Theologian Kung says only radical reforms can save the Catholic church

May 7, 2011

Munich, May 6
(ENInews)--The Catholic Church is seriously, possibly terminally ill and only
an honest diagnosis and radical therapy will cure it, one of the sharpest
critics of Pope Benedict XVI, the Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Kung, has
written.

Speaking at a sold-out event in the Literaturhaus (Literary
Centre) in Munich on 2 May, Kung who is a former colleague of the pope at the
University of Tubingen, introduced his new book, "Ist die Kirche noch zu
retten?" ("Can the Church Still Be Saved?").

Kung argues that the
malady of the church goes beyond recent sexual abuse scandals. According to
him, the church's resistance to reform, its secrecy, lack of transparency and
misogyny are at the heart of the problem.

He said that the Catholic
church in the United States has lost one-third of its membership."The American
Catholic church never asked why," he said."Any other institution that has lost
a third of its members would want to know why." He also said that eighty
percent of German bishops would welcome reforms.

Kung is one of today's
most outspoken Roman Catholic theologians. Because he questioned the
infallibility of the pope in 1971, he had his "missio canonica," the license
needed to teach Roman Catholic theology, withdrawn. Thereafter, he became
professor of ecumenical theology in Tubingen. He remains a Catholic
priest.

He told the mostly elderly audience in the Diocese of Munich
and Freising, the former diocese of Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger, "I would have preferred not to write this book. It is not pleasant
to dedicate such a critical publication to the church that has remained my
church."

He said he had hoped that Benedict would find a way forward in
the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) which in the early
sixties reformed the church in a number of ways, such as the celebration of
Mass in local languages instead of Latin.

However, Benedict has
distanced himself from Vatican II and "failed in the face of the worldwide
sexual abuse by clergy," King said. Benedict is "in essence a person for
medieval liturgy, theology and a medieval church
constitution."

Referring to the celibacy debate that arose after the
sexual abuse cases, Kung said, "the Roman Catholic church survived for the
first thousand years without celibacy." He is strongly in favour of allowing
priests and bishops to marry.

Kung compared the changes needed in the
Catholic church to the democratic changes taking place in the Arab world."When
will in our church the youth take to the street? That is our problem; we have
no young people anymore," he said to laughter from the 350 people
present.

At the end of the book Kung returns to the question: "Can the
church still be saved?" He said he has not lost his vision of a church that
would meet the expectations of millions of Christians, but certain conditions
have to be met. In their reforms, this Church should show Christian
radicalism, constancy and coherency, he said. "I have not given up the hope
that it will survive," Kung ended, to applause.