Yves Congar Predicts Confrontation at Council on Collegiality

A noted French theologian said here that the question of the collegiality of the bishops, one of the chief problems facing the ecumenical council’s second session, has only recently come under close theological scrutiny.

Father Yves Congar, O.P., said that, as a result, “many questions are not ripe in many minds, many ideas are not exact.”

He said that before the end of October there would be a “confrontation” on the question within the council hall. He spoke at the council documentation center.

The question of collegiality–the position and authority of all the world’s bishops when considered as a body succeeding the college of the Apostles–arises in the council’s schema, or draft declaration, “On the Nature of the Church,” which is now before the ecumenical council.

Father Congar said that the very word “collegiality” was not used among modern Catholic theologians until about 10 years ago. He said that he himself had “re-launched” it in a book in 1953, but that he used it with regard to “other things.” It took on its current meaning more recently, he said.

When that meaning emerged about three or four years ago, “it received such a broad welcome as to be disquieting,” the French Dominican recalled. “There has not been sufficient time to study it, from either a theological or historical point of view.”

Father Congar did stress, however, that the notion of collegiality was familiar in the early ages of Christianity. “Unhappily, the idea was forgotten for 15 centuries.”

In describing bow the collegiality of the 12 Apostles could descend from them to today’s bishops, Father Congar said:

“Christ did two things. First, He constituted the Twelve, who were given the apostolic power. Then, He chose one, Simon. He gave him a certain charge, gave it to him as a personal function.”

Thus, he said, there was one college and one primacy.

“The Pope succeeds Peter,” he continued. “With perhaps one or two exceptions–I in fact, do not know of any–the bishops succeeded not single Apostles but the college of the Apostles . . . .”

Therefore, he concluded, there are two successions: the collegiality and the primacy.

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