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University Installs Theologian as Dulles Chair


Terrence W. Tilley, Ph.D Photo by Chris Taggart

Terrence W. Tilley, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Theology, was installed on Jan. 31 as the inaugural Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Chair of Catholic Theology in a standing-room-only ceremony.

The event was held at Tognino Hall on the Rose Hill campus, and had in attendence Vincent and Teresa Viola, whose generous donation made the chair possible.

It was followed by Tilley’s inaugural address, “Sentire cum Ecclesia: Thinking With and for the Church.” In it, he explored ways to understand St. Ignatius Loyola’s “Rules for Thinking with the Church” in the context of Cardinal Dulles’ influential book Models of the Church(Doubleday, 1974).

Tilley told the audience that he first encountered the 13th of Loyola’s 18 rules while attending the Jesuit-run Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Scholastics and ordained—sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly—recruited me and other promising classmates for the order,” he said. “But the scholastics told us [the 13th rule]bluntly—that if any of us thought something was white and the hierarchical church said it was black, we had to believe it was black.

“Long before I accepted the philosophical dictum that our beliefs are mostly not under the direct control of our wills, I knew I could not accept that rule.”

Tilley said he only began to appreciate the mandate in 1993, when he read a talk that Cardinal Dulles gave to Jesuits at a symposium in Mexico.

One purpose of the rule, he noted, may have been to ward off charges that Ignatius was a heretic, specifically, a member of the “Illuminati.”

“The novelty, emotional and sensual intensity, and individuality of his Spiritual Exercises was ammunition for those who delated—that is, ratted out—Ignatius to the Inquisition,” Tilley said. “But Ignatius was always a man of the church. His rules for thinking with the church are evidence that support that point.”

Cardinal Dulles stated that the rules were intended for people who had completed the exercises, and not “abstract norms to be used by the general public on any and all occasions,” according to Tilley.

“It is not that we must put aside our judgments, but we are to be people who are ready to listen to others, to rethink our views, and to change if needed,” Tilley said. “We’ve come a long way from the impossible stumbling block that the Jesuit scholastics at Brophy Prep put in front of me.”

With this notion of fostering communication in mind, Tilley explored five models of the church—institutional, communion, sacramental, herald and servant—that Cardinal Dulles used to explain the frames of reference used by many theologians.

The institutional model places God at the top of a pyramid, followed by the pope, bishops, priests, laypeople and flora and fauna. It is the one most familiar to the public, and, Tilley said, the one that is most criticized.

“The institutional model of the church makes this interpretation rather obvious. To think with the church is to think what the hierarchy says to think,” he said.

“But one of the crucial elements … adapted by Dulles is that no single model can exhaust the mystery. We need multiple models to disclose the depths of the mystery—of God, of the human, of the church.”

Terrence W. Tilley, Ph.D is congratulated by Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham, Vincent and Teresa Viola and John N. Tognino, Chairman of the Fordham Board of Trustees. Photo by Chris Taggart

Of the five models, Tilley said that Cardinal Dulles more firmly embraced the first three, though he also embraced the idea of a “community of disciples” that can unite all of the models, even if the latter four differ from the first in significant ways.

Ultimately, the discussion of hard questions between diverse believers is at the heart of what it means to “think with and for the church as a community of disciples,” Tilley said.

“How do we distinguish Christianity in and for—but not of—the world without falling into the mentality of opposition to culture that seems to afflict so many ‘orthodox’ Catholic theologians and bishops today?” he asked.

“How do we convince some members of the magisterium that they are fundamentally teachers, not dictators whose style of governance can drive people from the church?

“How do we communicate the beauty and truth of the faith to all our children? How do we show the world that the church is a community, an institution and an event that serves God by serving the world—by seasoning and leavening the world?”

More than anything else, Catholics should cherish diversity and work to “keep the Catholic Church an open church of recovering sinners, not a closed sect for saints,” Tilley said.

[Cardinal Dulles] teaches us that our opponents in theology and the church are not our enemies, but our friends to whom we must listen and from whom we must learn,” he said.

“After all, they are God’s people as much as I am,” he explained. “God’s unfailing love encompasses all of us. And if God loves my opponents—and even my enemies—must I not learn how to love them, too?”


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