See, judge, act at Vatican II

It has often been noted that the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes follows what is sometimes called “the inductive method”, starting from the bottom and moving up from the specific to the general.

In fact, after its opening paragraphs, Gaudium et Spes does commence in Paragraph 4 with an overview of the world situation.

This is entitled “Introductory statement on the situation of men in the modern world” (the See), which is actually a very poor (and outdated) translation of the Latin, but that’s a story for another day.

The first three chapters of Part I beginning in Paragraph 11 then go on to present a biblical and anthropological vision of man (the Judge).

Chapter IV of Part I is then entitled “The role of the Church in the modern world” (which can be regarded as the Act section).

Part II then goes on to discuss “Some specific problems of particular urgency”.

Each chapter here also reflects to varying degrees the famous See, Judge, Act trilogy.

I had always thought or imagined that this was the initiative of the drafters of Gaudium et Spes, many of whom were formed by the specialised Catholic Action movements.

In particular, the editor and compiler of the final draft was Msgr Pierre Haubtmann, a former national chaplain of the French Action Catholique Ouvrière (ACO),  now an affiliate of the World Movement of Christian Workers.

Moreover, many bishops involved in the Sub-Commission responsible for Schema XIII were also close to the  movements (Cardinal Gabriel Garrone, Bishop Alfred Ancel and many others).

However, I was surprised and pleased to find in Msgr Haubtmann’s archives at the Institut catholique de Paris a document in which the Sub-Commission at its 17, 19 and 20 November 1964 meeting officially adopted the see, judge, act method for the drafting process. This was after much criticism on the Council floor during the Third Session of Vatican II of the previous draft of Schema XIII.

This, of course, explains how the final draft of the document came to follow the inductive or Cardijn method.

It also explains the limits in the way the method is used in the document. There were only a few months left to redraft Schema XIII from the end of November 1964 until May 1965 when the final document had to be ready.

It is a fascinating story, showing how Cardijn’s method came to be adopted for Gaudium et Spes, despite his total absence from the drafting process!

You can read the all important Sub-Commission report here – it’s in French:

https://www.josephcardijn.com/fr/item/3114

What’s more, note the meeting dates – 17, 19-20 November, neatly bracketing Cardijn’s real birthdate of 18 November! What a present!


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