The other day I picked up a small book from a book sale, Om Menneskets Værdighed. A cursory reading of this Danish translation of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Orotation on the Dignity of Man (Oratio de hominis dignitate 1486) somehow reminded me of my first reading of Martin Buber’s I and Thou (Ich und Du, 1923), why I could not quite say. But on reflection, perhaps it was the same sense of awe and wonder, in the face of both these texts, which I will write more on in later blogs.
However, reading the Wikipedia entry on Pico della Mirandola online (accessed 2nd March 2016) provided me with another surprise, for in the bibliography was Avery Dulles’ prize- winning Harvard Master’s thesis: Princeps Concordiae: Pico della Mirandola and the Scholatic Tradition—The Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Prize Essay for 1940, Cambridge, MA, 1941.
Back in 2005 when I wrote my own master’s thesis on Religion and the Cold War in the Truman period (see p.70 of PDF, i.e. p. 65 footnote 312), I had had dreams of following this up with perhaps a PhD thesis on the same topic but in the Eisenhower period, and with that in mind had contacted Avery Dulles about access to his papers. He answered that his papers were not yet sorted out, although, he kindly included in his letter of rejection, a copy of a speech he’d given on his father John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower.
My interest in Avery Dulles (1918-2008) was not merely the amazing journey he took from his roots as a descendant of Presbyterian missionaries, to becoming a Catholic convert, Jesuit priest and later Cardinal, more that his conversion took place in the backdrop of WWII, that he received the Croix de Guerre from France for his naval liaison work during WWII, and that it was the Polish pope, John Paul II who raised him from Jesuit priest to cardinal at a very late stage in his life. This had made me wonder if in a Cold War context, his papers could shed any light on the theme of Church-State in US-Vatican relations.
Googling him brought up another publication, The Holocaust, Never to be Forgotten: Reflections on the Holy See’s Document We Remember where Cardinal Dulles and Rabbi Leon Klenicki had commented on the Vatican’s document from 1998, We Remember: A Reflection On The Shoah, the subject of a future blog post.