If he’d played his poker hand differently, Hans Küng could have been pope. The turning point in his life came when Pope Paul VI called Fr. Küng in after the fourth session of the Second Vatican Council and said, “You know you could really help the church.”…
— from an article by Robert Blair Kaiser in NCR.
Once upon a time, there was hope, perhaps, that the Roman Catholic Church could be renewed in the Holy Spirit, restored in truth, made beautiful once again. Those days are long since gone, but this ex-Catholic regrets what might have been. What if a brilliant, progressive theologian with an evolutionary panentheistic understanding of the Church maintained in Truth through the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit were today seated in Rome?
At a personal level, I wouldn’t have to re-join the Church. I would never have left. This is one of the saddest articles I’ve read in ages.
The image of Hans Kung as pope brings to mind emotional sentiments such as these: a world where the Roman Catholic Church could be whole, ecumenical, a progressive force for peace and justice … where dialogue with the world religions would be fruitful and luminous … where the Church was respected as a moral bulwark, instead of ridiculed, despised, and reviled … where the great heritage of the faith is preserved, honored, and made relevant to a world in need of the Gospel and the best of Sacred Tradition, even as truth is acknowledged in the world religions, science, and the best thought of modernity and post-modernity … where women and gays could finally be treated with dignity and equality … ah, hell, better stop now, because it’s like driving a knife under the skin.
Read a bit more about the most brilliant Christian theologian of the twentieth century on Wikipedia. Just don’t buy the inaccurate idea that Kung rejected the doctrine of papal infallibility. He arguably did nothing of the sort (and such critical distinctions are matters of great importance when you’re a professional theologian, comparative religion scholar, and Catholic priest). Rather, he initiated a critical dialogue on the subject. Here’s a nice quote by Kung:
“If you cannot see that divinity includes male and female characteristics and at the same time transcends them, you have bad consequences. Rome and Cardinal O’Connor base the exclusion of women priests on the idea that God is the father and Jesus is his son, there were only male disciples, etc. They are defending a patriarchal church with a patriarchal God. We must fight the patriarchal misunderstanding of God.” — Newsweek interview, July 8, 1991