chapter  3
66 Pages

Reform and Tradition in Congar’s Ecclesiology

Historically, Congar stands out as one of the great architects of Church reform in the twentieth century. One of his most influential works is Vraie et fausse réforme dans l’Église (hereafter Vraie).1 The principles articulated there for a true reform of the Church without schism have not been surpassed and are of abiding value.2 Congar’s notion of reform is founded on the dialectical principle of Catholic fidelity (fidélité catholique) – that is, a dual fidelity to the tradition and, by the eventual overtaking (dépassement) of certain concrete historical forms of its life, to the future realization of the Church’s ‘missionary function, its programme of Catholicity, of belief and of adaptation’.3 This dual fidelity is, in Congar’s view, at the heart of Vraie, indicating its significance in his vision for Church reform. While there is tension between its two aspects, Congar asserts that there must also be ‘a communication, indeed a continuity, and thus a harmony’.4 A weakness of the dual fidelity approach, however, is that it does not refer to fidelity to the Church here and now.