Recognition of the IYCW in the Catholic Church


In order to understand the canonical position of the IYCW, it is essential to know the history of the relations between the IYCW and the Church. We can look at this history in terms of two interconnected aspects or questions:

1.What kind of relationship has existed between the IYCW and the Church at each stage of history? What kind of relationship have the IYCW and the Church each wanted from that relationship?

2.In the context of that relationship, what status has the IYCW wanted and enjoyed as a movement in the Church at each stage?

To answer these questions in the depth that they deserve, detailed historical research is needed. Here I will just try to set out some of the key factors that have influenced each stage of the movement’s historical evolution. To do this, I have divided the history into 5 main periods:

1. Before 1912:        The Sources of the YCW;

2. 1912-1924:                The YCW before Catholic Action;

3. 1924-1945:                The YCW as Authentic Catholic Action;

4. 1945-1967:                The YCW as a Lay Apostolate Mvt and ICO;

5. 1967-1995:                The YCW after Cardijn.

II. CANON LAW BEFORE 1983                  


The first Code of Canon Law was adopted by Pope Benedict XV in 1917, just at the time when the YCW was being founded. This Code only took account of the forms of association that existed before that time. For example, it spoke of third orders, which were lay associations attached to religious congregations, it spoke of confraternities, forms of organisation which had existed in the church since at least the Middle Ages.

The 1917 Code also had a lot of gaps, e.g. it failed to consider the existence of lay associations such as the Society of St Vincent De Paul which had existed since 1833. Thus, many canonical developments happened outside the framework of the Code, creating a kind of `common law’ (unwritten law) governing such associations.


Canon law, as in civil law, recognises both physical persons, i.e. ordinary individual people, and also moral persons (now called juridic persons in the 1983 Code). Moral persons are collective entities, which the law recognises as fulfilling certain criteria by which they are recognised as moral persons. In civil law, we can think of states, companies, and sometimes NGOs, which are recognised in law as moral persons (also called juridic persons or legal persons). In the 1917 Code, the Church itself, dioceses and some associations are recognised as moral persons. Having the status of a moral person normally means that the law recognises the capacity of that entity to act in its own right, and not just as a collective of individual persons, e.g. a company can make a contract in its own right. Similarly, in canon law.


The 1917 Code of Canon Law only recognised one category of moral persons, i.e. ecclesiastical moral persons. As far as the Code was concerned, all other moral persons were non-ecclesiastical moral persons, i.e. they might have an existence as moral persons in civil law, but not as ecclesiastical moral persons. To become an ecclesiastical moral person, either a decree of the competent ecclesiastical authority was required, or else this status needed to follow as a consequence from the operation of law (for example, seminaries were recognised as ecclesiastical moral persons by implication, even though the Code did not explicitly state this).

In canon law, as in many civil jurisdictions, the law recognises a public domain, and a private domain. In the Church, the public domain involves persons who speak or act in the name of the Church, i.e. who are members or linked with the hierarchy, since public acts of the Church always involve the hierarchy. In the 1917 Code, there was only one kind of moral person, i.e. the ecclesiastical moral person, therefore the Code assumed that all ecclesiastical moral persons were public moral persons, and vice versa.


The 1917 Code also previewed the existence of certain kinds of associations:

1.         Historical Associations: These included third orders, confraternities, sodalities, pious unions (prayer groups), etc.

2.        De Facto Associations: These existed on the initiative of Catholics, but without any formal recognition or approval.

3.        Recognised Associations: These associations were started by the initiative of individual persons, but had to be approved by the competent ecclesiastical authority.

4.        Associations with Moral Personality: Such associations gained moral personality by a decree of the relevant authority, or by operation of law. As mentioned above, such associations automatically became public institutions of the Church.

The first three categories form what would be considered private associations in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The last category corresponds to what are now public associations in the new Code.


In 1922, the Holy See recognised that lay associations such as the Society of St Vincent De Paul were not covered by the above categories. Therefore a decision of the Holy See published a special decree Corrientem, which recognised the existence of lay associations as a fifth category.

