While preparing this issue of Logos we received the sad news that two members of our editorial board have recently died: Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, of Fordham University and Peter E. Hodgson of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Both Cardinal Dulles and Dr. Hodgson have been editorial board members since our first issue in the spring of 1997. As I looked back on their extensive academic accomplishments I realized that the nature and the range of their writings provide an opportunity to reflect on the fundamental purpose of this journal of Catholic thought and culture.
Fr. Robert P. Imbelli in the foreword to a recently published collection of lectures delivered at Fordham by Cardinal Dulles offers an appropriately resounding appraisal of his theological writings: “One of the most heartfelt accolades the early Fathers could bestow on a theologian was to praise him as a vir ecclesiasticus: an ecclesial man. I can think of few theologians of our day who so merit the title as Cardinal Avery Dulles.”1 Imbelli goes on to emphasize the importance of Dulles’s theological work in regard to the Second Vatican Council: “Few have contributed so magisterially to the elucidation [End Page 5] and appropriation of the council’s ecclesial vision as has Avery Dulles.”2
In particular, Imbelli judges that Dulles understood profoundly the simultaneous efforts of the council to draw upon modern scriptural and patristic scholarship by returning to the sources of the Catholic tradition in the spirit of ressourcement and the effort to illuminate the appropriate development of the tradition through an encounter with the cultural and historical circumstances of the contemporary world in the spirit of aggiornamento. “Dulles holds together the creative tension that characterized the labors of the council” in pursuit of the fulfillment of these two goals, observes Imbelli.3
We could say that the cultivation of this “creative tension” to open an array of perspectives on the ongoing interaction between Catholicism and culture aptly describes one of the central purposes of this journal. In an effort to seek a deeper understanding of the thinking of Cardinal Dulles on this topic, I turned to the chapter “Vatican II and the Recovery of Tradition” in his 1988 book The Reshaping of Catholicism.4 Here he examines the concept of tradition presented in the Vatican II document Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. He first frames the issues faced in the development of the document as an opposition between two views: an objectivist and authoritarian view of tradition that holds the content of tradition to be fixed and unchangeable as established in a particular set of forms in which that content comes to expression; and a modernist view of tradition that regards it primarily as a process that is variable in content. It is easy to see how in the social and cultural upheavals of the last several centuries those who were concerned above all about preserving the identity and continuity of tradition might fix their grip on a particular form of expression as the unchangeable content of tradition and those who sought an ongoing reconciliation with cultural change might be too ready to abandon the concept of the content of tradition and focus instead on tradition as a continuous process of change. Dulles shows the error and inadequacy of each view, affirming that the content of tradition for the Catholic Church [End Page 6] is “God’s gracious manifestation in Jesus Christ of his being and his saving will,” while also affirming the “self-renewing” dimension of tradition through which tradition develops to address more directly and fully the changing cultural and social circumstances in which Catholics encounter the truths of the faith.5
The relationship between tradition and innovation in religion is thus a dialectical one of mutual priority and dependence. If tradition . . . is a matter of dwelling in the already given, innovation may be seen as a process of breaking out. Paradoxically, it is by dwelling in the tradition that we get the force and insight to break out and, so to speak, see for ourselves. But what we see by the help of tradition, we then offer as an enrichment of the tradition. Understood in...