Léon Ollé-Laprune: See Judge Decide or the origin of the See-Judge-Act

ACI secretary Stefan Gigacz will present our August webinar on Léon Ollé-Laprune, the French philosopher, who first articulated the method that we today know as the “see-judge-act.”

Born in 1839, Léon Ollé-Laprune studied philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris. As a student, he read the works of Alphonse Gratry, who had been chaplain at the ENS. As a Christian, he modelled his life on that of Frédéric Ozanam, seeking to make himself a “lay apostle.” As a social activist, he followed in the footsteps of Frédéric Le Play, the pioneer sociologist whose method of social enquiry so influenced Cardijn.

As an academic, he influenced a whole generation of future French leaders, including Jean Jaurès, founder of the French Socialist Party, the sociologist Emile Durkheim, and the philosophers, Maurice Blondel and Henri Bergson.

Writing in 1896, he advised students to learn to “see clearly, judge and decide” in order to address the challenges of the time.

Léon Ollé-Laprune died in 1898, 125 years ago this year. The method he inspired would sweep the world with Cardijn’s Young Christian Workers and its sister movements before being adopted by Pope John XXIII in 1961 and by the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

Stefan Gigacz

Originally from Melbourne, Stefan worked for a short time as a personal injuries lawyer. While at university, he became involved in a local parish YCW group. In 1978, he became a fulltime worker for the movement, working in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and later for the International YCW.

Later, he completed master’s degrees in canon law and legal theory. From 1997-2000, he coordinated an international project to document the history of the YCW before taking up a position as a project officer with the French Catholic development agency, CCFD-Terre Solidaire. From 2006-2008, he worked as a pastoral worker in a Melbourne Catholic parish. Since then, he has worked as an editor and journalist for a series of Catholic online publications.

From 2012-2018, he worked on his PhD thesis on the role of Joseph Cardijn at the Second Vatican Council, now published under the title “The Leaven in the Council: Joseph Cardijn and the Jocist Network at Vatican II.” He now resides in Perth, Western Australia, where he devotes his time to the development of the Australian Cardijn Institute.

Webinar details

Tuesday 8 August 2023, 7.30pm AEST

Registration link:


See clearly, judge well and decide: Léon Ollé-Laprune

This month marks the 125th anniversary of the death of French philosopher, whose work inspired the French democratic movement, Le Sillon, founded by Marc Sangnier, as well as Cardijn himself.

“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,” Ollé-Laprune wrote in the Preface to the Third Edition of his classic work “Le prix de la vie,” which translates as “The price or prize of life.”

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.

Read more

Léon Ollé-Laprune: Philosopher of the see-judge-act (Cardijn Reflections)

See clearly, judge and decide with Léon Ollé-Laprune (Cardijn Reflections)

Léon Ollé-Laprune website (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

The philosophy of Alphonse Gratry

Alphonse Gratry

ATF Press have just published “Gratry’s Philosophy” which is an English translation of the Spanish philosopher Julián Marías’ book, La Filosofia del Padre Gratry.

Born in Lille, France in 1805, Alphonse Gratry was a major influence on Cardijn and the first generation of JOC leaders and chaplains in particular.

Well-known for his theory of induction, Gratry was perhaps one of the earliest to make use of the expression “reading the signs of the times” in the sense that Vatican II would adopt a century later. Indeed, his tripartite formula “reality, reflection and resolution” anticipates Cardijn’s “see, judge, act.”

His most famous work, Les Sources, widely published until World War II, offers a plan of studies and a plan of life which reflect Gratry’s philosophy of the person. 

The Christian Democratic Parties, the French lay movement Le Sillon, the Young Christian Workers (YCW), and the writings of Peter Maurin, mentor to today’s  Catholic Worker movement, witness to his foundational and comprehensive influence.

Thanks to the late Sr Mary L. O’Hara, we now have Julián Marías’s (1914–2005) clear and  accessible study (5th ed.) on the core of Alphonse Gratry’s philosophy. Although he lived more than a century ago (1805–1872), Gratry addresses issues of concern today: the ontology of the human person with its body/soul unity; the intrinsic relationship of individuals to society and nature; and the problem of God.

Marías reclaims Gratry’s place in the history of philosophy and thoroughly explains Gratry’s original logic “written from the point of view of the juncture of philosophy and the human spirit.” He shows how Gratry’s theory of induction, in Plato’s original and foundational sense (Rep. VI), forms the heart of his metaphysics of knowledge—the science of transcendence by which the mind intellectually apprehends all reality: corporeal, psychic, and divine. 

Gratry thus establishes a complete ontology of the human person—rational, free, and endowed with a three-fold sense: external, intimate (sens intime), and divine—dependent on unlimited being or God.  

Gratry’s original logic and metaphysics stands on its own philosophical basis, but in Chapter 6, “Five Interior Adventures,” Marías includes a parallel, existential foundation drawn from Gratry’s private journal. This reveals how the young atheist underwent a series of near mystical experiences which gave him an inescapable awareness of God and confronted him with the moral choice for or against this reality. 

In this extraordinarily lucid study, we now have access to the complete thought of Gratry, giving scholar and student, as Marías observes, a seemingly providential body of work needed in our time.


Gratry’s Philosophy A Translation of Julián Marías’ La Filosofia del Padre Gratry (ATF Press)

Alphonse Gratry