Hans Kung on Crisis in Roman Catholic Church

How come he gets to preside over a Eucharist, and I can’t even take it?

Hans Kung, ever controversial, ever inspiring, has proved again that Roman Catholicism is NOT as monolithic in its theology as it tells the world it is.  (sorry quickbeamofangorn)  His is only one among many reactions to the recent actions of the Pope to reintegrate an ultra-conservative bishop who downplays the extent of the Holocaust.

In a recent article, Fr Kung has decried the continued actions of Pope BenedictXVI and calls on the Holy Father to look to Vatican II for guidance.  Now even I don’t agree with Fr Kung on everything, but the man is one of the last in a line of powerful theologians to come out of the generative Vatican II era.  The entire Christian church has been absolutely blessed by Roman Catholic thought this last century, and I hope that we can continue to be so enriched by such a glorious church.



  1. Ad,

    Well you show some courage on that one.

    Kung is a theologian and a priest, not a bishop. Based on the NT & the Church Fathers & Ecumenical councils a theologian can have an opinion (sometimes even an informed one), but the only binding authority given to the church is via a bishop. Authority is a charism not a university degree. To my knowledge of the man, he has not only never understood this, but has rejected it.

    On the issue of the the holocaust denier,it is not a theological one. Certainly such views should raise a red flag as to the man’s mental health or perhaps moral outlook. But that is a personal matter between that bishop and his personal confessor not the pope. Imagine adding to the creed the believe in the holocaust as a requirement to be Christian.

    The individual in question had the excommunication lifted, it does not mean he is a catholic bishop, he doesn’t have any jurisdiction. Indeed the reason for the excommunication is that the ordination was invalid.

    It could be a sign that B16 has surrounded himself with sharp minds as far as theology goes, but perhaps they are weak on the use of media and secular perception. He likely needs a global worldly advisor in his camp. I think that would be helpful.

    The main objective is not to permit these bishops back in but their flock. If the pope in the 16th century had been able to do the same, perhaps some religious wars would have been prevented and we wouldn’t be talking about a reformation today as a schism but simply as a reform.

    The following comment is very closed minded of me, but I think it deserved. Kung and his ilk have the gall to say the church is oppressive, when he shoved his utter BS down the throats of Catholics like me for the past 50 years is the height of narcissism. If he wore a hair shirt discovered the Catholic tradition of reasom captives to replace Julius Jia Zhiguo in China he couldn’t undue the damage and suffering he caused.
    Kung wouldn’t know consensus patrum if it hit him in the head. It was because of what Kung help introduct that caused the schismatic bishop in the first place. And that’s about as charitable as I can be on the topic.

    You are correct that the church is not monolithic. However that is true only on issues that have not already been settled. Molinism vs. Thomism dealing with efficacy of grace and free will is permitted to be debated.

    There is no doubt that Kung was at the forefront of how Vatican II was IMPLEMENTED. He is far from what Vatican II fathers wrote. I don’t feel this way towards those who hear a ring of truth in what Kung says, but its difficult for me personnally to have anything but malice towards him, God forgive me.


  2. Spectacular commentary quickbeamofangorn,

    I think one of the reasons that issues like this interest me is because I feel so passionately about the unity of the Church.

    Ecumenism to some has a sort of liberal idealism about it which wants to put up with terrible theological diversity in order to engage jointly in more material matters of ministry.

    I don’t see it that way. Like the initiators of the so called Ecumenical Movement, I feel that it is a grevious thing that the Church is divided. It is obviously against the explicit will of our Lord and tarnishes the ability of Christians everywhere to speak of the unity of God, when we can’t get to unity of mind, even if it is a unity of what-kind-of diversity is right and good in the Body of Christ.

    Kung is perhaps an extreme example. I look at thinkers like Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, Hans urs von Bulthasar, Henri de Lubac, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and even Americans like Richard McBrien, and I see these great minds, who in many ways, have a diversity of opinion not too wide to include orthodox Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

    But we still can’t share intercommunion, which to me is so sad. So I ask, hey, I’ve been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, and what I believe is really quite close to Roman Catholicism, minus some extra-marian stuff and the absolute primacy of the See of Rome. If someone certainly more extreme than me, Hans Kung, can still preside over a Eucharist, I guess in my young naievtiy, I wonder how it is we remain divided.

