See clearly, judge and decide with Léon Ollé-Laprune

In today’s Cardijn Reflection, we continue to read from Léon Ollé-Laprune, this time from the Preface to the Third Edition of his classic work, Le Prix de la Vie (The Prize/Price of Life).

In this extract, we see how importantly Ollé-Laprune views the method of seeing, judging and deciding as a way to rebuild social unity and peace in the face of division and conflict.

When, almost two years ago, I published these studies on what I would call the philosophy of life, or to borrow a fine phrase from Aristotle, the philosophy of human matters, I wrote: “I am convinced, and I would like to convince others, that life is singularly precious if we understand how to see the purpose for which it is given to us and what we can and must do with it.”

That is the central idea of this book, and that is why it is entitled The Prize or Price of Life. I have nothing to add to this statement, except, perhaps, that of the double concern present throughout these pages, first of not distorting man and secondly that of proclaiming the duty to act, the urgency of which, if I may say so, is increasingly visible and growing.

It is true that in the intellectual and philosophical order we can observe a certain aspiration for an increasingly comprehensive synthesis, a more serious attention being given to facts of various kinds that have long been neglected, as well as a certain broadening of the frameworks of thought and even of thought itself.

However, it is also true that the too general persistence of old prejudices hinders this return to best practices and these welcome new approaches, and it also dooms these desires, efforts and attempts to remain too often sterile.

Moreover, is also true that with regard to the sciences there persists in many places a regrettable misunderstanding of their true spirit, their just scope and, consequently, an ill-advised use of their method and results. Finally, it is also true that great mistrust exists in many regions of the world with regard to what is Christian, including among those who think, or who claim to think, and there is also great intolerance among others that is very blind, hateful and active.

Thus humanity divides itself from itself, and rejects or neglects something of itself and the resources placed at its disposal. 

On the other hand, “intellectual anarchy,” which as Jouffroy already noted  in 1834, leads to  “the most exaggerated and complete individualism,” is invading all areas of thought, including moral matters where it has become extreme.

Thus, we find various powerful tendencies competing for people’s minds, while no school prevails, no influence is decidedly dominant, and amid this  universal disarray it is left to  individual efforts to undertake the restoration of that authority of the truth which commands and rallies people’s minds.

Thus each person must apply him or herself more than ever, better than ever, to courageously and faithfully looking at the principles and the facts in order to make him or herself more than ever, better than ever, capable of seeing clearly, judging and deciding, precisely because it is hardly fashionable to do so any longer

By a sustained application of this process, people will be able to protect themselves from falling into prejudice and error. By means of this process, they will also be able to regain consistency and find ways to become closer and unite

In the social and political order there are likewise many noble and generous aspirations, but the old spirit of division, rancour, mistrust and hatred still remains

Despite many fine words and dreams, a frighttful egoism continues to divide people and prepares to arm them against one other.

In the face of these perils which threaten society, individual initiative and individual energy is even more necessary than ever to defend genuine social interests, to foster new groups and thereby gradually to restore social peace and political consistency.

For Léon Ollé-Laprune, who lived at a time of significant social conflict and anti-clericalism, learning to see together, to judge together and to arrive at conclusions together was a way of overcoming division and building social peace.

What a great vision for the see-judge-act method that we can still apply fruitfully today for promoting unity among people of various faiths or none and even amid ideological conflict,

Stefan Gigacz


Léon Ollé-Laprune, Preface, Le Prix de la Vie (3rd edition)

Information and interfaith relations

Today the Church celebrates St Thomas Aquinas, a priest and doctor of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas lived at the time (1225 – 1274) when the writing of Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE, now considered one of the greatest philosophers) had been rediscovered and became available to people in Europe for the first time in a thousand years. This knowledge of Aristotle came back to Europe through the work of Muslim scholars, who translated Aristotle’s work. 

In engaging with the works of the atheist Aristotle and trusting the works of Muslim scholars (European Catholics were fighting the various Crusade wars between 1096 – 1270), St. Thomas Aquinas showed, in a most significant way, that the truth can come from the most surprising sources.   

Those who follow the See-Judge-Act method (this includes Pope Francis) must thank St. Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle and Muslim scholars (particularly Ibn Rushd or Averroes). Through them (and several others), we have this method of seeking the truth and making decisions.

In his article, “Cardijn’s trinomials: a vision and method of lay apostolate formation“, Stefan Gigacz draws the philosophical lineage of the See-Judge-Act method from Aristotle to Cardijn. 

French Archbishop Emile Guerry also acknowledged the link between the See-Judge-Act and the philosophy of St Thomas:

All chaplains and leaders of Catholic Action should make a profound study of the marvelous tract of St Thomas on Prudence. Prudence is essentially the virtue of action. With his keen psychology, St. Thomas analyses the three acts which make up the exercise of prudence: to deliberate (the small inquiry, the interior counsel which one holds within himself); to judge; to act. Here we easily recognize practically the same three acts of the method of specialized Catholic Action: observe, judge, act.


There is so much information available today that it becomes difficult to determine what is true and what is not. The facts (truth) are no longer clear. There appear to be multiple truths. Society and information are increasingly becoming polarised as they hold on to, defend and promote different truths.  


St. Thomas Aquinas lived in a time of chaos. He did not reject information and truth from sources that could be construed as adversaries to the Church. Instead, he investigated the information through a systematic process. His investigations led to much important work that he became a Doctor of the Church.  


Do we have a systematic approach to seeking the truth to make good decisions? One that allows investigating information without bias or prejudice? One that seeks the truth? 

Let us learn more about the See-Judge-Act method today and practice using it. 


Greg Lopez


Stefan Gigacz, ‘See, judge, act’ more than truth by consensus (Eureka Street)

Joseph Cardijn, The Study Circle and its methods, (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Emile Guerry, Spirituality of Catholic Action (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Design drawing for stained glass window with St Thomas Aquinas, heavy-set, with his Summa Theologica (Picryl)