Much talk of late regarding the fissures in the Catholic Church, and how to possibly bridge them. From the gray borderlands between "conservative" and "traditional" Catholicism, I'd like to offer a suggestion to my "progressive" brethren:
Try not to talk about yourselves, your heroes and your opponents in ways that make me want to blast you out of the Gucci saddle of your high horse with both barrels.
Exhibit A, this little squib from Robert Blair Kaiser in the (please sit down) Reporter, which manages the difficult trick of being both insufferably triumphalist and nauseatingly twee at the same time. Kaiser won awards for his coverage of Vatican II while he worked at Time. Interesting, at least in the academic sense, because there's no evidence of anything apart from award-winning self-regard here.
The subject? The Teutonic Colonic Himself, Hans Küng, whose theological endeavors are now quite appropriately focused on his favorite topic: Himself. He's in the midst of a truly Extra Absorbent multi-volume autobiography. The first installment clocks in at 533 pages, and goes through 1968.
At this point, I'll simply note that Carl Bernstein was only able to crank out 592 pages about the late pope's life through 1996.
Sounds like a whole lotta Küng. Editor? Though, in all fairness, when he isn't bent on shanking Mother Church, he can be formidable, indeed. I own Does God Exist?, and it is worth your time, though he stumbles slightly at the end.
If he’d played his poker hand differently, Hans Küng could have been pope.
There are three certainties in life. (1) Death; (2) Taxes; (3) You will aspirate your beverage at least once reading a copy of the National Catholic Reporter.
Ooookay. I guess that whole infinite universes hypothesis makes it possible--"possible" being a very elastic term. Though the likelihood of him becoming Pope is on roughly the same order of probability as me getting the job, and we're both less less likely than Elvis. Note also the beginning of an ill-developed, if still tiresome, poker theme.
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.” The pope was hinting that Fr. Küng could get along much better in the postconciliar church if he’d just go along with the papal party in the curia.
Any source for this story other than the bilious memory and limitless capacity for nursing grievances and slights possessed by Fr. Küng? I'm not saying there was no meeting, I'm just not buying The Last Temptation of Küng implications. I'm also not fussy about the quality of the corroboration--for example, I am willing to accept the testimony of Co-Co, the Curial Lemur. Anyone? Bueller? At most, it's his spin on the offer ("The [P]ope was hinting..."). Anyway, the anecdote is just a set-up to illustrate the Steely Integrity of Our Hero.
Fr. Küng didn’t want to get along, much less go along.
Fight the power! K to the Umlaut to the N to the G! HK is in the hizzouse!
After creating immense enthusiasm for the council with his preconciliar bestseller, The Council, Reform and Re-Union,
The enthusiasm for Das Buch has since assumed room temperature. Out of Print.
Fr. Küng, as a peritus
Exhibit No. MMMMMCVXI demonstrating that episcopal personnel decisions are the polar opposite of infallible. But you already knew that.
(a theological expert) at the council, had done battle during the council’s third and fourth sessions with the forces of no-change inside the Roman curia that were clinging to hierarchy despite the majority’s efforts to democratize and decentralize the church.
The great Myth of the Council cherished by those sitting in the left side of the pews. Also known as the Rynne Spin. Given the consensus-building ambiguity in the documents themselves, determining what the "majority" wanted is frequently an exercise in Talmudic spelunking. But there is no doubt whatsoever Prof. Küng has it in for the Curia. After all, he's not running it.
And I especially enjoy the Scooby Doo-ish description of "battle...with the forces of no-change...."
"If it hadn't been for you meddling periti and that dog..."
“I didn’t want to serve
Heh. Non serviam.
OK, OK. Too easy, but irresistible.
And what's this "hierarchical church" I keep hearing about? I have problems with buckets of archbishops, bishops, priests and deacons, but they are part of the Church. Been that way since the first century, like it or not. And Fr. Küng definitely does not like it.
the hierarchical church,” Fr. Küng told me recently during a two-day visit to Phoenix. “I wanted my writing and my research to serve the people of God.” His thinnest (but most powerful) book, Infallible? An Inquiry,
So powerful that it's also out of print. But it is a metaphysical certainty that it is still available at the li-berry of your local Catholic™ emporium of higher learning (and even higher tuition).
hit at the heart of papal absolutism. It put him on John Paul II’s
For whom Küng bears a bottomless well of pure hatred. Probably one of those German/Polish things.
