From ....... HUMAN QUEST
Criticisms Of The Roman Church
Catholic Theologian Hans Kung Speaks Openly
By JOHN M SWOMLEY
THE SECOND Vatican Council under the leadership of Pope John XXIII, 1962-1965, was so successful in making people think that the Catholic Church has reformed itself and is adapting itself to the modern world that virtually no Protestant theologians or bishops have since criticized the Vatican or its subsequent repressive actions.
Under the present Pope John Paul II the Roman church has become so thoroughly reactionary that its leading theologian, Hans Kung, in 1985 wrote,
"It is only because I am daily made to feel how many men and women - especially fellow priests and religious - suffer under the current course that I can no longer keep silent."
Much of Kung's criticism is leveled at Cardinal Joseph Ratsinger, the pope's appointed head of what used to be called the "Holy Office of the Roman and Universal Inquisition", now called the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
In a long statement published in the October 11, 1985 National Catholic Reporter, Kung cited the repudiation of Vatican II and a return to the medieval church.
"No one is burned at the stake anymore but careers and psyches are destroyed as required. (The former dean of Le Saulchoir Faculty of Theology in Paris, dismissed and suspended from ecclesiastical functions:, now earns his living working in an office). In very important cases, such as that of the recalcitrant Latin American episcopate, Ratzinger journeys with a whole posse to the relevant country to make unequivocally clear what the Catholic truth is. Alternatively (as in the case of Holland and Switzerland) a whole episcopate is invited to Rome for a closed session Ñas the new instrument of curial domination.....
On the unhappy 500th anniversary of Pope Innocent VIII's anti-witch bull (in 1484 as many as nine million became the victims of witch trials, products of belief in the devil and psychological sexual behavior), we hear such opinions from the representatives of an institution that even today is involved in one of the greatest financial scandals ever, complete with Mafia intrigues. But no structural or personal consequences have been drawn from these events.
The Protestant Reformation (the beginning of modern decadence) is written off in theological superficiality. We are warned against Protestantization (that is the beginning of pernicious moderniztion).... Martin Luther, according to the Ratzinger report, should still be condemned as an un-Catholic heretic, because he denied the infallibility of the councils, despised tradition, and put the authority of the individual above Scripture and tradition. I wonder whether the Protestants will now take up the protest themselves again, instead of leaving it to critical Catholics."
After reading Kung's words I decided to take them seriously. I kept the Kung article on my desk. For years after Vatican II I had been the theologian in Kansas and Missouri most often invited to speak to Catholic audiences. For example, I was in three successive years a lecturer at Conception Seminary in northwest Missouri, and spoke to various groups in Kansas and Greater Kansas City. I was invited by the National Catholic Reporter to serve as an African correspondent while I was on sabbatical there in 1977, and twelve of my major articles were published.
When I wrote an article for The Circuit Rider, a publication of the United Methodist Church, critical of the silencing of Matthew Fox, a Dominican priest, the article was published alongside an article by the "ecumenical" officer of the United Methodist Church which said I should not criticize another church. I learned then that the Roman church had, instead of an ecumenical dialogue with Protestant theologians, arranged separate dialogues with each of a number of denominational representatives with the understanding that neither would criticize the dialogue partner.
It would be wrong to generalize, but I am unaware of theological criticism or dialogue in Protestant denominational or ecumenical journals with respect to the abuses cited by Hans Kung. My own articles are no longer accepted in Catholic or ecumenical Protestant journals because I became outspoken in secular journals in favor of separation of church and state, pro-choice on abortion, opposed to aid for church schools, and critical of the Vatican's position on contraceptive birth control.
Instead of even private ecumenical dialogue on such issues, the Roman Catholic bishops chose in 1975 to establish a political ecumenism over the matter of abortion with right wing Protestants, including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. That was the result of the "Pro-Life Pastoral" and Catholic laity like Paul Weyrich persuading those TV evangelists to get into politics. In a PBS series on the religious right Weyrich laughed at his having provided Falwell with the name "Moral Majority."
However, back to Kung, who wrote,
"In spite of all the work by ecumenical commissions for almost two decades and all the resultant official consensus documents (Ratsinger: "No truly vital reconciliation") ecumenical agreement, not only with the Protestants but also with the Orthodox and the Anglicans, is put off until the cows come home."
Kung then details some differences over married priests and ordination of women, but notes that the real issue is that the Bible has been "Catholically appropriated" and
"Ratsinger bluntly calls the Protestants to return to the Roman Catholic Church: 'But the Bible is Catholic... To accept it as it is... therefore means to join the Catholic Church."'
Kung wrote that Roman leaders believe
"Rome equals the Church equals Christ equals God."
