The Role and Function of Charism in the Theology of Yves Congar

by Johnson Mudavassery (Author)
©2016 Thesis XII, 261 Pages


This book reveals the ecclesiological values of charisms in the context of the growing values of personalism in the Church. Yves Congar understands charisms in the light of pneumatological christology. The study discovers that Congar’s concept of charisms mirrors the values of the arrangement of the first three chapters in Lumen Gentium. The role of charism is most intensive when Congar combines it with the concept of the people of God. His ecclesial diagrams bring out the complementary roles of hierarchy and laity. Thanks to charisms, the Church is neither a pyramid nor is she ready-made. She is always on the process of being built-up by God. Congar exalts the priesthood of the faithful and advocates prophecy of the whole Church without departing from the apostolicity of the Church.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviation
  • General Introduction
  • 0.1 Rationale of the Study
  • 0.2 Methodology of the Research
  • 0.3 Structure of the Dissertation
  • 0.4 Scope and Limitations of the Study
  • Chapter 1. Life and Works of Congar
  • 1.1 Life of Yves Congar
  • 1.1.1 The First Period 1904–1939
  • 1.1.2 The Second Period 1939–1945
  • 1.1.3 The Third Period 1945–1965
  • 1.1.4 The Fourth Period (1966–1995)
  • 1.2 Influences on Congar
  • 1.2.1 Le Saulchoir
  • 1.2.2 Thomas Aquinas
  • 1.2.3 Johann Adam Möhler
  • 1.3 The Works of Congar
  • 1.4 The Works on Congar
  • 1.5 The Theological Framework of Congar to Study his Concept of Charism
  • 1.5.1 Theological Methodology
  • 1.5.2 Notions of the Church
  • 1.5.3 The Essential Unity between Christology and Pneumatology
  • Chapter 2. History and Theology of Charism
  • 2.1 Lexical Meaning
  • 2.1.1 The Scriptural Sense of Charism
  • 2.2 The Historical Aspects of Charism
  • 2.2.1 Apostolic Fathers
  • 2.2.2 Other Greek Christian Fathers
  • 2.2.3 Latin Christian Fathers
  • 2.2.4 Heresies
  • 2.2.5 Thomas Aquinas
  • 2.2.6 The II Vatican Council
  • 2.3 The Characteristics of Charism
  • 2.3.1 The Source of Charisms
  • 2.3.2 Charism is a Gift
  • 2.3.3 Building up of the Body of Christ
  • 2.3.4 Unity and Diversity
  • 2.3.5 Charisms are Given to All
  • 2.3.6 Discerning the Charisms
  • 2.3.7 Institution and Charism
  • 2.3.8 Human Talents and Charism
  • 2.3.9 Charism and Love
  • Chapter 3. The Concept of Charism in the Pneumatological Ecclesiology of Congar
  • 3.1 Pauline Teaching of Charism in Congar
  • 3.1.1 The Corinthian Situation According to Congar
  • 3.1.2 Three Ways of Understanding Charisms
  • 3.1.3 Charisms as Ecclesial Principles
  • 3.1.4 Christological Basis of Charism
  • 3.2 Historical Understanding of Charism according to Congar
  • 3.2.1 The Appearance in MC
  • 3.2.2 The II Vatican Council
  • 3.3 The Liturgical Importance of Charisms
  • 3.4 Charism as ‘Principle of Order’ (Ordnungsprinzip) in the Church
  • 3.5 Renewal Movement
  • 3.5.1 Renewal and Ecumenism
  • 3.6 Charisms in Particular
  • 3.6.1 Prophecy
  • 3.6.2 Glossolalia
  • 3.6.3 Healings
  • 3.6.4 Discernment
  • 3.7 Charism and Talent
  • 3.8 Charism and Institution
  • 3.8.1 The Freedom of the Spirit in the Institutional Church
  • Chapter 4. The Role and Function of Charisms in the Pneumatological Ecclesiology of Congar
  • 4.1 Charisms in Christology, Pneumatology and Ecclesiology with a Trinitarian Basis
  • 4.1.1 Charisms and Pneumatological Christology
  • 4.1.2 Charisms and Pneumatological Ecclesiology
  • 4.2 The Ongoing Building up of the Church
  • 4.2.1 The Imagery of Warp and Weft
  • 4.2.2 The Church is not a Pyramid
  • 4.3 Charism Prompts Initiatives and Ecclesial Movements
  • 4.3.1 Rehabilitation of Personal Principles
  • 4.3.2 Criteria of Christology and Apostolicity
  • 4.3.3 Rediscovery of Baptism and the Ontology of Grace
  • 4.4 Local Church and Role of Charism
  • 4.5 Communion Ecclesiology
  • 4.6 Charism and Ministries
  • 4.6.1 Ordained Ministry
  • 4.6.2 The Ministry of the Laity
  • 4.6.3 Complementary Roles: Hierarchy and Laity
  • 4.7 The Priesthood of the Faithful
  • 4.8 Prophecy in the Whole Church
  • 4.9 Charisms and Social Commitment
  • General Conclusion
  • 0.1 The Inter-Relationship of the Chapters
  • 0.2 The Ordering of chapters in LG and Charisms in Congar
  • 0.3 Ecclesial Value
  • 0.4 Laity Matters in the Church
  • 0.5 The Indian Church
  • Bibliography
  • 1. Works of Yves Congar
  • 1.1 Monographs
  • 1.2 Collection of Articles and Essays
  • 1.3 Articles and Essays
  • 2. Dissertations on Congar
  • 3. Magisterial Documents
  • 4. Supplementary References

← VIII | IX →


When a work reaches its completion, thanks to the grace of God, the expression of gratitude is a flood of joy. The drafting and completion of this dissertation is none other than the experience of God’s grace and his mercy.

