True and false reform


Yves Congar, trans. Paul Philibert, True and False Reform in the Church, Liturgical Press

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The first edition of Yves Congar’s irrepressible Vraie et fausse réforme dans l’Église appeared in 1950. It remains a seminal work on church reform, a classic of twentieth-­century Catholic theology.

Congar (1904-95), a prolific Dominican theologian with a passion for ecclesiology and ecumenism and one of the most influential theological experts at Vatican II, welcomed the reformist ferment in the French Church that he saw developing around him immediately after the Second World War. 

In 1952, the Holy Office forbade the translation and reprinting of the book. But this did not silence Congar’s message or obscure his reputation. A Spanish translation appeared in 1954 and a second French edition in 1968. In 1994, Blessed John Paul II named Congar a cardinal.

Now for the first time, thanks to another Dominican theologian, Paul Philibert, True and False Reform in the Church, a translation of the second edition, is available in English. Philibert captures the vibrant style of Congar in an accessible translation that exacting readers would correct in only a few places. 

For the sake of brevity and affordability and because Congar never managed to revise in light of ecumenical developments the substantial third and final part – some 180 pages in the first edition – Philibert omitted Congar’s analysis of “Reform and Protestantism”. 

The omission of this most vigorously theo­logical section of the book is regrettable. Part 3 offers a penetrating exposition of Catholic ecclesiology and flickers with powerful insights.

Congar only briefly considers what has emerged as a conspicuous obstacle to reform: the diversity and even division among Catholics. He would have doubtless elabor­ated on this topic had he written his book at the end of his life.

A quotation that he produces from an address in 1946 by Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard of Paris to his priests is instructive. “Mutual concessions”, not “mutual excommunications”, should resolve the strife between the proponents and opponents of reform.

From Congar we learn that the task of church reform is as enduring as it is difficult and necessary.

FULL ARTICLE: Difficult but enduring task (The Tablet)


Yves Congar (Wikipedia)

Catholicism and Ecumenism (Unitas)


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