The literary eclipse of Cardijn

Today, here are several more Ngraph Viewer comparisons of references in the literature (Google Books) to Cardijn and to several of his Vatican II contemporaries, including Helder Camara, Cardinal Suenens, Congar, Chenu as well as Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer.

The first chart compares the frequency of English language book references to Cardijn and Brazil’s Dom Helder Camara, a Cardijn disciple and a YCW chaplain in his youth:

The chart shows clearly how references to Cardijn peak during the 1950s, a critical period in the preparation for Vatican II. References to Camara, however, begin to multiply during the course of the Council and soars afterwards into a massive peak – far higher than Cardijn ever achieved – during the 1970s.

The Spanish language chart is also similar:

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Here’s another comparison between Cardijn and his ‘rival’ at Vatican II, Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens. This is the English language graph:

It’s notable to see that the number of references to Suenens begins to multiply in the mid-1950s, following the publication of his first early books. He reaches his peak during the Council years and just after.

The French language graph is similar but with another peak after Suenens’ death in 1996:

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Now here’s the English language chart comparing Cardijn with two more of his disciples, namely the great Dominican theologians, Yves Congar and MD Chenu:

And the French chart:

We can see how Congar overtakes Cardijn in the post-World War II period. Then, following a slump during the 1950s, which corresponds with the period in which his theological writings were on the Vatican blacklist, Congar begins an upward trajectory, which in French has continued to this day, particularly since his death in 1995.

Similarly, though on a smaller scale with Chenu.

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Another interesting comparison is between Cardijn and Monsignor (now Saint) Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei, the Spanish-founded more conservative lay apostolate movement. Here is the English graph:

Cardijn is clearly the figure of reference during the period from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Strikingly, the Cardijn and Escriva graphs parallel each other – both declining – during the 1960s Vatican II period. But whereas Cardijn virtually disappears off the scale following his death in 1967, Escriva enjoyed a huge boom in popularity, coinciding with the campaign leading up to his canonisation, although he has now fallen away.

It’s also interesting to compare the English graph with the Spanish language graph, Spanish being Escriva’s native language:

Intriguingly, the number of references to Cardijn in the world of Hispanic books mostly exceeds the number of references to Escriva. Unfortunately, the Ngraph Viewer does not distinguish between books published in Spain and in Latin America. I suspect, however, that it is Cardijn’s influence in Latin America that gives him greater prominence than Escriva.

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What to conclude from these graphs?

Certainly, it’s no surprise that men who came to prominence during Vatican II should continue to be cited in the post-conciliar literature.

It’s also a fact that Camara, Suenens, Congar, Chenu and Escriva all published numbers of books during their lifetimes, whereas Cardijn, as he himself noted (lamented?), only published one, namely his Laymen into Action.

For the most part, Cardijn’s writings appeared in publications of the YCW (leaders’ and chaplains’ bulletins, etc.) as well as in various other magazines. By definition these are much more ephemeral.

Moreover, there’s no overlooking the fact that none of these articles have been republished in significant editions since his death in 1967.

These facts help to explain Cardijn’s virtual disappearance from the literature following his death, particularly in comparison to others.

On the other hand, it is striking that Suenens, Congar, Chenu and Escriva all got a boost in literary references after their deaths.

In any event, there’s still a lot of explaining to be done concerning this eclipse of Cardijn.

Stefan Gigacz