Who locked Cardijn out?

Pope John XXIII appointed Cardijn as a member of the Vatican II preparatory “Pontifical Commission on Lay Apostolate” and he played a very active role there.

Then in February 1963, he was appointed as an expert for the conciliar “Commission on the Apostolate of the Faithful, the Press and the Moderation of Shows”, which was the long and weird name for the commission that succeeded the preparatory commission. Notice how the reference to “lay apostolate” has been switched to “apostolate of the faithful”, a change that Cardijn would certainly not have favoured.

Now recall that the First Session of Vatican II opened on 11 October 1962 and adjourned on 8 December 1962. So why didn’t Cardijn’s nomination to the conciliar commission come until February 1963?

The gap surprised me but I had thought that the preparatory commission must have continued until the eve of the Council and that the conciliar commissions would have been named during the First Session, thus explaining the gap.

Now I have finally managed to get a copy of the booklets published by the Vatican listing all the bishops, religious superiors, commission members and periti for the First Session. And Cardijn’s name is not on the list! He has been dropped as this picture shows:

How did that happen and why?

Well, it is clear from Cardijn’s correspondence with the secretary of the preparatory commission, Msgr Achille Glorieux, that Cardijn was not happy with the way things had developed in the prep com. Incidentally, Msgr Glorieux was also unhappy with the new name for the commission, which he later wrote had been decided outside the commission itself. (Again, why and by who?)

While Msgr Glorieux, who was from Lille, France, was a friend and ally of Cardijn, it is evident also that Cardijn had run into opposition.

In his Vatican II memoirs, Bishop Remi de Roo from Vancouver, Canada, notes Cardijn’s problems in working with the “Romans”:

Later, at Vatican II, Cardinal Cardijn confided to me that he never fully succeeded in getting “those Romans” to grasp the true nature of specialized (meaning the apostolate of like to like) Catholic Action. They failed to grasp how it was directed primarily towards the transformation of society through Gospel values. It was not meant to be oriented towards the strengthening or promotion of Church structures as such. I remember him bemoaning the fact that in the commission in which he participated during the Council, he had found it practically impossible to get the members to understand the true nature of Catholic Action.

Recall also the difficulties that Cardijn had with his own bishop, Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens, who had a different conception of Catholic Action and indeed of the lay apostolate. See my earlier post here.
In particular, note that Leo Declerck and Mathijs Lamberigts highlight Suenens’ successful effort to block the candidature of another Cardijn ally and friend, Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer of Tournai, to the council commissions.
Was it Cardinal Suenens then who blocked the appointment of Cardijn to the Commission on the Apostolate of the Faithful?
I already suspected that it must have been Suenens’ influence that caused the name change of the commission. Which also makes me think that it was probably Suenens who blocked Cardijn from the conciliar commission.
In any case, I think it must have been a high level intervention which caused Cardijn to be excluded.
It is not likely that it would have been Pope John XXIII himself, since the Pope had just published the encyclical Mater et Magistra, which was written following Cardijn’s explicit suggestion to Pope John, for which he expressed his gratitude on several occasions.
Nor was it Cardinal Fernando Cento, the Italian who had previously been nuncio in Brussels during the 1950s and who was president of both the preparatory and the conciliar commissions. In fact, Msgr Glorieux wrote to Cardijn in February 1963 saying that Cento had worked to ensure his nomination to the Commission.
Who else could it have been then but Cardinal Suenens? Well, it’s not a definitive answer but at this stage he certainly seems to be the most likely suspect!
In any event, once the Council started, the bishops took over the running. And Cardijn had many allies there.
Thus, Helder Camara describes in a circular letter dated 18 November 1962 notes how he and other Latin American bishops worked to support Cardijn’s nomination:

Mgr Cardijn has just left. He cried with joy at everything that Dom Larrain, Dom Tavora and I told him. If God wishes, we will succeed in having him appointed as an expert on lay apostolate issues (and who surpasses him in this area?).

And they succeeded!
(Photos: Archives Mgr Charles-Marie Himmer, Diocèse de Tournai)