Küng to Benedict: Set About Reform
Even if you don't agree with all he writes (and I don't) Hans Küng is a theologian of great learning, distinction and experience. He's forgotten more theology and church history than I will ever know. And even if you don't agree with all he writes in his open letter to the world's bishops, it is well worth reading. (I could have done without the grandiose "pastoral letter" trope, addressing his remarks to the "Venerable Bishops," but c'est la théologie.) In light of what he calls "the worst credibility crisis since the reformation," Küng lists several missed opportunities , and then makes his suggestions: 1.) Do not keep silent; (2) Set about reform; (3) Act in a collegial way; (4) Unconditional obedience is owed to God alone; (5) Work for regional solutions; and (6) Call for a council. The former colleague to Pope Benedict begins in a personal vein...
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and I were the youngest theologians at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. Now we are the oldest and the only ones still fully active. I have always understood my theological work as a service to the Roman Catholic Church. For this reason, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I am making this appeal to you in an open letter. In doing so, I am motivated by my profound concern for our church, which now finds itself in the worst credibility crisis since the Reformation. Please excuse the form of an open letter; unfortunately, I have no other way of reaching you.
I deeply appreciated that the pope invited me, his outspoken critic, to meet for a friendly, four-hour-long conversation shortly after he took office. This awakened in me the hope that my former colleague at Tubingen University might find his way to promote an ongoing renewal of the church and an ecumenical rapprochement in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.
Unfortunately, my hopes and those of so many engaged Catholic men and women have not been fulfilled. And in my subsequent correspondence with the pope, I have pointed this out to him many times. Without a doubt, he conscientiously performs his everyday duties as pope, and he has given us three helpful encyclicals on faith, hope and charity. But when it comes to facing the major challenges of our times, his pontificate has increasingly passed up more opportunities than it has taken:
Missed is the opportunity for rapprochement with the Protestant churches: Instead, they have been denied the status of churches in the proper sense of the term and, for that reason, their ministries are not recognized and intercommunion is not possible.
Missed is the opportunity for the long-term reconciliation with the Jews: Instead the pope has reintroduced into the liturgy a preconciliar prayer for the enlightenment of the Jews, he has taken notoriously anti-Semitic and schismatic bishops back into communion with the church, and he is actively promoting the beatification of Pope Pius XII, who has been accused of not offering sufficient protections to Jews in Nazi Germany.
James Martin, SJ