Page 7, 29th May 1981

29th May 1981
Page 7
Page 7, 29th May 1981 — Stranger than fiction

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Organisations: Second Vatican Council
Locations: Paris, Rome


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Stranger than fiction

A Passion for Truth: Hans Kung, A Biography by Robert Nowell (Collins, 377 pages.

I APPROACHED this book with apprehension after overhearing a remark which suggested that the subtitle should read 'Hans Kung — a Hagiography' rather than a biography'. Let me dispel, that myth immediately. Robert Nowell is certainly sympathetic towards Kung, as we are warned before ever reading the book, but on the whole he manages not to give Kung the aura of sanctity I was led to expect.

The book introduces the reader to Kung the theologian. It is a biography through bibliography. -using the publication of Kung's works as dates in the story. The Swiss born Kung, like so many of his contemporaries, was profoundly affected by the Second Vatican Council which he saw as a moment of refreshing opportunity. Trained in Paris and Rome he had, even before the Council, produced his first major work called Justification and a second work The Council and Reunion put before his readers some of his hopes for Vatican As early as 1971 there were those asking if Kung was still a Catholic. This question was prompted by the publication in 1970 of •Infallible'? a discussion of authority in the Church. Though he managed to weather this particular storm. the clouds grew heavy again with his massive work On Being a Christian'.

This huge book certainly raised some important Christological questions, but Kung stressed that his main task was pastoral.

After introducing us to On Being a Christian Nowell then spends the rest of the book tracing in some detail the events which led up to the 'sudden' withdrawal of Kung's license to teach which was published on December 18th, 1979.

Robert Now ell's book is a good introduction to the works of Hans Kung telling the story of his constant search for truth, a search which brings with it conflict s;ith Rome, the German Bishops and other theologians.

Bernard Bickers

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