Kung pins hope on Francis

Kung pins hope on Francis

[Is “Professor” Hans playing “pin the tail on the donkey”?]

FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK [for] 28 April 2016

Professor Hans Küng, long regarded as the enfant terrible among Catholic theologians though he is now an illustrious 88-year-old, has asked Pope Francis to open a theological dialogue on the subject of infallibility. He says the Pope’s response, which he has just received, has been positive. This is not hard to believe. Ever since his election to the papacy, Pope Francis has acted as if the dialogue Professor Küng wants has already occurred and the result is settled. Francis is as undogmatic a pope as it is possible to imagine. But if this amounts to a redefinition of the papal teaching office in practice, what need is there to revisit a theory that has, so to speak, been left behind?

The answer is to do with a phrase that Küng coined a long time ago, “creeping infallibility”. In nearly 150 years there has been only one clear example of the exercise of the power to teach infallibly ex cathedra as described by the First Vatican Council – the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in 1950. But according to Professor Küng the notion that papal teaching is protected from error by the Holy Spirit has spread, over the centuries, until it covers almost every papal utterance. He has asked the radical question – what is the basis for this assumption? And there are no easy answers. The mistake, if it is a mistake, goes to the heart of the modern papacy and the role it has played in the Catholic Church in recent years. Until recently it was still the predominant and “official” view. Many still hold it.

This is well illustrated in the discussion that followed the publication of Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Conservative critics were appalled that he appeared to have contradicted “the teaching of the Church”, particularly over the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion. Many of his defenders replied that he had not, though they have not explained how his position can be squared with the uncompromising words of Pope John Paul II in his 1981 document Familiaris Consortio. “They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist,” he declared, with no exceptions for hard cases. There is no doubt, furthermore, that this rule was long-standing and had only been called into question in recent years. By ignoring it, Francis conveyed that he thought it was a mistake. Indeed, the majority at two synods of bishops on the family, to which he was responding, seemed to think so too – or so their silence on the point implied.

There are a host of other controversial questions which over the years have been similarly settled by a papal fiat, ranging from birth control to women’s ordination. If Hans Küng is right, none of them can be regarded as definitive and binding, even when they have been labelled as such. But whether Pope Francis wants to open these floodgates just now must be uncertain. Having navigated the Church through one difficult debate, he may be looking for some peace and quiet. On the other hand, Professor Küng has been waiting a very long time and will not live for ever.

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3 comments on “Kung pins hope on Francis

  1. [Some fellow neo-Modernists disagree, considering Fr. Hans as naive]

    Appeal by ‘silenced’ priests fails to elicit Vatican response

    Dissident theologians accuse church watchdog of heartless, unchristian attitude

    Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 17:54
    Paddy Agnew

    Fr Iggy O Donovan says Swiss theologian Hans Küng is ‘hopelessly optimistic’ in perceiving a ‘new freedom’ in the Vatican.

    An appeal by dissident theologians for “accountability and transparency” within the Catholic Church’s powerful Congregation For the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has yet to receive a response from the Vatican authorities.

    Vatican senior spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said he had not read the document, adding that it was very unlikely that there would be any public response from the CDF.
    Other Holy See insiders suggested that there was nothing new in the dissidents’ critique, adding that it looked like similar criticism “voiced 10, 20 or 30 years ago”.

    The appeal, written by 15 dissident and silenced theologians, including Irish priests Tony Flannery and Brian D’Arcy, was sent last February to German Cardinal, Ludwig Muller, the Prefect of the Congregation For the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

    In their document, the dissidents repeat long held objections to the authoritarian, self-referential and seemingly heartless manner in which the Church’s theological watchdog body sanctions and disciplines dissenting priests, saying that the CDF “doesn’t reflect the gospel values of justice, truth, integrity and mercy that the Catholic Church professes to uphold”.

    They continued: “The CDF acts in ways that are out of keeping with contemporary concepts of human rights, accountability and transparency that the world expects from the Christian community and which the Catholic Church demands from secular organisations.”

    The dissidents’ appeal to the CDF attempts to enlist Pope Francis to their cause, pointing to a key consideration in his recent post-synodal exhortation, in which Francis wrote that “not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the Magisterium [Church teachings]”.

    Ironically, the well-known dissident Swiss theologian, Hans Küng, pointed to exactly the same passage of the exhortation in an open letter published on Wednesday in which he speaks of a “new freedom” in the Vatican.

    Recounting how he had been “overjoyed” to receive a letter from Pope Francis in response “to my request to give room to a free discussion on the dogma of infallibility”, Küng writes of a “new spirit that I have always expected from the magisterium”.

    Vatican insiders, however, argue that Professor Küng may be a little over-optimistic, pointing out that the difficulties currently encountered by Pope Francis in his attempts to reform the Curia do not suggest any sort of “new spirit”.

    Fr Flannery has recounted how by way of response to the dissident’s appeal, the CDF had instructed his superior general to send him a copy of “To Promote and Safeguard the Faith”, a 2015 CDF publication.

    Augustinian theologian, Iggy O’Donovan, one of five Irish priests to have signed the appeal, told The Irish Times: “Küng has got it wrong. He is hopelessly optimistic. Pope Francis is a well-intentioned man but the Curia is fiendishly difficult to reform.”

  2. As I said elsewhere, the fact that Kung, who to me must go down in history as one of the most evil anti Church heretics of modern times, likes Pope Francis and sees in him hope for his cause, says bucket loads about our current Pope.

    Again I would ask, why aren’t the alarm bells ringing for Catholic Answers, Church militant, Mark Shea, Jimmy Akin etc?

    What does it take to wake these people up?

  3. The Tablet: “Francis is as undogmatic a pope as it is possible to imagine.”

    Well, in a manner of speaking on some things. The current modernist pope has not been too shy to try to invent new dogmas – like on climate change and global warming. He can be dogmatic, passive-aggressive, Jansenist, clericalist, and Ultramontane when he wants to be.

    Don’t miss the debate on the Bergoglio pontifical style over at First Things, if you haven’t seen it yet:



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