Council Finishes Debate on Draft Examining Lay Apostolate

99th General Congregation
October 12, 1964

Attempts to balance the layman’s individual call to the apostolate with the need for lay organizations on the national and international level to bring the Gospel to the world and the world to Christ characterized the ecumenical council’s last scheduled day of debate on the lay apostolate schema.

After 17 speakers had taken the floor, Archbishop Pericle Felici, council secretary general, called for a standing vote to close debate. This was greeted with loud applause and overwhelming acceptance.

Several speakers continued debate on the role of Catholic Action in the lay apostolate, some asking for a stronger statement of its unique position in the Church, others asking that “the door be left open” as to what form the apostolate will take in each nation.

Referring to the draft’s call for a secretariat for the lay apostolate to be set up in Rome, Archbishop John Heenan of Westminster, England, said: “It is bound to fail unless the laity is fully consulted.

“This secretariat will be unique among secretariats of the Holy See. It would be a disaster to model it on any of the departments already existing in the Roman curia. Most of its members must be chosen from the laity.”

Five speakers devoted most of their talks to the spiritual formation required of the lay apostle. Several others stressed the need not only to Christianize individuals but also, as Bishop Henry Donze of Tulle, France, said, the need for a “collective apostolate aimed at the whole social order, since evangelization of the world belongs to groups as well as to individuals. Men are not only individuals, but also part of groups.”

Bishop William Pluta of Gorzow, Poland, said the draft does not state clearly enough the nature of the formation required of the lay apostle. He said intellectual formation as well as spiritual formation is required and asked for a statement of four principles for such formation: holiness of life; ascetical formation, including the ideas of brotherhood, kindness and charity, which he called “humane virtues so rare in the world that they are prized highly”; formation for and with the Church; and the “golden rule” of religious and catechetical instruction — that is, that they be primarily spiritual as well as ascetical.

Bishop William Power of Antigonish, N.S., stressed that the spiritual life presupposes the order of nature, which must always be taken into account. He said that laymen must learn how to make the Church active and present in the world.

He suggested five principles for the layman’s formation:

  1. The development of human gifts and talents, including a keen sense of justice, the responsibility of charity and a sense of the problems facing the world.
  1. The “insertion” of the layman into the real situation in the world so that he will have a real interest in it and conceive it in the light of the Faith.
  1. His insertion into the reality of Christ.
  1. Emphasis on united action, which is demanded by the evolution of society in which the law of solidarity applies to spiritual as well as human affairs.
  1. Development of contact between laymen and the hierarchy with a realization of competence on each side.

Bishop Andre Fougerat of Grenoble, France, chaplain of the Conference of International Catholic Organizations, emphasized the right and duty of lay Catholics to organize international movements. He asked that these be interested not only in spiritual works but also in education, culture, world health, medical-moral problems and the like. He said he was turning in an amendment to this effect which he hoped would be included in the final draft.

He cited Pope John XXIII’s encyclicals in support of his proposal and said the Pope had specifically praised the effectiveness of such international organizations as the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

He said it was for the same reason that the majority of lay auditors were chosen from international organizations.

He added that the “whole Christian world is turning its eyes to these men.”

Warning against “institutionalism,” on the other hand, Bishop Manuel Larrain Errazuriz of Talca, Chile, president of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, said the lay apostolate must be “incarnated in the world, but it surpasses all institutions.” An  exaggerated form of institutionalism, he said, would stifle the fiery zeal of apostles and might have the effect of closing Catholics off in “ghettos.”

Taking up the theme of Bishop Donze on the social aspects of the apostolate, Bishop Luigi Civardi of the Roman curia said that the lack of such a treatment in the draft might disillusion many. The Church cannot omit a strong teaching on justice as a necessary means in the apostolate, he said.

“We must not only preach against misery, but dry up the fonts of misery,” he stated. He added that many have become communists because of social needs and wants rather than through intellectual conviction, and thus the Church must be careful not to forget stomachs while it develops social consciences.