I was eruditely guided by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Müller, a member of Congar’s religious Order. I could experience his depth of knowledge in my discussions with him and also in his guidance. From the depths of my heart, I thank him for his willing compliance, generous availability and scholarly support.

A special word of thanks is due to Dr. Tony Kolarikkal, Sr. Priya OCD and David Paintin for their precious linguistic and technical help. My gratitude goes also to my previous provincials and the present Provincial Dr. Prasad Joseph Theruvath OCD. I am grateful to Dr. Antony Kavunguvalappil OCD, the superior and the members of my religious community who provided me with motivation and created a joyous atmosphere of religious life. This study would have been impossible without the financial help given by the Stiftung Kloster der Karmeliter, Basel and Reudi Beck, the Pfarrer, who realized it. ← IX | X →

← X | XI →


← XII | 1 →

General Introduction

0.1   Rationale of the Study

Fifty years ago, cardinal Joseph Suenens made the following statement in his Councilliar speech, which marks a doctrinal contribution to the theology of charism:

The remarks made about the charism of the Christian people are so few that one could get the impression that charismata are nothing more than a peripheral and unessential phenomenon in the life of the Church. Now, the vital importance of these charismata for building up of the Mystical Body must be presented with greater clarity and consequently at greater length.1

Certainly the situation has improved after the II Vatican Council, and the terms ‘charism’ or ‘charismatic’, have been made familiar by scholarly and popular writings. However, the sky-rending noises, strange ecstatic phenomena and visions have dislodged an adequate understanding of a person as ‘charismatic’ with specific roles and functions in the Church. The expression ‘Charismatic Renewal’ (Renouveau charismatique), considered a misnomer by Yves Congar, contributes to the deflection of the meaning and application of the term.2

The term charism is nowadays clarified from the pneumatological perspective but the ecclesiological values that are affixed to it need to be affirmed in the present context of the growing values of personalism and rising of new movements in the Church. The lack of an adequate ecclesiological concern is revealed by a recent observation by Stephen Annan: “It seems as if the term ‘catholic church’ and ‘charismatic’ are mutually exclusive”.3 This is partly because of the false opposition between charism and institution constructed in the past. The present context of overthrowing a pyramidal ← 1 | 2 → view of the Church through the images of the Church rediscovered by the II Vatican Council and the increasing values of personalism in the society and the Church, necessitate our research so that charisms are explained within the web of pneumatology, christology and ecclesiology to offer a rich and unique view of a person in the Church. Moreover, since Congar makes a significant contribution to the theology of the laity by attending to their charisms and expresses the need for ‘a total ecclesiology’ (une ecclésiologie totale), his theology can shed light on addressing the present needs of the Church, without neglecting the values of their vocation.4

Congar’s long years of ecclesiological reflection, which towards the end travelled through pneumatology, render us with a field of research to adequately respond to the present theological need. He achieved his objective of remedying the insufficiency of pneumatology in Roman Catholic ecclesiology; and argued for equilibrium between christology and pneumatology. In his theology, since the Spirit is the co-institutor (co-instituant) of the Church, charisms receive a sure ecclesiological presentation without losing their vitality to renew and re-evangelize the Church. This is further affirmed by EG, the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis I. It considers charisms as gifts of the Spirit woven into the body of the Church and gravitating towards Christ, the center of the Church; and then used as an evangelizing force.5 Therefore, we select Congar’s theological works in a search for a charismatic ecclesiology, which has the foundation of christological principles.

0.2   Methodology of the Research

The method followed in this dissertation is a composite one; it is analytical, expository and critical. To adequately understand Congar, we first describe his life, the influential factors therein, his important works and the other authors who critically analyze him. A lexical and scriptural semantic consideration of the term charisma is included in the second chapter, which ← 2 | 3 → helps us to compliment and complete Congar’s theological exposition of the concept. Congar analyses the concept of charism mainly in his three volumes Je crois en l’Esprit Saint, La Parole et le Souffle and Jalons pour une Théologie du Laïcat and his articles Actualité renouvelée du Saint-Esprit and Actualité d’une pneumatologie. The references to these works are given from the original along with the translations. Where the translation requires further clarity, the quotation from the original is given in the footnote. The important theological concepts that Congar uses are entered into the text of the dissertation in parenthesis in their original French terminology when they appear for the first time. The use of inverted comma for quotations differs according to the language.

