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Card. Congar:
The Unpardonable Sin of 'Ecclesiocentrism'

We present today a text by Card. Yves Congar clearly affirming that the Church must not live a life of piety, but insert herself in the world in order to liberate it. Congar was one of the most important theologians of Vatican II. One can identify his collaboration in almost all its official documents.

Right, the cover of The Catholic Church and Modern France. Below right, a page of the book, below left, our translation of the entire French text.

A Church, therefore, in which there are two Churches. One would be the Church in herself, separated from the dramas of the world, living essentialy an activity of worship - but we would deny that this worship, presented as such, would fully be the Christian worship.

The other Church would seek to live the Gospel where the earthly life of men takes place. The religion of the prophets and the Gospel consists in serving the oppressed and the poor. The motivation is religious, but the content is human and secular. So, we are not surprised that the actual criteria presents itself as separating not believers from non-believers, but rather the oppressed from the oppressors, those who fight for their liberation from those without a conscience that such liberation is imperative.

The Church of tomorrow will be less occupied with herself; instead she will be concerned about inserting the evangelical ferment into human situations, being in solidary with them in order to cooperate in the liberation of men.

The place for living the Gospel is no longer the Church as a sacral and separated society, but rather the human and secular reality. From this primacy given to the ad extra [turned to the outside] over the ad intra [turned to the inside] comes a new focus, that of 'mission,' that of unity of Christians. If Jesus Christ is a 'man for the others,' according to the magnificent words of Bonhoeffer, then we also want a Church for the others.

The most unpardonable sin, therefore, is 'ecclesiocentrism,' the Church concerned above all about herself, her growth, her unity, instead of being concerned about serving the growth and unity of men.

(Yves Congar, L'Eglise Catholique & France Moderne, Paris: Hachette, 1978, p. 63)

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Posted on March 1, 2008

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