The Catholic priest and theologian Hans Küng, who has died aged 93, was solely 11 months youthful than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. For 3 years within the mid-60s the 2 labored harmoniously collectively on the College of Tübingen in south-west Germany; Küng had recruited Father Joseph Ratzinger, as he then was. However by way of their views on the church of which they have been members, they have been centuries aside, Küng remarked in 2013. Benedict, by that point Küng’s boss, was, he stated, “residing intellectually within the Center Ages”.
There are some Vaticanologists who like to invest that, had issues labored out in another way, it may need been the intelligent, charismatic, participating Küng who ended up in cost on the Vatican moderately than the shy, unworldly, donnish Ratzinger. In 1962, simply eight years after being ordained, Küng had sufficiently impressed to be named by Pope John XXIII as a peritus (professional adviser) on the landmark Second Vatican Council, which over the following three years set in regards to the process of reforming the church.
Historians of the gathering later judged that, regardless of his relative youth and lack of seniority, Küng was influential in shaping its ultimate statements that sought to deliver Catholicism into the fashionable world. Whereas the council was in progress, he was appointed to the newly created chair of dogmatic and ecumenical theology at Tübingen, and in addition grew to become the primary director of the college’s institute for ecumenical analysis; earlier than that he had been a professor of elementary theology there (1960-63).
The necessity for Catholicism to construct bridges and equal relationships with different church buildings and faiths was one of many keynote themes of the council. To that finish, working with the younger Ratzinger, he based the journal Ecumenical Research. However the excessive hopes created by Vatican II have been rapidly dashed. In 1968, Küng took a dim view of the insistence of Paul VI, John’s successor, that each one “synthetic” contraception (that’s, something that labored) was sinful. The pope, it was stated, had beforehand tried to tame Küng by providing him a put up within the Vatican. He declined. It may need been step one on a ladder to the highest, however he had extra about him than that. The hole between Küng and Rome widened.
In 1971, his ebook Infallible? An Inquiry dismissed the official instructing (although solely since 1870, Küng identified) that in sure issues of religion and morals the pope may converse infallibly. It resulted in an eight-year wrangle with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Religion that he described as akin to being focused by the Inquisition. In 1979, beneath the comparatively new and theologically conservative Pope John Paul II, Rome withdrew Küng’s licence to show theology at a Catholic college.
It was undoubtedly a blow. The choice was broadly criticised. Greater than 1,000 college students held a candlelit vigil at Tübingen, whereas the Church of England and the pan-protestant World Council of Church buildings expressed critical concern on the implications of Rome’s actions on inter-church discussions. The Vatican, although, wouldn’t change its thoughts, so the authorities at Tübingen needed to take away Küng’s chair from the Catholic school there and put it, in addition to the ecumenical institute he headed, beneath the jurisdiction of the college senate.
By this implies he continued to show there till his retirement in 1996. For the remainder of his life, his martyrdom on the altar of an intransigent church management elevated Küng into the voice of the various Catholics (in some surveys, the vast majority of them within the west) who stay throughout the fold however can not in good conscience comply with the official line opposing feminine monks, married monks, intercourse outdoors marriage and same-sex relationships.
Although he by no means appreciated to make use of the title Father, and eschewed clerical garb in favour of well-cut fits, Küng continued to function a priest throughout the church. The extent of his affect is difficult to measure, however in a latest interview the comic Frank Skinner quoted Küng’s remark that “the church is on the highway to fact however goes down cul-de-sacs on the best way” as a part of the rationale he stays a practising Catholic.
“For a lot of Christians,” Küng’s biographer, the British journalist Robert Nowell, wrote, “maybe particularly for these not in communion with Rome, there was at all times one thing too good to be true about Hans Küng. He mixed the very qualities that most of the Catholic church’s detractors have thought to be completely incompatible: a ardour for fact and loyalty to Rome, an open-minded willingness to just accept the fruits of important inquiry, and adherence to what from the skin was seen as a closed dogmatic system.”
Born within the city of Sursee, north-west of Lucerne in Switzerland, Hans was the oldest of seven youngsters, two of whom have been boys. He was named after his father, a shoe service provider; his mom, Emma (nee Intestine), was a farmer’s daughter. On the age of 11, he felt referred to as to the priesthood and, he recalled in My Battle for Freedom, a 2002 memoir, thereafter stopped sitting subsequent to his girlfriend on the prepare to highschool, having beforehand kissed her simply the as soon as.
He studied on the Gregorian College in Rome, the place his mental talents have been rapidly recognised throughout his coaching. The 2 topics he selected for his thesis – the atheistic humanism of Jean-Paul Sartre (at the moment on the church’s index of forbidden books) and the theology of the Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth – have been an early signal of his broad perspective on religion.
Ordained in 1954 in Saint Peter’s, he did additional tutorial work earlier than spending 18 months in parish work in Lucerne. Propelled into the highlight by the Second Vatican Council, the photogenic Küng (he additionally drove a sports activities automobile) undertook worldwide lecture excursions and attachments to varied theological institutes within the US. Whereas there, he was invited to the White Home to fulfill President John F Kennedy, the primary Catholic holder of the put up.
In 1968, on the top of the Europe-wide pupil protests, Küng and Ratzinger parted firm, with the latter so unsettled by the unrest that he retreated to a extra conservative college. By the point they met once more, over lunch on the papal summer time villa at Castel Gandolfo in the summertime of 2005, it was on the invitation of the brand new Pope Benedict XVI. John Paul II had refused greater than a dozen instances to see Küng, however Ratzinger was eager to sign that the church beneath his management might be an even bigger tent than earlier than.
It was not, nonetheless, large enough to accommodate Küng, whose pursuits had grown significantly wider since his licence had been eliminated. His literary output was at all times prodigious, with greater than 50 titles to his identify, however after 1979 he was more and more drawn to look past his personal yard, with research of Islam, Mozart, the connection between science and faith, and the most important query of all for these in his line of labor: whether or not God exists. On his retirement in 1996, he established the Stiftung Weltethos/Global Ethic Foundation at Tübingen to advertise co-operation and dialogue between the faiths world wide.
Regardless of the impression that this self-confident, intelligent and ever so barely useless priest might have given, Küng was not considered one of nature’s rebels. His chosen strategy would have been to work from inside, however the Catholic church in his heyday was illiberal of such dissenting voices amongst its monks. If the selection was silence or uneasy inner exile, he was not going to chunk his tongue.
When challenged about his maverick position within the historical past of recent Catholicism, he remained fond to the top of quoting considered one of his heroes, Pope Gregory the Nice: “If scandal is taken as the reality, then it’s higher to permit scandal to come up than to desert the reality.”