C.H. meets Mgr. Cardijn on his own ground and ((the Movement>)
CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF REPORTER
ONE dominant note sounded repeatedly throughout con versations I had at the weekend in Brussels, Antwerp and Malines: the role of a positive Christian workers' movement as opposed to the stonewalling policies of a negative anti-Marxist phobia.
I glimpsed the highly coordinated Catholic Action network spread all over Belgium in which the laity are encouraged to play to the full their part in " reconciling " God with His Creation — in all its social and economic detail — and with man who runs God's world for Him.
Mgr. Cardijn directs the Young Christian Workers. Mgr. De Smedt the Trade Unions and other social and economic aspects of the work. Mgr Brys is in charge of adult education, with Mgr. Belpaire specialising in the education of women. Canon Hallen is reponsihie for insurance schemes and c Friendly Society projects.
Under the national directors the country is divided into provinces. Each provincial director — like Canon Danis of Antwerp controls all the movement's activities of every kind within his own area.
The educational side of the movement is in four sections : adult men, adult women, young men workers, and young women workers. This c after-schools education is the hallmark of the vision of Mgr, Cardijn.
The schools are vital, but there are things we lack the capacity to assimilate until were old enough to leave school ), he told me.
c Moreover, theoretical knowledge does not apply itself automatically to practical living. The young worker must be taught how to gear the one into the other.
In Belgium he is surrounded not only by religious indifference but by the positively anti-religious influence of Marxist Socialists, as evidenced by the Socialist-Libe
ral Government's action in drastically reducing subsidies for Church schools.
4: The young worker must be led to serve God through the service of others. You have to reveal to him his dignity as a collaborator with God in the working out of God's providence in the details of His Creation, in family and industrial life, for instance.
a He has to make clear definitions for himself in answer to questions like: what IS work, and what IS conjugal life? To set the highest value on the sacredness of woman and of motherhood. ) There are 200.000 Y.C.W. members in Belgium and 2.500.000 in the world. Some 75 countries of all continents and colours — wil be represented on the Y.C.W. pilgrimage to Rome next year.
The leaders of lay Catholic Action in Belgium today are mostly Y.C.W. products. Twenty of the Catholic Members of Parliament share that background. There are
Y.C.W. s mayors in many towns.
But, e whatever the school-leaving age s, says Mgr. Cardijn, e you dare not dispense with the special education appropriate to the years between 15 and 25. s
On the social and economic side the Belgian Christian Workers divide their activities into four main sections : trade unions, health, unemployment and allied insurances, cooperatives, and savings schemes.
There are production as well as consumer cooperatives. They own and run four printing works and five large bakeries in some of the principal towns. There are 1.150 shops run by the consumer co-ops, with an annual turnover of 800.000.000 francs.
Membership of the Christian Trade Union amounts to 650.000 and 1.100.000 participate in the Movement's insurance schemes.
The former is about equal in strength to the Socialist counterpart, the latter much stronger.
A worker investing in the production co-ops reaps a dividend of five per cent, and his investments in the savings schemes earn three and a third per cent. His investment in the co-ops is limited, but he can put what he likes to savings. Whatever he invests he is free to withdraw as and when he needs it.
Probably no more than 30 per cent of Belgium's population of 5.000.000 are regular Mass attenders, though 85 per cent are baptised. But. as Canon Danis puts it, many who do not go to Mass shave the faith au fond)).
This is exemplified by the widespread resistance to the Schools Subsidies Bill on the part of many parents who, however slack themselves, are anxious for their children to grow up with a religious formation to their personalities, and are now making financial sacrifices to keep their children in Catholic schools.
30 per cent at Mass
Politically speaking the numbers supporting the Socialists and Liberals on the one hand and the Catholic Party on the other are very nearly equal.
There are, of course, no practising Catholics among the Parliamentary Socialists, but many workers who, without going to Church, would profess their Catholicism, do in fact vote Socialist simply because to them the Socialist Party is seen quite simply as the workers' party.
The Christian Workers' Movement provides a system of social security and property ownership for the individual worker which is much more than a mere alternative to similar schemes of the Socialists.
True, it is thus helping to win the war against anti-clerical Marxism and to avoid the growth of social circumstance favourable to outright Communism, which at present is not strong here.
And, of course, if a man is hanging on to the Church only by his membership of say, the Christian Workers' savings schemes, it is at least a bond which can be worked upon and refined. At all events, he has been saved from the enemy's camp.
But the Movement is infinitely more positive than this. Its real aim is the construction of a social system on the basis of Rerum Novarum — as part of the process of welding the worker into the Mystical Body of Christ. dale, S . J.