The Statement of the Society of Jesus on the Passing of Cardinal Dulles

The Jesuit Conference of the United States mourns the passing of Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ who died early today (December 12, 2008) at Fordham University’s Murray-Weigel Hall in New York. We join with our brothers of the New York Province, the whole Society of Jesus and all who knew and loved him in offering prayers of thanksgiving for his life of service to God and the Church as he has been called home.

“Cardinal Dulles was man of tremendous intellectual rigor whose teaching and writing contributed greatly to the vibrancy of Catholic intellectual life,” commented the President of the Jesuit Conference, Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich. “Yet for a man with so many gifts, he never viewed himself as anything more than a poor servant of Christ,” Smolich added. “In this way, he called all of us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord he so dearly loved.”

“Dulles was part of the new generation of theologians following Vatican II who brought a fresh approach to ecclesiology,” said Jesuit theologian Father Kevin Burke, president of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. “In addition, he began to pay particular attention to the amazing burst of theological creativity among Jesuits that appeared around the time of the Council. To my knowledge he is the first to write about and probe the question of whether the distinctive resources of Ignatian spirituality open up unique paths for doing theology in the modern, and now post-modern, world.”

The son of U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, he was raised a Presbyterian but converted to the Catholic faith while a student at Harvard College. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Dulles entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained on June 16, 1956. He held a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome and was a Jesuit for 52 years.

The author of 23 books and more than 800 articles, Dulles was President of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society. He taught theology at Woodstock College and the Catholic University of America, and was the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University, New York. He was also a member of the International Theological Commission and the U.S. Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue and a consultor to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine.

During a 2005 interview with National Jesuit News, Cardinal Dulles commented on the past contributions of Jesuits such as Robert Bellarmine and Edmund Campion to the history of Catholic thought: “Jesuit spirituality instills 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 the human sciences as well as in theology, has turned out priests well qualified to defend the faith.” Though far too humble a man to ascribe those comments to himself, they could easily apply to Cardinal Dulles. In 2001, Pope John Paul II elevated him to the College of Cardinals, making Dulles the first American theologian to be named a Cardinal deacon.

Our prayers are with the Dulles family during their time of mourning.
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