The Church and the churches--a study of ecclesiological and ecumenical developments in the writings of Avery Dulles, S.J.

Anne-Marie Rose Kirmse, Fordham University


Avery Dulles is one of the most respected theologians in American today. His writings have played an important part in the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church, and have made a significant contributions to the ecumenical movement as well. The purpose of this dissertation is to trace the main themes in Dulles' ecclesiology and ecumenical theology. The title chosen, "The Church and the Churches," (taken from a chapter heading in his book, Models of the Church), epitomizes the topic under consideration, for his ecclesiological and ecumenical theologies are intrinsically bound together. One cannot be properly treated without considering the other. The methodology employed in this study is based on a topical and chronological approach. The development of Dulles' thoughts on particular aspects of theology is traced from the time when he first introduced these concepts until the present day. The focus is on Dulles' own writings as found in the articles and books he has written, with a consideration of the sources he has used in formulating his positions. Secondary materials are also employed so as to provide comparison and contrast with the thinking of other theologians, both within the Roman Catholic communion and those of other churches. The dissertation is divided into two parts encompassing file chapters, and a final summary. The first part presents an overview of the theological system of Avery Dulles. Chapter 1 includes a biographical sketch and an introduction to his work. His ecclesiology is then presented in detail. Since revelation plays such an important part in his theology, his teachings on this subject are also included in this chapter. The second chapter focuses on Dulles within the framework of ecumenical dialogue. His participation in, and contributions to, this dialogue are highlighted. The second part contains three chapters, each based on a specific topic which is important in both Roman Catholic ecclesiology and the ecumenical movement. Chapter 3 treats the subject of ecclesial authority in general, and the following two chapters are concerned with concrete ways in which that authority is exercised, viz., the papacy and the magisterium. These three chapters consider Dulles' views on each of these topics, from historical and theological vantage points, and present the suggestions he has made to expand their horizons even further. In the conclusion, particular emphasis is given to a consideration of Dulles' originality in three areas which are central to his theology, viz., ecumenical thrust, pluralism, and the role of the theologian. Those threads which are found throughout his writings are then presented in summary fashion.

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Recommended Citation

Kirmse, Anne-Marie Rose, "The Church and the churches--a study of ecclesiological and ecumenical developments in the writings of Avery Dulles, S.J." (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918638.