Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, was the first U.S. theologian to be named to the College of Cardinals. Avery Dulles was also the first American Jesuit to receive that honor.
Avery Dulles was the son of former U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. While his parents’ religious background was Presbyterian, Dulles was raised in a generally secular household. It was through the study of philosophy in college that he began to explore the meaning of life. Aristotle taught him to have confidence in human reason. Plato led him to contemplate the nature of the absolute being as the foundation for the moral order. Reading the Gospels led Dulles to the loving and merciful God who redeemed us in Jesus Christ.
Dulles continued his studies and was led closer to the Catholic faith through them. He especially admired Thomistic philosophers Etienne Gibson and Jacques Maritain. Dulles was also attracted to the active Catholic liturgical life he observed in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Finally, Dulles asked a Jesuit priest to instruct him in the faith, and he was received into the Church in 1940.
Dulles entered the Jesuits in 1946 and began a life of studying and teaching theology. He taught at the Jesuit House of Studies at Woodstock College, the Catholic University of America, and finally at Fordham University in New York.
Cardinal Dulles’s aim as a theologian was to present the Catholic tradition as it speaks to contemporary culture. He did this in 22 books and over 700 articles and reviews. His book Models of the Church (1974) has had a lasting influence on how the Church is perceived and remains a useful guide for exploring the nature of the Church.
Cardinal Dulles acknowledged that the foundation for teaching is a life of prayer.
So the theologian must participate in the prayer life of the church and be a praying person himself or herself in order to think the thoughts of God, as we theologians try to do. A theologian who does not pray could hardly be a good theologian.
Avery Dulles became the first American Jesuit cardinal in 2001. He died in 2008.
Cardinal Avery Dulles Online Archive
A complete bibliography and assessment of Cardinal Dulles’s life and career.
Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, Videos
Series of videos featuring lectures by Avery Dulles, SJ. Also includes videos of the celebrations of his funeral Masses. From Fordham University. Real Player needed to view videos.
dotMagis Blog Posts
Blog posts about Cardinal Avery Dulles.