Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society, took up the issue of salvation in his biannual lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 7, telling an audience of some 500 people at Fordham Preparatory School that God exists in every human conscience and those who seek God’s grace, regardless of their religion or lack of it, can reach the kingdom of heaven.
Delivering his 38th McGinley Lecture at the Leonard Theater on the Rose Hill campus, Cardinal Dulles discussed “Who Can Be Saved?” by tracing theologians’ answers to the question over the centuries. He said that from the New Testament through the Middle Ages, the common view was that only those who accepted Christianity were saved.
But he said the teaching of the popes from Pius IX in the 19th century to the present and the documents produced during the Second Vatican Council have provided a more positive view of salvation for non-Christians. Indeed, the cardinal told the gathering that God speaks to everyone—be they Jew, Muslim and even atheist—and expresses a “universal salvific will,” or the longstanding idea that God desires the salvation of every person. But salvation is not automatic. Those who resist the grace of God are doomed, Cardinal Dulles said.
The cardinal added that Christian believers have many aids to salvation not available outside the Church. For this reason they have the responsibility of sharing the gift of revealed truth with others.
The cardinal’s lecture was part of Ignatian Heritage Week 2007. He was assisted in his presentation by Thomas Smith, S.J., Jesuit superior at Loyola Hall. Considered the preeminent Catholic theologian in the country, Cardinal Dulles has published 23 books and more than 800 articles, essays and reviews.