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Monday, December 2, 2013

JPII and Cardinal Avery Dulles

The first time I encountered Avery Cardinal Dulles was at a Borromean lecture in Columbus, Ohio. There, I was operating lights for the stage on which he was delivering his address regarding the Church's response to terrorism. I only remember two things:
1) I fell asleep on the control panel for the lights, causing them to flash wildly during his presentation
2) When I woke up and fixed the problem, it was time for questions to be asked of the Cardinal. Someone asked him if the Boston Tea Party was the first act of terrorism, and if so, why should America be fighting against it! He replied with, "My lecture topic was the Church's response to terrorism, not 'America's' response".

After the fact, my impression of Cardinal Dulles was of straightforward brilliance. He is arguably ranked with the most Christ-centered Jesuits of the past century (though I wasn't interested in that qualification at the time of hearing him): Fr. Pacwa, Pope Francis, Fr Robert Spitzer, etc. But what sets him apart from even these priests was his pastoral wisdom for ecclesial matters, his simple articulation of defending the magisterium and pope, and lastly, his attention to details of Christian truth.

He was elevated to Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. This after having served in the Navy during WWII and earning the Croix de Guerre medal as a lieutenant. Following the war, he joined the society of Jesus in 1946 (mirroring Karol Wojtyla's same year of ordination). Indeed the two men paralelled each other in a few ways, most notably their 'man of war'-like approach to defending Christ's Church and especially Vatican Council II.

A few more obscure facts about Dulles:
1) First American to be named a Cardinal based on theological works
2) suffered from polio since WWII

Again, like Wojtyla's later years, Avery Dulles knew the suffering of a debilitating disease. During WWII he contracted polio, and had boughts with the illness for the rest of his days. He did outlive Wojtyla by five years (Dulles: 1918-2008, Wojtyla: 1920-2005).

The two men helped to define for very different generations, what it meant to participate wholeheartedly in the life of the Church. I am referring specifically to the pre-conciliar generation and the post-conciliar generation. To each respective generation, both Dulles and Wojtyla defied the "laws" of liberal/conservative ideology. Instead, they insisted on the presence and Person of Jesus as essential to any approach to theological thinking. Unfortunately for me at the age of 17 (January of 2003), the presence and Person of Jesus in Cardinal Dulles' lecture only had a hypnotic effect. But looking back today, I can see more clearly.

Overall, it would be hard to argue with the witness of heroic virtue of Avery Cardinal Dulles. Here are some more examples in regard to his strong faith (see also JPII and Jesuit Reform from an earlier post):
1) He was the son of a Presbyterian pastor, and converted to Catholicism as an adult (1939) with his family's disapproval
2) He joined an order that was informally opposed to his own formal and informal conclusions about the Church.

I would even venture to say that Dulles outdid Wojtyla on a number of levels:
1) longer life with illness
2) more ideological enemies
3) lived through and served in WWII

Nevertheless, Cardinal Dulles did not almost single-handedly bring down the iron-curtain! Close, but not quite.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, ora pro nobis!

Short List of his works available in pdf online (please add to it if necessary)
1) "Filioque": What is at stake?
2) "Models of Catechesis"
3) America Magazine
4) Firstthings: Particularly, Dulles' teaching on Covenant http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/the-covenant-with-israel

1 comment:

Dullesfan said...

1st Hermeneutic of Continuity reference?
‘I do not particularly strive for originality,” Cardinal Dulles wrote looking back on his career. “Very few new idea, I suspect, are true. If I conceived a theological idea that had never occurred to anyone in the past, I would have every reason to think myself mistaken.” For that reason, he believed tradition was essential to theological development. “Developments of doctrine,” he observed, “always involve a certain continuity; a reversal of course is not development.”