The clericalisation of the Dicastery for Laity

Working on the archives of International YCW pioneer, Marguerite Fiévez, who was a member of the original Council of the Laity established by Pope Paul VI in 1967, I located a complete list of the 29 members and consultors of that original Council. See the image of the poor original photocopy (above).

Studying this makes for an interesting contrast with the composition of the current Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life as we’ll see below. Although there has been progress on several fronts, including the presence of women in particular, Pope Francis’ implementation of the Dicastery has also regressed on others. Surprisingly for a pope who has made criticism of clericalism a theme of his pontificate, the present Dicastery is much more clerical than the original, as we will see below.

Composition of the 1967 Council of the Laity

For legibility, here is the complete list of officials, members and consultors in 1967:

Consilium de Laicis

Il Santo Padre Si è benignamente degnato di nominare:

Presidente: Sua Eminenza Revma il Signor Cardinale Maurice Roy, Arcivescovo di Québec;

Vice Presidente: Sua Eccellenza Monsignore Alberto Castelli, Arcivescovo tit. di Rusio;

Segretario: l’Illmo e Monsignore Achille Glorieux;

Sotto Segretari: Signor Mieczysław de Habicht

Signorina Rosemary Goldie.


Joseph Amichia (Costa d’Avorio)

Vittorio Bachelet (Italia);

Marguerite Fievez (Belgio); 

Alain Galichon (Francia);

Manero Icaza Alvarez (Messico);

Patrick Keegan (Inghilterra);

Ioachin Ruiz Jimenez (Spagna);

Rienzie Rupasinghe (Ceylon);

Juan Vasquez (Argentina);

Maria Vendrik (Olanda);

Martin Work (Stati Uniti);

Karl zu Lowenstein (Germania).


S. E. Monsignore Emilio Guano, Vescovo di Livorno (Italia);

S. E. Mons. Stefan László, Vescovo di Eisenstadt (Austria); Mons. Marco Gregorio McGrath, Vescovo di Santiago di Veraguas (Panama);

Rev ma Mons Jacques Eugène Ménager, Vescovo di Meaux (Francia);

S. E. Monsignor Derek Worlock, Vescovo di Portsmouth (Inghilterra);

S. E. Mons. Jean Zoa, Vescovo di Yaoundé (Camerun);

Padre William Möhler, Rettore Generale della Società dell’Apostolato Cattolico (Germania);

Maria del Pilar Bellosillo (Spagna);

Luigi Gedda (Italia);

Jean Larnaud (Francia);

Ramon Sugranyes de Franch (Spagna);

P. T. Kuriakose (India)


The president and vice-president were both clerics, namely a cardinal (Maurice Roy, a former JOC chaplain in Canada) and bishop. They were accompanied in their roles by a fulltime secretary, also a cleric, Achille Glorieux, a former JOC chaplain from France, and by two fulltime lay sub-secretaries, one male (de Habicht) and one female (Goldie), both from Pax Romana ICMICA, the Catholic intellectual movement.

There were twelve “members,” all lay people, ten men but only two women. Five were from jocist or Specialised Catholic Action movements, Marguerite Fiévez, Joseph Amichia, a former YCW from Ivory Coast, Pat Keegan, a former YCW and leader of the World Movement of Christian Workers, Alain Galichon from the MIAMSI, a Specialised Catholic Action for professional and middle class people, and Rienzie Rupasinghe, then president of the International YCW.

In addition, there were twelve “consultors,” including six bishops, one priest and five lay people with only one woman.

Three of the consultor bishops were also “jocist” bishops, namely McGrath, Worlock and Zoa, while Guano had been a student chaplain with Pax Romana, and Ménager was responsible for General (parish-based) Catholic Action in France. Ruiz Jimenez and Sugranyes were also from Pax Romana ICMICA.

In total, there were thus four jocist bishops (Roy, McGrath, Worlock and Zoa), one priest (Glorieux) and five jocist lay leaders (Fiévez, Keegan, Galichon and Rupasinghe), making ten with a Specialised Catholic Action background, more than one third.

There were five people with Pax Romana background, Goldie, de Habicht, Guano, Ruiz Jimenez and Sugranyes.

Bachelet and Gedda were from the Italian Catholic Action movement, as was Guano, since the Italian Catholic Student movement belonged to Catholic Action as well as Pax Romana.


Thus, in total, the original Council of Laity included 19 lay people out of 29, meaning lay people made up almost two thirds and clerics just over a third (10/29 = 34.48% to be precise).

