Cardinal Yves Congar, OP
Cardinal Yves Congar, OP, was born in Sedan (northeast France) in 1904, joined the Dominican Order in 1925, was ordained a priest in 1930 and died in 1995. This French Dominican is widely recognized as one of the most important Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century and a major influence upon the theology of the documents of Vatican II. Congar drew from biblical, patristic, and medieval sources to revitalize the discipline of contemporary theology. He is universally known and respected as the great ecclesiologist of Vatican II whose seminal ideas helped to reconfigure the landscape of Catholic theology following the council.(1)
He published on wide ranging topics, including Mary, the Eucharist, lay ministry and the Holy Spirit, as well as his diaries from his experiences during the Second Vatican Council. His works include The Meaning of Tradition, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, and After Nine Hundred Years, which addresses the East-West Schism. His personal experiences were recently published in Journal d'un theologien 1946-1956.
[Two renowned contemporary ecclesiologists have commented on Congar's influence on ecclesiology today.] Joseph Komonchak said of Congar that "there is no theologian who did more to prepare for Vatican II or who had a larger role in the orientation and even in the composition of the documents." [Equally reknowned ecclesiologist] Richard McBrien has referred to Congar as "the most distinguished ecclesiologist of this century and perhaps of the entire post-Tridentine era."
Beginning with ecumenical concerns, Congar became a premier theologian of ressourcement. He championed the position that the best way to understand the church is as the Mystical Body of Christ, a communion, which goes beyond simply visible structures to constitute a relationship between the Trinity and those who are devoted to Christ.
In 2005, he completed studies for a Ph.D. in theology and education at Boston College. His dissertation focused on lay ecclesial ministry formation. He has published several articles and given major presentations on lay ministry formation.
For two decades prior to the Council, though, Congar worked under the shadow of great suspicion from Rome. He was at times refused permission to attend certain ecumenical conferences and to publish some of his works. In the early 1950's he spent several years "in exile"... Many of the advances of Vatican II can be read as a vindication of Congar's life work. (2)
(1)From At the Heart of Christian Worship: Liturgical Essays of Yves Congar. Paul J. Philibert, O.P, trans. and ed. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2010, back cover.
(2)These three paragraphs are from Communion Ecclesiology by Dennis M. Doyle. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000, pp. 38-9.