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  1. Paddy Ferry says:

    Hans Kung, a hero to many of us has sadly died. I felt privileged to have seen and heard him speak here in Edinburgh, in the McEwen Hall, fifteen years approximately. Lord, grant him eternal rest.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    A whole generation of theologians is being swept away: Sean Freyne (2013), Sean Fagan (2016), Claude Geffré (2017), Nicholas Lash, James Mackey, Joseph Moingt (2020), Enda McDonagh, and now Hans Küng. The harvest is great, but the labourers few.

  3. Peter Caffrey says:

    I was saddened to hear of Father Kung’s death, I hope he is at peace. I am grateful for the gift of his writings. Many will be familiar with his criticisms, but perhaps we have paid less attention to his sense of hope and optimism. In that spirit, I share this quote from his 1992 book, Credo:

    “Despite all my sorry experiences with my church, I believe that critical loyalty is worthwhile, that resistance is meaningful and renewal possible, and that another positive turn in church history cannot be ruled out.”

    We live and pray in hope.

    Peter Caffrey.

  4. Brendan Butler says:

    By not listening to him instead of silencing him the institutional church lost a God-given opportunity. While the silencing stung him initially it equally galvanised him to achieving greater things.
    There will be no peace in heaven with Saint Hans around.

  5. John Collins says:

    Derek Scally – Irish Times
    Controversial Swiss-born theologian Küng dies aged 93

    Death ends battle of will and wits over half a century with Pope Benedict
    Hans Küng died as he lived: provoking debate and dividing opinion. To his admirers, the 93-year-old Swiss-born theologian was the great missed opportunity of the Catholic Church: a liberal reformer who sketched a blueprint to unify the Christian faiths with each other, and with modernity.

    To his critics, the Tübingen-based academic was the most dangerous German-speaking priest since Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation.

    Above all Küng’s death on Tuesday ends a six-decade career as theological frenemy of Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. Their long-distance battle of will and wits over half a century was, one Ratzinger biographer suggested, one of the sparkiest relationships since the days of Mozart and Salieri. In the early 1960s, the two men began their careers at the University of Tübingen and as two of the youngest theologians at the second Vatican Council. Even in Rome, their very different styles became apparent: the more extrovert Küng took a liberal path in Tübingen while the introverted Ratzinger, traumatised by the 1968 student revolt, departed for Regensburg and a more conservative theological path. Though they parted company, physically and ideologically, their paths – and swords – crossed regularly in the subsequent decades.

    Licence revoked
    Ratzinger rose through the church ranks, first as archbishop of Munich and, from 1982 in Rome as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Three years earlier this body, formerly known as the Inquisition, had revoked Küng’s licence to teach theology after taking a dim view of his critique of papal infallibility.

    Ratzinger critics suggest he did nothing to lift the ban, and instead focused on Pope John Paul’s conservative reform rollback. Meanwhile Küng’s critics say the image-savvy Tübingen theologian shaped, like few others, the image of a reactionary Ratzinger as “God’s Rottweiler”. Born in Sursee in Switzerland in 1928, Küng decided to become a priest at 11 and took his vows 15 years later. His earliest writings, on the Protestant theologian Karl Barth, indicated the direction of his career: highlighting what unites, rather than divides the Christian faiths.

    Later, banned from teaching Catholic theology, his university created a new professorship to retain him. As head of the Global Ethics Foundation, Küng devoted his last decades to studying world religions and highlighting their uniting values.

    Contrasting positions
    Küng and Ratzinger met a final time in 2005, shortly after the latter became pope. Though neither shifted their contrasting positions, Küng expressed hope the German pope would prove a more inclusive figure.Five years later, he wrote an angry letter to German bishops, describing the German papacy as a series of missed opportunities, embracing problematic traditionalists while spurning Protestants and Jews.

    For Tony Flannery, the Irish Redemptorist priest also subject to a CDF ban, the Catholic church had two paths in the 20th century: the “faithful, pure, small” view of Ratzinger’s church or the “open vision” promoted by Küng. “It was an enormous missed opportunity brought about by narrow-mindedness, a certainty that it alone had the truth, and fear,” said Fr Flannery.

