Theologian Hans Küng’s open letter to all Catholic Bishops

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

February 24, 2013

In this column last Sunday, February 17, we wrote about the Catholic Church at a crossroads globally, with a focus on the Philippines. Globally, I drew on various commentaries. But here let us focus on an authoritative, incisive and inspiring commentary by the respected theologian, Hans Kung, who was a contemporary of Joseph Ratzinger at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope, Kung had hoped that the new Pope would “find his way to promote an ongoing renewal of the church and an ecumenical rapprochement in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. xxx “Unfortunately,” concluded Kung, “my hopes and those of so many engaged Catholic men and women have not been fulfilled.” Kung concludes with six proposals for the bishops and priests and the laity in actively reforming the Catholic Church. [For emphasis on particular points I use bold letters.]

Church in worse credibility crisis since the Reformation. In Kung’s own words: “I am motivated by my profound concern for our church, which now finds itself in the worst credibility crisis since the reformation.” xxx Without a doubt,” the Pope “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.” He focuses on seven of them. 

1. “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.

2. “Missed is the opportunity for the long-term reconciliation with the Jews: Instead the pope has reintroduced into the liturgy a pre-conciliar prayer for the enlightenment of the Jews, he has taken notoriously anti-Semitic and schismatic bishops back into communion with the church….
The fact is, Benedict sees in Judaism only the historic root of Christianity; he does not take it seriously as an ongoing religious community offering its own path to salvation. xxx

3. “Missed is the opportunity for a dialogue with Muslims in an atmosphere of mutual trust: Instead, in his ill-advised but symptomatic 2006Regensburg lecture, Benedict caricatured Islam as a religion of violence and inhumanity and thus evoked enduring Muslim mistrust.

4. “Missed is the opportunity for reconciliation with the colonised indigenous peoples of Latin America: Instead, the pope asserted in all seriousness that they had been “longing” for the religion of their European conquerors.

5. “Missed is the opportunity to help the people of Africa by allowing the use of birth control to fight overpopulation and condoms to fight the spread of HIV.

6.Missed is the opportunity to make peace with modern science by clearly affirming the theory of evolution and accepting stem-cell research.

7. “Missed is the opportunity to make the spirit of the Second Vatican Council the compass for the whole Catholic Church, including theVatican itself, and thus to promote the needed reforms in the church. “This last point, respected bishops, is the most serious of all. Time and again, this pope has added qualifications to the conciliar texts and interpreted them against the spirit of the council fathers. Time and again, he has taken an express stand against the Ecumenical Council, which according to canon law represents the highest authority in the Catholic Church:

“He has taken the bishops of the traditionalist Pius X Society back into the church without any preconditions – bishops who were illegally consecrated outside the Catholic Church and who reject central points of the Second Vatican Council (including liturgical reform, freedom of religion and the rapprochement with Judaism). xxx “He promotes the medieval Tridentine Mass by all possible means and occasionally celebrates the Eucharist in Latin with his back to the congregation.

“He refuses to put into effect the rapprochement with the Anglican Church, which was laid out in official ecumenical documents by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and has attempted instead to lure married Anglican clergy into the Roman Catholic Church by freeing them from the very rule of celibacy that has forced tens of thousands of Roman Catholic priests out of office.

“He has actively reinforced the anti-conciliar forces in the church by appointing reactionary officials to key offices in the Curia (including the secretariat of state, and positions in the liturgical commission) while appointing reactionary bishops around the world.

“Pope Benedict XVI seems to be increasingly cut off from the vast majority of church members who pay less and less heed to Rome and, at best, identify themselves only with their local parish and bishop.

