Page 6, 5th April 1991

5th April 1991
Page 6
Page 6, 5th April 1991 — Catholic theologian or teacher with contempt?

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Locations: Stuttgart


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Catholic theologian or teacher with contempt?

Brian Ferme IN December 1979 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Declaration on Some Major Points in the Theological Doctrine of Professor Hans Kung". The declaration pointed out that Kung had departed in his writings from "the integral truth of the Catholic faith" and further pronounced that "he can no longer be considered a Catholic theologian nor function as such in a teaching role." Kung was considered as having "contempt for the magisterium of the church."

Controversy followed this declaration and Kung continued to publish regularly on a wide range of issues frequently arguing that there are key areas in the church that need reform: the failure to acknowledge and authorise an active and authoritative role to the laity; that there was an excessive centralisation of power in the Roman curia; and his view that the present Pope was a "spiritual autocrat''.

This present collection of previously printed essays, most of them already in English, underlines both Kung's basic positions and why the SCDF justifiably felt it important to clarify their understandable questioning of his theological claims. Kung continues to provoke and challenge and he writes in a generally combative style. He suggests that the reason he decided to publish this book was to "keep hope alive" — to send a signal to the disappointed and resigned. The latter, among whom Kung counts himself, are presumably those who feel that a harsh wind blows through the church most especially against reformminded theologians.

Given the significance of the basic questions, this collection is particularly uneven and at times irrelevant. The church has developed and matured since they were originally written and a number depend for their understanding on the immediate situation to which they were addressed. 1 hus the exchange of views between Kung and the now deceased Bishop Moser of Rottenburg-Stuttgart are interesting historical pieces but it is difficult to see why they should have been included, given the need for a fairly precise knowledge of the pastoral situation in that diocese of some ten years past.

The general thesis is predictable — in fact well summarised by the 1979 declaration — and it is difficult to understand why the publisher urged Kung to collect these essays. They hardly offer a considered answer to the questions they pose and cannot take into account changed historical perspectives. Thus changing patterns in eastern Europe are simply not considered. In general this is a very disappointing book and its basic contention that the enthusiasm of Vatican II has been lost is patently shallow. The enthusiasm remains but is different in character and in a very real sense considerably deeper and more solid than Professor Kung would have us believe.

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