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Reviewed by:
  • True And False Reform in the Church, Revised Edition
  • Michael Attridge
True And False Reform in the Church, Revised Edition by Yves Congar. Translated and with an introduction by Paul Philibert. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011.

True and False Reform is the long-awaited English translation of the classic Vrai et fausse réforme dans l'Église by one of the most important Catholic theologians of the 20th century, the late Yves M.-J. Congar. Some have called it Congar's most significant work. Congar himself said that if ever there was a "theology of Congar" it is found in this book. Pope John XXIII read it in the early 1950s when he was papal nuncio to France, prompting him to ask if a reform of the Church was even possible. Several years later, as Pope, he would announce the Second Vatican Council.

The present work is a translation of the 1968 "revised and corrected" edition, published eighteen years after the original. For the most part, the revisions were minor, but enough in Congar's view to warrant a new edition. Least satisfactory to him was the third section, dealing with Protestantism. By 1968, he considered the ecclesiology of the section to be insufficient, especially in light of Vatican II, but nevertheless left it in. However, this translation rightly does not include it, first because of Congar's own expressed dissatisfaction and second because of the cost of publishing the additional 180 pages. Therefore, there are two parts and a conclusion to present work: "Why and How Does the Church Reform Itself "; "Conditions for Authentic Reform Without Schism"; and "Perspectives on the Attitude to Take Toward Concrete Reform Initiatives."

Some might ask why translate a book that is now more than sixty years old, written at a time much different than today. The response would be for two important reasons. First, as Vatican II's Lumen gentium notes, the Church is always in need of renewal. True and False Reform provides a well-grounded, doctrinal framework from which perennial questions of church renewal may be meaningfully raised. Second, translating it makes it accessible to more than just academics who might possess French as a research language. It becomes available to the vast number of lay women and men working in ministries in the church, who as "front line" workers are often the first to experience the need for reform. [End Page 322]

Michael Attridge
Faculty of Theology
University of St. Michael's College
Toronto, CANADA


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