Discerning Dulles; blessing Baum; baking Latin

Missing matter

In his review of Patrick Carey’s biography of Cardinal Avery Dulles (“An Ignatian Spirit,” January 13), J. Matthew Ashley rightly stresses the Ignatian-inspired principle of “spiritual discernment” as central both to Carey’s biography and to Dulles’s prodigious theological labors over fifty years.What disappoints, however, is the review’s lack of substantive engagement with what that discernment entailed for Dulles.

Though referring several times to a shift in Dulles’s stance dating from the mid-1970s, Ashley focuses primarily on Dulles’s more critical view of contemporary American culture. He illustrates this by appeal to some “unusually personal” reflections that Dulles delivered in 1975. Unmentioned in the review, however, is the much more public and detailed discernment that Dulles engaged in at the same time in collaboration with his fellow signatories of “The Hartford Appeal.” Nor does Ashley consider the extensive elaboration of Dulles’s concerns regarding the promiscuous drift of postconciliar Catholic theology documented in his magisterial The Craft of Theology (1992).

I realize, of course, that a review (even one of generous length) is not a theological study. Nonetheless, one comes away from Ashley’s exposition with little sense of the fundamental givens of the great tradition that Dulles’s discriminating analysis perceived to be at risk...

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