It was approved by a vote of 2, to 2 of bishops assembled at the Council, and promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 18 November The title is Latin for "Apostolic Activity", which is from the first line of the decree, as is customary with significant Catholic documents. The purpose of the document was to encourage and guide lay Catholics in their Christian service. In this decree the Council sought to describe the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate , to state its basic principles, and to give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise. The specific objectives of lay ministry are: evangelization and sanctification, renewal of the temporal order whereby Christ is first in all things, [ clarification needed ] and charitable works and social aid.
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Indeed, the history of theology and the theology of history are interwoven and mutually reinforce each other. This interesting connection is particularly highlighted in the topic we are reflecting on today. On the one hand, we can say that the life and ecclesial role of the laity preceded theology, and that the theology of the Council encouraged and developed these later on. On the other hand, however, we see that this connection is neither linear nor absolute.
Concretely, the doctrine of the Council has introduced several new features in the life of the laity hardly hinted at in their experience previous to the Council; and the history of the reception of these innovations in the post-conciliar period shows how some elements penetrated deep into the fabric of the Church, yet others remained inoperative or even forgotten.
I shall do that by looking back to the situation of the laity in the Church prior to the Council, which is the best context in which we can better appreciate these innovative elements.
The vicissitudes undergone by the doctrine taught in the Decree in the period after the Council will be dealt with by the succeeding speakers. The following is the outline of this speech. Then, I shall present the situation of the laity in the period prior to Vatican II starting from the beginning of the last century from a threefold perspective: the pastoral realities, pronouncements of Magisterium and theological positions current at the time.
As regards the analysis of the text, I will not dwell on its genesis and development during the Council, especially because that aspect has already been thoroughly studied. Rather, I will focus my analysis on the final text, highlighting its salient, and in a sense innovative, features. By way of ending, I will then make a few concluding remarks. In its first appearance in a Christian context — in the I Clementis This fact reinforces the view of De la Potterie and suggests a similar usage of the term among Christians at the time, that is, to indicate Christians who were not clerics.
Moreover, in the Christian literature of the early centuries, the word was, in fact, seldom used. Tertullian later adopted the term into Latin, using it to mean the same thing, and in the writings of Origen and those that came afterwards, that distinction with respect to the clerics was finally stabilized.
Gradually, the term took on a more passive meaning5. This also explains the phenomenon that such conceptual ambivalence at the time did not raise major problems. Likewise, in the Middle Ages, there began to appear the use of the term saeculares, which referred to non-ordained Christians and non-religious.
It was mostly used in the context of the tension between the Empire and the Pontificate, between the Kingdom and Priesthood: secular princes with claims of governance on the Church, who often managed to get it. The evolution of the term and concept reached another stage in the modern era. In reaction to the emphasis given by the Reformation to the common priesthood of the faithful and to the detriment of the ministerial priesthood, the Counter-Reformation accorded a unilateral emphasis on the ordained ministry, concentrating on it the mission of the Church even more, and causing, as a side effect, a more passive role for the laity in the Church.
In the period of the Enlightenment, the Church was estranged from politics, science, and secular activities in general, and secularism gained momentum. In this context, it was even more 2 Cfr. Laicato, in G. Calabrese - P. Goyret - O. Piazza edd. The laymen are allowed to marry, to cultivate the land, to judge between one man and another, to try legal cases, to give offerings for the cult, to pay tithes, and thus they could be spared, if by doing good they avoid vices.
Finally, the revolutions, the liberal states, and the end of the Papal States brought ecclesiology to affirm the notion of Ecclesia societas perfecta inaequalium: confronted by the aggression of ideological liberalism and of anti-Catholic civil governments, it became, in fact, necessary to reaffirm the visible and corporate authority of the Church.
The affirmation of itself as a perfect society aimed to preserve its independence. The upshot of all this was that the Church and its relationship with the world came to be understood as a reality that hardly integrated within it the role of the laity. A case in point is the life of Blessed John Henry Newman. In his Catholic period, he clashed with Card.
Wiseman — ironically the one who had encouraged him to conversion — and, later, with Card. Manning because of his pastoral approach. Newman wanted, in fact, to form the laity so that they could also play an active role in the life of the Church, but Wiseman and the Bishop of Birmingham, who were strong supporters of clerical principles, thought such an idea was ill-advised. Newman's ideas concerning the role of the laity manifested its full potential during his short stint in Ireland, and for a while its development looked promising.
