Nouvelle théologie

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The Nouvelle théologie (French for new theology) is an intellectual movement in Catholic theology that arose in the mid-20th century, most notably among certain circles of French and German theologians.

The nouveaux théologiens sought "a spiritual and intellectual communion with Christianity in its most vital moments as transmitted to us in its classic texts, a communion which would nourish, invigorate, and rejuvenate twentieth-century Catholicism."[1] Many of the theologians associated with the movement advocated for a far broader "return to the sources" of the Christian faith: namely, Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers. They also developed a renewed interest in particulars of biblical exegesis, typology, art, literature, and mysticism. This methodological approach is known as, ressourcement, French for "return to the sources" and is closely associated the with nouvelle théologie.[2]


The roots of a questioning of the dominance of neo-scholasticism may be traced to theologians working from the 1920s onwards. While some French Jesuit studies conducted in exile at Ore Place, Hastings, England, in the years 1906–1926 have been seen by some as forerunners of the nouvelle théologie,[3] the nouvelle théologie movement itself is generally associated with the period between 1935 and 1960.[4] In its early stages (i.e. the 1930s and early 1940s) the movement is also particularly associated with the French language, in part contrast with the Latin used in seminary teaching at the time.[5]


Although lumped together as a set by their opponents, the theologians associated with the nouvelle théologie had a great range of interests, views, and methodologies, and were not themselves a co-ordinated group. In later writing, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac and Henri Bouillard all denied that the nouvelle théologie was anything but a construct of its opponents.[6] However, subsequent studies of the movement have suggested that there did exist a set of shared characteristics among writers of the nouvelle théologie. These include:[7]

  • A tendency to ascribe a worthy place to history within the theological endeavour.
  • The appeal of a positive theology.
  • A critical attitude towards neo-scholasticism.


The developing movement received criticisms in the late 1940s and 1950s. A first attack was made by the influential Dominican[8] theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP in a polemical 1946 article in the journal Angelicum.[9] While the theologians of the movement generally preferred to call their movement a ressourcement, based on their return to original patristic thought, Garrigou-Lagrange claimed that they did not "return to the sources" but deviated from the long-standing theological tradition of the Catholic Church, thus creating a "new theology" all their own which, he claimed, was essentially Modernism in disguise. Although another writer, Pietro Parente, had used the term "teologia nuova" in 1942, it was from Garrigou-Lagrange's article that the label entered into widespread use.[a]

See also[edit]

  • Ad fontes, a Latin phrase meaning "to the sources" used during by Renaissance humanism


  1. ^ The label had first been used in 1942 by Pietro Parente in an article in L'Osservatore Romano, but it acquired widest recognition as a result of a 1946 attack on the movement by the Dominican theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.[10] See Boersma 2009, p. 8. Over time, as nouvelle théologie has gained widespread usage, the debate over the movement's proper name has largely become a marginal note.


  1. ^ D'Ambrosio, Dr Marcellino (1 October 2019). "Ressourcement Theology, Aggiornamento,and the Hermeneutics of Tradition". Crossroads Initiative. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  2. ^ Flynn, Gabriel; Murray, Paul, eds. (2012). Ressourcement : a movement for renewal in twentieth-century Catholic theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1–12. ISBN 978-0-19-870208-5. OCLC 951214440.
  3. ^ Grumett 2011, p. 348.
  4. ^ Mettepenningen 2010, p. 4.
  5. ^ Mettepenningen 2010, p. 10.
  6. ^ Mettepenningen 2010, p. 8.
  7. ^ Mettepenningen 2010, pp. 10–11.
  8. ^ Peddicord, Richard, 1958- (2005). The sacred monster of Thomism : an introduction to the life and legacy of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine's Press. pp. 1–3. ISBN 1587317524. OCLC 55588728.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Garrigou-Lagrange 1998.
  10. ^ Boersma 2009, p. 8.


Further reading[edit]