The preparation team had brought out, among the challenges to be taken up : the importance of the spiritual
– In the summary of the questionnaires proposed to the movements to prepare the July Colloquium a single affirmation appeared: “The reappraisal of one’s life and / or the link life-faith are funda-mental to all our movements”
– During the session, experts as well as movements have found a difficulty to express one’s faith. It is historically explainable but does not satisfy the movements any more.
From the experts point of view
“In your preparatory documents for the colloquium, there’s nothing to be found on your individual and collective life as believers. It’s this little thing which presents the bishops with a problem. How do movements for Catholic Action experience their spirituality beyond “the life of the world”? How to pass it on? How to make one understand it? “ (Emile Poulat)
“Indeed, the MIACS are perceived as groups which put the lamp of their baptism under the bushel while proclaiming themselves to be baptised. They are perceived as groups which allow no space, or so little, to this “departure /source catechesis” to which they have to refer: that of power, of novelty, of authority, which baptism confers to Jesus-Christ’s disciples” (Agnes)
From the poiint of view of the movements
The participants all tell about this anxiety, more or less forcefully. They also tell about their desire to dare, once more, to say a word. It seems that movements of youth are the most explicit as regards this request. “We have misery to express what is our belief… In our movement, we have often asked to our chaplains to bring out the mysticism of what we do. They find this as hard as us. To verbalise… To be able to say… the reappraisal of one’s life as a way to experience spirituality? But this spirituality hasn’t been explained” (JOCI)
“How to experience and account for our original spirituality? We have let others confiscate the spiritual. It is the responsibility of our baptism. It is also a strategy aiming at our recognition.” (MIAMSI)
Now, during the whole session the participants have underlined how the fact of being Christian in this way – rooted in society, by practising the three demanding steps of the reappraisal of one’s life and meditation on the word – does not leave us destitute.
Relying on what we have acquired and on our desire to clarify our relationship whit spirituality, we have been able to remember -to encourage us?- for example:
– The “Catholic Action” is not of the order of charisma but of the normal way of experiencing one’s faith (S. Pié)
– That “our movements are places of reflection where the action of one another is taken seriously. The spirituality that we experience pays attention to the members of our teams. It is open and attractive” (MMTC)
– That “our targeted publics perceive a positive aspect of the Church when they meet men and women who commit themselves to humanity’s service and through whom one can see a Church at the service of the world. What is important is to say that we are men and women who believe in Jesus-Christ’s God, committed with many other men and women in society, isn’t it? The international organisations, references to the Christian organisations, or the presence of Christians, carry a lot of weight” (J.Puhl)
– That “the Gospel, it´s narrative theology: the first theology of action. Read the Gospel systematically as you already do. Do not choose the texts which suit you. And read, continue to read the Gospel in a militant way” (S. Pié)
– That “our movements have enough convictions to irrigate that Church to which we belong and which finds it so hard to be at the service of the world. We are not the best, but our legitimacy is the expression of life, of the way in which people live by God, by their cry” (J. Puhl)
– That “in pastoral councils, the presence (or absence) of members of Catholic Action is not an inconsiderable fact. There’s always a great temptation to speak about the intra-ecclesial and to forget about people’s life” (F. Pié)
– That “our movements are spaces of hope, where we account for a hope that we build together” (JICI)
Strong main lines
Have been expressed by the different groups at the end of the session
– Communicating our source. Resaying our faith
– Making the spirituality of our movements become visible, notably by expressing our faith, which is part of our responsibility as baptised per- sons.
– Linking together personal faith (I) and community and ecclesial faith (us, in the Church / a daily engagement, whether it is at personal com- munity or collective level (I and Us). The reappraisal of one’s life is a good way of experiencing that.
– Bringing out the important place of chaplains of accompanying men and women with regard to the reappraisal of one’s life and the “re-reading” in the light of faith.
The targeted publics
Sociological frontiers are more blurred than before
– The MIACS, precisely because of their sociological positioning, are directly affected by social evolutions on a world scale.
