Theologian Hans Küng died
The Swiss theologian Hans Küng is dead. He died in Tübingen at the age of 93. His criticism of the papacy and the church is still effective today.
Hans Küng, one of the most renowned theologians in the world and founder of the Global Ethic Foundation, died at his home in Tübingen on Tuesday afternoon at the age of 93. The Swiss, who taught in Tübingen from 1960 to 1996, made a significant contribution to shaping the Catholic Church.
Dialogue of world religions
His books became bestsellers. In the past 30 years he has been particularly involved in the dialogue between world religions, particularly in the “Global Ethic Project”. He described the founding of a corresponding institute at the University of Tübingen in 2011 as recognition of this work. “Not least because my years are numbered and I want my life’s work to be continued after my death,” said Küng at the time.
The project is based on the conviction that without peace among religions there can be no peace among states. Küng published the book “Project Global Ethic” in 1990 and, based on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, pursued the question of a value system that unites all people and all religions.
2005: Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
Küng received many awards, including more than a dozen honorary doctorates. As Pope Benedict XVI. Küng received in Castel Gandolfo in 2005, causing a worldwide sensation. It was about the global ethic project and the relationship between science, reason and faith, not about ecclesiastical doctrinal questions. After that there was an exchange of letters between the Pope, who later resigned, and Küng.
Since the early 1960s, i.e. before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the conflict surrounding Küng had been brewing, which also involved the question of how Jesus Christ should be understood. Küng repeatedly pleaded for renewal within the church and an ecumenical opening with the aim of uniting the churches.
Books with a circulation of millions
Küng saw himself as a “loyal Catholic theologian”. His books, which have sold millions, have been translated into more than 30 languages. In 2015, Herder-Verlag began publishing his collected works in 48 volumes. The best-known books include “Infallible?”, “Being a Christian”, “Does God Exist?” and “Global Ethic Project”.
Küng, who also co-founded the theological journal “Concilium”, also received honorary citizenship, the Federal Cross of Merit with Star and scientific awards. Küng had his last major public appearance in spring 2018. The Global Ethic Foundation and the university organized a scientific symposium for his 90th birthday, in which many of Küng’s theological students took part and took stock of his work.
“Because I believe in eternal life”
Hans Küng on his yes to euthanasia and on Pope Francis
Tübingen, October 11, 2013 (Kipa) Pope Francis has rehabilitated Hans Küng (85) with an exchange of letters “quasi informally”. That’s what the Swiss theologian says in an interview with the Kipa press agency on Friday. Küng, who suffers from Parkinson’s, is willing to use the services of a euthanasia organization “precisely because I believe in eternal life”. He advocates a “third way” in the euthanasia debate. – In 1979, the well-known church critic had his license to teach in the church revoked.
Question: Will you move to Switzerland now that you have left all offices in Germany?
Hans Küng: I have two official residences, one in Tübingen and one in Sursee, Lucerne. I will continue to spend my time in both places. But I’m not thinking of changing my lifestyle. I am an honorary citizen of both cities and feel comfortable in both places.
Question: In 1979 your church teaching license was revoked. After the election of Pope Francis this spring, did you assume that the new pope would bring movement to the “Causa Küng”?
Küng: When I was about to finish my third volume of memoirs in autumn 2012, I assumed that I would have to put up with it: Küng would go and Ratzinger would stay. But now Joseph Ratzinger has resigned before me. There is no question that I have a completely different relationship with Pope Francis than with his two predecessor popes, who stood for the restoration of the church. The new Pope stands for the renewal and reform of the Church.
Question: You already knew Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, from your time in Tübingen, when you were both professors there. Did you already have contact with Pope Francis when he was Cardinal Bergoglio?
Küng: I didn’t know Francis. I was hoping that none of the papabiles who were named would be elected pope this spring. None of them would have been able to cope with this difficult task. I was all the more pleased to hear from a man who, as a Latin American, brings a different perspective and, as a Jesuit, has a sound theological education and is also trained in ascetics. In short, it was clear that this pope would take a different line from the moment he stepped onto the balcony of St. Peter’s after the election.
After he had appointed the eight cardinals as advisers to the Council of Cardinals, I wrote him a letter congratulating him on his good assumption of office. I sent him my books What I Believe and Can the Church Still Be Saved?
It was then a pleasant surprise when I received a handwritten fraternal letter from Francis thanking me and saying he would enjoy reading the books. For me it was a sort of informal rehabilitation. Francis’ pre-predecessor, the Polish Pope, never gave me any sign for 27 years and never replied to a letter.
Question: Do you assume that public rehabilitation will take place?
Küng: That’s not so important for me. For me it is important that things are progressing in the Church, and in this respect I have primarily tried to ensure that today’s Pope is informed about the current situation. I wrote him a second letter, enclosing my open letter to the cardinals that I wrote before the 2005 conclave.
