College of Fellows
James Francis Cardinal Stafford
Citation at the Induction into the College of Fellows - Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP
James Francis Stafford, teacher, pastor of souls, Cardinal Deacon of the Catholic Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.
“Honest conversion is to learn the obedience of love.” In a wonderful way these words of your own describe, however unintentionally, the labor for Christ and his Church that you embraced over 50 years ago with your ordination to the priesthood. You served as priest in your native Baltimore where you embraced the Vatican Council II and the call of the Holy Spirit to renew the mission of the Church to the world. But there you also first experienced the fact that the Church must confront what you later termed “a laicist society evolving into a democratic political religion,” and that the obedience of love insists that there can be no compromise in the following of Christ.
Appointed Bishop of Memphis in 1982 you embraced wholeheartedly the new evangelization urged by John Paul II: one of your first acts as Bishop was to visit a Baptist congregation incognito in order to discover firsthand the reasons for their success in evangelizing the community.
As Archbishop of Denver, you championed the role of the laity in the Church’s mission, while insisting upon the truth that by honest conversion alone can the people of God truly become capable of building a “civilization of love“ through witness to Christ. In 1996, having been appointed by Pope John Paul II to the presidency of the Pontifical Council of the Laity, you elaborated that vision:
“It subtracts nothing from the importance of the ordained ministry or vowed religious life to declare that the 21st century in the Church will be the era of the lay person. Just as there is no Eucharist, and therefore no Church, without the sacramental priesthood, so too there can be no "civilization of love", no sanctification of the heart of the world, without lay people who live the Church as the mystery of missionary communion. “
Created Cardinal by John Paul II in the Consistory of February 21, 1998, you served as President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity until your appointment on October 4, 2003 as Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary. You also serve as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
You have taught us that to “live the Church as the mystery of missionary communion” requires a profound conversion of heart, and that only those who have discovered “the joy of the personal experience of the mercy of God” are capable of sanctifying the heart of the world, for such a task
...is not possible without a deep interior renewal and repentance. It also requires of everyone a renewed sense of ecclesial belonging and a more invigorating and convincing engagement in the missionary impulse of the Church.
The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology is committed to the mission of the Church to contemporary society, and to illumining the vocations, priestly, religious and lay upon which that mission depends. We deeply appreciate that you have consented to associate yourself with us in that work as a Fellow of our School.
Therefore, your Eminence, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority invested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon you, James Francis Stafford, the degree of Doctor of Theology honoris causa, and to name you as a Fellow of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.