Anne-Marie KIRMSE and Michael M. CANARIS, editors. The Legacy of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.: His Words and His Witness. Foreword by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick. New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2011. xviii + 133 pages. $45.00 hc. ISBN 978-0-8232-3960-3.
Reviewed by Robert P. RUSSO, Lourdes University, Sylvania, OH 43560

This companion piece to the 2008 volume of Avery Cardinal Dulles’ McGinley Lectures, at Fordham University, may seem to some as a farewell exclamation point to the life and career of the late Jesuit theologian. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This volume, lovingly crafted by those who worked with and cared for Cardinal Dulles, can only be described as a posthumous festschrift of his life and times, a celebration which begins and ends at Fordham over a period lasting more than fifty years. Fellow Cardinal and friend of Dulles, Theodore E. McCarrick, states that “he had the gift of being able to be part of our life and he always knew how to find the words to be helpful even if we did not always perceive the depth of his conversation…He obviously was…a man of rather intense prayer and understood the mysteries and values of the Church in a special way” (p. ix).

This volume, edited by Kirmse and Canaris—both of whom worked intimately with Dulles near the end of his life, contains the legacy of the Cardinal’s writings. Regarding Dulles’ vast corpus, he “wrote twenty-five books, coauthored four more, published more than eight hundred articles, book reviews, forewords, introductions, and letters to the editor” (p. xv). It is here, however, where the reader may find a criticism in this short work. Although each item attributed to the hand of Dulles is briefly cited, there is no description of any of his major works. Dulles was a leading figure in the discipline of ecclesiology (his Models of the Church, The Reshaping of Catholicism, and The Craft of Theology are required reading). It should have been no problem for those intimate with the Cardinal to include a synopsis for at least the twenty-five book entries, describing them, and their impact in their proper theological discipline. There could also have been a section dedicated to the major works of authors who wrote about Dulles and his theology (e.g. Patrick W. Carey has written the definitive biography on Dulles, and Darius Jankiewicz has written a volume regarding the Magisterium and theologians in Dulles’ writings, to name a few).

The rest of the book contains Dulles’ first Fordham lecture to Sodality Alumni in 1952, his final McGinley lecture at Fordham in 2008, reflections on the last days before his death, and homilies written for his funeral and burial masses. To the Sodality Alumni, Dulles imparted this wisdom regarding how a true Catholic should regard his faith: “the Catholic, wherever he goes, should, out of a desire to give the truth to others, show a quite realization that he has something very special—he has found what is for all mankind the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (p. 91). During his final McGinley lecture, which was read for Dulles by former Fordham President Reverend Joseph A. O’Hare, we learn of the Cardinal’s method for conducting scholarly research, wherein he began his “investigation by asking what others, especially authoritative voices, have had to say about pertinent questions” (p. 98). Dulles felt it important to know every facet of an issue before he spoke, and thus his wisdom could not be easily refuted.

This celebration of the life and work of Avery Cardinal Dulles will appeal to a select target audience, including students of ecclesiology, researchers of the Jesuit theologian, and those who purchased the previous volume dedicated to his McGinley lectures. Aside from the brief criticism mentioned above, this publication is highly recommended for its poignant tribute to Cardinal Dulles. Researchers of ecclesiology will be sure to use this volume as a reference tool for years to come.

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