apr 242009

Jeg har skrevet om Avery Dulles (som døde i fjor høst) før (se her), og vil i dag ta med litt om hans betydning for økumeniske samtaler, fra en artikkel om ham i siste nummer av First Things (Why Avery Dulles Matters – av Thomas G. Guarino). Her er en liten del av artikkelen, som handler om Dulles’ økumeniske arbeid (under mine økumeniske studier for tre år siden, så jeg hvor enorm betydning Dulles hadde for de katolsk-lutherske dialogene i USA for noen tiårsiden):

Dulles’ involvement with ecumenism goes back to the 1950s – and by the Second Vatican Council’s strong endorsement of this element of ecclesial life. Vatican II’s accent on ecumenism reversed the earlier teaching of Mortalium Animos, a 1928 papal encyclical warning against the progressive movement engineered by “pan-Christians.” The papal letter was legitimately concerned that any tendency toward pan-Christianity, as it was styled, could easily devolve into a limp-wristed ecclesiology, an understanding of the Church stressing those dimensions uniting Christians while blithely ignoring the crucial elements still dividing them, leading inexorably to the thin gruel of a “lowest common denominator” faith.

But Vatican II boldly moved beyond these earlier fears, insisting that an honest and integral ecumenism benefited all Christians. For some time prior to the council, the ecumenical movement had been at the theological edges of the Church. Yves Congar, the great Dominican ecclesiologist, had written a groundbreaking book in 1937, Divided Christendom, which caused an uneasy stir among the Catholic hierarchy. Congar spoke of the gifts of Protestantism in tones that the Catholic ear was unaccustomed to hear. After Congar’s innovative work came several important dialogues with the powerful theology of Karl Barth, among which was the incisive three-volume treatment of the French Jesuit Henri Bouillard. … Dulles completed a doctoral dissertation at the Gregorian University in 1960 entitled “Protestant Churches and the Prophetic Office.” From that time until his death, Dulles was tirelessly engaged in ecumenical work.

In a significant 1968 volume, Revelation and the Quest for Unity, Dulles argued for a Catholic understanding of sola scriptura, takes welcome note of the accent on tradition found in the groundbreaking Faith and Order report of 1963, and reflected on the contributions of the Orthodox Churches to the ecumenical movement. Later, he would be an enthusiastic participant in the important dialogues between Lutherans and Catholics in the United States. The 1985 statement on justification, “Justification by Faith,” for example, remains a compelling milestone of theological reflection and agreement, one of the crucial documents setting the stage for the 1999 groundbreaking accord between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation established by the “Joint Declaration on ­Justification.”

Together with Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson, Dulles was also one of the original architects of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the daring enterprise pursuing greater agreement between two groups with seemingly little in common, whether culturally or theologically. Indeed, some thought wedding Athens and Jerusalem child’s play compared to meshing Birmingham and Gotham. From the beginning, however, Dulles’ status as a universally respected theologian of international repute added theological ballast to the dialogues, ensuring that they would be regarded as far more than the convenient political alliance that was sometimes cynically suspected. The steady theological work of Evangelicals and Catholics Together has continued unabated since its beginnings in 1994, achieving significant convergences on issues such as justification, the relationship between Scripture and tradition, and the intense witness to the “culture of life” in the public square. (The forthcoming statement on Mary, the Mother of God, was largely completed just before the cardinal’s death).

Fair to say, the cardinal’s lifelong and unyielding commitment to Christian unity was—and will remain—an inspiration to all of the participants in Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Of Cardinal Newman, Dulles once wrote: “In him the convert spoke louder than the ecumenist.” Perhaps we may say that, in Dulles, both convert and ecumenist spoke equally well.

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