US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Misremembering Avery Dulles

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Newspapers across the country are running obituaries in memory of Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, who died over the weekend. Many are picking up the Washington Post's, which contains a humdinger of an error:

"Cardinal Dulles, who was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II in 2001, was the first academic to be named to the Catholic Church's highest advisory council, as well as the first who had never served as a bishop."

Dulles was neither the first academic nor the first non-bishop appointed to the college. At best you could say he was the first non-bishop academic appointed in the 21st century. The last I"m aware of was John Henry Newman, a non-bishop, sort-of academic made a cardinal in 1879. But church history is full of cardinals who fit the bill.

It may seem a small point, but it seems to me there is a pretty big error in almost every mainstream media story about Catholicism I've come across, errors which could have been avoided with the smallest amount of research.

My favorite was a story about the church and environmentalism, which noted that Pope Benedict had worn green vestments as a show of support for the environment. It was, of course, Ordinary Time, and more or less every priest presiding at Mass that day was wearing green.