Hans Küng (born March 19, 1928, in Sursee, Canton of Lucerne) is a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and prolific author.
Bio from Wikipedia, 3/27/2012
Since 1995, Küng has been President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Stiftung Weltethos). Küng is “a Catholic priest in good standing”, but the Vatican has rescinded his authority to teach Catholic theology. He had to leave the Catholic faculty, but remained at the University of Tübingen as a professor of ecumenical theology, serving as an emeritus professor since 1996. Although Küng is not officially allowed to teach Catholic theology, neither his bishop nor the Holy See have revoked his priestly faculties.
Life and work
Küng studied theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in 1954. He continued his education in various European cities, including the Sorbonne.
In 1960, he was appointed professor of theology at Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen, Germany. Like his colleague Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), in 1962 he was appointed peritus by Pope John XXIII, serving as an expert theological advisor to members of the Second Vatican Council until its conclusion in 1965. At Küng’s instigation, the Catholic faculty at Tübingen appointed Ratzinger as professor of dogmatics. However, due to the 1968 students revolt, Ratzinger moved to the University of Regensburg, ending cooperation between the two.
In a 1963 tour of the United States, Küng gave the lecture “The Church and Freedom”, receiving an interdict from the Catholic University of America but an honorary doctorate from St. Louis University. He accepted an invitation to visit John F. Kennedy at the White House.
Küng’s doctoral thesis, Justification. La doctrine de Karl Barth et une réflexion catholique, was finally published in English in 1964. It located 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.) 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.
In the late 1960s, he became the first major Roman Catholic theologian since the late 19th century Old Catholic Church schism to publicly reject the doctrine of papal infallibility, in particular in his book Infallible? An Inquiry (1971). Consequently, on December 18, 1979, he was stripped of his missio canonica, his licence to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian, but carried on teaching as a tenured professor of ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen until his retirement (Emeritierung) in 1996. To this day he remains a persistent critic of papal infallibility, which he claims is man-made (and thus reversible) rather than instituted by God. He was not excommunicated ferendae sententiae.
For three months in 1981, he was guest professor at the University of Chicago. During this visit to America he was invited to only one Catholic institution, the University of Notre Dame. He appeared on the Phil Donahue Show. In October 1986, he participated in the Third Buddhist-Christian Theological Encounter held at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.
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 everyone can accept. His vision of a global ethic was embodied in the document for which he wrote the initial draft, 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 UN’s Dialogue Among Civilizations 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, about which Küng complained.
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.
In 1998, he published Dying with Dignity, co-written with Walter Jens, in which he affirms acceptance of euthanasia from a Christian viewpoint.
In 2005, Küng published a critical article in Italy and Germany on The failures of Pope Wojtyla. Küng argued that the world had expected a period of conversion, reform, and dialogue; but instead politically John Paul II offered a restoration of the pre-Vatican II status quo—thus blocking reform and inter-church dialogue and reasserting the absolute dominion of Rome.
This Papacy has repeatedly declared its fidelity to Vatican II, in order to then betray it for reasons of political expediency. Council terms such as modernization, dialogue, and ecumenicalism have been replaced by emphasis on restoration, mastery, and obedience. The criteria for the nomination of Bishops is not at all in the spirit of the Gospel… Pastoral politics has allowed the moral and intellectual level of the episcopate to slip to dangerous levels. A mediocre, rigid, and more conservative episcopate will be the lasting legacy of this papacy.
On September 26, 2005, he had a friendly discussion about Catholic theology over dinner with Pope Benedict XVI, surprising some observers.
Nevertheless, in a 2009 interview with Le Monde, Küng deeply criticised the lifting of the excommunications on the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. At the same time, he made criticisms of the Pope’s theology, saying it remained the same as that of the council of Nicea held in 325. The interview drew a rebuke from Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
Based on Studium Generale lectures at Tübingen University, his latest publication, Der Anfang aller Dinge (The beginning of all things), discusses the relationship between science and religion. In an analysis spanning from quantum physics to neuroscience, he comments on the current debate about evolution in the United States, dismissing those opposed to the teaching of evolution as “naive [and] un-enlightened.”
In his recent book Was ich glaube (Piper Verlag, 2010), he describes his own personal relationship with nature, how he learned to observe correctly, drawing strength from God’s creation without falling victim to a false and fanatic love of nature.
In April 2010, he published in several newspapers an open letter to all Catholic bishops. In the letter he criticized Pope Benedict’s handling of liturgical, collegial, and inter-religious issues and also the sexual abuse scandals that have engulfed the Catholic Church. In the letter, he called on bishops to consider six proposals, ranging from speaking up and working on regional solutions to calling for another Vatican council.
He is a signatory of Church 2011, a German-language memorandum promulgated by Catholic theology professors.