Hans Küng

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Hans Küng
Küng3.JPG
Küng in 2009
Born(1928-03-19)19 March 1928
Sursee, Switzerland
Died6 April 2021(2021-04-06) (aged 93)
Tübingen, Germany
NationalitySwiss
Alma mater
Occupation
Signature
Hans-Küng-Signature-Transparent.png

Hans Küng (German: [ˈhans ˈkʏŋ]; 19 March 1928 – 6 April 2021) was a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and author. From 1995 he was president of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Stiftung Weltethos).

Küng was ordained a priest in 1954, joined the faculty of the University of Tübingen in 1960, and served as a theological adviser during the Second Vatican Council. In 1978, after he rejected the doctrine of papal infallibility, he was not allowed to continue teaching as a Catholic theologian, but he remained at Tübingen as a professor of ecumenical theology until he retired with the title professor emeritus in 1996. He remained a Catholic priest until his death. He supported the spiritual substance of religion, while questioning traditional dogmatic Christianity.[1] He published Christianity and the world religions: paths of dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism in 1986, wrote Dying with Dignity together with Walter Jens in 1998, and signed the appeal Church 2011, The Need for a New Beginning. He was awarded honorific doctorates internationally, and received numerous awards including the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in 2008. An asteroid is named after him.

Life and work[edit]

Education[edit]

Küng was born in Sursee, Canton of Lucerne.[2][3] He was the eldest of seven siblings; his father managed a shoe store.[4] He studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in 1954.[5] He said his first Mass in St. Peter's Basilica preaching to the Swiss guard, many of whom he knew personally.[4] He continued his education in various European institutions, including the Sorbonne[5] and the Institut Catholique de Paris,[4] where he obtained a doctorate in theology in 1957.[6] He then did pastoral work in Lucerne for two years. At the invitation of Karl Barth, he delivered a lecture on the prospects for reform of the Catholic Church—he was very optimistic—just a week before Pope John XXIII announced his plans for a council in January 1959.[4]

Career[edit]

Küng taught for a year at the University of Münster[6] and then, in 1960, he was appointed professor of theology at the University of Tübingen in Germany.[5] He launched his writing career that same year with The Council, Reform and Reunion in which he outlined much of what became the program of the upcoming council; it proved a bestseller in several countries.[4] In 1962 he was appointed peritus by Pope John XXIII, serving as the youngest (34) expert theological advisor to participants in the Second Vatican Council until its conclusion in 1965. At Küng's instigation, the Catholic faculty at Tübingen appointed another peritus, Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, as professor of dogmatic theology.[7]

During a 1963 tour of the United States, Küng gave the lecture "The Church and Freedom" to enthusiastic audiences of more than 25,000 at several universities around the country, but was not allowed to appear at the Catholic University of America.[8][4] He received the first of many honorary doctorates from St. Louis University that year, but the Jesuit school there was chastised for not getting Rome's permission to honor Küng.[4] In April of 1963, he accepted an invitation to visit John F. Kennedy at the White House,[9] where Kennedy introduced him to a group of politicians saying "this is what I would call a new frontier man of the Catholic Church".[4]

Küng's doctoral thesis, "Justification. La doctrine de Karl Barth et une réflexion catholique", was published in English in 1964 as Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth. It identified a number of areas of agreement between Barthian and Catholic theologies of justification, concluding that the differences were not fundamental and did not warrant a division in the Church. (The book included a letter from Karl Barth attesting that he agreed with Küng's representation of his theology. Barth however did not agree with Küng's conclusion that the Reformation was an overreaction.) In this book Küng argued that Barth, like Martin Luther, overreacted against the Catholic Church which, despite its imperfections, has been and remains the body of Christ.[10] Veteran newsperson Patricia Lefevere,[11]writing for the National Catholic Reporter, says the Holy Office "opened a secret file (the infamous 399/57i) on Küng shortly after he wrote [this book]".[4]

Küng in 1973

In the late 1960s, he became the first major Catholic theologian since the late 19th century Old Catholic Church schism to publicly reject the doctrine of papal infallibility in his book Infallible? An Inquiry (1971). It was published three years after the Vatican had first asked Küng to address accusations against his earlier volume, The Church. After the publication of Infallible, Vatican officials requested he appear in Rome to answer charges. Küng stood his ground, demanding to see the file the church had amassed and to speak with whoever was evaluating his work.[4] But Küng had also criticized celibacy, wanted to open the clergy and the diaconate to women, called the ban on dispensations for priests who wanted to leave the priesthood "a violation of human rights", and had written that current Catholic practices "contradicted the Gospel and ancient Catholic tradition and ought to be abolished".[4] On 18 December 1979, he was stripped of his license to teach as a Catholic theologian.[12] Sixty American and Canadian theologians protested the Vatican action and contradicted the Vatican's ruling by saying: "We publicly affirm our recognition that he is indeed a Roman Catholic theologian."[13][a] Küng later described the Vatican's ruling as "my personal experience of the Inquisition".[15] Lefevere writes that:[4]