“I know that many of you are pained by this situation. In his anti-conciliar policy, the pope receives the full support of the Roman Curia. The Curia does its best to stifle criticism in the episcopate and in the church as a whole and to discredit critics with all the means at its disposal. With a return to pomp and spectacle catching the attention of the media, the reactionary forces in Rome have attempted to present us with a strong church fronted by an absolutistic “Vicar of Christ” who combines the church’s legislative, executive and judicial powers in his hands alone.

xxx. “You in particular, as bishops, have reason for deep sorrow: Tens of thousands of priests have resigned their office since the Second Vatican Council, for the most part because of the celibacy rule. Vocations to the priesthood, but also to religious orders, sisterhoods and lay brotherhoods are down – not just quantitatively but qualitatively. Resignation and frustration are spreading rapidly among both the clergy and the active laity.

“And now, on top of these many crises comes a scandal crying out to heaven – the revelation of the clerical abuse of thousands of children and adolescents, first in the United States, then in Ireland and now in Germany and other countries. And to make matters worse, the handling of these cases has given rise to an unprecedented leadership crisis and a collapse of trust in church leadership. xxx

Six proposals. “I want only to lay before you six proposals that I am convinced are supported by millions of Catholics who have no voice in the current situation.

1. “Do not keep silent: By keeping silent in the face of so many serious grievances, you taint yourselves with guilt. When you feel that certain laws, directives and measures are counter-productive, you should say this in public. Send Rome not professions of your devotion, but rather calls for reform!

2. “Set about reform: Too many in the church and in the episcopate complain about Rome, but do nothing themselves. When people no longer attend church in a diocese, when the ministry bears little fruit, when the public is kept in ignorance about the needs of the world, when ecumenical co-operation is reduced to a minimum, then the blame cannot simply be shoved off on Rome. Whether bishop, priest, layman or laywoman – everyone can do something for the renewal of the church within his own sphere of influence, be it large or small. xxx As bishops, you should support xxx initiatives [for change] and, xxx you should respond to the just complaints of the faithful.

3. “Act in a collegial way: After heated debate and against the persistent opposition of the Curia, the Second Vatican Council decreed the collegiality of the pope and the bishops. xxx Peter did not act alone without the college of the apostles. In the post-conciliar era, however, the pope and the Curia have ignored this decree. xxx [T]he pope rules as an autocrat over and against the bishops. xxx This is why, venerable bishops, you should xxx act xxx in the community of the other bishops, of the priests and of the men and women who make up the church.

4. “Unconditional obedience is owed to God alone: Although at your episcopal consecration you had to take an oath of unconditional obedience to the pope, you know that unconditional obedience can never be paid to any human authority; it is due to God alone. For this reason, you should not feel impeded by your oath to speak the truth about the current crisis facing the church, your diocese and your country. xxx

5. “Work for regional solutions: The Vatican has frequently turned a deaf ear to the well-founded demands of the episcopate, the priests and the laity. This is all the more reason for seeking wise regional solutions. As you are well aware, the rule of celibacy, which was inherited from the Middle Ages, represents a particularly delicate problem. In the context of today’s clerical abuse scandal, the practice has been increasingly called into question. xxx When a priest, after mature consideration, wishes to marry, there is no reason why he must automatically resign his office when his bishop and his parish choose to stand behind him. Individual episcopal conferences could take the lead with regional solutions. It would be better, however, to seek a solution for the whole church, therefore:

6. “Call for a council: Just as the achievement of liturgical reform, religious freedom, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue required an ecumenical council, so now a council is needed to solve the dramatically escalating problems calling for reform. xxx Thus it is up to you to push through the calling of a council or at least a representative assembly of bishops.

“With the church in deep crisis, this is my appeal to you, venerable bishops: Put to use the episcopal authority that was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council. In this urgent situation, the eyes of the world turn to you. Innumerable people have lost their trust in the Catholic Church. Only by openly and honestly reckoning with these problems and resolute-ly carrying out needed reforms can their trust be regained. With all due respect, I beg you to do your part – together with your fellow bishops as far as possible, but also alone if necessary – in apostolic  “fearlessness” ( Acts 4:29, 31 ). Give your faithful signs of hope and encouragement and give our church a perspective for the future.”

“With warm greetings in the community of the Christian faith, Yours, Hans Küng”    http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=15996

 

Comments are welcome at pepevabueva@gmail.com

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