Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fr Hans Kung On Benedict's Trip To Germany

If these keep rolling in Germany and Austria we could see a case of 'de ja vu'.

Once again I offer an excerpt from a longer article in the German ezine Spiegel On Line.  This time it's a fairly long interview with Fr Hans Kung.  The part I want to concentrate on concerns reform in the Church, what is needed, and why it's not happening.  The entire article can be accessed here.

.....SPIEGEL: You don't just want to reduce the power of the pope. You are also calling for an end to celibacy, you want women to be ordained as priests and you want the Church to lift its ban on birth control. Catholics loyal to the pope say that these elements are part of the core values of the Catholic Church. If you peel all of this away, how much of the Church is left?

Küng: What remains is the same Catholic Church that used to exist -- and which was better. I'm not saying that the papacy should be abolished. But we need offices that serve the congregations, and we need the kind of papacy that was practiced by John XXIII. He didn't seek to dominate. Instead, he simply demonstrated that he was there for everyone, including other churches. He laid the groundwork for the Council and a new dawning of ecumenical Christianity. He allowed a new church to come alive.

SPIEGEL: Many in the Catholic Church says that if all the reforms you call for were implemented, you would be making the church more Protestant and abandoning its Catholic nature.

Küng: The Church will undoubtedly become somewhat more Protestant. But we will always preserve our unique nature. Our global way of thinking, our universality, differentiates us from a certain narrowness in the Protestant regional churches. It should remain that way, just as the office (of the pope) should be retained. But if everything is concentrated in the office, we'll end up with a medieval vicar, a prince-bishop and the pope as absolute monarch, who simultaneously embodies the executive, the legislative and the judiciary -- in contradiction to modern democracy and the Gospel.

SPIEGEL: You and Benedict are traveling along two different paths. You want to reform the Church to keep it alive. The pope is trying to seal off the Church from the outside world and increasingly restrict it to a conservative core, which may possibly survive.

Küng: Indeed. In the past, the Roman system was compared with the communist system, one in which one person had all the say. Today I wonder if we are not perhaps in a phase of "Putinization" of the Catholic Church. Of course I don't want to compare the Holy Father, as a person, with the unholy Russian statesman. But there are many structural and political similarities. Putin also inherited a legacy of democratic reforms. But he did everything he could to reverse them. In the Church, we had the Council, which initiated renewal and ecumenical understanding. Even pessimists couldn't have imagined that such setbacks were possible after that. The Polish pope's restoration policy, beginning in the 1980s, made it possible for the like-minded head of the highly secretive Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), once known as the Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition -- and it's still an inquisition, despite its new name -- to be elected pope.

SPIEGEL: That's an audacious comparison.

Küng: It shouldn't, of course, be overstretched. But unfortunately, even as we acknowledge the positive things, the negative developments that are taking place cannot be overlooked. Practically speaking, both Ratzinger and Putin placed their former associates in key positions and sidelined those they didn't like. One could also draw other parallels: the disempowerment of the Russian parliament and the Vatican Synod of Bishops; the degradation of Russian provincial governors and of Catholic bishops to make them nothing but recipients of orders; a conformist "nomenclature"; and a resistance to real reforms. Ratzinger promoted his assistant from his days as head of the CDF to cardinal secretary of state, which makes him the pope's deputy. (Putinization maybe just another word for rule by loyal cronies.  It is not a particularly mature form of governance, but it is a popular form for running high school cliques.)

SPIEGEL: What's wrong with that?

Küng: The fact that, under the German pope, a small, primarily Italian clique of yes-men, people with no sympathy for the calls for reform, were able to come into power. They are partly responsible for the stagnation that stifles every attempt at modernization of the church system.

SPIEGEL: What do conditions at the Vatican have to do with the state of the Church in Germany?

Küng: A massive system of power politics is behind all the Roman amiability, liturgical displays of splendor and pseudo-statehood. The Vatican controls the appointment of bishops and theology professorships, only allowing those who conform to its policies to attain these positions. Its nuncios monitor the bishops' conferences and constantly report back to headquarters. Denunciators are back in business in this system. Every reform-oriented pastor in Germany, and every bishop, must fear the possibility of being denounced in Rome....... (One can hope and pray they get over their fear and act like mature adults.)


Here's another article well worth the read.  It 's a translation of a speech give by former Benedictine Abbot Giovanni Franzoni.  Franzoni was one of the youngest clerics with voting privileges at Vatican II.  He has a very interesting perspective on what happened to Vatican II.  He makes the same point I've always felt, that JPII/Ratzinger have just accelerated the reversal begun during the Council itself with decisions of Paul VI.  Then as now the three bones of contention were papal power vs collegiality, the role of laity vs the role of the ordained, and reinforcing the reductionist biology of morality based in Natural law.  In short, it was to protect the power and authority of the clerical pyramid--even in the lay bedroom.  Here's a paragraph to give you an idea of where Giovanni Franzoni takes things:

When, in November 1964, the Council was finally getting ready to formally approve the Constitution on the Church, Pope Montini forced them to add a "prior explanatory note" to the text of the third chapter of Lumen Gentium, precisely the one that dealt with the issue of collegiality, that is, the relationship between papal primacy and power of the episcopal college. The note reiterates papal power in an exasperating way, giving it an interpretation that, in retrospect, renders meaningless the episcopal collegiality that was affirmed in Lumen Gentium (to be precise, I recall that the conciliar text never uses the noun "collegiality" but speaks of college of bishops). It repeats a hundred times that this college can do nothing "without its head," or without the Pope. With few exceptions, the Roman Curia has always maintained that the prior note was an act of the Council. But it wasn't; it was a papal act, the full responsibility of Paul VI. The Council simply took note, but formally, without making the text its own.

Have a good read.

1 comment:

  1. "...former Benedictine Abbot..."

    Do I dare wonder what happened there?