In Disputed Truth, [the second] of his three volumes of memoirs, Küng spent 80 pages reviewing charges against him — secret meetings by German bishops and Vatican officials outside of Germany, betrayal by seven of his 11 Tübingen colleagues, and a near physical and emotional breakdown caused by exhaustion from his efforts to answer Vatican accusations while preserving his place in a state university.

He lost his teaching position at the Catholic theology school, but remained a priest and continued to teach as a tenured professor of ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen's Institute for Ecumenical Research, which he had founded and directed since the 1960s, until his retirement in 1996.[16][1]

While a guest professor at the University of Chicago for three months in 1981, he was invited to only one Catholic institution, the University of Notre Dame. He appeared on the Phil Donahue Show.[17] In October 1986, he participated in the Third Buddhist–Christian Theological Encounter held at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.[18] Küng said his inter-faith studies "solidified his own roots in a living faith in Christ" which he said lasted his entire career. "Indeed, Küng long held that steadfastness in one's own faith and a capacity for dialogue with those of another belief are complementary virtues".[4]

In the early 1990s, Küng initiated a project called Weltethos ("Global Ethic"), which is an attempt at describing what the world's religions have in common (rather than what separates them) and at drawing up a minimal code of rules of behaviour that everyone can accept. His vision of a global ethic was embodied in the document Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration. This Declaration was signed at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions by religious and spiritual leaders from around the world. Later Küng's project would culminate in the United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations (2001) to which Küng was assigned as one of 19 "eminent persons". Even though it was completed shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (in September 2001), it was not covered in the U.S. media, a fact about which Küng complained.[19][20][21]

In 1986, he met in person with Charles Curran, a theologian who was then being threatened with the loss of his license to teach as a Catholic theologian. He encouraged Curran to continue his work and shared his experience of support and betrayal by his colleagues.[22] In the 1990s, Küng spoke out on behalf of fellow Catholic theologian Eugen Drewermann who lost his license to teach Catholic theology and was suspended as a priest because he, like Küng, challenged dogmatic structures that repress freedom in the church. Küng delivered the laudatio when Drewermann was awarded the Herbert-Haag-Prize for Freedom in the Church in 1992 at the University of Tübingen.[23] Years later when the possible beatification of Pope John Paul II was under consideration, Kühn objected that his was "an authoritarian pontificate which suppressed the rights of both women and theologians". He said John Paul's treatment of Latin American liberation theologians like Gustavo Gutiérrez and Leonardo Boff was unchristian.[24]

In March 1991, he gave a talk titled "No Peace Among Nations until Peace Among the Religions" at UCSD's Price Center. He visited the nearby Beth El synagogue and spoke there on modern German–Jewish relations.[25]

In 2003, Küng saw the beatification of Pope Pius IX as evidence of the degeneration of canonizations to "gestures of church politics".[26]

On 26 September 2005, he had a friendly discussion about Catholic theology over dinner with Pope Benedict XVI, surprising some observers.[27] The pope acknowledged his efforts to contribute to a renewed recognition of crucial human moral values in dialogue between religions as well as with secular reason ("im Dialog der Religionen wie in der Begegnung mit der säkularen Vernunft zu einer erneuerten Anerkennung der wesentlichen moralischen Werte der Menschheit beizutragen").[1]

In a 2009 interview with Le Monde, Küng sharply criticised Pope Benedict for lifting the excommunications of four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. He blamed the pope's lifelong isolation from contemporary society and said that as a consequence of Benedict's desire for a smaller and purer church "the church risks becoming a sect". His remarks drew a rebuke from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.[28]

In April 2010, he published an open letter to all Catholic bishops in which he criticized Pope Benedict's handling of liturgical, collegial, and inter-religious issues and also the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. He further called on bishops to consider six proposals, ranging from speaking up and working on regional solutions to calling for another Vatican council.[29]