    “History will recognise Küng as the great visionary of this era in the Catholic Church.”

  6. Colm Holmes says:

    We Are Church Statement

    Hans Küng was the Prophet the Vatican feared the most

    9 April 2021 We Are Church International mourns the death of the great prophet Hans Küng who clearly set out the reforms necessary to bring the Catholic Church back to Christ.

    On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of We Are Church in autumn 2020, Hans Küng wrote to us:

    “From the beginning, I have supported We Are Church in every respect. In its demands it has the message of Jesus Christ behind it and at the same time it corresponds to the requirements of today’s democratic and pluralistic society. In the time of the two Restoration Popes Wojtyla and Ratzinger, there was little hope that your concerns would be heard in the hierarchy. With Pope Francis, however, a turning point seems to have occurred that makes it easier for some of your demands to be met. In the wintry Church, We Are Church has kept the embers smouldering under the ashes. May the fire of reform now finally take hold of the whole Church and also the Vatican. So continue, dear friends: courage, creativity and perseverance!”

  7. Paddy Ferry says:

    Hans Kung RIP

    What a great privilege it has been for all of us to have lived in the era of Hans Kung.

    Colm, thank you for sharing with us his message last Autumn to We Are Church. That, I found, very touching.

    And, Séamus ends his current piece, “From ‘Blowing in the Wind’ to ‘The Times They Are A Changin'” with a postscript ending with the words “Our Hero”.

    And that he certainly was.

    He didn’t settle for a life of power and prestige when Pope Paul invited him to stay and work in Rome. Though who knows, he might well have become Benedict XV1.

    I think I have mentioned before on here that I have tried twice — many years ago now — to read On Being a Christian and could not get past page 40, approximately, on both occasions. Perhaps I will now try again.

    I did however get right to the end of Infallible? and that for me was a real eye opener/mind opener. I have also now read it a number of times since. I remember when I first read it questioning my priest friends over here on the Decretals of Pseudo-Isodore and what they were taught about this subject at seminary. To my great surprise, it seemed it had never been mentioned at seminary!! They all had, however, heard of Yves Congar. John Paul II made him a cardinal on his death bed. I always hoped Francis would do that for Hans.

    The breadth of Hans’ intellect was quite remarkable. He wrote, you could say, with unprecedented expertise on aspects of theology –someone has referred to him as one of the three greatest Catholic theologians of the 20th century with Rahner and Schillebeeckx — and ethics. But you know he had also another string to his bow. He wrote an acclaimed book on the transcendental nature of the music of Mozart, Traces of Transcendence. Can you believe that!

    I once met someone who was a friend and colleague of Hans Kung, a Methodist whom I met at what was then the annual Scottish Ecumenical Assembly.

    This man had helped Hans in the translation of his books into English.

    And, he told us this true story.

    At that famous meeting after the close of the Council when Paul V1 invited Hans to stay and work in Rome, Paul also spoke warmly of Karl Barth who was Hans’ friend and who had been such an influence in his work.

    Paul expressed the opinion that Karl Barth was probably the greatest reformed theologian since the reformation.

    When Hans returned from Rome he went to see his friend Karl and shared this story of the Pope’s high opinion of him as a theologian.

    Karl Barth sat quietly smoking his pipe until Hans had finished his story and then said to Hans, “You know, Hans, I think there is a lot to be said for this doctrine of Papal Infallibility!”

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    Jim Heisig SVD chatted up Karl Rahner, who seemed to be out of it at some event in Chicago for linguistic reasons. Rahner made the following joke: “Wissen Sie, warum Hans Küng nie Papst werden kann? Wegen seiner Unfehlbarkeit!” “Do you know why Hans Küng can never become pope? Because of his Infallibility!”–referring I suppose to the 1970 book, “Unfehlbar?”. The book may have been counterproductive because of its polemical swing (and date of publication, the very centenary of Pastor aeternus). Scholarly recontextualization of the whole debate, from Brian Tierney and others, pursued sine ira et studio, was somewhat thwarted by Küng’s loud protest. Something similar might be said of his Christology from below. It was a misfortune for the deeply scholarly Schillebeeckx to be lumped alongside Küng in the “trials” the Vatican initiated around 1980.