It is also significant to note that all “members” were lay people. “Consultors” on the other hand were mainly clerics plus a few more lay people with particular expertise.

This illustrates the priority given to the role of lay people in the Council and shows that clerics were viewed more as having a role of accompanying the movement or sharing their expertise.

On the other hand, the male-female ratio is very poor with only four women out of 29! Even so, this was probably a significant advance compared to other dicasteries of the time.

Looking at regional or continental balance, we find 19 Europeans, i.e. almost two-thirds, two North Americans, three Latin Americans, two Africans, two Asians, and one from Oceania. This is very Eurocentric from today’s perspective. However, it is notable that an effort appears to have been made to ensure reasonable representation of what was then known as the Third World and that today we might call the Global South with seven out of 29 people or nearly 25%.

It’s also notable that there are only two Italian bishops among the participants, Archbishop Castelli and Bishop Guano, plus two Italian laymen, Bachelet and Gedda, making a total of four or less than 25% of the total.

This also seems to be another indicator of the search for a broad-based Council of the Laity that would not be dominated by Italians.

It is perhaps also notable here that the 1967 Council of the Laity does not include a single religious.

Here is a full table of the above figures:

Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life

It’s now interesting to compare the above figures from the original Council of the Laityh with the current Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life as constituted by Pope Francis in 2016.

See the current list of participants here:

Prefect is Irish American, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, secretary is Brazilian, Gleison De Paula Souza, under-secretary for the lay faithful, Linda Ghisoni, and under-secretary for family and life is Gabriella Gambino.

In addition, it comprises 28 “members” and 19 “consultors” for a total of 51 people with the five officials.

In total, we therefore have 11 cardinals, one bishop and ten priests, making 22 clerics out of 51 participants in total, i.e. 43.14% to be very precise, significantly more than the 34.48% of the original Council of the Laity. Correspondingly, lay people now comprise only 54.90% compared to 65.53% in 1967.

The “members” include ten cardinals, one bishop, two priests, three married couples, and nine more individuals. Thus we have 13 clerics and 15 lay people, making the membership extremely clerically top heavy. This is of course in marked contrast with the 1967 Council of the Laity where the “members” were all lay people. An extraordinary change.

The “consultors” comprise eight clerics, three married couples and five lay individuals, i.e. 11 lay people out of 19.

Observations and Reflections

Moreover, whereas in 1967 there were four Italians out of 28 or 13.79%, now there are ten Italians out of 51 or 19.61%. This also is a significant rise of more than 50% from 1967 to 2023, indicating a clear lack of attention to the need to ensure that the composition of the Dicastery is globally representative.

The number of Europeans, however, is down from 65.52% in 1967 to 47.06% today. On the other hand, North America is up from 6.90% to 13.73%

France meanwhile has declined from 13.79% in 1967 to 5.88%. Moreover, none of the French participants have any links with the Specialised Catholic Action movements in contrast to 1967.

Astoundingly, despite the massive growth of Christianity in the African continent, representation of the Africa is down from 6.90% in 1967 to 3.92% today. Asia has risen from 6.90% to 7.84%.

In summary, the Global South continues to be massively under-represented.

Moreover, there is only one member (1.67%) of the current Dicastery who has had a link to any Specialised Catholic Action movement as a youthful member of the Young Christian Students, compared to 34.48% in the 1967 Council. Similarly, the number of people from Pax Romana has declined from 17.28% to zero.

At one level, this may represent an increasing diversity of movements and associations in the Church but it also clearly indicates a major shift in emphasis from the more socially-oriented lay apostolate movements to the more spiritually-oriented “new ecclesial movements.”

What is also striking with the current Dicastery composition is the blurring of roles between clergy and laity among the members and consultors. Moreover, the effect of this appears to have been a clericalisation of the composition of the current Dicastery as indicated by the top heavy number of clerics, including astonishingly 11 cardinals!


No doubt many more observations and reflections could be made on the above figures. Indeed, in the midst of a Synod on Synodality, surely these developments require careful consideration.

If Cardijn was disappointed with the Council of Laity structure adopted in 1967, what would he say about the 2023 Dicastery structure? What would Pope Francis say in light of his critique of clericalism?

With the Second Assembly of the Synod due in October 2024, I suggest that it is urgent to develop proposals for a revised structure that will more fully reflect the Vatican II vision of a Holy See organism for lay people and lay apostolate.

Stefan Gigacz


Who we are (Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life)

Members and consultors (Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life)

Archives Marguerite Fiévez (CARHOP, Belgium)