Yves Congar Essential Writings Edited by Paul Lakeland Orbis, $20, 208 pp.
It is hard for younger Catholics to appreciate how revolutionary the nouvelle théologie was when it first appeared because so much of it has been absorbed into the main current of Catholic theology. The French Dominican Yves Congar (1904–95), one of the nouvelle théologie’s leading lights, ranks as one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century.
He was a pioneer in ecumenics, a groundbreaking theorist of the role of the laity in the church, and, in his late years, an expert in the theology of the Holy Spirit. His work, which had a marked influence on the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council, was characterized by both a profound grasp of the sources of the church’s traditions and a bracing honesty.
Paul Lakeland’s selection of texts gives us a look at the range of Congar’s thought. Lakeland divides his book into five large categories: ecumenism, ecclesiology, the theology of the laity, the spiritual life, and the Holy Spirit. Newcomers to Congar’s work will get a good sense of the range of his thinking. Let me single out one of these essays that I found especially perceptive and moving: Congar’s reflection on St. Thomas Aquinas. Congar’s main point is that Thomas was a “servant of the truth,” and...