    “Is Christ divided?”

    Cause Kung is only an extreme example. I’ve read several American and German theologians, in the wake of this incident, ask if we need to “see the place of Rome” adapt.

    I dunno, I’ve just been thinking about this stuff more lately. It certainly isn’t a rip on the RCC


  3. It is interesting that in the interest of unity in the church, Benedict reaches out and restores to the church a right wing fellow who denies the Holocaust. But, at the same time refuses to reach out to the other side of the Catholic community — to folks like Kung and the Liberation theologians.

    I’ve heard Hans Kung speak on two occasions. His writings were very helpful along the way. What’s interesting is that once Benedict and Kung were fellow Vatican II theological experts. My how time changes things. I think in the end Kung will come out on top!


  4. I too have always found that interesting. Pope Benedict used to be a progressive/moderate!

    I think that in some things Kung has come to conclusions that I cannot share. But his work, such as “On Being a Christian,” or his three monumental works on the Abrahamic religions are all full of evangelical zeal.


  5. No way! I came across these articles over time and when Kung came out of the closet I knew I had to post ’em


  6. Not that I’m trying to pick on the pope, but I too am interested/disappointed about his interaction with “progressive” elements of the RCC. Here’s an older article concerning some of the things he’s said about liberation theology some of which I found incredibly dismissive (especially his comments about the “heresy” of belief in the imminent establishment of God’s justice and peace. I’d like to hear a debate between N.T. Wright and Benedict XVI about eschatology.


  7. In a nutshell, this is how I am thinking these days. Quickbeam, feel free to chime in, I am far from a theologian, let alone an expert in Roman Catholicism.

    Whatever the latent affects have been on the RCC and a sort of Catholic identity, VII was a powerful and sizemic shift in Christendom. Before that time it was Protestants alone who were grappling with modernity, and the sad detiriation away from a historically informed Christianity has been a result. But the thinkers of VII and those in the wake of it, were able to hold on to Catholicity in a more comprehensive way whilst still grappling with the critical issues. In that way, the RCC was a leader for all of Christendom. There were of course Protestant leaders, remember one of the Popes said that Barth was the most profound Christian thinker since Aquinas.

    But it has resulted in a crisis of Authority. And this crisis is really in every church right now, Protestant and Catholic. Just when we need the RCC to be a leader again, the trend has been to chide “progressive” RCism and turn to conservativsm and authoritarianism. I believe that this cannot sustain a global church. And so I do fear for more division if the RCC is unable to grapple with authority in a way more connected to the life of the Trinity in the Church. A life of giving and patience, not of authority and power.


  8. Its interesting to read all of your takes on it. I didn’t take any ones comments about the catholic church as offensive. Kung is offensive;>)I started out on the net back in 95 on Renewing Your Mind form. Doctor R.C Sproul and many in the reform mold have deliver much more direct and sometimes personal attacks to me, so don’t worry about the thickness of my skin here.

    Given that my view is from the inside looking out towards ecumenical unity, were as I assume you would be viewing it more like a branch theory view into unity can be challenging. As a Catholic I would view you all as Christian in the full sense, but not within THE church. Your formally “outside”. This doesn’t mean anything with respect to whether your going to heaven, nor me for that matter. Don’t know it that comes across correctly or not.

    I was an altar boy who said the responses in latin, prior to the radical (I don’t mean this in political terms) altering of the mass and the interior structural design of the local churches.

    You have to be able to understand what was given up with the changes, that wasn’t intended by Vat. II and what was benefited by the New mass and the Vat. II documents. Most Catholics form a clean split between the two and they are the ones who get the most media and blog time. I tend to think that I’m in a rather smaller minority in that regard, that there was something lost and something gained (I believe that B16 is in that camp as well). B16 doesn’t intent to undo Vat II nor will he support a rewinding of the clock to the 50’s as some many conservative Catholic’s desire and liberal fear.