  9. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Paddy, Paul VI may have regarded Karl B as the greatest REformed theologian. His invitation to Hans K to become a Roman came with the injunction to CONform and the wish that Hans had written nothing. As for Papst Hans I, Joe has already given Karl R’s perfect riposte.

    I see, however, from a later thread, that Infallibility and Synodality are both safe in the hands of Root & Branch and its forthcoming zooming speakers. Irish Bishops, prepare for an earful or ten.

  10. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, if Hans Kung wasn’t “deeply scholarly” too, among his other attributes, then I don’t know what he was and I am left puzzled.

    I take it you didn’t like him very much.

    When I heard him speak here in Edinburgh I was enthralled that night and, also, I had at the back of my mind that I could tell my grandchildren in years to come that I had seen and heard this great man speak. Silly me! Even the parents of those grandchildren will never have the slightest interest in Hans Kung. Sadly!

    I was amazed that night when I heard him speak –it was all about Global Ethics and the need for peace among the different religions and faiths to ensure peace among nations –that two priests friends who were present could not find a good word to say about him when I met them later. Now, these were normally reasonable and fairly intelligent men, I thought. So, I concluded that for some keeping to the party line supersedes everything else.

    Or could we call it a “lingering clericalism” or, perhaps, even something more than lingering.

    And, Joe, are you seriously saying that any protest with regard to Papal Infallibility might be considered too “loud”.

    I am really sorry that he was not your hero, or one of your heroes as he was for me and, obviously, many others.

  11. Joe O'Leary says:

    “And, Joe, are you seriously saying that any protest with regard to Papal Infallibility might be considered too “loud”.”

    Küng wrote two major works on ecclesiology (“The Church” and “Structures of the Church”), and then blighted them by his noisy and tawdry infallibility book. Unlike his intervention in the discussions of Vatican II, “The Council and Reunion,” his rant against infallibility was the very opposite of a timely book.

    I admired and empathized with Hans Küng as a prophet (and was happy to hear him warmly praised in conversation by the eminent Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, SJ), I liked him as a larger than life Swiss man, I heard him lecture three times and yes, his voice carried farther than any theologian since Karl Barth, but I do not think he compared at all with Schillebeeckx, or with Yves Congar, for depth of scholarship. His over-emphatic style, and his wearying cult of his own personality, did not lend itself to real dialogue. I would go so far as to say that there’s an element of hollowness, superficiality, and bien-pensant predictability in all his books, beginning with “Justification,” which while it facilitated their public impact cheesed off his fellow-theologians. He and Ratzinger deserved one another. In both cases their role as public figures and their personality flaws limited their response to the questions of theology.

    Hero-worship has no place in any intellectual discipline, and has a deleterious effect. The worshippers of Newman, of Barth, of Lonergan are cases in point. They are an obstacle to a proper reception of these thinkers.

  12. Joe O'Leary says: This is no doubt one of Küng’s most substantial and important later works. But a reviewer at gives an idea why one approaches such books with less than total enthusiasm: “OK for history and partial comparison of “Abrahamic” religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). The most comprehensive, say pre-1980, Islamic history available in English. Kung mentions events post 9/11 but not much detail from the 70’s on, and the history has a charitable, optimistic “peace” bias. Kung works to avoid controversy and the difficult issues. This is a well documented, interesting tome but the author’s spin contaminates it. It is not an “objective” history.

    “I took three stars off for the failure to deal with the hard issues and modern history in any substantive detail, particularly the rise of fundamentalism under the influence of people such as Sayyid Qutb (executed in 1966) and the near dismissal of the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is billed as “Past, Present and Future.” It is about the past, it was not about the present even when it was published, and based upon what’s happened since it was published, Kung’s vision for the future has no practical scenario.

    “Kung does not explore the hard issues within Islam, he fleetingly alludes to them as the difference between the “Mecca period” and the “Medina period.” He equates the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism to the Protestant reformation.

