Dec 17, 2008

More on Cardinal Dulles

Fr James Martin, S.J. reflects on the life of Cardinal Dulles here.

A quick pullquote and a hat tip to The Washington Post:

We arrived in Boston with barely enough time to dress in the Jesuit community where we were lodging. "Come by my room when you're ready," he said. An hour later, I knocked on his door. When he opened the door he was resplendent in his cardinal's black cassock with red piping, and the grand ferraiolo, or scarlet cape. At age 82, Cardinal Dulles couldn't reach the lowest buttons of his cassock so I knelt down to help. "How do I look?" he said with a sly smile. "As my mother would say," I told him, "you look very handsome." His patrician bearing was evident no matter what he wore; that night, the lanky Jesuit looked like Cardinal Abe Lincoln.

The next morning we caught the 8 a.m. train back to New York. (His Protestant work ethic, undimmed by his Catholicism, opted for the earliest train we could make.) Back at Fordham, a few Jesuits asked how things were in Boston; the country was still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks. "People in Boston were upset that two of the planes that hit the World Trade Center came from Logan airport," I explained, relating what I heard the night before. Avery said, "How do you think I feel? One of them came from Dulles!"

That was one of the rare times he referred to that place, out of humility. Once, during a stay in Washington, D.C., a young Jesuit was assigned to drive Avery to the airport. He asked, "Which airport are we going to, Father? National or...?" Father Dulles said, "The other one!"

Given his lightheartedness, it seemed appropriate that, in 2001, during the Vatican ceremony when he was made a cardinal, Pope John Paul II placed the customary red biretta on Avery's head, and it toppled into the pope's lap. No one enjoyed telling that story more than the new cardinal.

I remember hearing him at the now infamous meetings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Meeting when the Dallas charter for zero tolerance was drafted. In his 80s, the Cardinal didn't have a vote in the meeting--something that I think bothered him--but yet he did all he could to influence his brother bishops in any way he could. Hearing him talk at that meeting gave me some insight to how humble he truly was. He nearly sounded apologetic for speaking but yet said some of the most tender and appropriate comments in the room. As Drew Christiansen, S.J., the editor of America magazine points out:
Regarded in his latter years as a theological and political conservative, he continued to take independent positions both as a consultant and a non-voting member of the U.S. bishops’ conference. He strongly backed proposals for “lay ecclesial ministry”, for example, and was critical of the bishops’ Dallas charter on clergy sex abuse for the unfairness of its Draconian measures toward possible offenders.

Dulles was his own man, nay, God's own. He reveled in the person that God had created and never backed down on his well thought out opinions. May he rest in peace. Amen.


Tim Fleming said...

Ahh, yes...what sweet stories about a man who defended pedophile priests (for this he's considered an independent?) and who was the nephew of perhaps the most despicable and diabolical covert operative in the history of America, Allen Dulles. Dulles ran Operation Paperclip, the importation of war-criminal Nazis to this country, who subsequently worked in our aerospace, defense and intelligence spheres; Operation MK-ULTRA, the secret drug experimentation and torture program which tried to create a Manchurian candidate assassin; and Operation Mockingbird, the subversion of the free press in America. gives me warm feeling to read these wonderful reminiscences of Avery Dulles.

Tim Fleming

god googler said...

Actually Tim, Dulles eschewed his father's wealth to become a priest and it was not looked on kindly by his family at first.

And as far as defending pedophile priests, Dulles never administrated a diocese as Bishop so he was not responsible for re-assignments or anything like that. But I realize that's not your point. Cardinal Dulles believed that everyone was entitled to "a fair trial" if you will, and thought that the Dallas Charter did little to protect good priests from false accusations and he was not alone in his criticism--even many secular folks said the same. Cardinal Dulles also thought that the decisions made in Dallas were made in haste (albeit neccessarily to avoid more public scandal) and while he admitted that the Bishops needed to serve the needs of protecting the innocent, he also thought that priests were entitled to have their day in court too and instead the presumption of guilt until proven innocent seemed to apply here.

I don't think he was abruptly trying to favor priests over victims and it is pretty unfair of you to think that he was this short-sighted. Those who knew Dulles can certainly attest to his fairness and his gentle manner with all he met in his life.

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