1947 ANSCA seeks control

B.A. Santamaria, Your Most Obedient Servant, Selected Letters: 1938-1996, Edited by Patrick Morgan, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2007, 575pp.

Page 25

10 Frank Maher Rearrangements

By 1947 BAS had become head of the Catholic Action secretariat, and Frank Maher, its former head, worked as a research assistant.

379 Collins Street,


May 30th, 1947.

Mr F. K. Maher,

3 Franks Grove,

KEW, E.4.

Dear Frank,

I hope you won't mind my writing this letter to you as a preliminary for a talk in the next couple of days, but I find that unless I put them down in writing I forget half of the things I want to tell you when I see you. I have given a good deal of thought to the organisation of the Secretariat and its relation to the affiliated Movements in the light of the decisions of the last three meetings of the Episcopal Committee. A reading of the Minutes of these meetings indicates that we have won the point which caused us some much difficulty in the past—namely, that the Bishops while holding us responsible for the general development of GA. in Australia have given us a definite degree of authority to be exercised in the co-ordination of the various Movements. Looking at the situation objectively I think we have received all the authority that a body like the Secretariat could possibly achieve, and that our standing with the Episcopal Committee in the future will depend on how wisely we exercise our influence within the Movements, and how much we are able to make them progress through the infusion of new ideas and a constant check on the methods which they adopt.

It seems to me that to make the Movements function properly we need a wider link than that which is provided by attendance of a member of the Secretariat at National Executive Meetings, and by the contact I will build up with each National Secretary in the course of a weekly talk, or even more frequent interviews. I think that the influence of the Secretary on each Movement should be exercised primarily through the small and completely official Advisory Committee. This Committee should be composed of yourself. Ken, myself, the Chaplain to the Secretariat, and I think, one or two other priests who are interested in the work, as permanent members. When the affairs of the individual movement come up for consideration there should be co-opted any permanent executives of the Movement—for example the national secretary, the editor of the movement's paper etc. My idea is that this committee should meet at least once a month, and that we should give one or two days to going through the affairs of each Movement with the executive officers, keeping a constant check on enquiries, campaigns, and on the rate at which Movements put into practice the methods of Teams and the Revision of Influence which you brought back with you from Europe. In addition the Committee should lay down the policy and pick the articles for the Leaders' Bulletin of each Movement and also keep a constant supervision of the Movement's general newspaper. If this is done, the advice which goes from the Secretariat to the individual Movement will be based not on the isolated contacts with yourself or myself at different times, but on the cumulative wisdom of a group. This would have the advantage of providing the best sort of advice in a discussion of individual problems and of ensuring that the secretaries of the different Movements, in their consultations with Ken, yourself or myself, do not get possibly contradictory lines of advice. This danger did exist, for instance, in the NCGM while the girls were consulting Ken or myself at different times. One did not necessarily know what the other had advised and hence there was considerable confusion. Under the method which I suggest the executives officers' contacts with the three of us would be at this meeting, and we would all know exactly where we stood The meeting would lay down directions and lines of policy for the secretary of each Movement to carry out, and in between meetings I would see each secretary two or three times a week to ensure that the work was being done.

If you agree that this is a good way of handling the problem, I think that there is a very important work which you can do for each Movement. While each Movement has its own editor of its Leaders' Bulletin, I would suggest, if at all possible, that you should in reality be the editor of all of them. In the case of the NCGM, the YCS, the NCRM and the CCY—all of which have or will have their own Leaders' Bulletin—there should be no difficulty at all in your acting in this capacity. In the case of Father Brace, he could continue as editor of the NCGM Bulletin, but I am quite sure that any articles which you submit would be published so that in fact you would be acting in that capacity for the NCGM as well.

One of the main things which would come up at these meetings would no doubt be the results of enquiries performed by the various Movements. At the moment I believe that the real effect of practically all of the enquiries is being lost because nobody is doing what you did in the case of the two YCS enquiries on Reading and Holidays. More than half the value of an individual enquiry comes not from what is actually done by the group about it but from the insight into group problems and weaknesses which can be derived by National Headquarters of each Movement, by the Secretariat and by the Bishops. I feel that if you had the time to do this same job regularly for all Movements, we would greatly enhance the value of the whole job.

I would like to discuss these two matters concerning the relationship of the Secretariat with you as soon as I can get across to see you.

On the research and writing side of things I would be glad if you could consider the following suggestion. I was very taken with the idea that the memoranda on future policy should constantly come out from this office to keep people thinking about the future development of C.A. Do you think it would be too ambitious to extend the idea slightly and to bring out a quarterly publication like the Dossiers, This quarterly publication could include four or five regular features. The following heads cone to my mind at the moment:

(1) A general article on future Catholic Action policy which you have mentioned.

(2) A documentation of some general social or moral problem which may relate to the campaign being pursued by Catholic Action movements in common, or to some general public question.

(3) A research article on some social or economic problem, for example the development of machinery in different parts of the world for Labor Management Consultation.

(4) A research article on Communism of the type which the Dossiers always published.

(5) Reports on enquiries conducted by various Movements.

(6) Bibliography.

I feel that something like this would have a very widespread circulation and it would have the great advantage of bringing problems of policy in Catholic Action to the notice not only of Bishops, but of priests, nuns, and brothers who, I think would subscribe to such a magazine, and to a fair nucleus of lay leaders possessing the capacity to think on the various problems. I think that such a publication would be a payable proposition with one or two selected advertisements. It would fill an entirely different need from that now filled by 20th Century, since it would be mainly factual, and where it concerned general things, this would deal specifically with the problems of movements of Catholic Action.

With regard to the general campaign decided upon by the Bishops for all Movements this year, I think that one of the first tasks of the Committee and the different Movements would be to work out the application of the campaign in relation to the needs of the different Movements. I do think that in addition to the Social Justice Statement, which emphasises one aspect only, we need one or two pamphlets which will serve as background reading for leaders' groups in all the Movements. I think we need one pamphlet which would be both descriptive and historical, in relation to vocational organisations existing in Australia—what they are doing in the different spheres, how they arose, what their present position is. Then I think that we need a pamphlet which will deal with principles— describing the particular responsibilities of individuals in relation to organisations of which they are members. This second one need not he very large, but I do not think there is anything sufficiently popular on these lines which will serve to provide the judgment part of the work for the different Movements. Do you feel that you could do anything about these matters?

These are a few of the things that I have been thinking about and I would like the opportunity of talking them over with you and Ken in the next few days so that we can reach whatever conclusions should be reached on them.

I will give you a ring and fix some time when we can get together.

Best wishes.

Ken Mitchell was Melbourne Diocesan Director of Catholic Action.