Hans Kung takes on the Pope

Criticisms of the Pope continue to pour in from all quarters, the latest coming from prominent theologian Hans Kung, who has written an open letter accusing the Pope of orchestrating a world-wide cover up of clerical sexual abuse and plunging the church into its worst credibility crisis since the Reformation.

At this stage, such claims are hardly news, and the fact that they are coming from Kung isn’t big news either. But beyond the deplorable handling of the sexual abuse scandal, Kung outlines a series of further missed opportunities:

  • Missed is the opportunity for rapprochement with the Protestant churches
  • Missed is the opportunity for the long-term reconciliation with the Jews
  • Missed is the opportunity for a dialogue with Muslims in an atmosphere of mutual trust
  • Missed is the opportunity for reconciliation with the colonised indigenous peoples of Latin America
  • Missed is the opportunity to help the people of Africa by allowing the use of birth control to fight overpopulation and condoms to fight the spread of HIV.
  • Missed is the opportunity to make peace with modern science by clearly affirming the theory of evolution and accepting stem-cell research.
  • Missed is the opportunity to make the spirit of the Second Vatican Council the compass for the whole Catholic Church, including the Vatican itself, and thus to promote the needed reforms in the church.

The letter follows a story earlier in the week about vandalism and graffiti appearing on the Pope’s childhood home in Germany, and a report that Germans are leaving the Catholic Church in their thousands.

In the face of all this, what amazes me is that people at the highest level of the Catholic Church seem so oblivious to how much damage they are doing not just to the church institutions that they  regard as so precious, but – more importantly I think – to people’s faith.

In a comment on a post I wrote earlier this week, Tanya Jones wrote:

[There is ] … a vast overestimation of the importance of the Pope to individual, particularly lay, Catholics. I’m not sure that this proposed papal visit will mean a great deal to most people, either in a positive or negative sense, any more than the papal letter of a few weeks ago did. Benedict and the Vatican increasingly seem to be addressing a construct of the church that to a great extent simply isn’t there anymore, and he doesn’t have the charisma of John Paul II to mitigate against the irrelevance. The only thing that might change that, and in a negative sense, would be the extent to which evidence appears of his personal culpability in the hierarchy’s cover-up.

I think Jones is right that many, many lay Catholics don’t take any notice of the Pope when it comes to trying to live a just and authentic Christian life. And the way things look at the minute, that is probably to the good of the Catholic Church!

Kung sees that to be sure, as his letter he appeals to the bishops – over the head of the Pope it would seem – to do something that would reflect the needs and desires of the majority of people in the Church. As Kung says, ‘… I want only to lay before you six proposals that I am convinced are supported by millions of Catholics who have no voice in the current situation.’

Those six proposals are:

1. Do not keep silent

2. Set about reform

3. Act in a collegial way

4. Unconditional obedience is owed to God alone

5. Work for regional solution

6. Call for a council

More details about the proposals are provided in the full text of the letter, which concludes:

With the church in deep crisis, this is my appeal to you, venerable bishops: Put to use the episcopal authority that was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council. In this urgent situation, the eyes of the world turn to you. Innumerable people have lost their trust in the Catholic Church. Only by openly and honestly reckoning with these problems and resolutely carrying out needed reforms can their trust be regained. With all due respect, I beg you to do your part – together with your fellow bishops as far as possible, but also alone if necessary – in apostolic “fearlessness” ( Acts 4:29, 31 ). Give your faithful signs of hope and encouragement and give our church a perspective for the future.

I don’t have much hope that the bishops of the world (at least the Western world it would seem) have the will or the power to take such radical steps. In the absence of that, will we see laypeople take responsibility for their faith in spite of the lack of action on the part of the institutional church, or will more join the thousands of Germans who are on their way out the church doors?

6 thoughts on “Hans Kung takes on the Pope”

  1. Hello!

    My first time here and therefore I am sorry to have to disagree with you and with Hans Küng.

    There are more Catholics and non-Catholics truly interested and focused on this pope’s pontificate, his writings and speeches – also before 2005 – than you can perhaps imagine.
    There is a reason for this interest. He simply is in another league, both intellectually and spiritually, than all other leaders currently walking around on this planet.