    There were weaknesses to the old mass that most younger people who pine for the old days aren’t aware of and there are older ones who still think that 60’s flower child songs are what’s hip for today’s kids. Generally these types are found in the Kung group who can’t imagine they are not cool any more or revelant.

    Here’s one piece on it at my blog if you have the time.

    Here’s another I got private e-mails from conservative Catholics who didn’t like me giving an hear to the liberal concerns.

    Now to authority. There is jurisdiction which deals with canon law and how a religious society functions. My wife has never been able to grasp this point in that Catholicism is the City of God. As a Christian you have rights and responsibilities to and from the church and towards God. You live in the city of man.

    Bishops have this charism to be the leader and rule. It sounds medieval in some respects I guess but its clearly found in the second century up until today. Anyway this is not to be confused with teaching authority which bishops have as well, but it deals with mostly concerns on doctrine. The two role can get confused.

    Lets take Womens ordination for example. The doctrinal view to be upheld is the priest standing in physically as the representive of Christ during the mass. Christ is in fact male. Is the symbolism destroyed by having a female represent Christ? Does that effect the way we would view the Trinity and the Incarnation?

    Now those within the church who support womans ordination,would agree that the selection of gender by God is either irrevelant,random or limited due to social pressures of the time. I would suggest you check on their theology on the Trinity and it may not sit well.

    The ruling on this issue by PJPII was that the church has no authority to permit womans ordination, because Christ Himself did not do so, nor did any of the Apostles. The issue is closed. There will never (in the Catholic church be woman priests). One could claim that as a somewhat gray area prior to that determination, but not after.

    On the papacy I thought it was interesting what Pope JPII said on the ministry of unity of the Bishop of Rome: “I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in “a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life … If disagreements in belief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator”.

    On receiving communion, I wish everyone could receive communion as well. My wife and daughter can not receive while me and my two boys can. believe me when I say I experience the reformation in my life.

    The “spirit of Vatican II” and I don’t use the term in a good way and I would include those like McBrien, Kung and Schillebeeckx are number at best. Bulthasar & de Lubac, Congar I think have a place at the table.

    The biggest change int he church will come with the next pope. It will be from a third world country and would likely be much more conservative the B16.

    In the end the church goes through periods much like the religious orders.

    Franciscan see caring for the poor and outcase as preaching the gospel. The Benedictians see reflecting on scripture and pray as living the Gospel. The Dominicans see preaching to the people as the Gospel and the Jesuits (well lets leave them out of it) ;>)

    The 60’s,70’s & 80’s focused on the poor, the 90’s and double o’s tried have focused on prayer and education.

    ON Pope B16 (ressourcement theology) vs Kung (aggiornamento theology).

    Kung and his group were looking to a future church and semi or total break from the Trent theology church.
    B16’s group were looking before Trent to the back in the past but retaining what occured through out the history of the church.

    Pope JPII was inbetween the two camps and he tried to have his cake and eat it too. He was a terrible administer. B16 has his party never were able to get a chance so the correctives should not be seem as going back to trent as most conservative Catholic would have you believe or most liberals for that matter. He’s going back to Pope Gregory the Great and perhaps even my favorite St. Ambrose.


  9. Anthony,

    Well I’ve always been a big Tolkien fan and the minor character in Lord of the Rings is Quickbeam of Fangorn is what I took as a handle for bulletin boards about 16 years ago. After awhile I went to using my real name Tom, but the sites I frequented didn’t know me by my real name and I reverted to back to the moniker.

    Quickbeam was consider the most rash in judgement of the Ents due to his youth, but coming from a race which can take life times to chose something. Somehow the contrast reflects how I react at times.

    So I respond to Quick,QB, Q of F or Tom.


  10. Please. Let’s be accurate. Williamson has not denied the Holocaust. He has denied the extent of it.
    True, by minimizing its scope, he is scandously downplaying one of the greatest blights in the recorded history of man–the slaughter of millioms of people simply because they were Jews.
    Yet Williamson does admit that the Holocaust took place. So you can’t call him a Holocaust denier. There is a difference.


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