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  • December 17, 2008

    Scholarly Integrity


    The recent death of Cardinal Avery Dulles reminded me of reading his book Models of the Church and of seeing him on campus at Catholic University when I was a graduate student.
    I had an occasional conversation with him–but was not one of his students.

    One thing I remember about his writing and conversation is his attempt to truly understand others. He really wanted to understand theological arguments and the people who made them. He had great respect for others.

    This characteristic stands in tension with some current trends.
    Now we have ‘niche publications’ that cater to different schools of thought.
    It is easy to stay in the ‘thought world’ of those who ‘agree with me’.
    I think it is a mistake to stay exclusively in such limited worlds.
    The truth can actually be with one’s opponent.

    I recall my predecessor Dick Abbott discussing a journal he subscribed to but often disagreed with. He said one day that the editor made him so mad! But the publication forced him to think things through from a different point of view–and sometimes he concluded that the editor was right.

    I admire Cardinal Dulles for his willingness to engage the ideas of others in a respectful and peaceful way.

    This may be old fashioned but I believe that scholars need to engage colleagues across their field and not only those in their school of thought. Likewise I think pastors should subscribe–or consult online–at least one publication they disagree with.

    The truth can come to us in a variety of ways and from various sources.
    I thinkw we need to stay open to the guidance of the Spirit–as I saw with Cardinal Dulles.