A Testimonial to Grace: Cardinal Avery Dulles Dies in New York

Goodbye dear prince…


 A convert’s example, theological heavyweight and mentor to Catholics worldwide, Avery Cardinal Dulles has died in New York.

Avery Dulles was born in Auburn, N.Y., on Aug. 24, 1918, the son of John Foster Dulles and Janet Pomeroy Avery. His father was secretary of state under President Eisenhower and was a Presbyterian elder. His grandfather, Allen Macy Dulles, was a liberal Presbyterian theologian.

His uncle, Allen Dulles, directed European espionage operations during World War II and later led the Central Intelligence Agency. A great-grandfather, John Watson Foster, was secretary of state under President Benjamin Harrison, and a great-uncle, Robert Lansing, held the same post under President Wilson.

The boy was sent to schools in New York, Switzerland and England and did not have a strict Presbyterian upbringing. ”I never was much of a Protestant,” he recalled. And by the time he entered Harvard in 1936, he was a self-professed agnostic.

”I considered it a proved fact that the sufficient cause of the whole universe was physical matter,” he wrote in ”A Testimonial to Grace,” a 1946 account of his conversion to Catholicism in 1940. He said his conversion was a gradual, rational process that began in his undergraduate studies of medieval art, philosophy and theology, including Plato and the New Testament.

He acknowledged that his conversion had shocked his family and friends, but he called it ”the best decision I ever made.” He said his father gradually came to respect Catholics, especially as he met them officially. ”At one point, he tended to look down on the Catholic church as sociologically and socially inferior, and maybe rather superstitious and so forth,” Father Dulles said.

After graduating from Harvard in 1940, he attended Harvard Law School for a year and a half before joining the Naval Reserve as an intelligence officer. In 1945, he won the Croix de Guerre for his liaison work with the French Navy. In 1946, he joined the Jesuits and began training for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1956 by Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.

On February 22, 2001 he became the first American theologian elevated to Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. As the last called that day, the 82 year-old Avery Dulles used a cane to walk up the steps to the Pontiff’s embrace, whereupon his biretta tumbled off as he rose to his feet…

Below is film of his ordination to the priesthood in 1956 by Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York. In it, the reporter remarks on the final bow of the new priest before taking up his new vocation. Here, Fratres would like to thank God for this fine testimony to His grace within the life and works of Cardinal Avery Dulles, and prays for his new vocation in heaven and that everlasting biretta that shall never fall… Thank you Father.

For more on the life of Avery Cardinal Dulles: Archives

Bio H/T: NYT


5 thoughts on “A Testimonial to Grace: Cardinal Avery Dulles Dies in New York”

  1. Cardinal Dulles was a faithful Cardinal and a great theologian. But what I will most remember about him is the way he made you feel. When I met him he treated me like he had known me for years. It was a conversation I will never forget. We now have another saint in heaven to intercede for us and our Church in these tough times.

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