In fact, this was not unusual. A lot of developments happened after the adoption of the Code, which were regulated by new laws or practices developed after 1917. For example, the YCW itself was founded after the Code.

In the 1930s, it was thought that the movements of Catholic Action were a new canonical category, which were governed by new canonical laws. These laws were not `codified’. Thus, such laws were said to be unwritten `common law’ rules.

The question then is where do the YCW and IYCW fit in terms of the above canonical categories? A different answer can be given at each period of the (I)YCW’s existence.



As Cardijn wrote in the 1930 edition of the Manual of the YCW, it is more difficult to find the source of the YCW than it is to locate the source of a great river! However, we know that Cardijn was influenced by events in France, Germany and England, as well as of course in Belgium.

In 1894, a group of Paris students led by Marc Sangnier founded a movement known as the Sillon (The Furrow). Much of the methodology of the Sillon was later borrowed and developed by the YCW. The Sillon also championed the concept of an autonomous lay movement of the Church. In 1910, Pope Pius X, pressured by many French bishops, condemned the Sillon’s concept of autonomy, and asked its leaders to disband their organisation. Even though Pope Benedict XV later told Sangnier that the basis of Rome’s decision had been mistaken, it was too late to revive the movement. As the publications of the early YCWs (the Young Trades Unionists or Jeunesse Syndicaliste) illustrate, Cardijn and Tonnet were both heavily influenced by the Sillon.

We also know that Cardijn studied the German youth and worker movements, including the youth organisations founded by Fr Adolf Kolping. Here let us note the comment of a pioneer of the Church’s concern for the workers, Bishop Ketteler of Mainz: `It is well to note that Kolping, as closely as he wished his organisation to be bound to the church rejected any proposal to establish it as a canonical confraternity; this applies a fortiori to the establishing of workingmen’s organisations’.


It seems to me that both the German and Sillon experiences were strongly present in the minds of Cardijn and the early YCW leaders from the first groups at Laeken to the Jeunesse Syndicaliste. From 1912-1924, the movement followed the Sillon-Kolping-Ketteler line and showed no interest in having a status in the Church.

The problem or challenge of the early YCW was how to maintain its autonomy without suffering the fate of the Sillon? Therefore, the movement, and especially Cardijn worked very hard on what today might be called `lobbying’ or `networking’, i.e. building relationships with key figures, especially with the bishops.

When we consider what was happening in Belgium in other youth groups of that time, we can see why Cardijn gave such an emphasis to the relationship aspect. First of all, some people thought the YCW was a reincarnation of the Sillon. They tried and expected to have the YCW condemned like the Sillon.

Moreover, in the same year that Cardijn started at Laeken, Fr Abel Brohée started another youth group at Louvain, which developed into the Belgian Catholic Youth Association (ACJB), which wanted to be the overall Catholic youth movement for Belgium, and fought strongly against the YCW’s option for the workers, seeing this as a Marxist, classist approach.

The ACJB placed a lot of importance on getting official recognition from the hierarchy, getting approval from the Belgian bishops in 1921, and from the Holy See in 1922. The whole orientation of the ACJB was of a lay movement acting under the higher direction of the hierarchy. Such ideas were anathema to Cardijn and the YCW. But at the same time they put a lot of pressure on the YCW. For example, if the YCW questioned the necessity to submit to the hierarchy, it was accused of sillonism, marxism and other crimes!

As we know from history, in 1922 the YCW eventually agreed to a compromise with the ACJB. Finally in 1924, after receiving assurances that its autonomy would be respected, the YCW even agreed to become a member movement of the ACJB.

However, Cardijn and the YCW refused to allow the ACJB to become the movement’s only channel of contact with the hierarchy. They worked assiduously to maintain a direct contact with the bishops.

With to canonical status of the YCW in this period, it would seem that the YCW was simply a de facto association with no hierarchical approval. Cardinal Mercier probably would not have agreed even if the movement had asked. The ACJB on the other hand was a recognised association. It may therefore be that the YCW also could be classed as a recognised association from the time that it officially joined the ACJB at the end of 1924.


