Avery Dulles and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Mark S. Massa

in The American Catholic Revolution

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199734122
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866373 | DOI:
Avery Dulles and the Law of Unintended Consequences

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This chapter examines the theological role of the most famous twentieth-century Catholic theologian in the United States, Avery Dulles, in shaping the current divisions within the Catholic community between liberals and conservatives. Central to the Dulles story was his famous 1974 book, Models of the Church, A Landmark Study in Catholic Ecclesiology and Theological Pluralism. Catholic conservatives claim that Dulles was a liberal who saw the light, repented of his ways, and joined the right (political and correct) side. Catholic liberals, on the other hand, claim that Dulles abandoned the progressive cause for conservatism, in the process gaining a cardinal’s hat for his efforts. This chapter argues that both of these positions are wrong, that Dulles really didn’t change very much theologically over the course of his forty-year career and that the current use made of his arguments by all sides in the argument have more to do with the unintended consequences of his thought.

Keywords: Avery Dulles; models of the Church; Catholic theological pluralism; Catholic ecclesiology; Catholic liberal; Catholic conservative

Chapter.  7475 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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