Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hans Küng: "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Stronger Than the Hierarchy"

In some parallel universe I'm not only a renowned dancer but Hans Küng is pope! Or better still, he's part of the team of diverse people that makes up the papacy!*

Back in this universe, however, I still have trouble touching my toes, while Catholic priest and theologian Hans Küng (pictured at right) addresses the faithful not in St. Peter's Square but in places like Detroit.

Yes, as you may know, Küng addressed the
American Catholic Council in the Motor City yesterday via a video-taped interview. Over 1000 people are attending the ACC this weekend – including a number of my friends from the Twin Cities.

Following are excerpts from Jerry Filteau's National Catholic Reporter article about Kung's inspiring and hopeful message to the ACC.


Famed theologian Fr. Hans Küng has called for a “peaceful” revolution by world Catholics against the absolutism of papal power.

He made the call in a video message June 10, the first evening of a conference in Detroit of the American Catholic Council.

“I think few people realize how powerful the pope is,” Küng said, likening papal power today to the absolute power of French monarchs that the French people revolted against in 1789.

“We have to change an absolutist system without the French Revolution,” he said. “We have to have peaceful change.”

Küng, who was perhaps the most famous of the theological experts at the Second Vatican Council nearly 50 years ago, was born in Switzerland but spent most of his life teaching at the University of Tubingen, Germany.

Now 83, Küng is ecumenical professor emeritus at Tubingen and rarely travels for health reasons, so his message to the ACC was delivered in the form of a half-hour videotaped interview with American theologian Anthony T. Padovano, conducted last year at Küng’s home. [Note: Padovano will be the keynote speaker at the Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's September 17 Synod of the Baptized: "Making Our Voices Heard."]

John Hushon, co-chairman of the ACC, said the conference, being held June 10-12 at Detroit’s Cobo Hall had more than 1,800 registered participants, from at least 44 states and 13 foreign countries.

In the interview with Küng, played on two giant screens in one of the convention center’s main rooms, the theologian predicted change in the church despite resistance from Rome. Vatican II “was a great success, but only 50 percent, he said.

On the one hand, he said, many reforms were realized, including renewal in the liturgy, a new appreciation of Scripture, and other significant changes such as recognition of the importance of the laity and the local church and various changes in church discipline.

“Unfortunately the council was not allowed to speak about the question of celibacy, about the question of birth control and contraception. Of course, ordination of women was far away from all the discussions,” he said.

“Many documents of the council are ambivalent documents because the Rome machinery – the Roman Curia – was able to stop any movement of reform, to stop it not completely, but half way.”

“What also I did not expect,” he added, was “that we could have such a restoration movement as under the Polish pope, and the German pope now.”

When asked what reasons he had for hope of reform in the church today, he answered that hope today is “sometimes a little difficult” in the face of a restorationist hierarchy, but “the world is moving on, going ahead, with or without the church” and “I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is stronger than the hierarchy.”

Referring to current crises in the church – clerical sexual abuse of minors, the shortage of priests, alienation of women and youth – he said, “Humanity learns most by suffering” – whether in the church or in the recent U.S. economic crisis. Even though many economists and others saw the economic meltdown coming, “it was not possible to have a law in Congress before the catastrophe,” he said.

He said he thinks at least some Vatican officials are similarly recognizing that change is needed in the church.

“If we do not learn now, we have to suffer more – more priests will be leaving, more parishes will be without pastors, more churches will be empty” and more young people and women will leave the church or dissociate internally from it, he said. “All these are indications, I think, that we have to change now.”

Chief sponsors of the American Catholic Council are three independent Catholic groups seeking changes in the church: Voice of the Faithful, CORPUS and FutureChurch.

Hushon said when the ACC was formed three years ago it sought to create a “big tent dialogue among all” sectors of the U.S. church, independent of partisan or ideological lines, but “group after group, bishop after archbishop, said no, or ignored us.”

To read Filteau's article in its entirety, click here.

* One Catholic theologian who advocates for a team model for the papacy is Mary Hunt. Speaking on Pacific Radio’s Democracy Now! program shortly after the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, Hunt said:

I still favor and put out to your listeners, a possibility: the notion of an international team for the papacy. If the papacy is supposed to be a symbol of unity and not a person with authority, then it makes much more sense in a post-modern time to think not about one person . . . but in fact to think about an intergenerational, international team of men and women who could in fact meet and lead a billion people using technology and travel as a way to bring many voices into the discussion. So we’re really pushing for a horizontal model of church, not the vertical one that Cardinal Ratzinger represents.

For more discussion on the papacy, see here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
The American Catholic Council: Küng Starts Things Off But I Write About Fox – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, June 11, 2011).
American Catholic Council, Detroit – First Impressions – Brian Coyne (Catholica Forum, June 11, 2011).
Hans Küng Says Only Radical Reforms Can Save the Catholic Church – Anli Serfontein (ENInews via The Progressive Catholic Voice, May 10, 2011).
The American Catholic Conference – A Place Where No Roman Catholic is Allowed to Go – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, June 7, 2011).
Catholics Speak Out in Nationwide Listening Sessions – ACC via The Progressive Catholic Voice (May 15, 2011).
American Catholic Council to Convene in Detroit in June – Jerry Filteau (National Catholic Reporter via The Progressive Catholic Voice, May 2, 2011).
Reflections on an Ordination Golden Anniversary – Eric Hodgens (The Swag via The Progressive Catholic Voice, April 13, 2011).
Launching a Council of the Baptized in St. Paul and Minneapolis – CCCR (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 30, 2011).
Listening Sessions Underway in the St. Paul-Minneapolis Local Church The Progressive Catholic Voice (March 17, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Hans Küng: Still Speaking from the Heart of the Church
"We Are Facing a Structural Problem . . ."
Staying on Board
No Patriarchal Hierarchy, No Rigid Conformity


Terry Nelson said...

I knew you were a 'personality' but I did not know you were a dancer as well.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Only in that parallel universe, Terry!

Blessings to you on this Pentecost Sunday!