Sunday, March 3, 2013

Professor Hans Küng Slaps at the Catholic Church from the Op Ed page of the New York Times

The New York Times can't depend solely on its own op ed writers to scold the Catholic Church.  After all, Bill Keller, Frank Bruni, and Maureen Dowd deserve a day off now and then.  Sometimes the Times needs to find outside talent to slam the Church--a heavy hitter like Hans Küng, the famous dissident Catholic theologian.

Thus, on the day Pope Benedict resigned the papacy, Catholics should not have been surprised to find an essay by Professor Küng on the op ed page of the Times--an essay that scorching criticized good Pope Benedict.

Professor Hans Küng
As a practicing Catholic,  I found Kung's essay--titled "A Vatican Spring?"--highly offensive. First of all, I was shocked that Küng would compare Pope Benedict to the Arab leaders who were toppled in the so-called Arab Spring. And I was puzzled that Küng apparently views the possibility of an Arab-Spring type upheaval in the Catholic Church in a positive light, since so far at least the recent turmoil in the Middle East has brought more chaos than reform.

Second, I found parts of Küng's essay to be incoherent, particularly his commentary on the history of the papacy. For example what did Küng mean by this passage:
The efforts of the reform councils in the 15th century, the reformers of the 16th century, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the liberalism of the 19th century met only partial success.
Partial success at what?  Is Küng saying that the Reformation, the French Revolution, and the Enlightenment were only partially successful in changing the Catholic Church? If so, I suppose he is right, because if these movements had been totally successful, we would not have a Catholic Church.

And what did Küng mean when he wrote that the Catholic Church "needs a pope who is open to the concerns of the Reformation to modernity"? Perhaps this sentence was poorly translated from the German, because I find it astonishing that a Catholic theologian would say--in the opening years of the 21st century--that the Church needs a pope who is open to the Reformation's concerns about anything--and particularly modernity.

In addition, I totally reject Küng's description of the status of our Church. Küng believes the Catholic Church is in danger of "shrinking into an increasingly irrelevant sect," and cautions us not to be "mislead by the media hype of grandly staged papal mass events or by the wild applause of conservative Catholic youth groups."  No, Küng assures us, "[b]ehind the facade, the whole house is crumbling."

With all due respect, Professor Küng, your dire predictions about the future of the Catholic Church are sheer nonsense.  The Catholic Church is exploding in Africa, particularly East Africa; and we are holding our own in the United States and other parts of the world.

And I was deeply offended by his dismissal of devout young Catholics. I attended Catholic World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, and I recall seeing thousands of young European Catholics crowded on the banks of the Rhine River hoping to get a glimpse of Pope Benedict.  This was Pope Benedict's first participation in Catholic World Youth Day, and I recall wondering if young people would be as enthusiastic about him as they were about John Paul.

On that day on the Rhine, young Catholics were wildly enthusiastic about Pope Benedict. "Benedetto! Benedetto!", they shouted again and again.  It was an experience I will never forget.

I hate to disagree with Professor Hans, but the Catholic Church is not "shrinking into an increasingly irrelevant sect."  He must have us confused with the Anglicans.

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