Checking out other stories tonight on National Catholic Register got me on to the Catholic Online site and this item from Canada about Father Kueng's recent visit there, about which I posted a story on March 15. This one's dated March 20, has a different angle, and reads far less belligerent
Canadian Catholic News:
Controversial theologian claims right
to be in pope’s ‘loyal opposition
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA, Canada (CCN) – Swiss-born theologian Father Hans Küng said he has a “right to be in His Holiness’ loyal opposition,” representing thousands of liberal-leaning Catholics who remain disappointed the Second Vatican Council renewal did not go far enough.
Often a scathing critic of the papacy and church doctrine, Father Küng has softened somewhat since his Sept. 2005 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Many see the meeting as a gesture of reconciliation, on both sides.
“There are two ways to be a Catholic, aren’t there?” Father Küng said in an interview here March 15 while promoting the publication of the French edition of part one of his memoirs entitled My Struggle for Freedom
, which he jokingly described as “conflict studies.”
“I think he went one way, I went another way, but we are both Catholics,” he said. “I am not a lone wolf. He knows that, that I am representative of another part of the church.”
Father Küng first got in trouble with the Catholic hierarchy with the publication of a 1971 book questioning papal infallibility. Eight years later, Father Küng was stripped of his license to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian, though he remained a Catholic priest and continued to teach at the prestigious University of Tübingen in Germany. He opposes the church’s teaching on birth control, women priests and celibacy. He objects to any monarchical exercise of power by the hierarchy.
Father Küng, however, sees an “essential difference” between the present pontificate and the previous one.
For 27 years, Father Küng tried to get an answer from Pope John Paul II to his many requests to meet. He sent the pope his Christian apologetic Does God Exist?
shortly after his election in 1978. “I never got any answer from him,” he said.
Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI’s election, he wrote him requesting a meeting.
“I was not interested in an audience in the ordinary sense but in a real conversation,” he said. He wrote that despite their disagreements, “We have still as Christians very much in common.”
He wrote that he was not interested in getting ecclesiastical approval of his teaching, “because I am recognized as a Catholic theologian throughout the whole world,” nor did he consider it fruitful to go over the areas over which they disagreed.
“It would be useless to come back to all the questions which divide us, let’s talk about a few others, what we have in common,” Father Küng said he wrote the pope.
In Sept. 2005, Benedict invited Father Küng to dinner at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo; a move that surprised those, who, in the words of Vatican specialist John Allen Jr., expected the “giant flushing sound” of dissidents being swept out of the church after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s election.
In the pope’s private study and dining room, they spent four hours together in a relaxed, warm discussion. “It was without any stress, without any clash,” Father Küng said. “I found him freer and again more as I had him in mind from his younger years in Tübingen. He did not make a dogmatic impression.”
When Father Küng and Cardinal Ratzinger were both relatively young priests, they acted as theological advisors during the Second Vatican Council, both committed to renewal in the Catholic Church.
After the council ended, Father Küng was instrumental in drawing Cardinal Ratzinger to the University of Tübingen in 1966. In his memoir, Father Küng notes his colleagues found it impressive he had invited “his strongest rival” to the faculty.
Father Küng writes he is aware that Cardinal Ratzinger is “more rooted in the neoscholastic tradition” and “attaches more importance to the authority of the church fathers” than he does.
“What is more important to me is that we are both like-minded over the significance of the Second Vatican Council: in the direction of the renewal of theology and the church and ecumenical understanding. Freedom in the church is fundamental to this.”
The student uprisings in 1968 that saw Marxist students take over classes, often with the threat of violence hanging in the air, proved a turning point. Cardinal Ratzinger, troubled by the totalitarian impulse to put faith at the service of ideology, left Tübingen for Regensburg. In Father Küng’s memoir, he said the student revolt “evidently had a permanent shock effect on Ratzinger.”
“To the present day, Ratzinger has shown phobias about all movements ‘from below;’ whether these are student chaplaincies, groups of priests, movements of church people, the Iglesia popular or liberation theology,” Father Küng writes.
According to John Allen Jr.’s book Pope Benedict XVI: A biography of Joseph Ratzinger
, the pontiff recalled it differently. Allen quotes him saying the events at Tübingen showed him “an instrumentalization by ideologies that were tyrannical, brutal and cruel. That experience made it clear to me that the abuse of the faith had to be resisted precisely if one wanted to uphold the will of the council. ... I did see how real tyranny was exercised, even in brutal forms. Anyone who wanted to remain a progressive in this context had to give up his integrity.”
Father Ratzinger went on to become an archbishop, then a cardinal, then cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Father Küng, however, felt his call to integrity taking him in another direction.
Father Küng told a gathering of academics at St. Paul University here March 15 the meeting with the pope reestablished “the personal relationship we used to have.” The meeting focused on three areas of agreement between the two men.
Prior to the meeting, he had sent Benedict his soon-to-be published The Beginning of All Things
, a book that looks at the beginning of the cosmos, the beginning of the universe and the beginning of the human being. He said the pope was delighted to receive it, and agreed with Father Küng’s call for a new dialog between the Christian faith and the sciences.
Father Küng and the pope also agreed on the need to “go against this clash of civilizations with the dialog of religions I advocated already for a very long time.” Father Küng is especially concerned about dialogue with the Muslim world. His concerns were prescient, given the violent reaction to the pope’s speech in Regensburg last year.
Finally, they agreed on the need for a global ethic which would be supported by people of different churches, religions, believers and non-believers.
Father Küng’s extensive study of world religions, including books on Christianity, Judaism and Islam, led to his discovery of ethical standards they held in common. [But what a silly statement for this writer to make! One does not have to 'study' the major religions to know what ethical standards they have in common - they're all based on natural law, basic truths that appear to be self-evident to human nature
He said variations of the Golden Rule are found in all religions. He also found four ethical demands: not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, and not to use sexuality in the wrong way. “Every human being has to be treated as human, not in an inhuman or bestial way.”
Now retired from Tübingen, he is president of the Global Ethic foundation, (www.globalethic.org), and won the support of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others.
Despite this global ethic, Father Küng recognizes “there are different religions which cannot just be unified.”
“I do not believe in the unity of religions. I do not believe in one religion. It would be illusionary to think we could construct one unique religion,” he said.
Meanwhile, however, he remains steadfast in his faith. “If I am asked as a person ‘what is for you, the way, the truth and the life?’ then I answer ‘Jesus Christ’ and that remains for me my deep conviction of faith which I kept in all these dialogues,” he said. "I think there was never some ambiguity in that.”
Father Küng separates the private and personal dimension from the external, when he is sitting around the table with Jews, Muslims, Hindus and members of other religions.
“If I ask my Jewish friend what is for you the way, the truth and the life, he will tell me the Torah. The Muslim will tell me the Koran. I think we need to take seriously at the same time, these two dimensions, the internal dimension of every human being. I have to acknowledge that my Jewish friend is honest.”