In 1924-25, the first national councils of the four Belgian movements were held. However, the YCW did not seek or receive any official approval from the bishops until after the death of Mercier. Finally more than a year after Cardijn’s meeting with Pope Pius XI, the YCW asked and received official approval from the Belgian bishops in July 1926, but even then the bishops only approved the YCW as part of the ACJB.

The YCW’s main strategy continued to be to develop personal relations with the different Belgian bishops, a strategy that Cardijn then applied to his meetings with Pius XI. In fact, Cardijn’s first meeting with the Pope was nothing unusual. Brohée had a private audience with Pius XI in August 1924, and the president of the Catholic youth clubs also had a private audience in 1925. What was different about Cardijn was his systematic and consistent approach to these meetings. It was difficult for the enemies of the movement to undercut him while he continued to visit and gain Pius XI’s approval each year.

When it joined the ACJB in 1924, the YCW, which had previously avoided use of the term Catholic Action, entered the domain of Catholic Action for the first time. But the YCW insisted on its own specific form of Catholic Action, which soon became known as `specialised Catholic Action’. Cardijn lobbied for and eventually managed to obtain the support of Pius XI for this position. Pius XI wrote a series of letters and speeches in which he stated that the YCW was an ideal or perfect form of Catholic Action. The most important of these statements was in an Autograph Letter written by Pius XI to Cardinal Van Roey of Brussels on August 19 1935, on the occasion of the YCW international congress. In this letter, the pope speaks of the YCW as `an authentic form of Catholic Action‘.

Probably, the most significant aspect of this letter is that Pius XI makes the YCW the reference, or the model for authentic Catholic Action. The YCW is its own reference, not some other concept of Catholic Action. Thus, Cardinal Van Roey considered that `the YCW possesses titles of nobility and letters of credit such as no apostolic movement has ever possessed in the past’. Cardijn quoted Van Roey in 1937 as saying that the `hierarchical mandate of the YCW has been consecrated in a manner so solemn that is no longer possible to put it in doubt. The YCW is truly an Institution of the Church, official and public, charged by the hierarchy with the reconquest of the young workers, so threatened’.

Here it is necessary also to understand Pius XI’s definition of Catholic Action as `the participation of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy’. The hierarchy have a public function in the Church. Therefore, Catholic Action is a participation in a public function of the Church. Hence, an institution mandated with this function also becomes a public institution of the Church.

Now in canon law as we have seen, being a public institution automatically implies that the institution is an `ecclesiastical moral person’, the equivalent in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of a `public juridic person’. Van Roey (assuming that Cardijn quotes him correctly) thus seems to have considered Pius XI’s Autograph Letter as an official recognition of the YCW’s status as a public institution.

If Van Roey and Cardijn were right, then the YCW already existed as an ecclesiastical moral person. If the YCW had such status in 1935, does this status apply to the IYCW today? Presumably, yes, because the IYCW of 1995 is the successor of the YCW of 1935 (although the ICYCW would argue that they are the successor!). Pius XI letter was sent for the 1935 international congress in Brussels which was considered at the time as an `international council’ as the report clearly shows. The fact that the YCW had no written statutes at that time does not affect the legal aspect.

If it can be shown that the (I)YCW of 1935 had attained ecclesiastical moral personality, this has important consequences for the status of the IYCW today. In canon law, such a status cannot be `lost’. It can only be taken away by a specific decree to that effect. Thus, for example, the cancellation of the Special Protocol of recognition of the IYCW would not and could not affect the IYCW’s status as an ecclesiastical moral person in the Church. Nor does the adoption of the 1983 Code of Canon Law change the situation. In other words, if it can be established that the IYCW was created as an ecclesiastical moral person by Pius XI, then the IYCW still holds this status today.


After World War II, Pope Pius XII adopted a new orientation. He tried to relativise the concept of Catholic Action, stating that all lay Catholic activities, from prayer groups to social services, formed part of Catholic Action.