Bishop Joseph Hoeffner of Muenster, Germany, deplored the omission of any mention of original sin in the draft, and also said that there is too close a connection in the text between the cooperation of the Church with non-Catholic Christians and its cooperation with non-Christians, which he said must be different because the Church has the common bond of Christ with the former.

The bishop said that the whole treatment of the social order was too optimistic. He also said that order never can be restored fully because of the fact of original sin and that the Church should make this clear.

The 99th general meeting opened with Mass celebrated by Coadjutor Archbishop Antonio Ferreira de Macedo of Aparecida, Brazil. The Gospel was enthroned by Archbishop Guido Bentivoglio of Cantania, Italy. Since Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels, moderator for the debate on the lay apostolate, was out of town, Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian took his place.

During the session, Archbishop Felici announced the deaths of three council Fathers, including Bishop John P. Treacy of La Crosse, Wis., who had not attended this session and died at home (Oct. 11). The others were retired Bishop Michael Rodrigues of Belguam, India, and retired Bishop Alphonse Verwimp of Kisantu, the Congo, who died in Belgium.

Archbishop Felici also announced that the following day a lay auditor would address the council on the lay apostolate, even though that debate had closed during this meeting. He is Patrick Keegan of England, chosen by other lay auditors to represent them.

Reports on the long-awaited schema 13 on the Church in the modern world, scheduled next on the agenda, was not yet ready, Archbishop Felici said. Therefore, the next discussion will be on the proposition on the priestly life and ministry, formerly schema on the priesthood. If schema 13 is still not ready when discussion on the priesthood is ended, then the proposition (formerly the schema) on the Eastern Churches will be debated.

The only cardinal to speak was Achille Cardinal Lienart of Lille, France. He said that the schema was quite correct in stressing that the apostolate is not the exclusive preserve of the clergy. Through Baptism and Confirmation, as through their share in the universal priesthood, the faithful necessarily participate in the apostolate. The text should emphasize the importance of formation to real responsibility, he said, and make possible the use of large numbers of the laity who are ready to dedicate themselves selflessly to the sanctification of their neighbors.

The Church has a great gift in the ardor of youth, the cardinal said, and this should be used in every way possible.

Continuing the extended debate, Cardinal Lienart said that Catholic Action deserves special mention in the schema because it is a specialized form of the apostolate of the laity. He said that the name Catholic Action has a well determined meaning, and that arguments for widening its scope are not very conclusive. The basis of Catholic Action, he said, is the mandate of the bishop; hence the term should not be used indiscriminately to cover all forms of Catholic activity. But nothing prevents bishops from putting under this heading all groups which fulfill the requirements, he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Candido Padin of Rio de Janeiro, speaking for 40 Brazilian bishops, said that the text should consider the evolution of Catholic Action. Not all nations have proceeded in the same way, he said, and in some nations results have been spectacular, while in others they have not.

“Our policy should be to open doors, not to close them, and we should make every effort to avoid fossilizing categories. … If we wanted to raise questions on names, the Jesuits could not call themselves the Society of Jesus because all Christians are called to life in the society of Jesus. Likewise there could be no such name as the Holy Office, because all ecclesiastical offices are holy.”

He said that the style of the passage dealing with the future secretariat is too clericalistic, and that in a thing touching them so intimately, the faithful should not merely be invited to cooperate, but summoned to a position of direct responsibility in its functions.

Bishop Alexandre Renard of Versailles, France, said that the text fails to give a clear definition of the lay apostolate. The apostolate of the Church is the proclamation of Christ, and all have a share in this, he said.

Spanish Bishop Manuel Llopis Ivorra of Coria-Caceres said that the apostolate should be proposed not as something demanded by the extrinsic needs of the Church, but as flowing from its intrinsic needs. It should stress also the need for a perfect human formation of lay apostles, who no less than the priest are “taken from among men and appointed for men in things that are of God.”

