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from issue no. 09 - 2005

Profile of Cardinal Avery Dulles

Born into a Wasp family, he is among the most important American Catholic theologians

by Gianni Cardinale

Cardinal Avery Dulles

Cardinal Avery Dulles

Cardinal Avery Dulles, Jesuit, is one of the major living theologians. Since 1988 he is professor and holder of the Laurence J. McGinley chair of Religion and Society at Fordham University.
He was born in 1918, into one of the most noted Wasp (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) families in the US political world. His great grandfather, John W. Foster, his great-uncle, Robert Lansing and also his father, John Foster Dulles, were Secretaries of State (his uncle Allen Foster was director general of the CIA as well). He attended high-schools in Switzerland and New England. He received a rigidly Protestant education (he is the grandnephew of Reverend Allen Macy Dulles, illustrious Presbyterian theologian), but during the early years of study he distanced himself from religious practice. His conversion to Catholicism was – as he himself has recounted – a gradual process begun during the study of art, philosophy, theology and medieval literature, at Harvard University. On 26 November, after his degree, he was received into the Catholic Church, which, at least in the beginning, did not in fact please his family.
After a year and a half at Harvard Law School he was enlisted in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1946. On leaving the US Navy, he entered the Society of Jesus. He taught philosophy for two years at Fordham University and was ordained a priest on 16 June 1956 by the cardinal of New York Francis Spellman. Afterwards he spent a year of pastoral and ascetic formation in Münster (1957-1958). After the year spent in Germany he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he received his degree in Sacred Theology in 1960.
He worked at Woodstock College from 1960 to 1974 and at the Catholic University of America from 1974 to 1988. He is author of more than 650 articles on theological subjects and has published twenty-one books.
He has covered roles of responsibility in professional and ecclesial organizations. He was president both of the Catholic Theological Society of America (1957-1976) and of the American Theological Society (1978-1979). He was also a member of the International Theological Society from 1992 to 1997.
John Paul II created and announced him cardinal at the Consistory of 21 February 2001. His name along with that of the German theologian Leo Scheffczyk, was suggested to the Pope by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presided over by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

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