Several months ago a diocesan newspaper noted contradictory voices coming from Cardinals in the Vatican. The topic was of little consequence, the Pope's comments after viewing Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The journalist expressed little concern for the comments, or lack thereof. What struck the reporter as so unusual was that two cardinals were both speaking for the Holy Father and were giving contradictory messages. One can't but help be reminded of this rather insignificant issue in the more significant matter of Jacques Dupuis' theology and his treatment by the Vatican.
This collection of essays honoring a theologian who has spent his entire professional career exploring approaches to religious pluralism provides an excellent overview of the issues and serves as a fitting tribute to this renowned theologian. The essays themselves convey a diversity of opinion as well as of style. The early essay provided by Cardinal Avery Dulles suggests a careful hand marked by a cautious optimism. The same hand also suggests a nuance of correction. With much greater optimism Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald explores the application of the document "Dialogue and Proclamation" (Dupuis helped draft the text) to Christian-Muslim relations. And of Dupuis' great work Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism Fitzgerald writes, "(I)t offers a most remarkable synthesis of theological reflection on this important theme and will probably remain for a long time the standard work of reference in this field" (181).
Several of the essays in Part III, Spiritual and Pastoral Dimensions, offer an easier read than the Theological Reflections and the essays on Two Roman Documents. Unfortunately, however, the essays on the topics of spirituality and pastoral practice fail to convey the critical scholarship and nuance so characteristic of Dupuis' own work. Though substantially more difficult to comprehend the essays in the two other sections do better reflect Dupuis' critical analysis and insight. As is clear in Dupuis' struggles with Vatican officials the critical analysis, nuance and insight hold incredible importance – even if they would be overlooked or misunderstood.
Striking throughout the text are the numerous references and quotations provided by the various authors suggesting a genuine common ground for the thought of Pope John Paul II and Jacques Dupuis. Perhaps one is reminded of another startling contrast. Within days of the publication of Dominus Jesus by Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF, Pope John Paul II stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue and understanding. At the time some theologians thought they might be hearing two voices.
Though not for the novice theologian or casual reader In Many and Diverse Ways provides an excellent overview of the very important and critical work of Jacques Dupuis. The major issues of inter-religious dialogue are introduced as proposed in his work. The reader gains a good insight into the value of Dupuis' work relative to the challenges in this area of theology. And finally, his work is advanced as several authors make specific application of his theology to their own pressing concerns.