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Countdown to the Conclave, Day 4: The New York Times and Hans Kung

By Deal W. Hudson & Deacon Keith Fournier
March 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Whoever walks out of the doors onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica next week, or the following, will not be a disciple, even secretly, of Hans Kung.  His legacy, if is there is such a thing, is gradually dying out with the retirement, one-by-one, of the tenured professors of theology in our nation's Catholic universities.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - More Conclave hilarity yesterday, this time from a reliable source of hilarity, the New York Times. Our friend at the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, immediately sent out an email alert when the op-ed by Hans Kung appeared. 

Prof. Kung, now 85 years old, is himself the embodiment of what John Paul II and Benedict XVI rescued the Church from becoming.  This is not to say that Kung is not a man of immense learning -- he is! -- or a scholar with a worldwide reputation -- he has that! -- or even a man who would be a delightful companion over a glass of wine at dinner -- he would be!  (Indeed, Benedict XVI surprised everyone by having him to dinner in the Vatican in 2005.)

But to feature Prof. Kung on the last day of the pontificate of Benedict XVI is the equivalent of the New York Times holding up its middle finger to the Holy Father, the Church, and the 1.3 billion Catholics around the world. This is how Donohue summarizes Kung's evaluation of the latest pontificate: According to Kung, Benedict XVI

"'irritated the Protestant churches, Jews, Muslims, the Indians of Latin America, women, reform-minded theologians and all pro-reform Catholics.' He blames the pope (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) for covering up the sexual abuse of minors, and cites 'Vatileaks' as a problem. He also says the two major scandals of his tenure were giving 'recognition' to the 'Society of St. Pius X, which is bitterly opposed to the Second Vatican Council, as well as of a Holocaust denier, Bishop Richard Williamson.'"

Kung should know better than to speak to his elders that way! Benedict XVI, now pope emeritus, is one year older, having been born in 1927.  And at least Benedict XVI knew when to "hang up his spikes," whereas Prof. Kung remains on the "spirit of Vatican II" treadmill, much like poor Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill, only to watch it roll back down again.  

If you are not familiar with the name Hans Kung, let us provide a few basic facts: He was the first major Catholic theologian to reject the doctrine of papal infallibility (see his book, Fallibility: An Inquiry, 1971). Eight years later he was stripped of his license to teach Catholic theology. His criticism of the Church, and the papacy in particular, has continued unabated ever since, including an embrace of euthanasia among other intrinsically evil practices.  

Hans Kung is, it seems to us, very much a tragic figure, one of the best minds and best scholars the Church has produced in the last century.  But somewhere along the road he took a wrong turn and became the virtual magisterium of Catholic dissent, a font of authority much imbibed by theologians in the academy, including many Catholic departments of "religious studies." But he became irrelevant to the development of Christian doctrine over the past forty years.  

The mind of the Church developed instead through the faith and work of Joseph Ratzinger and Karol Wojtyla, with assists from theologians such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri du Lubac and their Communio circle, along with Americans such as Prof. Germain Grisez, Prof. David Schindler, and Cardinal Avery Dulles.

Whoever walks out of the doors onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica next week, or the following, will not be a disciple, even secretly, of Hans Kung.  His legacy, if is there is such a thing, is gradually dying out with the retirement, one-by-one, of the tenured professors of theology in our nation's Catholic universities.  Yes, there are other alien ideologies alive and well among the young generation of Catholic academics, but the roots of genuine Catholic theology have been re-nourished over the last two pontificates and new growth is already in evidence, e.g., the John Paul II Institute at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

The next pope will not only continue that true aggiornamento but will be the grateful recipient of how John Paul II and Benedict XVI won the war of ideas within the Church, a conflict initiated by none other than Prof. Hans Kung.

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