Score one for Poland.
hit list, and, suddenly, Hans had to fold his hand and find another game.
Meanwhile, his colleague at the council, Joseph Ratzinger, decided to go along,
See--some progressives still believe in apostasy. And the sin against the Holy Ghost is most assuredly apostasy from aggiornimento. But you have to believe really, really hard in the Myth--and subject yourself to the spin cycle on a daily, brain-damaging basis--before Santa will give you a sleigh bell.
Yessirree, Joseph Ratzinger was surely and purely a craven toady void of any intellectual or moral integrity whatsoever.
and proceeded on a career path that poker players might call a long winning streak.
Again with the poker. Memo to the drowsy NCR editor: Jai-alai players might call it a long winning streak, too. Ditto the masters of curling. Use that red pen, dammit.
Back to the point: People who kvetch about "the hierarchical church" while drinking deep from the well of clerical politics might call it "a long winning streak."
Others might call it a life of service to the Church.
Even poker players.
After a brief stay at Fr. Küng’s University of Tübingen, Germany, Fr. Ratzinger became the archbishop of Munich, and a cardinal, and, four years later, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office, in Rome. Twenty-five years later, when Karol Wojtyla died, he was perfectly positioned to be the next pope.
Lord, how refreshing: A reference to the CDF as the Inquisition. Straight from The Tired Leftist Hack's Style Manual for Writing About Roman Catholicism, p. 1. Other helpful tips: fish on Friday quips and comments about taking the express elevator to Hell for missing Mass.
"Perfectly positioned." Yeah--the fix was in. Because, as everyone knows, agreeing to become the doctrinal heavy at the Vatican is the passport to universal popularity (see Panzerkardinal, God's Rottweiler, Enforcer of Faith). Which is why everyone really said he had no shot. Just ask Fr. McBrien.
Had Fr. Küng taken the cue given him by Pope Paul, he could have been a formidable contender -- as Cardinal Küng -- at the conclave of 2005.
Because all the periti were put on the fast-track. Not.
Then there's that little matter of his personality. I remember watching an interview of him included on a Vatican II CD-ROM available at our parish. "Axe to grind" and "ungracious" doesn't begin to describe it. The guy could curdle water.
But wait--here Mr. Kaiser gets his meme confused. After all, what makes Hans Küng the Shining Beacon of Selfless Christlike Service to The People of God is his gutsy refusal to play by the rules, right? A sort of Deutsche Duke boy against the Curial Boss Hoggi. Jeee-ja!
But now Mr. Kaiser wishes he'd caved in like that lousy rat fink scab Ratzinger.
Cardinal Ratzinger, for all his intelligence and political skills, was (and is) a pallid, timid man with limited people skills. (I could compare him with President Richard Nixon’s security adviser, the sober Robert MacFarlane.)
At the conclave, a vibrant Cardinal Küng might have been another Jack Kennedy, full of fun and alive with ideas for the church’s new frontier.
And now our man of unbending integrity/clerical rat fink transforms into a celibate JFK/Lenny Bruce hybrid. From alternate history to fantasy, in one sentence.
I'll have what Mr. Kaiser's having. Make it a double.
Fr. Küng, of course, found another game. He started working with leaders of the world’s great religions and founded his World Ethic Foundation in Tübingen to enlist all the major religions in the common search for peace through dialogue. “There will be no peace in the world,” he insisted, “without peace among the religions, there will be no peace among the religions without dialogue, and no dialogue without emphasis on a common ethic. Without dialogue, we shoot each other.” In 2003, England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair came to Tübingen to give the Global Ethic Foundation’s inaugural lecture. In May 2005, Fr. Küng went to Tokyo to receive the Niwano Peace Prize, Japan’s version of the Nobel Prize.
Not a bad idea there: "Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war," as Churchill famously said. Though he admittedly had exceptions to that one. Nevertheless, it definitely beats passing off his theological freelancing as cutting edge Catholic thought.
I am curious, though: How is it playing in Tehran?
Hans has been a friend of mine since the heady days we shared at Vatican II. I had no trouble, then, persuading him to visit Phoenix in November as part of a campaign by the Jesuit Alumni in Arizona to promote a thinking church.
There is no catchphrase in the dividing American church that sets me off quite like "thinking Catholic." Or now, Mr. Kaiser's less-felicitous "thinking church."
Every single time I hear it, it's being used by "thinkers" who are in the midst of uncritically regurgitating someone else's stale ideas.