He noted that
"For Ratsinger, the church today [before the collapse of the Soviet Union] functions properly only in the totalitarian states of the East, where, after all, pornography, drugs and the like are simply not permitted.
In this connection one is reminded of the concordat with Adolph Hitler in 1933; this agreement still serves today financially and legally to guarantee the German hierarchy its unassailable position of power in German society as a 'state within a state.'
In response Ratsinger ignores the latest historical research (G. Densler) which has copiously documented the baneful silence and conformism of the German episcopate in the face of Nazism. Instead he transforms the Catholic church into an institution of resistance, whereas Protestantism could only produce individual resisters." [Actually there was significant though not total resistance by Protestant churchmen in the Barmen Declaration.Ñ JMS]
Speaking of Pope John Paul's world travels, Kung said,
"One must not be fooled by media spectaculars. Notwithstanding many speeches and costly pilgrimages that have put some local churches deeply into debt, there has hardly been any meaningful progress in the Catholic church and ecumenicity.
John Paul II does come from a country [Poland] that experienced neither Reformation nor Enlightenment. He seemed just what the Curia wanted. The former Archbishop of Krakow did not in any way distinguish himself at the [Second Vatican] Council. Even as a member of the critical papal commission on birth control (which by a large majority recommended to Paul VI that freedom of conscience be allowed in this matter) his consistent absence was politically well-calculated...
The Inquisition is again in full swing. It has been especially active against North American moral theologians... Far from healing the wounds of the church, this pope rubs salt in them... The pope is leading an almost unbelievable battle against those modern women who are seeking a way that corresponds to the times. The battle ranges from the prohibitions against birth control and female acolytes to similar positions against the ordination of women and the modernization of the female orders. But let us not be deceived. The women's questions will increasingly become the test case of this pontificate.
..... His programmatic proclamation right across Africa, 'be fruitful and multiply', combined with the contradictory condemnation of abortion and birth control, allows media commentators to make the pope co-responsible for the population explosion, for the pitiable and endless misery of millions of children. The canonization of a murdered nun as 'martyr of chastity' and the dedication of a $12 million prestigious cathedral (Italian architect), the largest in Africa, in the middle of poverty in Abidjan, neglect African reality just as much as the calls for sexual abstention (or the rhythm method) and celibacy.
There is much more critique of the pope and the curia, such as his observation that the pope "can fly into a rage when confronted with the fact of 10,000 married priests."
Kung ended his public statement with a plea to Catholics to
"take the part of those theologians-and nuns in the church who have been browbeaten or unjustly reprimanded. Let them work for the final understanding among the Christian churches, for an unprejudiced dialogue with Jews, Muslims and other religions... let them work for freedom of thought, of conscience and of doctrine in our Catholic church."
Why are there not more Catholic theologians like Kung? They have been silenced. How can Kung make these statements? He is banned from teaching in Roman Catholic universities, but taught in a non-Catholic university. In 1996 he retired. He can justly be critical of the pope's departure from Vatican II, as he helped to mold that council as Council theologian.
Why are Protestant theologians silent? For some it means being banned from speaking in Catholic circles or in ecumenical settings where a word from a priest prevents certain Protestants from being on the program. That happened to me in 1979 when Father Senecal, President of the Benedictine college where the annual Pax Christi conference was to be held, told leaders who had invited me to speak that he would not permit me on campus because of my defense of separation of church and state and a woman's right to an abortion. I have never since had a similar invitation.
The following are excerpts from the statement I prepared at the request of the National Catholic Reporter on that occasion:
"The withdrawal of the invitation comes as a surprise but not as an affront. My surprise is because I had assumed the term Catholic describes an inclusiveness that tolerates difference. I have the greatest respect for Pax Christi and its leadership. The world needs all the peace activity it can muster. Pax Christi is making a very significant contribution and will do so whether I attend the conference in Atchison or not.
There are, without doubt, people in Pax Christi who are concerned about free speech and the desirability of dialogue with those from other traditions who hold differing points of view on some questions. If they have been unable to persuade the college president, Father Senecal, that Pax Christi should be able to determine whom they will invite to speak, nothing that I say will be persuasive."
I went on to indicate that "conscience as well as medical judgment should determine whether abortion is to be chosen, just as I believe conscience should determine whether anyone prepares for or participates in nuclear or other war." I also indicated that I would not have raised either the abortion or separation of church and state issues at the conference "if only because I respect religious convictions that differ from mine."
That is still my position - one critical of the Vatican and its positions on many issues, but friendly to the many progressive Catholics who have kept alive the struggle for peace and justice and at the same time respect the conscience of others.
Dr. Swomley is Emeritus Professor of Social Ethics, St. Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Missouri. He has a PhD. in political science and is Associate Editor of the Human Quest.
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