If everything was Catholic Action, what was specific about the YCW? Here the YCW picked up on the concept of lay apostolate, the fundamental role and importance of lay people acting in their own lives and milieux. This concept was promoted by various movements, including the IYCW, at a series of international congresses on the lay apostolate in 1951, 1957 (just after the Rome World Council) and 1967.

After the 1951 conference an international secretariat for the lay apostolate, COPECIAL (Permanent Committee for International Congresses for the Apostolate of the Laity) was created to provide a link between the lay apostolate movements and the Holy See, and to organise the congresses. The IYCW played a highly active role in COPECIAL, which was a lay-run structure. Nevertheless, there were also tensions inside COPECIAL, owing to the movements’ different conceptions of lay apostolate.

The 1950s also saw the creation of the Conference of International Catholic Organisations, the ICO Conference, in which the IYCW also played an active part. The ICOs included all kinds of associations with the only common denominator being the word Catholic. The ICOs also wanted to have a certain recognition and status in the Church, just as NGOs had gained status in the UN system. Thus the ICO Conference negotiated with the Holy See for such recognition. The Holy See agreed, and the process for recognition was established by means of which each potential ICO negotiated a Special Protocol with the Holy See. The ICO recognition did not necessarily involve the granting of moral personality. Some associations may have already had the status of ecclesiastical moral person, but the ICO status did not touch this aspect. As mentioned, it was simply a lowest common denominator.

Despite some apparent reservations of Cardijn, the IYCW went along with the ICO plan. One reason for Cardijn’s reservation may have been his belief that the (I)YCW was already an existing public institution as Van Roey had stated in 1937. Why would there then be any need for a further recognition, which could only confuse the IYCW’s existing status? Nevertheless, caught up in the preparation of the Rome World Council, the IYCW went ahead in the process of negotiating a Protocol. In due course, after making the IYCW wait for months, the Holy See finally approved the statutes, and granted the status of ICO to the IYCW.

The IYCW did not completely abandon the concept of Catholic Action in this period. In fact, Catholic Action had become completely identified with the YCW and the other specialised movements. This was especially so in countries like France.

At the same time, Cardijn seems to have continued to have some attachment to the idea of Catholic Action. It is not easy to define exactly what Cardijn wanted to keep of the Catholic Action idea. No doubt his feeling was linked to the recognition and status that he believed that the IYCW had received from Pius XI.

Cardijn also continued to maintain his personal relationship with the popes, from Pius XII, John XXIII to Paul VI. He did this until his death in 1967.


After Vatican II, COPECIAL was absorbed by the newly created Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL). Cardijn, the IYCW and other specialised movements had fought against this outcome during the Council. They wanted an even more democratic structure, and fought against what they saw as `clericalisation’. Nevertheless, the IYCW lost this battle for structures. Despite the presence of a number of former YCWs among the advisers in the PCL from 1967, the clericalisation continued. In 1976, the PCL changed its name to Pontifical Council for the Laity, consolidating its clerical structure.

In the meantime, after Cardijn died in 1967, the IYCW had gradually lost its personal links both with the pope and other Vatican officials.

At Linz, the IYCW reaffirmed its desire to remain a movement of the Catholic Church, but it wanted to update the Protocol. After long negotiations, in which the IYCW agreed to every demand of the Holy See, a new Protocol was signed in 1977, by which the IYCW continued to have the status of ICO.

As far as I can tell, the IYCW tried to fulfil all its obligations under the Protocol. However, before the 1983 World Council in Madrid, the PCL refused to approve any candidates for president, with no explanation given. This is contrary to the `Guidelines for ICOs’ established by the PCL in 1971, and was also contrary to explicit undertakings given by the Holy See to the International Team during the negotiations for the new Protocol in 1977.

I thus think that it was the Holy See which broke the Protocol, and not the IYCW. If this is so, then there were no valid grounds for the Holy See to cancel the Protocol. I therefore believe that the cancellation of the Protocol in 1989 was illegal.

In any event, the cancellation of the Protocol could not affect the question of the IYCW’s status of moral or juridic person.