He is a signatory of Church 2011, "The Need for a New Beginning",[30] a German-language memorandum demanding reform of the Catholic Church that was promulgated by Catholic theology professors.[31]

Küng died at home in Tübingen on 6 April 2021 at the age of 93.[4] The Pontifical Academy for Life tweeted: "Disappears a great figure in the theology of the last century, whose ideas and analyzes [sic] must always make us reflect on the Catholic Church, the Churches, the society, the culture."[32] His fellow theologian Charles Curran, who had experienced similar treatment by the Vatican, described Küng as "the strongest voice for reform in the Catholic Church during the last 60 years" and wrote that he was so prolific that "I do not know of anyone who was ever able to even read all that he had written."[22]

Works[edit]

In On Being a Christian (1974), Küng traces Christianity to its roots, extensively using modern scholarship to extract from the Gospels what can be known of the historical Jesus. Rather than beginning with the teaching of Church councils and the highly developed theological propositions propounded from human authorities, he asked if an alternative were possible: "Would it not perhaps correspond more to the New Testament evidence and to modern man's historical way of thinking if we started out like the first disciples from the real human being Jesus, his historical message and manifestation, his life and fate, his historical reality and historical activity, and then ask about the relationship of this human being Jesus to God, about his unity with the Father?"[33]

In 1998, he published Dying with Dignity, co-written with Walter Jens, in which he affirmed acceptance of euthanasia from a Christian viewpoint.[34]

In 2005, Küng published a critical article in Italy and Germany on "The failures of Pope Wojtyla" in which he argued that the world had expected a period of conversion, reform, and dialogue but, instead, John Paul II offered a restoration of the pre-Vatican II status, blocking reform and inter-church dialogue, and reasserting the absolute dominion of Rome.[35]

Based on his Studium Generale lectures at Tübingen University, in Der Anfang aller Dinge (The beginning of all things) he discussed the relationship between science and religion. In an analysis ranging from quantum physics to neuroscience, he also commented on the debate about evolution in the United States, dismissing those opposed to the teaching of evolution as "naive [and] un-enlightened".[36][37]

In his 2010 book Was ich glaube, he described his own personal relationship with nature, and how he learned to observe it correctly, which meant drawing strength from God's creation without falling victim to a false and fanatic love of nature.[38]

In 2013, Küng wrote in Erlebte Menschlichkeit ("Experienced Humanity") that he believed people had the right to end their own lives if physical illness, pain, or dementia made living unbearable. He indicated he was considering the option of assisted suicide for himself because he was suffering from Parkinson's disease and was losing the ability to see and write. Küng wrote that he did not wish to follow the example of Pope John Paul II.[39]

Awards and honors[edit]

Honorary doctorates[edit]

Source:[16]

References in popular culture[edit]

  • In The Nonborn King by Julian May, the third book in the Saga of Pliocene Exile, a minor character, Sullivan-Tonn, is referred to as having once been "Küng Professor of Moral Theology at Fordham University"[44]
  • Küng is the favorite theologian of Cedar Hawk Songmaker in Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich.[45]

Writings[edit]

English translations[edit]

  • Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection, (org. 1964), (40th Ann. Ed. 2004), Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN 0-664-22446-6
  • The Council and Reunion (1960), London: Sheed and Ward ISBN 978-1-125-18571-1
  • Structures of the Church (1962), New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons ISBN 978-0-8245-0508-0
  • That the World May Believe (1963), New York: Sheed and Ward ISBN 978-1-135-10020-9
  • The Living Church: Reflections on the Second Vatican Council (1963), London: Sheed and Ward. In the U.S.A., published as The Council in Action: Theological Reflections on the Second Vatican Council (1963), New York: Sheed and Ward ASIN B000GYKPTQ
  • The Church (1967), London: Burns and Oates ISBN 978-0-223-97696-2
  • Infallible? An Inquiry (1971), ISBN 0-385-18483-2
  • Why Priests? (1971), Collins ISBN 978-0-00-624502-5
  • What must remain in the Church (1973), London: Collins ISBN 978-0-00-624913-9
  • On Being a Christian (1974) ISBN 978-0-00-625152-1
  • Signposts for the Future: Contemporary Issues facing the Church (1978), ISBN 0-385-13151-8, 204 pages
  • Freud and the Problem of God: Enlarged Edition, Edward Quinn (translator), ISBN 0-300-04723-1, 126 pages, Yale University Press
  • Does God Exist? An Answer For Today (1980) ISBN 0-8245-1119-0
  • Art and the Question of Meaning (1980, translated 1981) E. Quinn, Crossroads New York ISBN 0-8245-0016-4
  • Eternal Life : Life after Death As a Medical, Philosophical and Theological Program (1984), Edward Quinn (translator). Contents (scrollable) ISBN 0-385-19910-4, 271 pages. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co.
  • Christianity and the world religions: paths of dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism (1986) ISBN 0-385-19471-4
  • Christianity and Chinese Religions (with Julia Ching, 1988) ISBN 0-334-02545-1
  • The Incarnation of God: An Introduction to Hegel's Theological Thought as Prolegomena to a Future Christology, J. R. Stephenson (translator) ISBN 0-567-09352-2, 601 pages, Crossroad Publishing Company
  • Theology for the Third Millennium: An Ecumenical View (1990) (Translated by Peter Heinegg) ISBN 0-385-41125-1
  • Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic (1991), New York: Crossroad. ISBN 978-0-8245-1102-9
  • Credo. The Apostle’s Creed Explained for Today (1993) SCM. ISBN 978-0-334-00151-5
  • Judaism: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (1992), New York: Crossroad ISBN 0-8264-0788-9
  • Great Christian Thinkers (1994) ISBN 0-8264-0848-6
  • Christianity : Its Essence and History (1995) ISBN 0-334-02571-0
  • A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics (1997) ISBN 0-334-02686-5
  • Dying with Dignity: A Plea for Personal Responsibility (1996, 1998), co-written with Walter Jens ISBN 0-8264-0885-0, ISBN 0-8264-1042-1
  • The Catholic Church: A Short History (2001)[46]
  • My Struggle for Freedom: Memoirs (2003), New York, London: Continuum ISBN 0-8264-7021-1
  • Why I Am Still a Christian (2006) ISBN 978-0-8264-7698-2
  • The Beginning of All Things – Science and Religion (2007) ISBN 978-0-8028-0763-2
  • Islam: Past, Present and Future (2007) ISBN 978-1-85168-377-2
  • Disputed Truth: Memoirs II (2008) New York: Continuum ISBN 978-0-8264-9910-3

