Fr. Victor Dillard, S.J., the author of the following article, is attached to the Action Populaire, centre of social studies in Paris, and enjoys a reputation as an expert analyst of European social, economic and financial movements. The creation of a Jociste centre among the employes of the Stock Exchange in Paris is one of his most remarkable achievements.
EVERYBODY knows to some extent of the Catholic Action of “Jocistes” and of “Jecistes” among the working and student classes in France. One is not so familiar with the interesting activities of the Catholics in the extensive field of Business and Finance. For the last few years, the Catholics of France have realised that they have the special duty of improving both social and vocational life, in order that it may be in conformity with sound principles of Social and Moral Doctrine.
One of the most interesting groups of that kind is, without any doubt, the G.B.A.C.—”Group Boursier d’Action Catholique” (Group of Catholic Action in the Paris Stock Exchange).
This movement has been adopted in Belgium, and groups in both Bruxelles and Paris are now co-operating. It would be beneficial to all concerned if such groups were organised in the various Stock Exchanges throughout the world. Perhaps someone will be moved to do the same in the financial centres of the United States.
CLEANING UP THE BOURSE
The French group was started in 1934. A few of the employes of the Bourse (Stock Exchange), most of them former boy scouts, held meetings from time to time in order to strengthen their bond of friendship, and to improve their knowledge of Catholic doctrine. One day, two of them had a very singular experience. They were asked by client of the Bourse to take part in a dishonest financial transaction, and they refused to co-operate. Shortly after, they were asked into the office of their own employer. He demanded the reason for their refusal to participate in the transaction.
“If we should,” they answered, “you would be justified in considering us rascals.”
“I prefer to deal with rascals rather than with fools,” answered the employer. The two boys were deeply scandalised and decided to give up their job and look for another more honest occupation. They came to ask advice. After a discussion, we realised that it would not be wise to leave the business in the hands of other less scrupulous people. It would be better to try to group other Catholics and to meet occasionally in order to find ways and means of cleaning, up the atmosphere of the Bourse.
So we did. The boys found a dozen companions, among whom was an employer. All were fully decided to reach their goal and to work courageously for the moral improvement of the Bourse. For a year they met every month. They studied attentively the Encyclicals of the Church: “Rerum Novarum—On the Condition of the Working Classes,” “Quadragesimo Anno—On Reconstructing the Social Order,” “Divini Redemptoris—On Atheistic Communism.”
They studied the original texts and during some quiet meetings of the Bourse, it was very amusing to see people take out their booklets of Encyclicals and read them before the amazed eyes of their fellow-men. But they were not satisfied with mastering the theory of these principles. They wanted to realise their concrete application in their own daily work. They brought to the Study Clubs their various cases of conscience, and by discussion they tried to solve them.
The next year we decided that the real apostolic work should be begun. Each member of the established Study Club was asked to find other persons in the Stock Exchange who would be interested in the work we planned to do. The enthusiasm and interest which they evidenced gave birth in a very short time to about ten different Study Clubs.
These are made up of men interested in the same kind of business. One of these clubs, for instance, consists solely of employers—namely, stockbrokers. About fifteen of them met once a month to discuss the various points concerning the ethics of the business.
Another group is composed of important officers; another, of the employes working inside the Stock Exchange; another, of employes working in the various offices outside the Stock Exchange; another, of girls; another, of Jocistes; another, of messengers—”grouillots”—of the Stock Exchange of Paris, etc.
Once the Study Clubs have discussed the various questions, they come to a conclusion. They hold a general meeting, usually on Saturday morning. They have a Dialogue Mass, during which they receive Holy Communion, and afterwards meet at a Communion breakfast. Then they divide into small circles, each comprising one employer, one officer, one inside employe, one outside employe, one girl, one Jociste, one messenger, etc. They discuss the same questions, comparing the various conclusions of their Study Clubs, and then they try to come to an agreement.
After one hour of such discussion, we hold a common meeting, in which we try to come to a very accurate and practical conclusion. Finally, we decide to take a definite attitude concerning these problems, as Catholics should. We print our resolutions in a concise but complete form on a small postal card. These cards are distributed to everybody in the Stock Exchange. This is, then, a public declaration of what the Catholics are decided to do.
The following month another question is discussed, a resolution is taken, and then gradually the principles adopted by the Catholics make a deeper and deeper impression upon all connected with the Stock Exchange, regardless of their religious tenets. Of course, the courageous Catholics who have decided to respect and act according to sound Catholic principles are at the present time in the minority. We count about four hundred members of the group in the Bourse. But these four hundred persons are so active, so energetic that their influence is felt in every corner of the Temple of Mammon.
In June, 1938, his Eminence Cardinal Verdier, Archbishop of Paris, came to the Bourse to visit the group. His Eminence was received not only by the leaders of the group, but also by the president of the Bourse and by all the chief officers, Catholics and non-Catholics. They declared that they considered this form of Catholic Action as one of the most important factors for future success in business centres, and they also appreciated the ethical influence of this group in France.
The stand taken by these Catholics has a far-reaching and beneficial effect. One of the most important consequences of this influence is the co-operation of employers and employes for mutual benefits. The president of this Catholic Action group is not selected from the employers, but he is chosen from among the employes on account of his sound principles and appreciation of spiritual values.
Everybody who knows the habits of the people frequenting the Bourse in Paris will appreciate what a change has been effected in this Stock Exchange. The bankers of Paris are now beginning the same work, and they have already about twelve Study Clubs preparing for future activity in the field of Catholic Action. The insurance companies have just started the same organisation. Many employers of the various industries—textile, iron works, , printing industries, chemical products, aeroplanes, etc.—are organising similar Study Clubs in order to improve social relations and spread the love of honesty in business.
This work is not easy—sometimes it demands real heroism. Think, for instance, of the young bankers who decided to be perfectly frank in the publication of their annual sheets. Think of the courage of the employers who decide to pay their income taxes honestly. Morality in questions of competition, advertising, financing, etc., is of much importance for the future of our civilisation. Such a task cannot be accomplished by any political or private initiative, but has to be done with the ideals of unselfishness and charity which may be found in the teachings of the Catholic religion.
—”Columbia,” June, 1939.
Catholic Action on the Stock Exchange (Advocate, Thursday 22 June 1939, page 25) (Trove)
Victor Dillard (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)