Theology of the Church, by Cardinal Charles Journet

Theology of the Church, by Cardinal Charles Journet

Michael Gilchrist
by Cardinal Charles Journet

(Ignatius, 2004, 505pp, Hardcover, $59.95. Available from AD Books)

Cardinal Charles Journet (1891- 1975) was a well-respected Swiss theologian who was elevated to Cardinal in 1965. Among his great contributions to Catholic theology was his massive two-volume work of ecclesiology, The Church of the Word Incarnate, which examined the nature and meaning of the Church according to the categories of Aristotelian causality: material, formal, efficient, and final.

Theology of the Church is a shorter version of that masterwork, especially created by Cardinal Journet for a popular readership. Some of Cardinal Journet's other books included The Meaning of Grace, What Is Dogma?, and The Meaning of Evil.

In his preface to the English edition of Theology of the Church, P. George Cottier, OP, Theologian of the Papal Household, wrote: "In the present work the brevity of the text hints at a catechetical style, so that the essentials can be easily understood and committed to memory and provide food for meditation; for the theology of Charles Journet naturally flowers into spirituality and prayer."

Later, Cottier summarises the paradoxical truths that Journet presents with his typical clarity and precision: "He shows how the Church, holy and without sins, is disturbed by sin, how she repents for it and converts and asks her members to be purified and not to sin. Her vocation is to carry redemption into the midst of the world. She meets sinners every-where. She does not content herself with touching them from afar; she places them in her heart to heal them by personal contact."

In his Foreword, Journet outlines the structure of Theology of the Church as follows: "After an initial presentation (chapter 1), the Church is joined to Christ (chapter 2) and to the Holy Spirit (chapter 3). She finds her supreme realisation in the Blessed Virgin (chapter 4). She issues forth from the apostolic hierarchy, from which she receives her property and note of apostolicity (chapter 5).

"In herself, she is composed of a created soul (chapter 6), from which come her property and note of sanctity (chapter 7), and a body (chapter 8). It was necessary to clarify the notion of membership in the Church (chapter 9) before treating the property and note of Catholic unity (chapter 10). From here, one can quite easily proceed to the definitions of the Church (chapter 11)."

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