Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hans Küng and the Roman System

Hans Küng is not allowed to teach "Catholic theology," but he remains with the Roman communion, apparently teaches ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen, and is still a priest (i.e. he has not been defrocked).  Unlike most priests, he has been invited to the pope's summer palace and corresponds occasionally with the pope.

However, Küng has a less Roman perspective than his former colleague Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI).  As reported by Spiegel, Küng stated:
Küng: In my view, the Catholic Church as a community of faith will be preserved, but only if it abandons the Roman system of rule. We managed to get by without this absolutist system for 1,000 years. The problems began in the 11th century, when the popes asserted their claim to absolute control over the Church, by applying a form of clericalism that deprived the laity of all power. The celibacy rule also stems from that era.

SPIEGEL: In an interview with the respected weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, you were sharply critical of Pope Benedict, saying that not even King Louis XIV was as autocratic as the leader of the Catholic Church, with his absolutist style of government. Could Benedict truly change the Roman system if he wanted to?

Küng: It's true that this absolutism is an essential element of the Roman system. But it was never an essential element of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council did everything to move away from it, but unfortunately it wasn't thorough enough. No one dared to criticize the pope directly, but there was an emphasis on the pope's collegial relationship with the bishops, which was designed to integrate him into the community again.

SPIEGEL: Was it successful?

Küng: I wouldn't say that it was. The shamelessness with which the Vatican's policy has simply hushed up and neglected the concept of collegiality since then is beyond compare. An unparalleled personality cult prevails once again today, which contradicts everything written in the New Testament. In this sense, one can state this very clearly. Benedict has even accepted the gift of a tiara, a papal crown, the medieval symbol of absolute papal power, which an earlier pope, Paul VI, chose to surrender. I think this is outrageous. He could change all of this overnight, if he wanted to.
There's plenty more in the article, but it interesting to hear Küng speak for himself, particularly considering how "conservative" (the way he would describe them) members of the Roman communion seem to portray him as some sort of monster.


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