It should be pointed out here that it is obvious that the PCL does not consider that the IYCW has moral personality. If they had thought so, presumably the Holy See would have issued a decree suppressing this personality at the same time as the Protocol was cancelled.

On another level, how could the IYCW have confidence in a new status in the Church without clarifying the legality or illegality of what happened in 1989?



The 1983 Code of Canon Law speaks of 2 main kinds of associations:

Public Associations (PUA):         Which have official status and act `in the name of the Church’. A PUA is roughly equivalent to an official or semi-official government organisation in civil law.

Private Associations (PRA):         Basically, all other associations of Catholics are PRAs, i.e. roughly equivalent to an NGO, etc.                

These headings form a continuum covering a wide range of possible relationships to the ecclesiastical authority (EA). In addition, we can add the historical associations and lay associations mentioned in the 1917 Code continue to also exist.


The Code provides a number of regulations which concern all Catholic associations:

i. C. 215 recognises the liberty of Catholics to freely found associations `for charitable and religious purposes or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world’.

ii. No association may call itself Catholic without the consent of EA (C.         300).

iii. All associations are subject to the vigilance of competent EA whose duty is to take care that `integrity of faith and morals’ is preserved and to watch that there is no abuse in `ecclesiastical discipline’ (C. 305). All associations are `subject to the governance‘ of the EA. This means that the EA has a responsibility for a kind of supervision, e.g. offering correction, support, etc. All associations are also `subject to the vigilance of the Holy See’.        

iv. Members of associations should be received in accord with `the norm of law and the statutes of each association’ (C. 307). No legitimate member may be dismissed except for a just cause in accord with canon law and the statutes’ (C. 308).

v. Associations         have the right to make their own internal `norms’ (C. 309). In other words, canon law recognises the internal rules of an association as the law of that association.                         


The 1983 Code now speaks mostly of `juridic persons’ rather than `moral persons’. The new Code also makes one major change. Whereas in the 1917 Code, there was only one category of ecclesiastical moral persons, now there are two categories of juridic persons:

1.        Public Juridic Persons: These are the equivalent of ecclesiastical moral persons in the 1917 Code.

2.         Private Juridic Persons: This is the new class of juridic persons. It applies to the category of private associations, which now become capable of having juridic personality.

What difference does it make having juridic personality? It means that an organisation can act in its own name, and it has rights and obligations just as a company does in civil law.

The question of course is what happens to those juridic persons created under the 1917 Code? If the IYCW has juridic personality, does it have public or private juridic personality under the 1983 Code? The answer would seem to be that it must be a public juridic person, since an ecclesiastical moral person corresponds to the criteria of a public juridic person in the 1983 Code.



The following characteristics apply to all the various kinds of private association:

i. C. 298 recognises the freedom of the Christian faithful to establish PRAs by private agreement among themselves.                         

ii. A PRA enjoys autonomy (C. 323) in accordance with its statutes, subject to the vigilance and the governance of the EA.

iii. A PRA freely chooses its own moderator and officials (C. 324 §1).

iv. A PRA freely chooses a priest as spiritual advisor, if it desires one (C. 324 §2). He must be confirmed by the local ordinary.

v. A PRA freely administers its property         (C. 325), but the EA has the responsibility `to be watchful that the goods are used for the purposes of the association’.

vi. A PRA ceases to exist in accord with its statutes (C. 326). It can also be suppressed         by the EA `if its activity causes serious harm to ecclesiastical doctrine or discipline or is a scandal to the faithful’.


1.        A De Facto Private Association (DFPA): As in the 1917 Code, this is an association of Catholics which exists in fact without recognition of the EA. There is no requirement or need for official recognition, and the absence of recognition should not be interpreted negatively. On the contrary, the EA should normally be favourable to DFPAs, although if necessary they may also be negative or critical. A DFPA is not a juridic person. A DFPA is not entitled to call itself Catholic.

2.        A Recognised Private Association (RPA): An association may be recognised by the EA as an RPA, following a review of its statutes by the EA. The ICOs have at least this status, since by definition their statutes have been reviewed and they have been officially recognised as ICOs. Being recognised, an RPA may call itself Catholic, however, an RPA is not a juridic person, and so cannot act in its own right.

