Cardinal Dulles Dead at 90

Scholar Suffered From Post-Polio Syndrome

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

NEW YORK, DEC. 12, 2008 ( The New York Province of the Society of Jesus reported that renowned theologian and prolific author Cardinal Avery Dulles died this morning at 90.

Avery Dulles was born Aug. 24, 1918, in Auburn, New York. He was the son of John Foster Dulles, who later served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Dulles converted to Catholicism in 1940 while studying at Harvard University. After graduation he continued at Harvard studying law, but after a year and a half he left the university to join the Navy during World War II, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant.

He entered the Jesuits in 1946 and was ordained 10 years later. He earned a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1960.

Father Dulles taught theology at Woodstock College from 1960 to 1974 and at the Catholic University of America from 1974 to 1988.

He served as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University from 1988 until April of this year.

He was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001, making him the first American-born theologian not a bishop to receive this honor.

A respected theologian, he served as president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society. He authored over 750 articles on theological topics, and dozens of books, the latest including «The History of Apologetics,» (revised edition, 2005), and «Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith» (2007).

The cardinal had been suffering of complications of post-polio syndrome, which he contracted as a Naval officer. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, the cardinal continued to read and communicated by slowing typing on a computer keyboard or writing on a pad of paper.

Upon stepping down as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University in April, he wrote: «Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord!'»

During Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States last April, the Pontiff and Cardinal Dulles met for a private meeting.

Great theologian

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. episcopal conference, said the death of Cardinal Dulles "brings home to God a great theologian and a totally dedicated servant of the Church.»

«His wise counsel will be missed; his personal witness to the pursuit of holiness of life as a priest, a Jesuit and a cardinal of the Church will be remembered and will encourage the Church to remain ever faithful to her Lord and his mission,» he added.

Cardinal Edward Egan, the archbishop of New York, said in a statement this afternoon that he learned of the death of Cardinal Dulles with «deep sadness.»

«Cardinal Dulles was an eminent theologian and professor of theology in seminaries and universities throughout the nation,» said Cardinal Egan. «All of us here in the archdiocese are very much indebted to him for his wisdom and priestly example.»

Father James Massa, executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the episcopal conference and a student of Cardinal Dulles, said the cardinal was «for a generation of priests, scholars and faithful […], a reliable and faithful interpreter of the Second Vatican Council. A number of his books have become classics in theological education.»

«In some ways,» the priest added, «his life bears comparison with another great cardinal-theologian, John Henry Newman, on whose birthday, 200 years later, Avery Dulles was created a cardinal of the Catholic Church.» 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation