Readers may want to put on their radar a volume (really an extended bibliography) that attempts to catalogue the complete written works of Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ. Titled The Legacy of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.: His Words and His Witness , the compendium has recently been released by Fordham University Press.

As noted in the Preface, the late cardinal remains a figure who simply “must be included in any objective conversation of the most influential and prolific theologians in American history.” Indeed, in terms of twentieth century American Catholic thinkers, Dulles is a near-solitary figure (the only other real competitor for his stature being John Courtney Murray).

A former Naval officer and son of a respected Secretary of State, Dulles had a conversion experience while a student at Harvard University, and subsequently entered the Jesuits. In his introduction to this new volume, retired Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick notes that he always felt a certain distance from Dulles, but that this distance was a byproduct of reverence rather than aloofness. It is just the sort of segue readers less familiar with with work of Dulles may need to spur further investigation into this bookish, respected, and ‘dynamically orthodox’ thinker.

The volume itself will doubtlessly prove extraordinarily useful to future researchers, whether they are undergraduates finishing term papers or professional biographers conducting a major survey of the man’s life, as it will save countless hours that might be spent compiling obscure reference information and parsing through old newspapers, magazines, and publishing catalogues.

Nevertheless, despite what may be a natural assumption, this work (or at least the advance copy which arrived in First Things ’ offices) is not fully “complete,” as the book’s editors confess that some of Dulles’ writing (or some of the details concerning time and place of publication of a few articles) may have escaped them, but it would be hard to know this had they not admitted the fact. Nearly 100 pages of bibliography, helpfully organized into various stages of Dulles’ life, beginning as early as school newspaper articles he wrote in his time at Choate, are bookended by selected homilies from the end of his life: his message upon formally retiring from the professorate at Fordham, and the homily delivered in his honor at his funeral Mass.

Those interested in exploring the life of this man further should seek a copy of “Church and Society: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectutes 1988-2007” (Fordham UP, 2008, 546 pp.) to which this volume is intended as a sort of expert companion. Like the work of Dulles himself, this volume’s primary appeal may not be as much in its purely original content as in the way it creatively organizes, edits, and presents material that can be difficult to grasp at first.

Articles by Matthew Cantirino

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