coordinating under it all societies and auxiliary organisations, confraternities and the like. Specialised organisations were created where they were needed, as, for instance, Astru, for University students. There are now something over one thousand parish sections of Catholic Action, though as yet it is a somewhat loosely organised structure. Its particular interest, as we have said, is that it is the first example of Byzantine Catholic Action. In the East, there has not been a multiplicity of societies and confraternities, and Catholic Action will probably develop in simpler and more exact forms than in most parts of the West.
In Germany and in Austria the Catholic organisations, especially those of Catholic Social Action (as distinguished from Catholic Action proper) have a long and remarkable history, which has been admirably recounted by Mr. Henry Somerville in his book, The Catholic Social Movement. Their present position is obscure; but whatever their future is to be, they remain an example and in many respects a guide to Catholics everywhere.
In Spain's crisis there has inevitably been some interruption of the normal development of Catholic Action : but it advances, and in its advance one must see not merely the best but perhaps the sole hope for a Christian reconciliation. It was the young members of Catholic Action serving at the front with the Nationalists who taught their fellows this prayer, translated in a recent London Tablet by Alfonso de Zulueta:
O Lord, Who commandest us to love our enemies, and Who desirest not the death of the sinner, but that he should be converted and live, hear our prayer and grant the grace of final repentance to those who die fighting against Thee on the battlefields. May Divine Mercy shine on the side of human juitice, so that our enemies may not be so unfortunate as to lose Eternal Life together with their earthly existence.
We unite our petition with that which Jesus Christ offered Thee from the Cross, when, looking on His executioners, He asked forgiveness for them. We beg it of Thee, O God of battles, Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
It may be assumed that Catholic Action in the United States will be developed under the general direction of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. The N.C.W.C. was established in 1919, "for the promotion of unity in Catholic Work." It has an Administrative Board of ten Archbishops and Bishops, elected at the annual meeting of the Hierarchy of the United States, and it consists, in its major structure, of seven departments, each with a Chairman appointed from its own members by the Administrative Board.
Under the Executive Department function the Bureau of Immigration; the National Centre of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; the Youth Bureau; the Publications Service; the official organ of the N.C.W.C., Catholic Action; and the Business and Finance Bureaux.
The Department of Education exists to serve Catholic schools.
The Press Department provides an extensive news, feature, and pictorial service to the Catholic press.
The Social Action Department was established to promote knowledge of Catholic social teachings and to study their application to the particular problems of the United States. Industrial relations, international affairs, civic education, social welfare, the problems of the family are its province. It has a Rural Life Bureau which is especially concerned with the problems of America's vast rural population.
The Legal Department is charged with the examination of legislation, proposed or enacted ; it prepares literature dealing with the legal aspects of such matters as the schools question, sterilisation, birth prevention; it coordinates information from all quarters of the world on religious and social questions of concern to Catholics, pj The Department of Catholic Action Study gathers and co-ordinates information regarding Catholic Action and promotes its study.
The Department of Lay Organisations, which may ultimately become the National Executive of Catholic Action, now consists of two bodies: the National Council of Catholic Men and the National Council of Catholic Women.
The constituents of the National Council of Catholic Men are affiliated societies of Catholic men, national, diocesan, parish, or district; and Parish, Deanery, and Diocesan Councils organised by the N.C.C.M. with the approval of the Ordinary in several Dioceses.
The N.C.C.M. represents the general body of American Catholic men; it federates their societies, serves them with information, promotes unity amongst them, helps their local organisations to effective work, co-operates with other approved movements in the general service of the Church, and acts generally throughout the nation to extend a wider knowledge and understanding of Catholic principles.
It conducts the Catholic Evidence Bureau and the nation-wide Catholic Radio Hour.
The National Council of Catholic Women is a federation of Catholic women's organisations. It establishes diocesan councils with the Ordinary's approval, and it maintains national committees, representing the general interests of Catholic women in the United States, much as the N.C.C.M. represents the interests of Catholic men. It has a National Catholic School of Social Service which has graduated students from all parts of the world.
In this whole structure of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the United States obviously possesses much of the machinery for national Catholic Action.
In Australia, after a great deal of preparatory formation, a National Secretariat of Catholic Action has been set up. It is concerned, in its first stages, with the training of leaders, the militants of Catholic Action. It recognises the need for specialisation and for gradual development as the layman is informed with the spirit and with the intelligence of Catholic Action. It proposes these types of organisation: school groups for children under fourteen years of age, groups for boys and for girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, groups for young men and for young women between the ages of eighteen and thirty, groups for adult men and for adult women, groups for students, and vocational groups. In these groups people will be formed for Catholic Action. It is recognised that a period of preliminary formation is essential before the whole task of Catholic Action is attempted: and this seems a lesson worth the learning. The forms of Catholic Action mean very little unless they are informed by the spirit of Catholic Action: and we believe it essential that the normal Catholic life should be tempered, spiritually and intellectually, before it is fit for the apostolate.
It remains, of course, in the discretion of the Ordinary to establish that machinery which he believes necessary to the local situation. In England, the tendency is to organise diocese by diocese, with the general outline of a national structure in view. In Ireland, there has been little specific organisation for Catholic Action, but the spirit which informs it has found a variety of expressions t in the Legion of Mary, for example, which has already spread into Africa, Australia, and America. One turns from French Canada, with its amazing development on the models of France and of Belgium, to the remote African forests, where Blessed Charles Lwanga, martyred in Uganda in 1886, is venerated as the "special patron before God of African Youth participating in Catholic Action"; one turns from Mexico, where a persecuted people produces, heroically, a Catholic Action which is indeed of the Catacombs in its devotion and, please God, in its consequences, to the Philippines where five hundred native leaders trained in ethics, in the social sciences, in the teachings of the Encyclicals conduct a constant campaign for Christ. And everywhere the leaven is working. Working to sanctify societies which had forgotten their God.
It reveals itself not only in the increase of social sanctity, but in the personal sanctity of the members of Catholic Action: by the great increase, most noticeable amongst the workers and peasants and students of France and Belgium, in late vocations: by the apostolic life of a young man like Pier Giorgio Frassati, acclaimed by all Milan, at his death a decade ago, a saint of God. It reveals itself in the spirit of martyrdom, in a Maria da Luz Gamacho, murdered by soldiery bent on sacrilege, and already, within four years of her death, invoked by Mexican Catholic Action as Virgin and Martyr.
It is not a matter for wonder that a great Pope has thanked God for the privilege of life in this hour.