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U.S. theologian honored

NCR Staff

The appointment of Fr. Avery Dulles, Jesuit professor of theology at Fordham University, is significant because it honors him for his contributions as scholar and adviser to U.S. bishops. It is also seen as recognition that American theology has come of age and plays an important role to the church worldwide.

The 82-year-old priest is considered the dean of American theologians. He is a systematic theologian who has written on a wide range of topics. One of his most popular books was Models of the Church. While a strong supporter of the pope and the church’s teaching, as a moderate Dulles has insisted that alternative positions be respected and explored.

Both Paul VI and John Paul II have made prominent theologians over 80 years of age cardinals as a sign of respect and gratitude to them for their loyal service to church and papacy. Cardinal-theologians include Pietro Pavan (rector of the Lateran University, expert on Catholic social teaching); Jesuit Frs. Jean Danielou and Henri De Lubac (both experts in patristics and historical theology); Dominican Fr. Yves Congar (pioneer ecumenist); and Jesuit Fr. Aloys Grillmeier (historian of the ecumenical councils). John Paul planned to make theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar a cardinal, but von Balthasar died before the consistory. Paven, De Lubac, Congar and Grillmeier asked not to be made bishops when they were made cardinals.

Besides a theologian, Dulles is also the scion of a noted diplomatic family. His father was John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under Eisenhower. His uncle, Allen Dulles, was director of the CIA.

At a news conference following the announcement, Dulles said: “To be named a cardinal is not only an honor, but in many ways a challenge. At my relatively advanced age, I will have the task of trying to learn how to look cardinalatial. I am much accustomed to my informal and rather plebian manners.”

National Catholic Reporter, February 2, 2001