1922: René Van Haudenard: Rules for study circles

A workshop in March 1922 sought to synthesise this experience in a series of “rules” for the emerging study circles:

First rule – Social initiation is based on the enquiry.

Second rule – The facts identified by the enquiry must be judged in the light of principles.

Third rule – From ideas it is necessary to pass over to action.1

Facts, principles, action: not necessarily a complete solution (remède) but an action based on facts and principles identified that would start a process of change, empowering both the person and addressing the problem.

Fr René Van Haudenard, who was responsible for Church social work in Charleroi, south of Brussels, wrote the workshop report, illustrating it with the following examples:

A. Bad method. We propose to study the encyclical Rerum Novarum. The encyclical is divided into ten parts of which each part will take up one session; the explanation of the text will be made without commentary, or examples. Result: By the third meeting the members drift away; it is rare that it will not be necessary to soon abandon the program if one wishes to maintain the circle.

B. Proposed method. Detailed and successive enquiries on property, salary, work, etc. as they appear in the living environment (milieu).

Each session will involve examining answers to a questionnaire. Quite naturally the doctrinal points raised in Rerum Novarum will be developed. Result: The members will take an interest in the matter under observation, a social sense will develop, understanding will deepen because people will recall the facts that were the point of departure.

Haudenard’s report thus contrasted this reality-based enquiry method with the doctrinal approach of the old prayer-study-action formula.


1René Van Haudenard, “La formation sociale aux cercles d’études,” in La Femme belge, 03/1922 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Stefan Gigacz, Chapter 2, Lamennais, Le Sillon and La JOC, The Leaven in the Council: Joseph Cardijn and the Jocist Network at Vatican II (Australian Cardijn Institute)


René Van Haudenard, Précis d’Economie Politique, 3e édition, 1923.