A theologian who clashed with the Vatican over his teachings Hans Küng gives his thoughts on the Catholic Church in contemporary society.
In Ireland to give lectures in Dublin and Belfast Dr Hans Küng spoke to RTÉ Religious Affairs correspondent Kevin O'Kelly. One of the most influential theologians of the 20th century he was censured by the Vatican because of his teachings.
A Catholic priest, Hans Küng served as a theological advisor at the Second Vatican Council.
In the 1960s as a professor in the Catholic faculty at Tübingen University in Germany, he questioned the doctrines of papal infallibility, the divinity of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and was reprimanded by the Vatican's Congregation for the the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for doing so. In 1979 his authority to teach Catholic theology was rescinded.
Today he teaches ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen.
The Second Vatican Council's work did not end when the council was over, as the search for truth is an ongoing process. Hans Küng believes that the world is moving towards a completely new way of thinking about and looking at issues which affect us, one which has not previously existed.
People have a different relationship with nature and creation now, which is reflected in the environmental movement. How people think about the human body and sexuality has also changed. He maintains the Catholic Church is now being presented with an opportunity to guide people when making decisions in relationships and sexuality, instead of trying to control them,
To show that we can help a human being, young or old, to find a good way in this rather complicated situation.
Hans Küng says that in other European countries with clear distinctions between Church and State, legislation exists for birth control and divorce, and Christian churches do not try to impose their views on governments in the same way as they do in Ireland. He always brings this issue back to the same question,
I am always asking myself, what would Jesus do if he would come back?
While Jesus taught on the importance of marriage, he also recognised that people were often caught up in very difficult situations, and judged no one. The Church should therefore include people who are divorced,
The Catholic Church is such a strong institution that we can endure the truth.
Regarding the connection between Irish Catholics and the Church in Rome, Hans Küng argues that this is a nineteenth century construct. A church modelled more similarly on that of Ireland’s Golden Age, which was decentralised and parish-based with a pope as its leader, is preferable,
I am very much for a papal primacy, a pastoral primacy, in the meaning of John XXIII.
Just as a good politician keeps their ear to the ground, bishops in Irish Christian churches need to be aware of what is going on among the faithful, even if it makes for uncomfortable listening.
A church can only be alive when the authorities hear.
'Reverend Professor Hans Küng Talks To Kevin O’Kelly’ was broadcast on 14 May 1985. The presenter is Kevin O’Kelly.