0.3 Structure of the Dissertation

This dissertation comprises four chapters. The first chapter fulfills the task of leading us to the research area and is by nature expository. The first section introduces the life of Congar by dividing it into four periods to understand the background of his faith-life and the circumstances of his theological endeavor. Then we deal with the chief influencing factors in his theological formation viz. his growth in the Thomistic tradition and his way to a historical approach towards theology through Marie-Dominique Chenu who introduced him to Johann Adam Möhler’s ecclesiological views, which would find a significant place in his ecclesiology. The next section exposes Congar’s selected works in order to grasp his major theological themes and how they progressively developed and undergo change. In the following part, we take up a literary review of the scholars on Congar, whose themes are related to our research. With this background, in section four we construct a theological frame work within which we study Congar’s concept of charism. It includes his theological methodology and his basic notions of the Church. We then enter the proximate field of our research viz. Congar’s pneumatological ecclesiology. This is followed by a treatment of the essential unity between christology and pneumatology to which Congar strongly adhered as he moved towards the final development of his theology.

The second chapter treats of the history and the theology of charism, since Congar does not sufficiently cover these areas; and it gives us an ← 3 | 4 → opportunity to consult other experts on the scriptural, theological and historical aspects of charism. The first section brings out the lexical meaning of the term; and then it considers its semantic sense by going through its occurrences in the Scripture. In the course of history the conception of the term undergoes fluctuations in its importance and its usage. We present them in the second section on historical aspects under the subdivisions of Apostolic Fathers, Greek Christian Fathers and Latin Christian Fathers. Towards the end of this section, we also mention the heresies of Montanism and Messalianism. We then explain that the term charism receives a new name with Thomas Aquinas. The last part of the second section explains how the II Vatican Council approaches the concept giving a renewed consideration to its ecclesiological values. The third and final section of this chapter exposes the theological characteristics of charisms.

Having set the stage through the first two chapters, our third chapter analyzes Congar’s concept of charism. The first section explains that the Corinthian situation that Paul describes in his epistle is significant for Congar to understand charisms. Then we explain the three ways in which Congar understands (comprehensions ou extensions) the term; and this is followed by an elaboration of charisms as ecclesial principles, and their christological basis. The second section deals with Congar’s historical understanding of charisms and their liturgical importance. The third part discusses how Congar critiques the view of Hasenhüttl defending the conciliar view of charisms and his suggestions to balance Hasenhüttl’s position. The fourth section explains Congar’s approach towards Renewal Movement and ecumenism. Those charisms which Congar in detail explains in his works such as prophecy, glossolalia and healings are presented in the fifth section. The sixth and seventh sections deal with charism’s relationship with talent and institution respectively and the final section of the chapter considers the freedom of the Spirit in the institutional Church.

The fourth chapter fulfills the objective of our study. The first section elucidates that Congar constructs his theology of charism upon his Trinitarian view of the Church. In the subsection, the conception of Christ and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father, by which Congar harmonizes the institutional and the charismatic aspects of the Church are treated. This further leads us to explain charism in its proximate research field of ← 4 | 5 → pneumatological ecclesiology. The sections from two to nine display the role and function of charism in the pneumatological ecclesiology of Congar.

0.4   Scope and Limitations of the Study

This dissertation has a limitation in maintaining terminological precision. The term ca,risma (plural cari,smata), and its transliteration in singular and plural appear in our lexical and scriptural analysis and the study of the Greek Fathers. Since in dogmatic theology the term charism is also expressed as ‘gift of the Spirit’ and the theologians do not maintain terminological precision, we use them variably. The historical development and controversies regarding the term charism fall outside the scope of this study. They receive consideration only in so far as they are helpful to achieving our purpose or as part of Congar’s elaborations. ← 5 | 6 →

1 Léon Suenens, “The Charismatic Dimension of the Church,” in Council Speeches of Vatican II, eds., Yves Congar, Hans Küng and Daniel O’hanlon (London: Sheed and Ward, 1964), 18. [Hereafter cited as “Charismatic Dimension”].

2 See chapter 3 section 3.4.

3 Stephen Ebo Annan, “‘Do not Stifle the Spirit’: The Vision of Yves Congar for Charismatic Ecclesiology,” New Blackfriars 95, no. 1058 (2013): 446. [Hereafter cited as “Do not Stifle”].

4 Yves Congar, Lay People in the Church: A Study for a Theology of Laity, trans. Donald Attwater (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman press, 1965), xvi; Yves Congar, Jalons pour une théologie du laïcat (Paris: Les Éditions Du Cerf, 1953), 13. [Hereafter cited as Lay People and Jalons pour respectively].

5 Pope Francis I, EG 130, in AAS (105): 1074.


XII, 261
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
. Pneumatological ecclesiology People of God Ministries Pneumatological christology
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XII, 261 pp.

Biographical notes

Johnson Mudavassery (Author)

Johnson Mudavassery is a Carmelite priest of the Manjummel Province. He received his doctorate in theology from the Lucerne University, Switzerland. He is engaged in pastoral ministry in the diocese of Essen.


Title: The Role and Function of Charism in the Theology of Yves Congar
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