One of the few American Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church passed away in December, kicking off a traditional one-month long period of mourning, culminating in a mass at Fordham University, where Avery Cardinal Dulles was in residence.
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. was an internationally known writer and lecturer –the author of 24 books and over 800 articles – and held the position of Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University from 1988 to 2008. The Months Mind Mass – ending a month long period of remembrance – was held at the University Church on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx, on the one-month anniversary of Dulles’ death on Monday, January 12.
Dulles was one of just 17 Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church from the United States when has passed away on December 12 at the age of 90. Dulles was the son of former United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who served under President Eisenhower.
“A man of prodigious intellect and great holiness, Cardinal Dulles devoted his entire life to the task of advancing the dialogue between faith and reason,” said Fr. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University. “In the process, he enriched both the Church and the Academy with his wisdom and his warmth. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that he was the first American theologian to be named to the College of Cardinals.”
Dulles was born a Presbyterian, but converted to Catholicism after graduating from Harvard University in 1940 and serving in the United States Navy during and immediately following World War II.
On account of his father’s high profile and the uniqueness of an Ivy-League educated convert, his ordination on the campus at the University Church on the Bronx’s Rose Hill campus garnered national attention in the press in 1956.
After serving as a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., Dulles returned to the Bronx and Fordham University when he took up the professorship that he occupied until his death.
During his tenure at Fordham, Cardinal Dulles delivered 39 McGinley Chair lectures on theological subjects that were sometimes controversial, including the death penalty, John Paul II and human rights, and church reform. He was considered an American theologian well versed in ecumenism and a voice for religious freedom, a centrist in Catholic theology.
On February 21, 2001, Dulles was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Cardinal Dulles was one of three Americans honored that day, and the only one of the three who was not a diocesan bishop. This honor crowned his lifelong work as a Jesuit, a theologian and a writer.
“I enjoyed it, but that’s not really what counts. I prefer to spend my time reading, thinking, writing, and teaching. I’m not particularly made for ceremonies,” Cardinal Dulles said when he was elevated to a Cardinal.
While he applauded the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he also stressed the need not to undermine the fundamental teachings of earlier popes and councils of the Church. In the last decade of his life he had been seen among his colleagues to have moved to the right, suggesting in 1998 a need for a “countercultural,” more orthodox Church, and calling for “doctrinal firmness” in the face of dissent on such issues as the ordination of women.
McShane said at the Months Mind Mass for Dulles on January 12 that Dulles finally got to enjoy a religious holiday he was looking forward to experiencing in heaven.
“We know that he has spent his first Christmas in heaven, something that he looked forward to, that he spoke of often in the last year of his life,” McShane said.