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Hans Küng, the theologian who needed to face immense

(RNS) — Hans Küng, the contentious Roman Catholic theologian who died at 93 on Tuesday (April 6), as soon as explained his combative nature by pointing out that he used to be Swiss.

“I reach from the land of William Expose and we weren’t brought up to be subservient,” he stated. “Why need to we regularly rush? Standing immense suits a theologian too.”

Küng paid dearly for that independence, being stripped of his apt to show Catholic theology by St. John Paul II and over and over frustrated in his efforts to reform the custom-certain Vatican.


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However Küng’s theology books became bestsellers, his articles receive been printed around the arena and his causes — just like abolishing priestly celibacy, though-provoking papal infallibility and championing interreligious dialogue — became markers for a extra open and questioning Catholicism.

“Küng remained one of many spokesmen of an informal world liberal Catholicism that never found its organizational carry out,” stated Bernhard Lang, a German theologian who studied below Küng at Tübingen College.

“The rebellious Swiss used to be jokingly called ‘Martin Luther Küng’ by his followers, but he didn’t peek himself as a Martin Luther.” He never needed to found a brand new church, correct reform the Catholic one he belonged to, Lang famed in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

“Hans Küng cherished the church. He even cherished the pope,” Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, head of the Swiss bishops’ conference, stated on learning the theologian had died in his home in Tübingen in southwestern Germany.

“He needed a renewed church that presents with contributors’s lives as they are and the arena as it’s a long way.”

Bishop Georg Bätzing, head of the bishops’ conference in neighboring Germany, hailed his “direct to carry out the gospel message comprehensible and give it a predicament in believers’ lives.”

It’s generally forgotten that Küng, who used to be born in Sursee in Lucerne canton in 1928, used to be a trusty priest in correct standing, expert in Catholic universities in Rome and Paris and incardinated, or registered as a priest, in his home diocese of Basel. He additionally wore suits, drove sports cars and skied till slack in his long lifestyles.

He used to be self-assured to the purpose of conceitedness, unafraid to criticize popes and inquire church teachings. After the Vatican barred him from instructing Catholic theology in 1979, he persevered as a professor of  ecumenical theology at Tübingen, whose theology division has deep custom that incorporated Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. In 1995 Küng launched the World Ethic Foundation to hunt down general moral ground amongst the arena’s faiths.

Küng crossed swords early on with the Vatican, which began investigating him in 1957 after he printed a e-book questioning whether or now now not Catholics and Protestants receive been in actuality so divided over points that led to the Reformation.

He played an active role on the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, the place as a theological adviser he argued for liberalizing reforms and dashed off speeches in Latin — the legit council language — for bishops from several worldwide locations to be taught to the plenary.

Does God Exist? by Hans Küng. Image courtesy of Amazon

“Does God Exist?” by Hans Küng. Image courtesy of Amazon

In subsequent years, he over and over challenged church instructing with bestsellers just like “Infallible?” (1970), “On Being a Christian” (1974) and “Does God Exist?” (1978). After he wrote a stinging criticism of St. John Paul II’s first year in office, the Vatican withdrew his permission to show Catholic theology.

That didn’t cease him. Among other of his over 70 books receive been “Can the Catholic Church Be Saved?” (2011). In “Die Fully happy?” (2014), he stated he could presumably well decide for assisted suicide — which the church opposes — “if I direct any signs of dementia.”

His increasing curiosity in other religions prompted Küng, who spoke six languages fluently, to additionally write books about Judaism, Islam and Asian faiths. His works receive been translated into about 30 diversified languages.

Küng had a famously though-provoking relationship with Pope Benedict XVI, whom he dropped at Tübingen to show in the 1960s when the then-Father Ratzinger used to be a liberal theologian. He later became extra conservative and headed the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog agency, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sooner than becoming pope in 2005.

Rapidly after that, the 2 broken-down colleagues held a non-public assembly to discuss world moral questions. Benedict did now now not take Küng’s instructing ban and the theologian soon went serve to blasting the conservative pope.

Küng’s work on world ethics brought him into contact with political and social leaders around the arena. Before the United Worldwide locations Overall Meeting in 2001, he repeated the motto: “No peace amongst nations with out peace amongst religions. No peace amongst religions with out dialogue between the religions. No dialogue between the religions with out investigation of the root of the religions.”

He used to be eager on the election of Pope Francis in 2013, seeing in him a possible successor to the reforming Pope John XXIII, but step by step grew dissatisfied with him too. 

The Vatican each day L’Osservatore Romano carried an interview on Wednesday with Cardinal Walter Kasper, broken-down head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Team spirit, who used to be Küng’s assistant in Tübingen as a graduate pupil in the early 1960s.

“He used to be a combative man, he cherished a dialogue painted in grand colours,” the German cardinal recalled. “We had our variations, but that never prompted any enmity. … Within the depth of his coronary heart, he used to be Catholic. He never regarded as leaving the church.” Küng had given the church “reform suggestions which receive change into latest points in Germany,” Kasper stated, including suggestions just like girls folks’s ordination or elective celibacy with which Kasper did now now not agree.

However youthful church leaders receive drifted in Küng’s direction. Gmür and Bätzing, as an instance, enhance blessing same-intercourse couples, as does Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.

“Küng spearheaded two main dispositions in Catholic theology after Vatican II,” Massimo Faggioli, professor of historical theology at Villanova College, informed Religion News Carrier. “His books took theology out of the shadow of church modify and he looked at religions with a world standpoint. His work on world ethics made him irregular in enchantment and impact.”

Margot Kässmann, a prominent German Lutheran theologian, recalled Küng’s example for others. “As a pupil, I learned from him the map to face immense,” she stated. “You can need gotten to withstand your convictions, although they are not frequently a majority to your church.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, additionally a Protestant, praised Küng as an exemplary public mental in a condolence message to his sister. “With his Swiss incorruptibility, he never evaded the compulsory dispute about the apt direction to peace and thought,” he wrote.


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The London Catholic weekly The Tablet, a usual outlet for Küng’s articles, called the slack theologian “one of basically the most influential and prophetic voices of 20th century Christianity.”

It quoted the Rev. Yves Congar, a French theologian additionally active on the Second Vatican Council, as announcing of his Swiss colleague: “Küng goes clear-slice love an arrow. He’s a tense, modern form, moderately impatient … We want such contributors.”

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