    “Understand Kung is looking for a way to peacefully co-exist in a world of mutual respect among religions and people, so he largely ignores the divisive issues that exist even among Muslims, much less between Muslims and non-Muslims. His ending words are: “No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions. No dialogue between the religions without global ethical standards. No survival of our globe without a global ethic, a world ethic, supported by both the religious and the non-religious.””

    Bear in mind that Küng had an army of research assistants who compiled his encyclopaedic information. (A philosopher friend was annoyed by a learned paragraph on Spinoza that Küng presents as his own thought, though it is clearly, he said, the contribution of an assistant.) Küng arranges the material according to a visionary schema of successive historical “paradigms”, which suggests again a superficial overview guided by an ideological purpose.

    Here’s another critical review from a Jesuit who glories in the name of “Troll”:

    Another review notes that Küng sees Nicaea and Chalcedon as departing from the Jewish soil. Küng regards the doctrine of these councils as imposing a Hellenistic vision alien to the New Testament. This goes far beyond Harnack’s vision of dogma as “a product of the Greek mind on the soil of the Gospel.” There are many such sweeping claims in Küng, as when he claims that Newman disagreed with papal infallibility. (Newman was an inopportunist but a believer in papal infallibility from long before 1870, and his interpretation of the dogma is the one the church effectively adopted. Nuance is not Küng’s forte.)

  13. David Murnaghan says:

    Hans Kung and Infallibility

    Daithí Ó Muirneacháin.

    The death of Hans Kung is a great loss to so many people around the world to whom he gave great hope, in particular in regard to the fulfilment of the promises of Vatican Two for the development of the Church.

    His book Infallibility? published in 1970 started a great debate and lead to the removal of his license to teach theology.

    Fr. Joe Dunn, the Radharc Films priest, in 1994, has put it rather well, “Creeping infallibility has become one of the greatest obstacles to church unity. It may well be that a humbling of the curia is a very necessary part of the Holy Spirit’s providential plan for the united Christian Church of the third millennium”.

    In 2017, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, when asked about papal infallibility said, “The gift of infallibility is something that Christ gives to the Church which is expressed through the Pope. Now, that means that we will never, as it were, drift so far from the core revelation of God in Jesus as to get in a total mess. It does not protect us from every error of judgment, particularly in a conflicting situation”.

    The use of ‘Indefectibility’ rather than ‘Infallibility’ might be more illuminating in this regard. Fr. Tom Norris in his book Cardinal Newman for Today (chapter 3) uses the term Indefectibility. But he was not the first to do so as Hans Kung had a section in his Infallibility book on ‘Infallibility or Indefectibility’.

    So, we have come full circle, the criticism of Hans Kung is now seen to have been totally unwarranted. History will show him to be a major figure in the life of the Christian Church.

  14. Joe O'Leary says:

    Here is how the foremost Catholic ecclesiologist viewed Küng’s “Infallible?” “Congar’s dissent takes on added significance from his eminence as an ecclesiologist. His appreciation of Küng’s previous book, The Church, though tempered with constructive criticism, was both warm and generous. Yet Congar has written that in his latest book “Hans Küng, with a radicalism which verges on simplification and… a courage approaching rashness, questions the Catholicism we have received and lived, itself largely the product of the Middle Ages and the four centuries following the Council of Trent.” Congar criticizes Küng for relying too exclusively here, as in The Church, on “Scripture alone,” and for failing to do justice to such classical dogmatic statements as those of Nicaea and Chalcedon. Congar admits that the truth in which the people of God must always live means personal adhesion to Jesus Christ and not merely intellectual assent to propositions. But he calls Küng’s criticism of all propositions “rather banal.” And though Congar concedes that apostolicity and hence the teaching office pertain to the whole people of God and not merely to the hierarchy, he charges that Küng fails to do justice to the special charism of teaching possessed by the Church’s ordained pastors. While Küng’s incisive criticisms are, in Congar’s view, often too massive, he feels they will help to rectify the imbalance in ecclesiology resulting from the myth of papal authority which has been built up since Pius IX. At the same time, Congar says that the work of theological aggiornamento cannot proceed simply by replacing one exaggeration with another: substituting the Reformation for the Counter Reformation. It means rediscovering the authentic tradition behind the exaggerations. This involves criticism and inquiry; and it is here, Congar writes, that Küng’s book has a contribution to make.”

