Dupuis, Jacques 1923-2004

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DUPUIS, Jacques 1923-2004

PERSONAL: Born December 5, 1923, in Huppaye, Belgium; died after a stroke December 28, 2004, in Rome, Italy. Religion: Roman Catholic.

CAREER: St. Mary's College, India, teacher; ordained in Jesuit Order, 1954; Vidyajyoti Institute of Religious Studies, Delhi, India, professor of systematic theology, 1960–84; Gregorian University, Rome, Italy, 1984–2004, began as professor of Christology, editor of Gregorian, and member of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, retired as professor emeritus of theology.


(Editor, with J. Neuner) The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, originally published in German, 1938, Christian Classics (Westminster, MD), 1975, 5th revised edition, HarperCollinsReligious (London, England), 1992.

Jesus Christ and His Spirit: Theological Approaches, Theological Publications in India (Bangalore, India), 1977.

Jesus-Christ à la rencontre des religions, Desclèe (Paris, France), 1989, translation by Robert R. Barr published as Jesus Christ at the Encounter of World Religions, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1991.

Who Do You Say I Am?: Introduction to Christology, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1994.

Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1997.

Cristianesimo e le religioni, [Italy,] 2002, translated by Phillip Berryman as Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2002.

Author's works have been published in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

SIDELIGHTS: Jesuit priest Jacques Dupuis's lifetime of exposure to world religions other than his own led to an eventual impasse with the Roman Catholic Church when his Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism was published in 1997.

Dupuis was born in 1923 and entered a Jesuit novitiate in 1941. Because of his exposure to the horrors of World War II, he longed to do missionary work. In 1948, a year after India's independence, he moved to that country to teach at St. Mary's College, high in the Himalayas. He was ordained in 1954 and continued to serve as an instructor at Jesuit theological institutions until he was called to the Vatican in 1984 to teach at the Pontifical Gregorian University and edit the university's journal. Dupuis had spent his years in India among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, and at the Vatican he served as an advisor to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The Catholic Church had been re-considering its relationship to the modern world since the Second Vatican Council, held from 1962 to 1965, and the papacy of Pope John Paul II now released its Dialogue and Proclamation, which established new guidelines for interreligious dialogue.

When Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism was published, the Church, specifically the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, objected to Dupuis's views. Although Dupuis acknowledges Jesus as the savior and the Catholic Church as the true church, he writes that "the relationship between Christianity and the other religions can no longer be viewed in terms of contradiction and opposition between realisation here and stepping-stones there, much less between absoluteness on one side and only potentialities on the other." Dupuis was subsequently suspended from his teaching duties.

When Ratzinger and the CDF interrogated Dupuis, the Jesuit priest was defended by Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who said that he wanted "to put on the record a debt of gratitude to Fr. Dupuis and his pioneering work." The investigation, which included three preliminary notifications approved by the pope, took their toll on Dupuis, who was hospitalized for several weeks. In 2001 the Church published their final Notification, which concluded that Dupuis's book contains "ambiguities and difficulties on important points which could lead a reader to erroneous or harmful opinions." Prior to the publication of the Notification, the CDF published Dominus Iesus ("The Lord Jesus"), restating their determination that Christ is the savior and dismissing the premise that God recognizes all religions.

During this ordeal, Dupuis was supported by others in the Church, including Jesuit superior-general Peter Hans Kolvenbach. While the CDF asked that the text of the Notification be included in any future editions of the book, they did not request Dupuis to make any alterations or redactions in his own text.

Discussing the fallout from the publication of Dupuis's book, John L. Allen, Jr. wrote in the National Catholic Reporter that "on the one hand, it made Dupuis a worldwide celebrity, as a never-ending stream of speaking and writing invitations will attest. Dupuis gained an audience for his ideas that might otherwise have eluded him. On the other hand, the lingering whiff of scandal meant that Dupuis was always under a cloud. His works were subjected to intense scrutiny, and … he felt his Jesuit superiors had been under pressure to silence him."

Retiring, Dupuis spent his last years lecturing worldwide and writing his final book, Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, which contains a quote from Cardinal Ratzinger—now Pope Benedict XVI—in the preface. In this book Dupuis examines the question of how Christians should interact with people of other religions. Francis X. Clooney wrote in National Catholic Reporter that "acknowledging that interreligious dialogue is an intrinsic, distinctive feature of the Catholic attitude toward religions today, Dupuis argues for an inclusive pluralism founded in a Trinitarian understanding of Christ."

Dupuis rejected the model of exclusivism, which contends that salvation can only be found through the Catholic Church, as well as pluralism, which dismisses the idea of salvation for all. He aligned with the idea of inclusivism, through which all can be save, but through Christ. Thomas Ryan noted in Catholic New Times that "at the end of his life, in an effort to recognize more fully the 'otherness' of the 'other' (that is, non-Christians), Dupuis traced out a fourth typology: inclusivist pluralism, by which he sought to recognize that other paths have authentic religious value, but he held to the conviction that the death and resurrection of Jesus are truly the cause of salvation for all."

While Christianity and the Religions does not directly address the eight issues raised by the CDF in its Notification, Dupuis writes that it has "the merit of clarifying ideas in the light of prolonged discussions, of avoiding some ambiguities which had not been altogether absent in its predecessor, of reinforcing the foundation in the Christian revelation and tradition of some affirmations, of providing further explanations where some doctrines could seemingly have lacked in theological foundation."

Dupuis died of a stroke at age eighty-one. In a tribute written following the priest's death, Ron Rolheiser noted on The-Tidings.com that Dupuis "was always a traditional Christian who believed in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, even as he affirmed (in the face of much opposition) the non-negotiable fact that God loves everyone equally and that salvation is never a matter of privilege, chance or of simply belonging to the right or wrong religious family."



Dupuis, Jacques, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 1997.

Dupuis, Jacques, Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2002.

Kendall, Daniel, and Gerald O'Collins, editors, In Many and Diverse Ways: In Honor of Jacques Dupuis, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2003.


America, April 23, 2001, "Theologian Criticized by Vatican Wrote Interreligious Guidelines," p. 5; February 3, 2003, Peter C. Phan, review of Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, p. 34.

Books and Culture, January-February, 2004, Gerald R. Mcdermott, review of Christianity and the Religions, p. 9.

National Catholic Reporter, April 27, 2001, John L. Allen, Jr., "Rome Sends Mixed Signals on Jesuit Contributions," p. 6; February 14, 2003, Francis X. Clooney, review of Christianity and the Religions, p. 16; December 19, 2003, John L. Allen, Jr., "Investigation Past, Dupuis Fêted at Age 80," p. 8; January 14, 2005, John L. Allen, Jr., "The Suffering of a True Believer," p. 9.

New York Times, March 1, 2001, Alessandra Stanley, "Vatican Rebukes a Theologian, but He Says He Can Work On," p. A9.

Theological Studies, September, 2002, Michael Amaldadoss, review of Christianity and the Religions, p. 622; June, 2003, Gerald O'Collins, "Jacques Dupuis's Contributions to Interreligious Dialogue," p. 388.



Catholic Insight, March, 2005, p. 26.

Catholic New Times, March 20, 2005, p. 3.

Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2005, p. B11.

National Catholic Reporter, January 7, 2005, p. 9.


The-Tidings.com, http://www.the-tidings.com/ (January 21, 2005), Ron Rolheiser, "Honoring Jacques Dupuis."

Times Online (London, England), http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ (January 12, 2005).

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