In , at the invitation of the Archbishop of Dublin, Paul Cullen, the English Oratorian was chosen Rector of the newly formed Catholic University of Dublin, an office which he exercised from to Amidst the hostility of the Irish episcopal hierarchy, Newman left the post of rector in The change in the way of thinking about the mission of the Church came with the renewal of ecclesiology begun in the late nineteenth century.
The Catholic theological thought on the laity of those years followed two lines. The first was more action-oriented and directed to society. This flourished in France and Belgium, especially among youth workers. The second, which developed in Germany, was 7 P. Each of these sought to ground its own view of lay action or participation in theology The various pastoral initiatives that arose in the twentieth century, many of which were trying to respond to the need of finding new and more effective forms of mission in an increasingly secularized Western society, should also be noted.
Among these, the efforts done by the Catholic Action, promoted with particular enthusiasm both by Pius XI and Pius XII, and which reached the height of its vitality in the 50s, deserve special mention. One reads this in the writings of Fr. Dabin on the nature of the apostolate of Catholic Action With the passage of time, however, we notice a certain evolution, and we begin to perceive a mutual collaboration between the laity and the hierarchy in the mission of the whole Church in which both parties fulfilled the role that corresponded to each It was in this period that St.
With Opus Dei, he gave life to an apostolic phenomenon, which — in the words of St. On a pastoral level, this light led him to open to the laity paths of holiness in the midst of the world, preaching the sanctification of ordinary work and of family and social duties as a way to bring all creation to God. After World War II, theological and pastoral literature began to study the direct and precise role of the laity in the Church, rather than being a means to other ends.
Two books that treated this topic in depth were particularly important in this time prior to the Second 10 De Salis, o. Pio XI, Letter of The expression is also used in the Encylcical Non abbiamo bisogno, del Recently a clear and concise article was published on this issue: J.
Vanzini edd. Saggi teologici offerti al prof. For both, the layman, by the very fact of being baptized, had a mission to carry out in the Church and in the world. His vision, however, tends to juxtapose two parallel missions of the laity: one within the Church and another in the world For Philips, on the contrary, everyone serves the same purpose and the same mission in the Church, and what distinguish the lay persons from the religious are the environments in which they live and situations in which they find themselves.
Remarkably numerous publications were produced on this subject in this period. However, the in-depth study of the Belgian Gustave Thils on the theology of earthly affairs is particularly notable. This idea was met with opposition in the French-speaking world, especially among those involved in the evangelization of workers Latourelle, Vaticano II: balance y perspectivas.
Pellitero, La secularidad laical en nuestro tiempo. Presupuestos, condiciones, consecuencias, in L. Navarro — F. Puig edd. Castellano Cervera, Teologia Spirituale, in G. Canobbio - P. Coda ed.
Un bilancio, Vol. Fattori, o. This fact is relevant to our reflection, if we consider that in the Decree Apostolicam actuositatem there are no less than 31 references to his teachings, and if we remember that Pope Pacelli canonized three lay people — the Swiss farmer and ascetic Nicholas of Flue , Maria Goretti , and Dominic Savio Moreover, he also used these terms in the encyclical, Mystici corporis Later, addressing the members of the First International Congress on the Lay Apostolate in Rome in October , he affirmed that the laity, while being full members of the Body of Christ, must, nevertheless, be subject to the hierarchy in their apostolate.
Yet compared to the previous magisterium, the speech had a significant novelty: an affirmation that the said dependence could admit of degrees In the Second International Congress on the Lay Apostolate in October , also held in Rome, Pius XII underlined again that the laity should always be subordinated to the hierarchy, but defined the nature of their task with a new concept: that of the consecratio mundi There was considerable debate on the true meaning of this last idea: some thought it too close to sacralizing secular structures and thus to be rejected; others understood it as the transformation of the world according to God's plan However, the concept did not last long and was explicitly rejected in Vatican II This position was interpreted by many as a regression of the idea to times past and a falling back to traditional positions This overview, necessarily brief, in the period immediately prior to Vatican II reveals, above all, a situation in which there was a confusion of ideas, despite all the good intentions of strengthening the lay apostolate.
In essence, the attempt to veer away from the tendency to think only of the laity in negative terms, i. As a consequence, the attitude of simply tolerating, instead of promoting, the laity went on as before, and the distinction between laity and faithful continued to be rather obscure. Chenaux ed.
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Summary of Apostolicam Actuositatem
To intensify the apostolic activity of the people of God, 1 the most holy synod earnestly addresses itself to the laity, whose proper and indispensable role in the mission of the Church has already been dealt with in other documents. Sacred Scripture clearly shows how spontaneous and fruitful such activity was at the very beginning of the Church cf. Acts ; ; Rom. Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified.