Catholic Action

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Catholic Action


a general term for the Catholic aposto-late—organizations of laymen functioning under the direct administration of the church hierarchy.

Secular Catholic organizations first originated in Europe in the mid-19th century. Catholic Action organizations operate in Europe (they are especially active in Italy, Spain, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany), Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Catholic Action is a mass, multimillion-member organization that permits the church to effect a penetration into various segments of the population and to subordinate them to its influence owing to the establishment of an extensive network of various types of associations. These latter are at the level of the parish and bishopric and on the national and international level, and they are specialized according to age, sex, and occupation. The largest international associations are the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, the International Federation of Catholic Young Women and Girls, and the World Federation of Catholic Youth.

After World War I (1914–18), despite the church’s constant declarations concerning the apolitical nature of Catholic Action, it became a part of the political struggle. The purpose of Catholic Action is the propagation and dissemination of Catholicism, especially in the developing countries, and the struggle against ideologies and forces that are hostile to Catholicism—above all, communism—as well as against workers’ and democratic movements. Their methods of influence are participation in the process of electoral struggle and the support of Catholic parties; publication of periodicals; engaging in public education and entertainment; training of staffs of activists; missionary work; charities; and individual influence upon believers.

During the 1960’s changes in the church’s position, brought about by the strengthening of the forces of peace, socialism, and democracy, caused the strengthening within Catholic Action of progressive elements that have been advocating a rapprochement with left-wing organizations.


Koval’skii, N. A. Mezhdunarodnye katolicheskie organizatsii. Moscow, 1962.
Falconi, C. La Chiesa e le organizzazioni cattoliche in Europa. Milan, 1960.
Mohr, H. Das Katholische Apostolat: Zur Strategie und Taktik des poli-tischen Katholizismus. Berlin, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.