The aims and methods of Catholic Action are defined in a communication of His Holiness the Pope Pius XI to his Eminence the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon.
THE DESIRED QUALITIES.
" While We foresee with great joy that many will harken to the appeal of their pastors and enrol themselves in this apostolic army, We think it most advisable, especially in the early stages, that most attention should be paid rather to the quality than to the number of the soldiers in that army of Christ, and that by means of diligent and thorough formation, which will not only be religious and moral, but apostolic, they will be rendered active and generous auxiliaries of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. For such a purpose it will be useful to make them understand fully, since many of the faithful are yet unaware of it, that the apostolate is one of the duties inherent in Christian life. Amongst the various forms of the apostolate, Catholic Action is most richly deserving of the Church's praise, as most suitable to those new needs of the present day, widespread campaign of laicization that has been so long sustained.
"It is the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation which impose, amongst other obligations, that of the apostolate, that is, the duty of spiritual help to our neighbour. By Confirmation we are made soldiers of Christ. Now this implies that the soldier should strive and fight, not so much for himself as for others.
"But even Baptism, though it be less evident to the profane eye, imposes the duty of the apostolate, because through it we become members of the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ. Amongst the members of this body, as of any other organism whatsoever, there must be solidarity of interests and reciprocal communication of life. eSo we being many are one body in Christy and every one members one of another ' (Rom. XII. 5.) Each must assist the other members. No one can remain inactive; but each one, while he receives, must also give.
" Now every Christian receives the supernatural life which circulates in the veins of the mystical body of Christ— that abundant life which Christ Himself said He came to pour out upon earth. "i am come that you may hate life and may have it more abundantly. (John X 10.) So we must transmit it to others who do not possess it, or who possess it but sparingly or only in appearance. * When these fundamental truths of the Faith are well weighed by the faithful We do not doubt that a new spirit of the Apostolate will fill their hearts and manifest itself in zealous action, since true life cannot be conceived without action, action being not only a manifest but a necessary coefficient and the very measure of life. And God grant that this Holy Year of Redemption—as we eagerly hope and desire—may produce everywhere a renovation and a reinvigoration of Christian life.
OUTSIDE POLITICAL PARTIES.
" To effect this We place Our trust in the power of Catholic Action which, to Our great consolation, is extending far and wide, becoming everywhere more fervent throughout the Catholic world, even in the missionary countries, and conferring manifest benefits not only on the Church but on all civil society. Hence, let it be well understood that Catholic Action, in the mind of the Church, has no material end in view, but a spiritual one.
" And therefore, In its very nature, as in the very nature of the Church, it is above and outside all political parties, being directed not to achieve or protect the particular interests of special groups, but to procure the true good of souls by extending as far as possible the reign of Christ Our Lord in individuals, in families and in society, and thus under its banner of peace to unite in perfect and disciplined concord, all the faithful who resolutely endeavour to contribute their share to the holy work of the apostolate.
DUTY OF CITIZENSHIP.
" That does not prevent individual Catholics from taking part in organisations of a political character which promote programmes and activities guaranteeing fully the preservation of the rights of God and of conscience. We must needs add that to participate in political life is a duty of social charity from the fact that every citizen must according to his capacity and opportunity, contribute to the well-being of his own nation. When such participation is inspired by Christian principles much good will ensue not only for the social but also for the religious life of the people.
" Therefore, Catholic Action, which takes no part in politics in the strict sense of the term, prepares its adherents to follow only those principles of public policy that are sound and inspired by the teaching of the Christian Faith—the only doctrine that can bring prosperity "Cathofic Action, moreover, will make impossible that hideous phenomenon, most monstrous but not infrequent, in which men who profess themselves Catholics have one conscience for their private life and another conscience for their public life, and peace to peoples.
- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, February 2nd, 1935 (pdf pp 46)