Archbishop Heenan called upon lay apostle candidates to put themselves “humbly in the hands of their priests for training.” He said that even though priests’ training may be defective in some areas and must be revised, it is still true that “even young priests from the seminary have finished the course of sacred studies and are capable of providing the laity with the spiritual guidance they need.

“It is well known that the enemies of the Church are doing all in their power to create divisions between the clergy and the faithful. It would be most unfortunate if the apostolate of the laity were seen as something in opposition to the apostolate of the clergy.”

Regarding Catholic Action, Archbishop Heenan said it is better if the expression is not used in some countries, since it has acquired political overtones in them. He asked that regional conferences of bishops be left free to speak of the apostolate rather than of Catholic Action.

The archbishop also asked that when the proposed lay secretariat be set up, it include not only “old gentlemen loaded down with ecclesiastical honors, but also some of our young men and women who have to earn their daily bread.”

Bishop Larrain said that laymen must be the bridge bringing world problems to the Church and taking back the Gospel of the Church to the world. This can be no “angelism.” It must be a real incarnation in the world, he said. We should listen not only to prophets, he said, but also to the voice of God heard in the voice of our times.

Bishop Stefan Baeuerlein of Srijcm, Yugoslavia, asked that in the treatment of the special apostolate of the Christian family, it be stated that the family’s chief function is the procreation and education of children.

He said that the norm that lay organizations may not be called Catholic unless authorized by the bishop should also apply to organizations of priests and Religious. Bishop Baeuerlein said that in discussions of mutual cooperation, stress should be placed on the advantages of free discussion on a parish level and on the right of recourse to public opinion, but always in the proper form. He cited in defense of this St. Gregory the Great’s dictum: “It is better to allow scandal to be born than to abandon truth.”

Auxiliary Bishop Paul Cheng of Taipei, Formosa, said that the Christian mission is to bring the charity of Christ into the world, that is, into the family, city, nation and world. Basic to all apostolic activity, he said, must be great esteem for and confidence in one’s neighbor. The task of the apostolate is not only to preach to individuals but to Christianize the world.

Archbishop Enrico Nicodemo of Bari, Italy, suggested that Catholic Action should not be listed among the forms of the organized apostolate, but rather that the council should emphasize the specific difference between Catholic Action and other forms of the apostolate. The difference lies in the fact of Catholic Action participation in the apostolate of the hierarchy and its strict dependence on the hierarchy. Precisely because of this, it integrates the pastoral action proper to priests and bishops, he said.

Other speakers were Bishop Aurelio Del Pino Gomez of Lerida, Spain, and Archbishop Luis Monoyerro, military vicar of Spanish armed forces. Among the four speakers listed to speak but cut off by the cloture vote was Auxiliary Bishop Philip M. Hannan of Washington.

Father John P. Donnelly
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

*   *   *

Pastors Invited

Four United States pastors have been invited to attend the rest of this session of the ecumenical council along with priests from several other countries.

Pope Paul VI asked them to be on hand for discussions on the council’s draft statement on “The Priestly Life and Ministry.” According to the current timetable, deliberation of this document is to follow debate on schema 13 on the Church in the modern world.

Of the four American priests invited, two were already present in Rome: Msgr. Walter J. Tappe, pastor of St. Rose’s parish in Santa Rosa, Calif., and vicar general of the Santa Rosa diocese; and Msgr. Joseph E. Emmenegger, pastor of St. Andrew’s parish, Delavan, Wis., and former superior of the graduate house of the North American College in Rome.

The other two American priests are Msgr. Gerard L. Frey, pastor of St. Francis de Sales parish, Houma, La., and director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the New Orleans archdiocese; and Father Thomas B. Falls, pastor of Sacred Heart parish, Manoa, Pa., and director of the Legion of Mary in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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