Sunday, January 02, 2005

Censured Theologian Dies ... Might be Something

Theologian Criticized by Vatican Dies

Sat Jan 1, 3:08 PM ET
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ROME - The Rev. Jacques Dupuis, a Belgian theologian whose book on religious plurality exploring salvation through non-Christian faiths was attacked by the Vatican (news - web sites), has died in Rome. He was 81.

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Dupuis collapsed Monday night after dinner and was taken to a hospital, where he died of a brain hemorrhage on Tuesday, the Rev. Jose De Vera, director of the Jesuits' press office, said Saturday.

The theologian's work on pluralism drew the ire of the Vatican at a time when it was underlining the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church over other religions.

Asked what his ideas were, Dupuis said, "For me Jesus Christ is the universal savior, but at the same time I believe that in the divine plan the other religious traditions of the world have a positive contribution to make to humanity."

His book "Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism," first published in 1997, sought to reconcile the doctrine that only Christ brings salvation for mankind with pluralism that sees the possibility of salvation through other religons.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's guardian of orthodoxy, launched an investigation into the book — a sign that the Vatican was concerned he was suggesting one religion could be as good as another

After 2 1/2 years of investigation, the Congregation declared in 2000 that the book contained "notable ambiguities" that could lead a reader to "erroneous or harmful positions."

In a compromise, Dupuis signed a statement worked out with the Congregation and worked the Vatican criticisms into his book. In return, the Church did not sanction him and allowed him to continue his work.

But afterward, Dupuis told reporters in Rome that he was forced to suffer in silence for years while the Vatican attacked his book and made what he called "false accusations" about it.

At the time, Jesuit Superior General Peter- Hans Kolvenbach praised Dupuis book, saying it "dares to venture into a dogmatically fundamental area for the future of the interreligious dialogue."

He said the statement Dupuis signed in the end "clearly establishes the limits of this teaching to which the author has tried to adhere, even if he has not always succeeded."

When the Vatican in 2000 reaffirmed the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church over other religions, leaders of several denominations expressed concerns that the Vatican was changing course on efforts for dialogue with non-Catholics. Pope John Paul (news - web sites) II has made better relations with non-Catholics a goal of his papacy.

Dupuis taught at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, a prestigious institution for seminarians and other students of religion.

Born in Huppaye, Belgium, in 1923, Dupuis studied literature and philosophy at Notre Dame of Peace in Namur, in the south of his homeland, and pursued his studies in philosophy at college in Eegenhoven, Belgium. After studying theology at St. Mary's College, in Kurseong, India, he studied Hinduism in Calcutta. He concluded his studies at the Gregorian, obtaining a doctorate in theology.

Dupuis joined the Jesuits as a novitiate in 1941 and was ordained a priest in 1954.

For 25 years he taught theology in India, including at St. Mary's. In the 1980s he joined the faculty of the Gregorian and served as a consultant for the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

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