Having spent decades of life in India in the midst of a culture so different to his own, Jacques Dupuis was an avid advocate of interfaith dialogue and religious pluralism, even in the face of investigation into his teachings and writings from the Vatican itself.
Jacques Dupuis was born in Huppaye, Belgium in 1923. At the age of seventeen he entered the Jesuit novitiate and went on to study in Namur and Louvain. In 1948 he travelled to India to continue his education. First he spent three years teaching at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School in Kolkata before heading north to Kurseong, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he studied theology.
Dupuis was ordained a priest in Kurseong in 1954, after which he returned to Europe to complete his doctorate in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. In 1959 Dupuis was back at St Mary’s College in Kurseong, this time as teacher. He continued to teach there until the theological faculty was relocated to New Delhi in 1972; Dupuis travelled the two thousand kilometres across India by motorbike to reach his new college and resume teaching.
In 1984, Dupuis left India having spent most of the previous four decades there studying and teaching. He went to Rome, and taught at the Gregorian. During his time here he was a major consultant for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and was the main author of their document Dialogue and Proclamation, published in 1991. He continued to teach and write, and in 1997 released a book called Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. From his time spent in a primarily non-Christian country Dupuis had developed an understanding and an interest in pluralism and how other religions relate to his own, this experience becoming a key component for his book.
However, a year after publication the book was denounced to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who announced they would be conducting an inquiry into the book and judging whether its contents were in keeping with catholic doctrine. Dupuis at this time was in his mid-seventies. The scandal and publicity affected him deeply, and he was hospitalized for two weeks. Originally given a three-month leave to prepare a defense of his work, Dupuis never returned to teaching.
It wasn’t until 2001 that the Congregation finally issued a release on its findings, judging there to be serious ‘ambiguities’ in the author’s thought, though nothing more damning than that. It accused Fr Dupuis of stating that other religions may have elements of truth and goodness not rooted in or fundamentally derived from Jesus Christ. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation, had only met with Dupuis for the first time face to face in late 2000.
Throughout the duration of the inquiry Dupuis and his work received little support, save from a few; among them was Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the then Jesuit Superior General. Dupuis continued to write afterwards and released Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue in 2002. He died two years later, at the age of eighty one.