Mon, Jan 03, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Jesuit who wrote controversial book about theology dies


A Belgian theologian whose book about the contributions of other religions was attacked by the Vatican has died in Rome, his Jesuit order said Saturday.

The Reverend Jacques Dupuis, 81, collapsed Monday night after dinner and was taken to a hospital, where he died of a brain hemorrhage on Tuesday, said the Reverend Jose De Vera, director of the Jesuits' press office.

In 2001, Dupuis told reporters in Rome that he was forced to suffer in silence for two-and-a-half years while the Vatican attacked his book and made what he called "false accusations" about it.

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."

Dupuis' book, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, first published in 1997, was subjected to a long investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's guardian of orthodoxy -- a sign that the Vatican was concerned that his book suggested one religion could be as good as another.

Dupuis first refused a compromise that incorporated the Vatican's criticisms in the book, but later agreed to a revised version, saying he wanted to be able to continue his theological work and remain loyal to the church.

But he expressed displeasure about the Vatican's description of the compromise. The Congregation had declared that Dupuis' book contained "notable ambiguities" that could lead a reader to "erroneous or harmful positions."

When the compromise was announced in February 2001, Jesuit Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach said Dupuis book, "which has been justly recognized for the seriousness of its methodological research, the richness of its scientific documentation, and the originality of its exploration, dares to venture into a dogmatically fundamental area for the future of the interreligious dialogue."

He said the Congregation's notification about the book "clearly establishes the limits of this teaching to which the author has tried to adhere, even if he has not always succeeded."

Dupuis taught at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, a prestigious institution for seminarians.

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 II has made better relations with non-Catholics a goal of his papacy.

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.

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