The missing movements mystery

I’ve written several times about the bewildering absence of Cardijn from the literature relating to Vatican II.

See these two recent posts:

No man is a prophet… in his own movement

Cardijn vs Mother Teresa on

Today, I have just published a short review of Alberigo and Komonchak’s History of Vatican II which a few  of the reasons for this absence. In particular, I mention the lack of a genuine international perspective in the writing of the history and the lack of a Braudelian Annales School long term longue durée perspective.

The Alberigo-Komonchak History of Vatican II – A methodological review

In the light of this, it is also revelatory to read Bernard Minvielle’s thesis L’apostolat des laïcs à la veille du Concile (1949-1959) Histoire des Congrès mondiaux de 1951 et 1957 (Editions Universitaires Fribourg Suisse, 2001, 498p.)

As the title indicates, it is a history of the World Congresses of the Lay Apostolate held in 1951 and 1957 in Rome. Cardijn was the keynote speaker at the first of these events and the second was held just weeks after the famous International Pilgrimage and International Council of the YCW in August-September 1957.

And it is interesting to compare the index references to certain figures with those of the Alberigo-Komonchak History.

To quote my review of the five volume History:

In this context, an analysis of index references is also revealing. Significant lay figures are mentioned very few times, e.g. Rosemary Goldie (COPECIAL, the pre-conciliar Permanent Committee of International Conferences for the Lay Apostolate, Australia) 6, Marie-Louise Monnet (Movement, of catholic professionals, MIAMSI, France) 3, Patrick Keegan (YCW and International Movement of Christian Workers) 7, Ramon Sugranyes de Franch (International Movement of Catholic Intellectuals Pax Romana ICMICA) 10, Vittorino Veronese (Italian, president of COPECIAL) 8. Moreover, Cardijn himself who was involved on a daily basis in the work of the Council is mentioned only eight times.

Minvielle, on the other hand, refers to Cardijn on 84 pages.

He also makes so many references to Rosemary Goldie and Vittorino Veronese that they are both mentioned as follows:

Le nom n’est pas repertorié en raison de trop grand nombre d’occurrences.

The name is not listed as a result of the great number of references!! Compare that with the six mentions of Goldie in Alberigo-Komonchak and eight for Veronese. Certainly, Veronese was director-general of UNESCO by the time of the Council. Nevertheless, Rosemary Goldie was a great presence at the Council.

Ramon Sugranyes is mentioned 55 times by Minvielle compared to 10 references in Alberigo-Komonchak.

Keegan gets 13 mentions versus seven.

Marie-Louise Monnet is mentioned three times in each work.

Also prominent in Minvielle is another ‘Fribourgeois’ (the Fribourgeois being those linked to Pax Romana ICMICA, including Goldie and Sugranyes), Mieczyslaw de Habicht who features 27 times compared to 6 times in Alberigo-Komonchak.

Interestingly, the Belgian theologian Gerard Philips features 86 times in Minvielle, illustrating his key role as a theologian of the laity during the 1950s.

To come back to Cardijn, Minvielle’s 84 references illustrate the scale of his influence during the 1950s.

The question then is how did he ‘disappear’ from the historiography of Vatican II, particularly given the prominence of these figures in Minvielle’s work?

At one level, the answer is that Minvielle’s book was published in 2001, around the time the fourth Alberigo-Komonchak volume would have been in the editing process (publication 2003).

A deeper answer, I believe, lies largely in another methodological issue, namely the failure of the Alberigo-Komonchak history to understand or deal with the role of the lay movements, particularly the specialised Catholic Action movements which were already genuinely international organisations at the peak of their powers during the 1950s and 1960s, with full NGO status in various United Nations Organisations. (Which no doubt also helps explain the appointment of Veronese as UNESCO director).

Certainly, many of these movements went into decline after Vatican II but in theory at least that should not affect the work of historians!

And now for something controversial: Is the disappearance of Cardijn and the lay movements linked to the so-called ‘hermeneutic of rupture’? There’s no doubt that if you apply a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ to the interpretation of Vatican II, it would be extremely difficult to overlook this contribution. Now, there’s something to think about!

Well, if nothing else, it all just goes to prove that there is still a lot more to be written about the history of Vatican II!

Stefan Gigacz