Unfailing Love for the Lord Marks Cardinal Dulles' Life
Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., was born on 24 August 1918 in Auburn, New York to Janet Pomeroy and John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State to President Eisenhower. Avery Dulles thus grew up in one of the best known American political families of the time — his grandfather, great uncle and father had been Secretaries of State and his uncle was a director of the C.I.A.
Avery Dulles' family gave him a strict Presbyterian upbringing — indeed, he was the great nephew of a famous Presbyterian theologian, Rev. Allen Macy Dulles.
Avery attended elementary school in New York and was sent for his Middle and high school education to Switzerland and then New England.
As a youth he distanced himself from religious practice. For a brief spell he was an agnostic and then, as he himself recounted, his approach and subsequent conversion to Catholicism constituted a gradual process which began when he was studying art, theology and mediaeval literature at the University of Harvard. On 26 November 1940, he was received into the Catholic Church — initially to the great chagrin of his family.
He served in the United States Navy from 1942 until the end of the Second World War when he entered the Society of Jesus. In a 2005 interview with National Jesuit News he said: "Jesuit spirituality instils a passion for the service of Christ's Kingdom and a readiness to struggle against opposing forces. The Jesuit course of studies, which involves assiduous formation in philosophy and in the human sciences as well as in theology, has turned out priests well qualified to defend the faith".
Dulles was ordained a priest on 16 June 1956 by Cardinal Spellman of New York. He pursued his pastoral and ascetic formation from 1957 to 1958 in Munster, Germany, and then at the Pontifical Gregorian University where he earned a doctorate in sacred theology in 1960.
Fr. Dulles taught theology at Woodstock College from 1960 to 1974 and at the Catholic University of America from 1974 to 1988, when he moved to Fordham University where he became the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society.
He was also visiting professor at many other institutions, including Princeton Theological Seminary, Campion Hall Oxford, the Catholic University at Leuven and Yale University. Cardinal Dulles is the author of 23 books and more than 800 articles; one of his best known works is Models of the Church.
He received numerous academic awards, including more than 20 honorary degrees. He was President of the Catholic Theological Society of America and of the American Theological Society, as well as a member of the International Theological Commission from 1992 to 1997.
It was in honour of his contribution as a theologian that John Paul II created him a Cardinal at the Consistory on 21 February 2001, even though he was not a Bishop as is normally the case. While Jesuits do not usually accept promotion within the Church hierarchy, Fr. Dulles did so, successfully petitioning the Pope for a dispensation from episcopal consecration due to his advanced age. He was assigned the deaconry of the Ss. Nome di Gesù e Maria in via Lata, thus becoming the first American theologian to be created a Cardinal in the Catholic Church.
He specialized in ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Revelation and ecumenism: in this field he played a lead role in the United States Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue. He was also a consultor to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine.
He sought to increase mutual understanding between the different trends in the Church and the theological schools, remaining absolutely faithful to the Church's Magisterium. He was universally appreciated for his moderation and the rigour of his studies.
During his Apostolic Visit. to the United States in April 2008, the Holy Father paid him a brief visit at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York.
Cardinal Dulles died on 12 December at the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University in New York. He had been suffering from ill health, an effect of the polio he had contracted in his youth.
A Mass of the Holy Name of Jesus especially for Jesuits, religious and clergy was celebrated for Cardinal Dulles at Fordham's Chapel on Tuesday evening, 16 December. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
Weekly Edition in English
17 December 2008, page 20
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