—The Most Advanced Social Legislation in the World
From a Staff Reporter Fr. Antonio di Paula Dutra, forward-thinking Brazilian Catholic Actionist and journalist, whom I met last week, is Psychology
Professor at the " Free " University of Bello Horizonte. Two things puzzle Fr. Dutra—why is Brazil starved of Catholic news from England, and why does England—especially Catholic England —seem to depend wholly for its Brazilian' information upon Reuters and random John Gunthers?
Fr. Dutra's story of his country disclosed facts hardly known over here.
" You must understand," he told me," that Brazil is a country that drives on Catholic Action. Ours is the most advanced social legislation in the world, the chief reason being that it was positively framed, and not drawn up to redress abuses in our existing social and economic system. We simply transferred the broad principles of the great encyclicals to the needs of Brazil.
" In 1934 Brazil worked out her aew Constitution. It was the golden chance Catholic Actionists
in Brazil had been waiting for.
" You see, Catholic Action in our country is something organised from top to bottom. We began with existing organisations, still fcw in number and members after the last war. Now we re spread throughout the country in a slime that leaves no one out."
Fr. Dutra unfolded before me a diagram showing precisely how it works.
Here you have," he said, " the supreme Council of Bishops—the three Archbishops of Primes, Sao Paulo and my town of Bello Horizonte, the Bishop of Niteroi, and the presiding Cardinal Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro. Theirs is the role of advising. Nothing more. They are in constant contact with the National Council of Action, which has experts on the four main subjects of Cinema, Education, Economic and Social Questions and other Secretariates as needs arise. Similarly, each diocese and each parish has its replica of the National Council, branching off into specialised groups tackling immediate problems. No aspect of life is omitted."
had objections, and raised them.
FASCIST CHARGE " First of all," I said, " there is the serious and easy charge of ' Fascism '; any politically-minded Briton—apart from the Catholic— would sneer and label this Fascist."
" There is nothing Fascist at all about it. The whole point is that laymen are organised because they want to be organised. In Brazil you are generally a comfortable agnostic with a Catholic bias if you don't happen to be even a lazy Catholic. Of course, them are Masonic and such forces, but in very small and ineffectual doses.
" There was an outcry from them after the framing of the Constitution in 1934." He rummaged among a pile of brochures on his desk. " This was produced shortly afterwards," he said, allowing me a pamphlet with bright jacket and the alluring title, Catholic Action Engineered the Constitution.
" It proves two things: the power of Catholic Actibn, and the freedom of speech that is part of Brazil's liberal regime.
" There is often an unfounded notion that Catholic countries—that is countries where Catholics are in an active majority—are by the fact • ' Fascist' comities. But for Brazil I can safely say this: the break in 1559 with Portugal was the best thing that could have
happened. It created the anomaly of a Catholic country with a liberal State entirely separated from the Church ; but it rid us of the often intolerable anomalies of self-seeking statesmen of those Empire days using the Church and the authority given thcm by the union between Church and State to further their own ambition" TOP HEAVINESS
" Isn't there also the danger," I said, " that such a perfect paperscheme might miss fire in practice? The organisation looks absolutely fool-proof, but isn't there the chance that it might be top-heavy ; or so muscle-bound that immediate action becomes pretty well impossible?"
" There's been none of that in Brazil. We are a young nation with all the energy and pioneering spirit of the young nation. But we are more. We are a young nation ivith Catholic ideals," He showed me among a group of prominent Catholic Actionists one of the leading journalists in the land, and a man with a high administrative position held in great respect by the Vargas Government. " lie's not yet thirty.' said Fr. Dutra.
. IN BRAZIL " Ilas the J.O.C. come to Brazil"?' I asked.
" If you mean the Workers' branch of the movement, I would say 'Yes,' although it has not a wide hold. The reason is not hard to seek. As I have already mentioned, Brazil has no overgrown industrial centres. We are an agricultural people for the most part, and there was never a problem of Communistic influence inspired by economic grievance. But the principles of Jocism have penetrated everywhere— and above all into the high schools and universities, which are the pride of Brazil. The J.U.E. (Jeunesse Universitaire Catholique: Young Christian Students' Movement) has caught on."
POLITICAL DANGERS " I still have art objection against Catholic Action as you have described it—an objection that many outside the Church would put at once. Isn't there a danger of Catholic Action becoming a half-political affair run by priests?"
" No, we have still to have trouble from that source, and to be perfectly frank I don't think there will ever he trouble. I repeat that Blazilians, priests and laymen, know the parts each has to play, where their authority begins and where it ends. The outstanding characteristic is, to me, the sense of responsibility without any fanfares or show."