The Legal Contributions of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.

Posted on Categories Legal Scholarship, Religion & Law

The Marquette University Class of 2006 included among its honorary doctorate holders Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.  The nomination by Professor Patrick Carey of the Theology Department noted: “Cardinal Dulles is one of the principal theological interpreters of the Second Vatican Council and a creative and faithful scholar of the longer Catholic theological and creedal tradition. The author of 27 books and more than 700 articles [he has since passed 800], he has become during the past 45 years one of the most prolific theologians in the United States.”

The New York Province of the Society of Jesus announced today that Cardinal Dulles passed to his reward at 6:30 this morning.  There will no doubt be an appropriate outpouring of tributes, memorials, and salutes.

I was primarily familiar with the work of Cardinal Dulles through his frequent contributions to FIRST THINGS magazine (which, with a student subscription rate of $15, makes an excellent gift to any students in your circle). He was also a member of Evangelicals & Catholics Together, a FT-related project seeking common ground and ecumenical partnership.

The Cardinal’s FT article on “Catholicism & Capital Punishment” is one of the primary reference points in that debate, and drew a thoughtful reply from, among others, Justice Antonin Scalia. This and Dulles’ other works have received, by my search, nearly 200 citations in law review articles. Moreover, he is the author of three law review articles: “Catholic Social Teaching and American Legal Practice,” 30 Fordham Urb. L.J. 277 (2002); “The Indirect Mission of the Church in Politics,” 52 Vill. L. Rev. 241 (2007); “The Evangelization of Culture and the Catholic University,” 1 J. L. Phil. & Culture 1 (2007).

Cardinal Dulles’ theological work will stand as one of the great contributions by an American Catholic thinker in this century. His elevation to the College of Cardinals by John Paul the Great is proof of the high regard in which he was held internationally. Although his contributions to legal thinking were primarily tangential, his preeminence in his chosen field should direct our attention to what we can learn from him for our own projects.

One thought on “The Legal Contributions of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.”

  1. He also wrote two other law review articles:
    “Continuity and Change in Catholic Social Teaching,” 2 J.L. Phil. & Culture 73 (2008)
    and
    “The Contemporary Flight from Ideas,” 8 Loy. L. Rev. 41 (1955-1956)
    The latter article was a speech given to the St. Thomas More Catholic Lawyers Association. Dulles delivered this address shortly after his ordination.

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