  15. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe, I think I am feeling slightly flattered tonight that my few lines of hero worship of the late, great Hans Kung should prompt such an scholarly critique from you of the man’s work. Thank you for all that information and, also, the links to other articles.

    I am less happy with your comments on his character and personality traits, however, which I found to be unnecessarily derogatory.

    I have only seen and heard him in person once but on that occasion and the other occasions when I watched interviews, I always thought he came across as a good guy. He was certainly very personable when he spoke here in Edinburgh: he mentioned my old friend,the late Fr. John Fitzsimmons and publicly thanked Keith O’Brien for publicising the event throughout our Archdiocese. He probably did not expect that from the institutional church.

    His books are always very serious but, then, he was addressing serious issues. He never struck me as some kind of megalomaniac so I was really surprised with your indictment of what you called his wearying cult of his own personality, Joe.

    ” …and his wearying cult of his own personality, did not lend itself to real dialogue. I would go so far as to say that there’s an element of hollowness, superficiality, and bien-pensant predictability in all his books, beginning with “Justification,” which while it facilitated their public impact cheesed off his fellow-theologians.”

    I remember discussing Hans Kung with a Jesuit scholar some years ago and he told me that there is a certain jealousy of Kung among some other theologians because he had sold more of his books that all the rest of them put together. Perhaps that accounts for some of them being cheesed off.

    Cardinal Edward Cassidy died yesterday and he was President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome at the time of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. It was he who signed it with the leader of the Lutheran World Federation and he had always said that that had been the greatest privilege of his life.

    At the time our Archdiocese Ecumenical Commission studied and discussed the Joint Declaration at an evening meeting here in Edinburgh. As chair of the Commission I had to lead the evening’s conversations. As someone who had known very little about this subject until this development I had to quickly get myself up to speed. One of the things that pleasantly surprised me was the universal acceptance of the important role played by Hans Kung in making it all possible in the first place. Surely, that achievement alone would have guaranteed his position among the greats of the last century.

    When you referred to his book Infallible? as

    “..his noisy and tawdry infallibility book.” And, also as “a rant” somewhere else, I have to say to you, Joe, with respect, that I think you were starting to lose the plot there.

    I remember reading somewhere — I thought it was in the postscript of The Church – Maintained in Truth, but I cannot find it there tonight — his account of why he took such an interest in infallibility. His academic colleagues at Tubingen encouraged him to make it one of his specialist subjects because they had all had been feeling a gut instinct that this was not a tenable doctrine. I felt very affirmed reading that because as an adolescent at secondary school, when I really knew nothing about anything theological, I also had a gut feeling that this was a seriously dodgy doctrine.

    I have not read Infallible? for a few years now. However, I do remember that he makes the point early on that without the dishonest Decretals of Pseudo Isodore, which through the work of Yves Congar were discovered to be forgeries, the doctrine of the Primacy of Peter would not have been accepted and, so, Papal Infallibility would also have been a non-starter.
    Joe, I presume Fr. Congar got into great trouble for that important work.

    @15,Joe, where you quote Yves Congar and he refers to Kung’s “courage bordering on rashness”, I have to say that that surely should not be a criticism of Hans Kung but rather an indictment of the vicious nature of the institution he was challenging. Surely!

    I have also admired Kung for not allowing the institution to destroy him and, of course, for having the gumption to challenge them in the first place. Others have been so badly affected by the bullying and the abuse, Jacque Dupuis and Seán Fagan, for example. I am not sure how men like Matthew Fox, Charles Curran, Tissa Balasuriya survived after their traumatic experiences at the hands of the CDF. Anthony DeMello was punished posthumously! It’s hard to get your head around that one!!

    In one of those Radharc programmes that David refers to @14, Fr.Joe Dunn went to interview Bernard Haring in his home village in Austria, I think. Fr. Bernard told Joe that even though Ratzinger knew he was seriously ill with throat cancer that did not mean he was treated anyway more gently. Not a chance of that.