I am happy to note today that Francis meets the criteria set out in the Letter to the Cardinals quite accurately. This gives me hope that the reform measures that I have proposed will also be implemented in due course.
Question: What are the most important criteria?
Küng: The pope should be: First: an evangelical pope; second, a collegial fellow bishop; third, a woman-friendly minister; fourth, an ecumenical mediator; fifth: a guarantee of freedom and openness in the Church.
Question: What has Francis already done in this direction?
Küng: A reform of the style, the language, the protocol, the tone. Francis has shown that he does not simply want to play master in the church, but is the servant of God, the brother. He has the courage to tackle reforms – such as examining the status of the Vatican Bank and the papal estates. I hope that the eight cardinals that Francis appointed as his advisory body have realized that after everything we have seen, numerous radical reforms are needed. Superficial reforms are not enough.
How deep the crisis is in the Church only became apparent with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. clear. He was unable to cope with the problems, such as the clerical sex crimes and their cover-ups and the Vatileaks affair. Benedict XVI but had a secret report drawn up to work up all these stories about Vatileaks.
Question: Would you welcome publication of this report?
Küng: I would welcome it, even if it contains a lot of unpleasant things. Because otherwise one believes that just as little as the grievances of the Renaissance popes. Church historians were the first to make it clear how bad things were at the time.
Question: Do you expect to meet Pope Francis?
Küng: I will not aim for that on my own. If that arises or if he desires it, I’ll be happy to do it. But it’s more important to me that he reads what I send him.
Question: The Pope decreed in mid-September that priests will no longer be promoted to “monsignors” or “prelates” for the time being. How do you rate this suspension of an honorary title in the Church?
Küng: This decision poses a greater challenge for the German than for the Swiss bishops. The Swiss bishops are closer to the people. The German bishops present themselves as prince bishops because they administer millions of taxpayers’ money. Francis has to reckon with the fact that not everyone is enthusiastic about his reforms.
Question: What prognosis do you make for the future of the Catholic Church?
Küng: If the many words and gestures are followed by deeds of reform, then that would spread great hope in the church. There is already a completely different atmosphere than under Pope Ratzinger. There is more joy again and people prefer to be Catholic again with such a pope.
Question: As you announced, today you have Parkinson’s disease. Against this background you have declared your willingness to make use of the services of a euthanasia organization. Is that correct?
Küng: That’s right. However, I would ask all readers to read the last chapter of my last volume of memoirs, «Erlebente humanity», in which I go into this topic in detail and have written about my state of health. I also go into detail about the fate of the famous writer Walter Jens, who fell into years of dementia after missing the time to say goodbye.
The book also contains my arguments for euthanasia and the “third way” that I propose. For it is not simply a matter of thinking, like many unbelievers, that one dies into nothing, or, like many superstitious ones, that one must not contribute to one’s death. Precisely because I believe in eternal life, I feel I no longer need to extend my temporal life.
Question: Believers will object: God determines the time of death. You now take this decision into your own hands. How do you answer this objection?
Küng: Life is God’s gift and man’s task. We are responsible for it until the end. Where did the good Creator God “decree” a reduction of human life to a purely biological-vegetative life? This is a question that goes to the doctors and, above all, to the patients themselves. It is wrong to think that everything must be accepted as godly. This has to be discussed, as I have explained in my book, and not just constantly dismissed with phrases, as is the case above all in Germany, where the question is taboo because of the Nazis, but the arguments have to be reconsidered. The church must open itself to the discussion in this area.
Question: So you remain the Catholic rebel you always have been…
Küng: No, I am a faithful Catholic theologian and priest, as I have always been, except that I am not marching in the rear guard like many who belong to the hierarchy, but have understanding for the concerns of the majority of Catholics. In the avant-garde, I have to accept a reprimand every now and then, but I’ve always been able to digest it well so far.
Hans Küng was born on March 19, 1928 in Sursee LU. Today he is Emeritus Professor of Ecumenical Theology. In 1954 Küng was ordained a priest. In 1960 he was appointed professor of fundamental theology at the Catholic Theological Faculty in Tübingen. From 1962 to 1965 he was one of Pope John XXIII’s “Peritus”. appointed council theologians of the Second Vatican Council. From 1963 to 1980 he was Professor of Dogmatics and Ecumenical Theology and Director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research at the University of Tübingen. However, Küng criticized central structural elements of the church and the dogmatic teaching about the church.
In 1979, the German Bishops’ Conference withdrew Küng’s permission to teach. From 1980, Küng taught as a faculty-independent professor of ecumenical theology and director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research at the University of Tübingen. Küng initiated the “Global Ethic” project. Until March 2013 he was President of the Global Ethic Foundation he founded. Küng published numerous books.