– Lesser sociological “frontiers”, leading to the obliteration of the notion of “social class”.
– Evolution of the modes of insertion in the world of work: dictatorship of the economy in a context of internationalisation; competitiveness and unemployment which weaken solidarity.
– Lack of a humanising perspective linked to a consumerism which is everywhere; to a serious unemployment situation; to job precarious- ness and to the necessary profitability of enterprises which leads to the humane aspect of work being taken into consideration to a lesser extent.
– Clearer differences between generations with a lesser habit of “functioning” together.
– Important migratory phenomena.
– Marginalization of entire sections of society with consequences for everyone, including children: exclusion phenomena, going beyond simple poverty, for millions of children, young people and adults.
– Evolutions in modes of socialisation, notably among young people, particularly because of new means of communication.
– A transformation of the rural world with a great drift from the land everywhere in the world, an impoverishment of country people, entire regions caught in armed conflicts which prevent land exploitation; greater competition and consequently, less solidarity, and frontiers between the rural and the urban worlds becoming more blurred.
– A greater mobility of people.
Consequences on movements
These global social evolutions have direct consequences on publics which are targeted or touched by movements. On the other hand, as underlined by the MIAMSI, the question of social milieux is tackled differently depending on the continents. One may not talk about one public but rather about several targeted publics. Movements are pondering on that matter.
The MMTC touches very different publics according to continents. One may also note a general evolution concerning recruitment: the categories which are joined go beyond the standard profile of workers, and include more workers from the informal sector, unemployed people, migrants, people in a precarious situation and less unionised individuals. It is difficult for different generations to work together, notably in Latin-America of the Caribbean: this affects the notion of movement and obliges one to think about things differently.
The MIDADE notes that its influence is declining globally, but several countries from Africa, the Middle-East, the Indian Ocean (Mauritius) found. The MIDADE joins mainly popular milieux, but not those who are too marginalised. Present in “poor” countries, it is deeply concerned about the most destitute children: are they part of their public? The MIDADE also faces a plethora of all sorts of propositions directed at children, notably in “rich” countries.
In Africa and Latin-America, the JICI touches rather executives, holding a position of responsibility; this is not so much the case in Europe. The scale of the team members’ ages is extended; up to 30 years old or even 40 years old on certain continents.
Rural movements (FIMARC, MIJARC) keep their target but are subjected of the serious drift from the land. In Southern countries, most members are small peasants who exploit their land. There are also people who live in the country without being farmers.
The MIAMSI joins quite different milieux according to countries and continents: in Latin-America, it is rather well-to-do people who work for a better social justice. In Africa and Asia, people who are influential in social, economic and political milieux. In Europe, notably, the MIAMSI ponders over its real bonds with decision-makers : are they finally part of our targeted publics ? How do we join them?
Within the MIIC-Pax Romana, there are intellectuals, professionals, without these terms having a unique definition since that depends on the social and historical context. And also on the workers : people who are rooted in their professional environment and who hold posts involving responsibilities.
In-house, publics which overlap each other sometimes.
Sometimes, the different movements tend to overlap each other in their interventions as regards certain publics. We should learn to hand over in-house (MIACS) or even outside. It is thus that certain movements of the MIAMSI work together with ATD-Quart Monde and that all the MIACS have set up local, national or international networks with other NGO’s : FlMARC and MIJARC with Via Campesina ; the MMTC and the JOCI with Social Alert ; the MIEC with Asian Human Right Network; the MIDADE with Global Network Interreligious for the Children, etc…
International movements and the church
“We do not feel supported by the Church any more. Why? What is the seriousness of this reality ?” This was one of the main lines for reflection proposed in the preparatory questionnaire. This question has been very present in the discussions: criticism of the hierarchical Church, “self-criticism” done by the movements themselves, discernment brought by the experts, expressions in groups as well as plenary sessions. The importance given to this question reveals great suffering within the MIACS since they feel rather disfavoured or ignored by bishops while they have known their support and believe rightly, as evoked by Father Pié, that, through the reappraisal of life, Catholic Action is not a charisma but the “normal way” of being Christian.