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The digital version of the New York Times report introduces several errors, rendering Küng's name as Kling, Kting, Ming, Kung, and Kiing. An image of the original story as it appeared in print is also available.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Geyer, Christian (7 April 2021). "Der Entschärfer der Weltreligionen / Nach dem Entzug des Lehramts rang er um die humane Substanz des Christentums: Zum Tod des Theologen Hans Küng". FAZ (in German). Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  2. ^ Dominik Weingartner (6 April 2021). "Medienbericht – Der weltbekannte Luzerner Theologe Hans Küng ist tot". Luzerner Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  3. ^ Deckers, Daniel (6 April 2021). "Zum Tode von Hans Küng: Ein populärer Kirchenkritiker". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Lefevere, Patricia. "Hans Küng, celebrated and controversial Swiss theologian, has died". National Catholic Reporter. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Hans Küng ist tot". Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) (in German). 6 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b Haight, Roger (6 April 2021). "Hans Küng, influential Vatican II theologian censured by John Paul II, dies at 93". America. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  7. ^ Ratzinger, Georg (2011). My Brother the Pope. Ignatius Press. p. 201. the University of Tubingen offered him (Joseph Ratzinger) in 1966 a newly created chair in dogmatic theology. One theologian in Tubingen who had strongly advocated recruiting Ratzinger was Hans Kung.
  8. ^ Martin, Douglas (6 April 2021). "Hans Küng, Catholic Theologian With a Powerful Critique, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2021. (subscription required)
  9. ^ Kiwiet, John J. (1985). Hans Küng (Makers of the Modern Theological Mind Series).[page needed]
  10. ^ Küng, Hans (2004). Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth (Fortieth Anniversary ed.). Presbyterian Publishing. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-664-22446-2. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Authors: Patricia Lefevere". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Declaration". Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 15 December 1979. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  13. ^ Briggs, Kenneth A. (20 December 1979). "Catholic Scholars Denounce Censure". New York Times. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  14. ^ Briggs, Kenneth A. (20 December 1979). "Catholic Scholars Denounce Censure". New York Times. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  15. ^ Küng, The Catholic Church: A Short History (2002), Introduction, p. xviii: "In 1979 I then had personal experience of the Inquisition under another pope. My permission to teach was withdrawn by the church, but nevertheless I retained my chair and my institute (which was separated from the Catholic faculty). For two further decades I remained unswervingly faithful to my church in critical loyalty, and to the present day I have remained professor of ecumenical theology and a Catholic priest in good standing. I affirm the papacy for the Catholic Church, but at the same time indefatigably call for a radical reform of it in accordance with the criterion of the gospel."
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Lebenslauf". Universität Tübingen (in German). 6 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  17. ^ Briggs, Kenneth A. (13 December 1981). "Küng's Views Meet Positive Reaponse in U.S." The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  18. ^ "Emptiness, Kenosis, History, and Dialogue: The Christian Response to Masao Abe's Notion of 'Dynamic Sunyata' in the Early Years of the Abe–Cobb Buddhist–Christian Dialogue", Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 24, 2004.
  19. ^ "Global Ethic Foundation". Archived from the original on 26 August 2005.
  20. ^ "UN – Short Biography".
  21. ^ "LEXNEWS : Le Webmag de la Culture". lexnews.free.fr.
  22. ^ a b Curran, Charles (9 April 2021). "Charles Curran remembers Hans Küng". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Hans Küng unterstützt Drewermann – Radio Interview" (in German). 12 June 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2021 – via YouTube.
  24. ^ Agnew, Paddy (2 May 2011). "American group criticises late pope's 'dismal' record on abuse". The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  25. ^ "Noted theologian Hans Kung to speak at USCD, synagogue", Rita Gillmon. The San Diego Union, San Diego, Calif.: 9 March 1991. p. B.11
  26. ^ Küng, Hans (2003). The Catholic Church: a short history. Random House. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-8129-6762-3.
  27. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (30 October 2005). "Pope's September surprise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  28. ^ Tavis, John (26 February 2009). "Theologian's criticism of pope draws Vatican response". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on 10 March 2009.
  29. ^ Crawley, William (19 April 2010). "Hans Küng points finger at the Pope". Open letter to Catholic bishops. BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  30. ^ "Church 2011: The Need for a New Beginning". Kirche 2011: Ein notwendiger Aufbruch (in German). Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  31. ^ "Unterzeichner". Kirche 2011: Ein notwendiger Aufbruch (in German). Archived from the original on 10 October 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  32. ^ @PontAcadLife (6 April 2021). "Disappears a great figure..." (Tweet). Retrieved 7 April 2021 – via Twitter.
  33. ^ Murphy, Cullen (December 1986). "Who Do Men Say That I Am?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  34. ^ Grill, Markus (12 December 2013). "Controversial Theologian Hans Küng / "I Don't Cling to This Life"". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  35. ^ Sciolino, Anthony J. (2014). The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences: How Christian Anti-Judaism Spawned Nazi Anti-Semitism, a Judge's Verdict. pp. 222–3. ISBN 978-1-938908-63-7. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  36. ^ Küng, Hans (2008). The Beginning of All Things: Science and Religion. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. xi. ISBN 978-0-8028-6359-1.
  37. ^ Kroll, Thomas (4 October 2005). "Für einen Dialog zwischen Naturwissenschaft und Theologie" (in German). Deutschlandfunk. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  38. ^ Graf, Friedrich Wilhelm (14 October 2009). "Hans Küng: "Was ich glaube" : Alles Hinterwäldlerische ist diesem Bergführer fremd". FAZ (in German). Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  39. ^ Heneghan, Thomas (3 October 2013), Catholic rebel Kueng, 85, considers assisted suicide, Reuters, retrieved 5 October 2013
  40. ^ a b c d "Hans Küng". Autorinnen und Autoren in Baden-Württemberg (in German). Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  41. ^ "Letzter Band von Küngs Werken erscheint". Katholische Nachrichten (in German). 11 October 2020. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  42. ^ "190139 Hanskung (2005 RV32)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  43. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  44. ^ "The Nonborn King", [Tor, 2013], p. 100
  45. ^ Erdrich, Louise (2017). Future Home of the Living God. HarperLuxe. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-0-06-269533-8.
  46. ^ The Catholic Church: A Short History. New York: Modern Library Chronicles. 2001. ISBN 0-679-64092-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • Häring, Hermann; Kuschel, Karl-Josef, eds. (1979). Hans Küng: His Work and His Way. Image Books. ISBN 0-385-15852-1.
  • Hebblethwaite, Peter (1980). The New Inquisition?: The Case of Edward Schillebeeckx and Hans Küng. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-063795-1.
  • Kiwiet, John J. (1985). Hans Küng (Makers of the Modern Theological Mind Series). Hendrickson Publishing. ISBN 0-8499-2954-7.

External links[edit]