Hans Küng, Catholic theologian who challenged papal authority, dies at 93

The dying was introduced by the International Ethic Basis, which Dr. Küng based in 1995. He had Parkinson’s illness, however the fast trigger was not disclosed.

Dr. Küng, an ordained priest who labored primarily as a scholar and author, was regarded by admirers and detractors alike as some of the necessary Catholic thinkers of the previous century. One among his early books, first printed in English as “The Council and Reunion,” helped present the mental framework for among the reforms instituted on the Second Vatican Council (typically known as Vatican II) below Pope John XXIII.

Dr. Küng was among the many youngest theologians at Vatican II, which ran from 1962 to 1965, and he cultivated a worldwide fame as an articulate critic, fluent in six languages, of what he thought of the church’s failure to adapt to trendy instances. Throughout a 1963 talking tour of the US, he was invited to the White Home by President John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president, however he was banned from showing at Catholic College in Washington.

It wasn’t Catholicism that he opposed, Dr. Küng mentioned, however Roman Catholicism — particularly, what he considered as an insular, self-reinforcing Vatican paperwork that amounted to an authoritarian regime. For hundreds of years, he mentioned, the Vatican had uncared for its non secular mission because it pursued the buildup of energy and wealth, with the pope reigning as an absolute monarch.

“Should not the resemblances between the Communist and Catholic techniques placing?” he mentioned. “Should not each absolutist, centralist, totalitarian, in brief, enemies of human freedom?”

(He additionally likened the church’s sample of clerical obedience to the lockstep considering of navy leaders in Nazi Germany.)

Dr. Küng believed monks needs to be allowed to marry and that popes needs to be elected not by a secret vote of the School of Cardinals however by unusual monks and church members. He advocated equal rights for ladies and mentioned contraception, which the church opposes, needs to be a matter of particular person conscience.

His concepts had been so revolutionary that many noticed them as tantamount to a name for a second Reformation. Certainly, some students considered Dr. Küng as probably the most critical risk to the Catholic Church since Martin Luther, the Sixteenth-century German theologian whose criticism of the papacy led to a schism that gave rise to the Protestant Reformation. (Wags even referred to Dr. Küng as “Martin Luther Küng.”)

Nonetheless, he by no means renounced his Catholic religion, and the church by no means eliminated him from the priesthood.

“I affirm the papacy for the Catholic Church,” he wrote in “The Catholic Church: A Quick Historical past” (2001), “however on the identical time indefatigably name for a radical reform of it in accordance with the criterion of the gospel.”

Dr. Küng advisable a decentralized Catholic Church, with the pope and cardinals stripped of their function as the only interpreters of ecclesiastical doctrine. He maintained that the primary allegiance of a Catholic was to the instance of Christ, to not the church’s hierarchy and what he thought of its capricious and outmoded guidelines.

“Many Christians are saying, ‘Jesus, sure; the church, no!’ ” he mentioned in a 1977 speech on the College of Notre Dame.

In his dozens of books, Dr. Küng examined Catholicism via the lens of different spiritual traditions. He used historic evaluation to query the virgin start of Jesus and to point out that the Catholic Church had existed for 1,000 years earlier than celibacy turned necessary for monks.

His 1970 guide “Infallible?: An Inquiry” (printed in English in 1971) attacked the doctrine of papal infallibility: the notion that when the pope speaks on issues of religion and morality, he’s inerrantly appropriate.

Dr. Küng famous that the doctrine had been adopted solely in 1870 and that there have been quite a few historic examples of popes making silly, ignorant and morally doubtful choices.

In a assessment within the New York Occasions, theological scholar Martin Marty known as Dr. Küng’s examine “a reverent guide by a dissatisfied man who urges that Catholicism dwell not by the propositions of the church however by Christ’s gospel.”

The Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Doctrine of the Religion — the physique that determines orthodoxy within the church — advised Dr. Küng to cease espousing what it known as his “mistaken views” as a professor of Catholic theology. He refused.

In 1979, after John Paul II was named pope, the Vatican declared that Dr. Küng had to surrender his place on the College of Tübingen. (It’s a state college, however professors of Catholic theology needed to be accredited by the church.)

By then, Dr. Küng was a best-selling creator with a big following amongst liberal-minded monks and church members. College students held demonstrations in opposition to the Vatican’s determination, and tons of of Protestant and Catholic clerics signed letters of protest.

Dr. Küng moved to a unique division at Tübingen as a professor of ecumenical theology and as director of the college’s Institute for Ecumenical Analysis.

One of many Vatican officers who took half within the determination was Joseph Ratzinger, a German priest Dr. Küng had helped recruit to the Tübingen college. However as Dr. Küng held on to his liberal spiritual views, Ratzinger grew extra conservative. He rose within the church hierarchy, turning into head of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Religion. In 2005, after the dying of John Paul II, he turned Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr. Küng, who had criticized John Paul II’s management, had a cordial dialogue with Benedict in 2005, however the church’s stance towards the theologian didn’t soften. Dr. Küng turned a robust critic of his onetime colleague.

“I feel it’s crucial that we don’t sink into pessimism,” Dr. Küng advised the German journal Der Spiegel in 2011. “However my analysis has proven that the church is sick, and it’s the illness of the Roman system. Below these circumstances, I can’t simply behave like an ineffective physician and say that every part might be high-quality.”

Hans Küng was born March 19, 1928, in Sursee, Switzerland. His father had a profitable shoe enterprise, and his mom was a homemaker. He had 5 youthful sisters.

He was 11 when he determined to grow to be a priest. He studied on the Pontifical Gregorian College in Rome, was ordained in 1954 and obtained a doctorate in theology in 1957 from the Catholic Institute of Paris. He additionally studied in Germany, England, Spain and the Netherlands.

Dr. Küng served as a priest in Switzerland within the late Fifties earlier than starting his educational profession. He joined the college on the College of Tübingen in 1960.

One among his extra common books, “On Being a Christian” (1974), offered greater than 200,000 copies in Germany. One other, “Does God Exist?” (1978), wrestled with probably the most elementary query of faith. Dr. Küng’s conclusion was that nobody may show or disprove God’s existence.

His different books lined such topics as music, Judaism, dying and dying, trendy artwork, psychology, racism, economics and the atmosphere. A few of his writings have been tailored for a symphonic work by British composer Jonathan Harvey.

When he retired as a professor in 1995, Dr. Küng established the International Ethic Basis, which seeks to advertise understanding throughout cultures and religions. His admirers included former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former United Nations secretary common Kofi Annan and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu.

When Argentine Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio turned Pope Francis in 2013, Dr. Küng hoped for a brand new period of liberalism within the Catholic Church, however he was dissatisfied that vital change was sluggish in coming.

He had lengthy argued that the church was a human establishment and that monks and popes had been topic to the identical flaws and failings as the remainder of mankind.

“There are not any unreformable areas of the Church,” Dr. Küng as soon as mentioned, “as a result of the divine and immutable is nowhere besides embodied within the human and mutable.”

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