Catholic action in the history of the church
Historically, Catholic Action is a “foreign body” in the Church, ecclesial life being traditionally situated around the parish. Under Leon XIII, partly as a reaction against a society which was inspires by the liberal principles of the Age of the Enlightenment, a Catholic social movement is born which gives itself the mission of “making our brothers become Christians once more”, “making society become Christian once more”. This involves another idea of the Kingdom, parochial life being globally linked to individual salvation while Catholic Action concerns a new society, consequently a more collective idea. There is a tension between these two trends.
It is also the evangelisation of fellow creatures by other fellow creatures which has, as direct consequence, that the Church takes into consideration the working-class reality as such. Workers will no longer be “overseen” but considered as real partners.
This Catholic utopia reaches its highest point under Pius XI who wants to build “a society in which Christ would be the king”. The means to emphasize the urgent importance of a significant Christian / Catholic presence, that is, of the apostolate, among the different “social worlds”.
Catholic Action stands, with its evangelistic aim, as a movement of laymen. In a Church which is strongly dominated by the clergy, Pius XI talks moreover about Catholic Action as “the participation of the laity to the real and specific apostolate of the Church” (10-03-1927). The laity’s apostolate is therefore a genuine apostolate
Catholicism has not stopped adapting itself to society. Counter-revolutionary, opposed to liberalism, even if it compromises with it, it is crossed, since the Age of the Enlightenment, by the cleavage between “a culture of life / a culture of death”. This notion will be put forward in a particular way by John Paul II.
The Vatican II Council (1962-65) re-reads and receives its intuitions in a more global ecclesial framework, that is, an integral ecclesiology. Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes expound the theology of the laity and the question of the mission of the Church in the world. In this con- text, Catholic Action stands in relation to its evangelistic aim: structured movements of laymen, in an organic communion with the pastoral ministry of the Church.
In 1975, publication of the encyclical Evangelii nuntiandi. Here, Paul VI takes seriously the theology of liberation. For our movements, it is an important text as we are close to this theology. But, as from 1977-78, critical documents are published against it. In 1983, when the canonical code is published, it will not refer at all to Catholic Action but only to public and private associations.
The 1985 Synod
In 1985, during the Synod organised for the 20 years of Vatican II, the Church inaugurates a fundamental change in its orientation: one does not talk any more about the Church: God’s people but about an ecclesiology of communion.
1987-88, Synod on the laity and Christi Fideles laici: owing to Brazilian bishops and to cardinal Martini, Catholic Action is once more mentioned in these texts.
Outside any other considerations linked to social upheavals and to speak only about the Church, the utopia of the beginning of the century has failed: we have not succeeded in “making our brothers become Christians once more”… Bishops have therefore turned away from Specialized Catholic Action in order to turn to new modes of evangelization.
Regarding movements: sweeping on front of one’s door
After having noted evolutions, priorities of the Church, beyond our “pains”, a certain number of reasons enable one to understand the reservations which have been aroused by us within the hierarchy :
– Catholic Action, at one time, has distanced itself from the hierarchy, even if it would be unfair not to underline as well its loyalty in the course of years. Its legitimate longing for autonomy and for a life of real partners, its faith in the validity of its spirituality, have sometimes driven it to practise a “superb” autarky and even a certain haughtiness, towards the hierarchy or other movements.
– Immersed in the world, Catholic Action has taken and sometimes takes positions which inevitably cause conflicts with the hierarchy. Its speech is sometimes turned onto a certain radicalisation. However, the Church is the Church of everyone, and bishops are responsible for it.
– Movements of Catholic Action struggle in order to express some- thing about their individual and collective life as believers. The clergy is worried about this.