3.        A Private Association with Juridical Personality (PAJP): This is similar to an RPA, with the difference that it has received juridic personality by a formal decree of the EA (C. 322), and therefore can act legally in its own right.



A public association can be created in two ways:

1.        The competent EA can found a PUA by its own direct initiative;

2.        The competent EA may transform an existing PRA into a PUA.

In both cases, the EA erects the PUA by a decree to that effect (C. 312-313).


A PUA acts in the name of the Church. It is much more subject to the control of EA. Some characteristics are:

1.        It receives a mission to pursue its objectives in the name of the Church (C. 313), i.e. if its objectives require such a mission, e.g. teaching Catholic theology.

2.        The statutes and any changes or revisions require the approval of the EA (C. 314).

3.        A PUA may organise and act on its own initiative, but is under the further direction of the EA (C. 315).

4.        A person who has `publicly rejected the Catholic faith or abandoned ecclesiastical communion’ or been excommunicated cannot become or remain a member of a PUA (C. 316).

5.        The EA has the `right to confirm the moderator’ or to `install the one presented’ (C. 317 §1). The moderator may not exercise leadership in a political party (C. 317 §4). The EA can remove the moderator for a just cause after `hearing both the moderator and the major officials of the PUA’ (C. 318 §2).

6.        The EA names the chaplain or ecclesiastical assistant of a PUA (C. 317 §1). The EA may also remove the chaplain (C. 318 §2).

7.        In special circumstances, the EA may designate a trustee to act on its behalf to temporarily direct the PUA (C. 318 §1).

8.        A PUA administers the goods its possesses `under the higher direction of the EA’ (C. 319 §1). The PUA `must render an account of the administration each year’, including an account of the donations it receives.

9.        The EA may suppress a PUA for grave reasons (C. 320). However, this is not to be done without having heard the moderator and other major officials.

These characteristics seem to me to correspond much more to the characteristics of a Catholic Action movement of the Italian Catholic Action line. Historically, the IYCW always fought against such concepts.



The personal prelature (PP) is often poorly understood, and is seen as the special creation of Opus Dei. Historically, this is not true. Contrary to popular belief, the origins of this category do not come from Opus Dei.

In fact, the historical model for what has now become the PP was the Mission de France, a special kind of diocese created after World War II for the worker priests. The PP is an implementation of a Vatican II decision which was meant to provide a way to extend the Mission de France model to other similar fields.

At Vatican II, the bishops who supported this proposal were mainly supporters of the Catholic Action movements. They included Cardinal Montini, who became Pope Paul VI, and who first implemented the proposal after the Council. These bishops recognised the problems that the CA movements often had with the hierarchy, and wanted to provide a new model of relations between the movements and the hierarchy.

These bishops also wanted to provide a framework to recruit priests who would specialise in and devote themselves to the work of the movements. Thus, the proposal provided for the creation of special seminaries.

These bishops were also influenced by the specialised approach of the CA movements. Therefore, they saw the need for the new model to organise on a categorial or non-territorial basis, as did the specialised movements. In canon law and civil law, this kind of non-territorial link is regarded as a `personal’ link, as opposed to a `territorial’ link as in a normal diocese, where all people who live in a given territory belong to the diocese. Thus the term `personal’ does not mean, as is sometimes thought, that it is a kind of a personal diocese of the pope, nor of the members.

The term prelature is used to distinguish it from a diocese. As we know bishops are very jealous of their own territory, and the form of a prelature was chosen to try to avoid the problem of double-belonging or double jurisdiction. The term prelature also indicates that the responsible `prelate’ is not necessarily a bishop.

Pope VI legislated after Vatican II to provide for the possibility of PPs. It would seem that he and his advisers must have expected some demand. However, no initiative ever came from the Catholic Action movements. It is interesting that it was at around this time that Paul VI named Cardijn a bishop and cardinal. As we know, Cardijn accepted his episcopal nomination, not as a personal honour, but because the Holy See assured him that he was to be a bishop for the YCW, for the young workers. It seems clear that this is also how Cardijn interpreted his consecration. It is also possible, I think, to interpret Paul VI’s nomination of Cardijn as bishop as an initiative in the same line as the development of the PP. (Some historical research would be needed to establish this.)

