- Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue
Why read Jacques Dupuis's Christianity and the Religions (2001) when his more comprehensive, ground-breaking Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Orbis, 1997) is still available? Father Dupuis reminds us in the introduction to Christianity that he has actually written three books on the same subject—Jesus Christ at the Encounter of World Religions (Orbis, 1991) being the first—but he reaffirms the central importance of Religious Pluralism. After publication of this second work, his editors wanted another volume on the same topic, "less ponderous, more accessible, and aimed at an audience broader than the circle of specialists and the academy." That was the origin of Christianity and the Religions, a story Fr. Dupuis related to me when I visited him at Gregorian University in early February 2001. It was meant to be an easier-to-read version of Religious Pluralism, something for students who do not need abundant references to authors and historical developments. Circumstances, however, added another dimension to the need for yet another volume. [End Page 182]
Christianity and the Religions was ready for publication in early 2001, but Fr. Dupuis was waiting for "official notification" from the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding its charges that Religious Pluralism contained "serious doctrinal error." By then, the case was in its thirty-second and final month, for later in February 2001 he received word from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation, that the charge had been reduced to "ambiguities and difficulties on important points which could lead a reader to erroneous or harmful opinions." Dupuis last appeared before Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation's advisers on the day before Dominus Iesus was released in September 2000, accompanied by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Jesuits, and Dupuis's advocate and colleague at the Gregorian University, Fr. Gerald O'Collins. Dupuis used the opportunity of a more accessible version of the book in question to address squarely the charges raised against him. He writes in the introduction to Christianity and the Religions: "Suffice it to say that in this new book I have scrupulously avoided all expressions that could raise any misunderstanding or create ambiguity over either the content of the faith or my thought." Dupuis dedicated the book to retired Cardinal Franz Kōnig. He chose to quote an earlier (1963) text by Cardinal Ratzinger on the page following the dedication: "What the Church needs today, as always, are not adulators to extol the status quo, but men whose humility and obedience are no less than their passion for truth: men who brave every misunderstanding and attack as they bear witness; men who in a word, love the Church more than ease and the unruffled course of their personal destiny." In 1999, Ratzinger and Kōnig had exchanged views, point and counterpoint, in the British Catholic weekly, The Tablet, over Dupuis's earlier Religious Pluralism.
Fr. Jacques Dupuis died of an apparent stroke on 28 December 2004 at age 81. Although the investigation had brought him increased attention and invitations to speak, he was in Rome, his home since 1984, at the time of his death. When I visited him in 2001 and again heard him speak at the Catholic University of America just twenty-four days before his death, it was clear how much the case and accompanying suspicion had hurt him. Dupuis was principally a theologian who had considered it his good fortune to have lived and taught in India for thirty-six years. He also had taught theology for nearly fifteen years at Gregorian University, the premier university of his religious order. Many viewed the outcome of the investigation as a vindication of his work because he did not have to change a single sentence in Religious Pluralism for it to remain in publication, but the success of his defense came at a great price. The shadow of suspicion never left him. He had adopted a style of stopping, often amidst reflections on religious...