During these two days, the pains having been expressed, elements for a better understanding having been given, a certain number of clarifications have been made:
We are not in the Church. Through our baptism, we are the Church: “we wonder what will become of our relationship with the Church, as if we were not the Church” (JECI). We have wished to go deeper into what is “to be part of the Church”, with our cultural differences, our way of valuing our autonomy. “To clarify what it means to be of the Church. To clarify our identity and our relationship with the Church. What are the “very few things to believe in regarding the Church and on which faith is based?” (JECI-MIEC). We express a desire to understand, including to understand the implications of the words: Church : God’s people, Church: communion. We express a desire to reposition ourselves in the Church, as the Church.
Salvador Pié redefines this “essential point” about Christian faith, and recalls that everything is not of equal importance: Vatican II has mentioned a “hierarchy of truths”
1. The core of our faith is : Jesus-Christ is the saviour of the world and of history. It is the radicality of the Word of God.
2. The historical community seen from a sacramental point of view mediates this core through
– A “hard core” which consists of faith and of the living testimony of the word on the one hand and of the sacraments, mainly baptism and the Eucharist on the other hand. The orthodox and Protestants agree about that.
– The historical institution of this sacramental community which changes through the ages. It is the articulation God’s people / Presence of the Church seen as a juridical and social institution.
In Lumen Gentium, the Magisterium asserts that the Light of nations is Jesus-Christ, and that the Church is a sign and a means (sacrament) to live the filiation with God and fraternity wit the world, beyond Christians.
– We have looked at the church with a little more humanity (humility ?), as an institution which “is and will always be the scene of struggles. There will always be different ways of viewing the Church… We must manage complexity in order to consider the Church. The Church is paradoxical, we are both saints and sinners “ (JECI-MIEC) “The Church consists of men and women who can make mistakes. Nobody in the Church can claim to have its monopoly. Neither he hierarchy nor us. Unconsciously, we want to have the monopoly of the best way of making the Church, and we accuse the hierarchy of wanting the same thing. Let us bother about our target, let us show what we do, let us build together” (JECI).
– We have striven towards open-mindedness so as to build new relationships “Not to stand our ground, making an effort to get out of the crisis. How do we work with the Hierarchy? Agnes invites us to rely on the apostolic letter Christi Fideles laici, which is closer to us and in which very strong words are said on the mission of the laity” (French speaking group).
– To be more open does not mean to be diluted. We have reaffirmed the necessity to be clear about our identity, our objectives, and voluntary about their implementation, through a self-confidence which has been restored, recalling on several occasions that we have a legitimacy of abilities, that we are “experts in the questioning of fundamental values “ (MIAMSI) : There are strategies where we will always be losing out. We play continually on the ground of the hierarchy, in order to obtain their recognition. We always lose because we try to play the game that one would like to see us play. We ought to choose radically to be on our own ground. We must take as starting-point our targeted group; the needs of our targeted group. We have to consider their cry, the cry of men. Furthermore, we must take into account our faith and this Jesus who has come “so that they may live their life to the full”. Then, what we do will be told. And if what we do has a certain value, scope, we will be recognised. The scene of our theology is people’s life. We must not be obsessed with the Church but with people’s life. In fact, this is not contradictory, but it is the way in which one perceives things that can be so.
– In a general crisis context, having dared look at our Church as being “in crisis” too, we have felt as being part and parcel of its mission. “There is a global theological crisis, in a global crisis of thinking and culture… The Church is going through a period of transition, of recession, with a part of the hierarchy that is not very open-minded as regards presence in the world and this in a context of internationalisation, of dialogue, of inculturation, of secularisation… For our movements, isn’t it an opportunity to help the Church, in crisis and which moves in opposite currents, so that it may get out of this situation? It has to be kept in mind that the intervention of Catholic Action must be considered as being “normal”.
– In that perspective, unrelenting efforts of lobbying and communication directed at the hierarchical Church (dioceses, Vatican) are necessary.
– In line with this questioning, partnerships are tackled: to work with other movements which are close or even more distant; occasionally or more regularly, without losing sight of our targeted publics.
The internationality of international movements themselves
In the preparatory phase of the Brussels session, a certain number of elements have been brought to the fore:
– All the movements are really international : each of them being present on at least 4 continents, in several countries of each continent.
– The “workforce” of each of the movements is very variable.
