Wellington Mara’s father bought the Giants football team in 1925, and the son stayed with it for eighty years. Wellington Mara died Tuesday at age 89. I did not know him well, but those who did testify to his being an extraordinary gentleman of the kind that seems increasingly rare. He was a devout Catholic, generous and decent in all his dealings. He and Ann had eleven children and forty grandchildren. What I have not seen mentioned in the obituaries is that he was a staunch supporter of the pro-life cause, with a particular interest in crisis pregnancy centers. Wellington Mara. Requiescat in pace .
The October issue of Theology Today , published by Princeton Theological Seminary, is devoted to the great Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century: Jacques Maritain, Henri de Lubac, Bernard Lonergan, John Courtney Murray, Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Edward Schillebeeckx, and Joseph Ratzinger. The essay on Balthasar by Father Edward Oakes is a particularly masterful summary of his achievement, and the controversies surrounding that achievement.
The same issue includes a very favorable review of Reinhard Hütter’s Bound to be Free: Evangelical Catholic Engagements in Ecclesiology, Ethics, and Ecumenism (Eerdmans). Hütter is professor of theology at Duke and also the new editor of the splendid ecumenical journal of theology, Pro Ecclesia . The reviewer of his book is Gabriel Fackre, a noted Reformed theologian at Andover Newton, and he ends on this note: “This gifted theologian [Hütter] entered the Roman Catholic Church after Bound to be Free was written. Is the construal of binding doctrine, practices, and commandments found here a trajectory toward that decision? What would mutualities of admonition look like in this new locale? May Reinhard Hütter carry with him on this journey his commendable passion for things evangelical and catholic.”
To the first question, I believe the answer is clearly in the affirmative. The second question refers to the way in which “mutualities of admonition” between different ecclesial traditions are necessary for the flourishing of ecumenical theology. In recent years some of the most distinguished of Protestant theologians have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. There are, among others, Gary Anderson of Notre Dame, Douglas Farrow of McGill, and R.R. Reno of Creighton. They were Anglican. From Lutheranism: Robert Louis Wilken of the University of Virginia, Bruce Marshall of Southern Methodist, and Leonard Klein, who is currently preparing for ordination to the priesthood.
There is a long history of converts enriching the theological life of the Catholic Church. One has only to think, for instance, of John Henry Newman, Louis Bouyer, and Avery Cardinal Dulles. They and others entered into communion before the ecumenical turn of the Second Vatican Council. The future of “mutualities of admonition” takes on different connotations in an ecumenical era. All of the more recent converts mentioned are, in various ways, ecumenically engaged, as was Bouyer and as is Dulles. It is a mark of ecumenical maturity and trust that those non-Catholics who are engaged with them know that the agenda does not include their following the “trajectory” that led Hütter and others into full communion. On the other hand, neither does it exclude it. Such are the tensions inherent in acting upon Our Lord’s prayer that “they may all be one.”