    Hans Kung wrote a few years ago that the only priests who could consider challenging the institution are those who are economically independent. And, of course, with all his book sales and speaking engagements, Hans was probably the most economically independent priest in the world

    And, while we are at it, let’s hold our hats up to Tony Flannery too who also has not allowed them to destroy him. Tony has continued to speak and write and he is a genuine modern day prophet. Thank God for Tony too.

    So, of course, Hans Kung has been a hero for so many of us and will continue to be so. Of course, he will!!

    Joe, I have read so much about Hans Kung over the last few days in all the usual Catholic publications and you are the only person I have found who has had a bad word to say about him.

    I think I should end with the first and last paragraph of David’s post @14 because, I think, that sums it all up perfectly.

    “The death of Hans Kung is a great loss to so many people around the world to whom he gave great hope, in particular in regard to the fulfilment of the promises of Vatican Two for the development of the Church.” And,

    “So, we have come full circle, the criticism of Hans Kung is now seen to have been totally unwarranted. History will show him to be a major figure in the life of the Christian Church.”

    May God grant him eternal rest.

    Goodnight and God bless.

  16. Paddy Ferry says:

    That is a really marvellous collection of statements on Kung, Barth and Justification. Definitely a very valuable addition to the archive.

    Thanks, Joe.

  17. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, here is a review (abridged) that I wrote for the current issue of “Reviews in Religion and Theology”, relevant to discussion of the JDDJ:

    From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, The Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, 2017.

    This book consists of a Report of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity ( and a Study Guide for American users of this Report for study and meditation. As a sampling from ‘the thousands of pages of reports’ generated by Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue, which have yielded ‘an amazing number of convergences and consensus on subjects that until even recently were deemed both intractable and church-dividing’, the book invites critical assessment.
    Concerned above all with church unity, the ecumenical partners ‘commemorated’ rather than ‘celebrated’ the fifth centenary of the Reformation. Revisiting events of the sixteenth century, they reflect with sadness on wrong turnings and missed opportunities. When they come to the doctrinal divisions on Justification, Eucharist, ministry, and Scripture and tradition, they register ‘Luther’s perspective,’ ‘Catholic concerns,’ and ‘what has been jointly affirmed,’ along with ‘remaining differences’. While this calm doxographic approach defuses ancient quarrels and encourages untroubled ecumenical relations, the readers encouraged to meditate on and pray over the results may find the diet rather bland. They may wonder what all the fuss was about and why people thought these issues a matter of life and death for the Christian tradition.
    The meditators are directed first to internalize five ‘ecumenical imperatives’: 1. ‘Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division’; 2. They ‘must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other,’ 3. ‘commit themselves to seek visible unity,’ 4. ‘jointly rediscover the power of the gospel,’ and 5. ‘witness together to the mercy of God’. The problem with this is that Luther’s preaching of the Pauline doctrine of Justification launches a critique of the entire tradition insofar as it has diluted this teaching and rendered it ineffective. To play down this ‘divisiveness’ in the name of unity keeps Catholics tone-deaf to Luther’s message.
    The ‘Joint Declaration’ of 1999 has tremendous importance as allowing Catholics to draw on Luther’s insights unselfconsciously. But theologically it is a drab production. As some leading Lutheran critics of the text such as Eberhard Jüngel and Ingolf Dalferth have urged, even Lutherans may have lost touch with what was at stake in Luther’s promotion of Justification to an ‘article by which the Church stands or falls.’
    The text explains lucidly enough the roles of Law and Gospel and the meaning of ‘simul iustus et peccator.’ ‘With respect to the law, theologically understood, we believe that we are still sinners. But, with respect to the gospel that promises us “Here is Christ’s righteousness,” we are righteous and justified…. We must distinguish… the relation to the Word of God as the law of God insofar as it judges the sinner, and the relation to the Word of God as the Gospel of God insofar as God redeems’ (p. 53). Perhaps this implies that the same text, e.g. the Sermon on the Mount, can function as both Law and Gospel. What is missing, however, is a sense of the existential, dynamic, situational, and paradoxical impact of the Justification doctrine. Also, it should be recalled that for Luther the differentiation of Law and Gospel was a subtle matter, the highest art of the preacher and the theologian.
    The Study Guide has less than a page on Justification, offering these questions for reflection: Given the ‘differentiated consensus about how we are forgiven and saved, what does this say about how we treat one another as fellow Christians.’ What do you think is meant by ‘both saint and sinner at the same time’? Freed by Justification the Christian has ‘the feedom to serve one’s neighbor spontaneously without seeking merits in doing so…. Should we expect to build up merits for serving our neighbor?’. Unfortunately the Study Guide is lame and flat throughout. But let us hope that these are first steps toward a sharing of the treasures of Lutheran theology among Catholics at parish level, in constant reference to the biblical sources.