Exhibit No. 124 for the prosecution.
I was pleased to see that, at age 77, he has the same trim, athletic figure he had 40 years ago, and the same fun-filled personality and boyish smile that he shone on the reformist bishops and theologians at the council.
As opposed to the other stuff he showers on everyone else.
He swims every day near his home in Tübingen, and he’s planning a two-week ski vacation this month in Austria. He did 40 laps in his pool at the Pointe Hilton at Tapatio Cliffs before he went off to a dinner and 80 laps the next day to prepare for his Saturday night lecture.
The only thing that came to mind here was a quote from actor Jay Mohr when he was guest-hosting The Jim Rome Show: "He's so buff he's gay."
Not that it has anything to do with this, but I've always wanted to use that line.
Thomas Olmsted, bishop in Phoenix for the past two years, demonstrated no sympathy for the version of a thinking church of Jesuit Alumni of Arizona or for Fr. Küng’s presence either.
Gosh, how interesting that it took until after Bishop O'Brien had his desert Chappaquiddick for JA of A to start cogitating about a "thinking church." Apparently problems just magically appeared in Phoenix with the arrival of + Olmstead.
He declined to be part of the interfaith event in Phoenix,
WHAT "interfaith event"? This fact just materializes in the midst of the groupie-ish hero worship. Whatever they paid the NCR editors for work on this article, it was too much. And that includes squirrel pelts.
he blocked attempts to advertise it in parish bulletins or on the diocesan Web site, and told the group it couldn’t offer complimentary tickets to seniors in six Phoenix area high schools
What a crippling blow to attendance by The Yutes. Because, as we all know, there's nothing American high school seniors would enjoy more than listening to a German theologian piss, moan and preen on a Saturday night.
, or to the priests and laypeople working in his office.
Olmsted explained through his chancellor that Hans Küng “doesn’t have faculties to teach as a Catholic theologian.”
Absolutely true--followed on the heels of an extensive investigation, too. Which means that the only possible rebuttal by a "thinking Catholic" is to arch his back and hiss from the top of the cupboards.
He was referring to a Vatican decree of 1979 that said that Fr. Küng, though still a priest in good standing, had lost his license to teach Catholic theology. That declaration had a pre-conciliar,
See The Tired Leftist Hack's Style Manual For Writing About Roman Catholicism, p. 4.
See The Tired Leftist Hack's Style Manual, p. 1.
whiff about it that reminded millions of Catholics of nothing so much as the church’s Index of Forbidden Books,
See The Tired Leftist Hack's Style Manual, p. 2.
which was abandoned at Vatican II.
M.J. Benton, owner of Essentially Books in Scottsdale, testified to Fr. Küng’s ongoing popularity. “I can’t keep his books in the store,” she said. “I’ve sold almost a hundred copies of his memoir [My Search for Freedom] in the past month, and I keep selling two of his works in paperback, Global Ethics and Women in Christianity.”
At this point, I get to employ the same dismissal used by my progressive sistren after being told of the vocational upticks after papal visits to America: "call me in two years." And I'll be happy to examine the remainder bins.
Fr. Küng’s publisher, Eerdmans,
A Protestant publishing house, which I only mention (I own a couple of Eerdmans books) because it's rather surprising it wasn't picked up by one of our Ex Corde-allergic emporia or Orbis or Maryknoll.
reports it has “almost sold out the memoir” and is waiting with some eagerness for the second volume.
It's going into its third year since being published. The initial print run is the key to determining "runaway best-seller" status.
Ms. Benton says Fr. Küng appeals to contemporary Americans because “he has found a peaceful way of settling differences between religions.”
Has he now? While it's a perfectly decent idea, some actual examples of settlements would be nice before I'm willing to take a pull at that carafe of Kool-Aid.
By Friday night, Jesuit Alumni of Arizona had sold 550 advance tickets to Hans’ Saturday night lecture. On Saturday morning, The Arizona Republic carried a Page One story reporting the bishop’s efforts to squelch it.
Read: Not promote it on the dime of the faithful.
On Saturday night, a crowd of more than 1,100 laughing, exuberant Catholics, a good many friendly Protestants, and a scattering of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus showed up to applaud Fr. Küng’s message, that there is great good in every religion, and that people of all religions can make the world a more peaceful place.
And I'm just sure Prof. Küng fired no shots at his own Church. None 'tall.
Dangerous stuff for loyal Catholics, right?
I wouldn't know--I can't think.