– The criteria to join international movements and consequently embrace the notion of Specialised Catholic Action are variable too and the links more or less close: certain MIACS do not comprise only SCA movements but also social movements of Christian inspiration.
A real link national movements / international movement exists:
– visits to international secretariats ;
– policy of links and even of twinning in certain cases ;
– regular written communication between international secretariats and members of national movements ;
– international secretariats write and send journals ;
– web-site data are updated ;
– participation of International Secretariats in research work, in the training of national movements as regards particular themes.
However, it is difficult to assess the degree of awareness of members of basic teams concerning the international movement.
– International movements make a particular effort to set up effective means of action: the organisation of regional networks; they pay attention to the exchange of information on particular sets of themes; projects set up jointly by different countries and continents. Hence, for the year 2000, the MIAMSI has proposed a common theme of inquiry to the different national movements so as to prepare its congress.
– It seems that the attention given to the respect of cultural diversity and going beyond “latin culture” really is a preoccupation, with an adaptation of methods to the local context. However, it has been recalled that the speech of Vatican II is European and than that of our movements is European as well…
During the preparatory work, the MIAMSI notes, about internationality “it is a key question which has been topical in the movement for that last two years and which gives rise to research and questioning. If, during international meetings, this cultural diversity can be felt, we do not necessarily analyse it and work on it. Nevertheless, the way in which the individual and collective social situation of women and men is discerned
is not uniform. This is also true as regards the position of the movement in relation to the Churches and to the ways in which one’s faith is expressed. It is also useless to speak about the criteria of political discernment which are so different in Latin-America and Africa, for instance or Belgium and Switzerland. Our movement is striving at present for better respect of the inculturation of the method of action it purposes according to the continents. However, “to respect cultures is not enough. The question is to know how to become richer through our different cultures “, the FIMARC has underlined.
During the session, it has been underlined that :
– By creating international authorities, movements had been precursory and missionary.
– This “world” meeting of Brussels is also a very positive sign.
Experiencing our internationality bring into question our relationship with the church and the society
The Church has varied ecclesiologies according to regions of the world: “In Asia, for example, it is an ecclesiology of dialogue with other religions. In secularised societies, in which people do not feel Christian, the question is to know : how to behave as Christians with them when they reject the Church ?
At the level of “life”, that is, of our ground of our mission, international movements, precisely because of their internationality, can con- tribute in terms of concrete experiences and a kind of questioning to be promoted and taken over within civil international authorities with which they work (ECOSOC, BIT, FAO, UNESCO, BICE, Council of Europe, etc.) and authorities responsible for preparing and following up international conferences.
It is also for this reason that they have to strengthen their links with the base: “how do we promote our calls? How do we make ourselves heard on the question of a positive internationalisation? Our movements see and practise internationalisation in a different way from that of JM Messier… Let us each be fermenting agents as regards internationalisation” (MIAMSI).
“More widely, concerning the United Nations for example, our asset and our force, which is basic experience, is not enhanced either, since this basic experience is not “scientific”. We must stand up for our experiences so that they are enhanced. In the rural world, there are not enough strategic alliances; not enough joint ways are opened between those who work in the same field, while this is necessary to face the dominant process, which has serious consequences. If the rural voice is not well organised, it shall not be heard” (MIJARC).
“Internationality and internationalisation… how do we respond to these ? In what way do we take up the great world challenges ? What is the relationship between the action taken by our movements and the challenges of internationalisation? For example, how does the organisation of Peruvian framers, about which we can be informed in our movements, influence internationalisation?” (J. Puhl).
“In Peru, it is said that movements are used to apply the social policy of the Church.In Belgium, movements are subsidized but, as a direct consequences, the State requires that they work on precise topics. The work done at the base (micro) has to be linked together with national and international research. Strategic actions also have to be linked up on the international agenda (macro). The work of the base is not sufficiently enhanced. For example, we should go as far as mobilizing those who live in the shanty towns of Haiti and who are already thinking for national and international research. There must be more communication between the international level and base teams” (MMTC).