    Some people can see and intuit this fact, others cannot.

    As a Protestant I have followed this remarkable man’s life and writings – yes, remarkable for those with eyes to see and a heart and soul to comprehend – for the past five years on a daily basis. It is absolutely breathtakingingly sad that many Catholics have no inkling of the unique and outstanding qualities of Benedict XVI.

    That so many Catholics can just lap up the halftruths written and spoken about this pope in the media (press and television) without checking out the true facts for themselves is an indictment on the present culture. It scares me almost to death.

    Hans Küng’s open letter can be challenged on every point. Küng is no Catholic. He is a super-liberal Protestant who shares the ideas and Christology of those theologians and exegetes in Protestantism that have lead that Christian tradition and faith community into an irreparably crisis of lost faith. And continuous schism. Actually to agnosticism and worse.

    I know this from bitter experience.

    Some advice, if I may:
    Get the true facts about the pope. It is available on internet, for instance at Catholic Culture.org. There are Ratzinger Forums and Fan clubs on the web where one can find debate and documents and informed opinions.

    Help Pope Benedict XVI to reform what has to be reformed. He has been doing that already since 2001 when he, at last, got some jurisdiction in terms of the abuse scandals. Read John Allen on this. He knows.

    Do not under any circumstances become a follower of all the ideas of another Martin Luther with an axe to grind, like Hans Küng.

    If you do think like Küng the honest thing to do would be to leave the Catholic Church and become a member of one of the 50,000 drowning Protestant groups.

    Pax and all the best to you.

    PS. I got back my lost Christian faith through Benedict XVI and am a Catholic since 2009. I am 66 years old/young.

  2. At last, at last: we have a leader, one who calls for the breath of the Holy Spirit of the Creator to sweep over the lands again, one who calls the ordained leaders back to the Church once again. I don’t think the Bishops understand that while the current turmoil was triggered by the clergy’s sexual abuse of children and young people, it has been deepened and broadened by the clerics’ coverup, denial, and direct actions taken — including actions by JPII — against those same victims.
    And now it is too late to turn back. ALL bishops have been damaged — by their silence if nothing else. And we in the pews have been paying attention and now wonder about the wisdom of the entire teaching charism of the Church — one which the men in red silk have taken entirely upon themselves. We know that the abusing priests are stunted in their psycho-sexual development, still childlike themselves in their in their understanding of sexuality, gender, and holistic social development. How can it be then that their theology, their declarations on morality, on creation in the world itself be anything other than stunted as well? The “crisis” –I think it is now an “opportunity” instead — the opportunity now is to unite the Church — and we ARE the Church — around a fulfillment of the Vatican II documents and to breathe life into our Church once more. The Holy Spirit has already done her job by throwing back the curtain and revealing the feeble clerk who is lost in the world. Thank you, Hans Kung. [Care to join the Facebook page re Kung’s letter? http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=114780715217560

  3. Hans Kung………..have been listening to his rantings since the ’60’s, when he was swishing around Rome in his new-found-catholicism and, yes, new found vehicle.

    The guy should have left the church long ago; only the ’60’s “new breed” crowd know who he is. And they have dropped him from their casual readings of current Catholic news. Today’s young people would perceive him as a disgruntled old man, a Catholic priest who is really irrelevant today as Luther is. The Reformation of the 1500’s has worn itself out……the Vatican II Reformers (there were some nutbars at that Council) have faded……….faded old rags……..time to kneel down, say your beads, make your soul (as the saying goes), and hope God and Jesus Christ will be a safe haven for you.

    All the best Hans and followers!

  4. Greta-Louise – that is a really wonderful story. You are correct: Benedict XVI truly is a close follower of Christ and a superb leader of the Catholic Church. I follow his writings on Zenit and Catholic Culture too!

  5. Greta-Louise – you’ve put it wonderfully. Absolutely brilliant contribution. We need you badly in Ireland.

  6. Is that why the church is in a big mess greta ? because people are listening to 12th century theology ? This autocrat bulldozered(along with JPII) collegiality,subsidiarity & the local church^s input when it came to electing Bishops.He & JPII are responsible for not following protocol by acting like Louis 14 & like all autocratts they ignore the needs of the people for their power

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