  18. Paddy Ferry says:

    Excellent, Joe.
    Thank you.

  19. George Reilly says:

    I am writing from Aachen in Germany.
    I think it is safe to say about Hans Küng’s personality that he was not the personification of the Curé d’Ars kind of priest. But he could also laugh at his own vanity. On the occasion of the celebration of his retirement in 1996 he said in reply to the speeches of praise which were heaped over him: “Lord forgive them for their excessive exaggerations. But forgive me too for having found so much pleasure in it.” At the same celebration the dean of the Catholic faculty of theology in Tübingen demanded in a declaration he read in the name of the faculty that Küng be rehabilitated. Küng wanted to say a word of thanks but his voice broke and tears filled his eyes.

    I was teaching religion in a grammar school near Tübingen (I was living in Tübingen then) when the nihil obstat and the missio canonica were revoked in December 1979. Myself and other religious education teachers sent a letter of protest to the then bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart pointing out that Küng’s writings were of invaluable worth to us in our work trying to impart sound knowledge of the Christian message, especially to our students in the higher classes. Above all, his writings were readable and understandable which was more than could be said for many other well-known theologians. We never got a reply.

    Just a few remarks about what happened after the ecclesiastical approval and the right to teach theology on behalf of the Church (the missio canonica) were withdrawn. In German state teaching institutions one must usually be in possession of the necessary state (degree certificates and the venia legendi) and ecclesiastical certificates (for Catholics, the missio canonica) to be able to teach theology. Küng still had his venia legendi and, as well as that, as a professor, he had tenure until retirement. (Professors become civil servants for life on appointment and retain the title and the right to teach until death. On retirement they are relieved of their duties as faculty members.) Eventhough some on the faculty spoke out in favour of Küng the faculty as a whole with a slight majority voted against Küng remaining a member of the faculty. That was a big blow to Küng of course.

    A solution had to be found as to what was to become of him as a tenured professor of the university. The ministry of education in Stuttgart, the bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, the university of Tübingen and Küng himself came to an agreement whereby Küng’s Institute for Ecumenical Research was taken out of the faculty and placed directly under the aegis of the president and senate of the university. He retained the right to supervise doctoral students and theses for higher doctorates in Catholic theology. He remained a priest of course and continued to celebrate Mass in various parishes of the town of Tübingen.

    In hindsight, Küng always maintained that this new situation opened up new and far-reaching opportunities for him resulting in his developing the idea and programme of a “global ethos”. There is now a Global Ethic Institute at the university of Tübingen based on Küng’s global ethic idea and is “committed to an economy that offers solutions to social changes.” (Quote from the internet site of the institute:

    The university of Tübingen has posted that there will be a funeral Mass for Küng in the church of St. Johannes in Tübingen on Friday the 16th April, beginning at 12.30 German time. He will be buried in the old town cemetery near the centre of the town beside his old friend and colleague Walter Jens who used to be professor of rhetoric in Tübingen.

    The funeral Mass will be streamed. For those who are interested and maybe understand the ‘lingo’ the university will post the link on the following site:

  20. Paddy Ferry says:

    Hans Kung RIP

    I did not realise that Hans Kung also wrote a book with the title “Why Priests”

    Garry Wills’ book of the same title is, I think, a masterpiece if only for it’s detailed critique of (the Letter to the) Hebrews.

    The following is from the National Catholic Reporter online.