Meanwhile, Opus Dei who had been looking for a suitable status for their organisation virtually stumbled on this possibility. Since Opus Dei have a lot of canon lawyers, they commenced to work to be recognised as such a prelature. It is thus true that Opus Dei lobbied to make sure that PPs were included in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.


It should be clear that a PP is not a form of association. It is a structure that provides a direct link between individuals or associations and the hierarchy.

Some characteristics of a PP are:

1.        A PP is presided over by a prelate, who may be a bishop, but is not necessarily so.

2.        A PP may have its own priests and deacons, and therefore its own seminary.

3.        Lay persons may also dedicate themselves to the work of a PP. The possibilities are completely open to agreement between the PP and the persons concerned.

4.        The relationship between the PP and local dioceses must be defined in the statutes of a PP.

These are the only guidelines for the establishment of a PP. It is a much open structure than that provided by the rigid PUA structure. Thus, for example, the situation which existed where Cardijn was bishop for the YCW fits completely within the PP framework. Cardijn provided a direct or special link between the YCW and the hierarchy, including both the Pope and the world’s bishops. This link did not negate other links with local dioceses. On the contrary, Cardijn’s role facilitated the YCW’s links with the Holy See and with local hierarchies. Thus, it seems that Cardijn and the YCW, and the Mission de France are the original historical models for the PP. Opus Dei simply adapted this model.


Looking back over the 5 historical periods in terms of our two initial questions, we can arrive at some conclusions.

First, we can see that Cardijn always placed more importance on the relationship aspect. As far as status is concerned, Cardijn’s only concern was for the status of the IYCW. He believed, as did many others, that the YCW had been recognised as a `public institution’ of the Church. He placed little importance on the status of ICO.

As for the (I)YCW itself, its position has evolved:

From 1912-24, the period before Catholic Action, the YCW had or sought no status.

From 1924-45, the YCW became recognised as `an authentic form of Catholic Action’, which was believed to have given the (I)YCW the status of public institution of the Church, which implies that the (I)YCW is already a moral or public juridic person in canon law.

From 1945-1967, the emphasis was on lay apostolate & status as ICO.

In some respects, the period after 1975 is a return to the ideas of the 1912-1924 period.

The canonical choices for the IYCW today thus seem to be between:

a) De Facto Private Association, with no official status;

b) Recognised Private Association, e.g. as an ICO;

c) Private Association with Juridic Personality, as an ICO with the added status of juridic personality;

d) Public Association, subject to heavy hierarchical control;

e) Personal Prelature, with very few theoretical limitations beyond what could be negotiated with the Holy See;

f) Authentic Movement of Catholic Action, i.e. reclaim the movement’s tradition as a public institution of the Church governed by its own `common law’ worked out in practice over the years.

Once again, the fundamental choice is what kind of relationship the IYCW seeks to have with the Church.

Stefan Gigacz, 1995

(Document prepared for the IYCW International Secretariat)

                                                                                                1917                                 CODE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1983                                 CODE                        
                                                                                                (PRIVATE)                                 ASSOCIATIONS                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        PRIVATE                                 ASSOCIATIONS                        
                                                                                                Historic                                 Assoc                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Historic                                 Assoc                        
                                                                                                DFA                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DFPA                        
                                                                                                RA                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        RPA                        
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Lay                                 Assoc                        
                                                                                                ASSOCIATION                                 WITH MORAL PERSONALITY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        PUBLIC                                 ASSOCIATIONS                        
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        PERSONAL                                 PRELATURE                        
                                                                                                COMMON                                 LAW ORGANISATIONS                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        COMMON                                 LAW ORGANISATIONS                        
                                                                                                Catholic                                 Action                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Catholic                                 Action                        
                                                                                                ICOs                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ICOs                        
                                                                                                Lay                                 Organisations