    Can the Catholic Church agree to change anything?
    Apr 15, 2021
    by Phyllis Zagano Opinion/Theology/Vatican

    Sometimes you need to catch your breath when a Vatican official’s speaking echoes a theologian’s writings. Which way is this going to go?

    Not long ago, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, echoed a 50-year-old passage from a book by … wait for it … Swiss theologian Hans Küng.

    Speaking on Spain’s church-owned COPE radio network, Parolin underscored the Good Friday theme of Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher for the papal household, and (perhaps unknowingly) brought forth a concept delineated by Küng 50 years ago: Some things can change, but internal church divisions are dangerous.

    Dangerous they are, and many divisions fostered by the well-funded hard right in the United States are fixated on pelvic issues and incorporate forms of Trumpism. The relatively disorganized progressive left can tend to cross the line as well, in the opposite direction.

    Still some things, Parolin said, can and should change, although “there is a level that cannot be changed, the structure of the church — the deposit of faith, the sacraments, the apostolic ministry — these are the structural elements.”

    So, who can change what? Canon law maintains power in the priestly class, although the combined power of the secular purse and the power of media can present checks and balances to clerical power. But money also supports clericalism. Money and media, especially social media, demonstrate the dangers of a clerical-political cash-infused soup.

    No doubt about it, there are many people only too happy to replace anything vaguely post-Vatican II with their 1950s imaginings. There are probably just as many people annoyed at the ill-informed preaching of lace-dressed younger clerics and some bishops. (Recently, the bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, preaching during Ireland’s RTÉ radio Mass, spoke about “Mary Magdalene with her colorful past.”)

    For those who think the Second Vatican Council was a good idea, there are many legitimate issues to discuss and many “merely ecclesiastical laws” that can and should be modified. And the majority of the church — the lay 99% — want to have a say. That is where the question of justice rises to the discussion. Aside from women ordained as deacons, a fact continually affirmed by historians, there are well-researched, well-documented, well-established facts that support lay participation in church governance.

    Over the centuries, the church froze the laity out of any participation in governance and jurisdiction, and the Code of Canon law nailed that door shut. Canon 129.1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law — written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — firmly states that laypeople can cooperate but not participate in the power of governance.

    So how does the church — that means all of us — view what is going on with cash, clericalism, divisions and authority? The money behind the alt-right is lay money aimed at affecting the way the church reacts to questions of justice: for the poor, for the needy, for women, in addition to the fixation on sexual matters.

    Change or no change? The “no-change” folks have a lot of clerical support. Some “change” folks continue to speak, but many simply walk away.

    We know the church can change because it has, usually to maintain clerical power. Over centuries, the church moved to remove women from any role in the celebration of Eucharist, to keep women outside the altar rail “fence” of superstitious misogyny. (The ridiculous beliefs remain: A bishop told me just the other day that his cathedral rector apologized because a woman was in the sanctuary during the Easter Vigil.)

    Yet, there is some light at the top of the clerical ladder. Pope Francis changed law so women can be installed as lectors and acolytes. Cantalamessa warned against divisions. And Parolin’s talk sounded like a passage from Küng’s 1971 book, Why Priests? Küng writes:

    A multiplicity of opinions, criticism, and opposition have their legitimate place and require a constant dialogue and the constructive display of contrary ideas. In all this the private sphere of every member of the Church should be respected (whether they are avant-garde or conservative in nature). In “matters of faith and morals” nothing can be attained with mere votes. In this regard, where it is impossible to obtain some sort of consensus (not unanimity), it is better to leave the question open according to ancient conciliar tradition.

    Echoing Küng, Parolin said: “Sometimes … one fails to distinguish between what is essential that cannot change and what is not essential that must be reformed, must change according to the spirit of the Gospel.”

    The secretary of state continued, “There is a whole life of the church that can be renewed.”

    But is there fear that change will cause the far right to take their money and run? You may recall that the church leaves many questions open because, as Küng points out, “it is impossible to obtain some sort of consensus.”

    I am not so sure avoiding decisions is the best route. It is never good to prefer peace to justice.

    Phyllis Zagano
    Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York. Her most recent book is Women: Icons of Christ, and her other books include Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future. Study guides for the book, which is also published in Spanish, French and Portuguese, are available for free download at

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