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About Hans Küng:

Hans Küng is a priest and one of the best known theologians of the Roman Catholic Church:

bullet He played a major role at Vatican II from 1962 to 1965.
bullet He wrote the draft of the "Declaration towards a Global Ethic" which was endorsed by the Parliament of the World's Religions during their 1993 Chicago meeting.
bullet According to, he is a prolific author. He has written at least 140 books. Among the best known are: "The Catholic Church," "On being a Christian," "Does God exist?," "Theology for the Third Millennium," "Dying with dignity," and "Infallible?" An inquiry."
bullet He is a member of the Group of Eminent Persons convened by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
bullet He recently retired from the Institute for Ecumenical Research at the University of Tübingen. He is now president of the Global Ethic Foundation, a group which encourages inter-cultural and inter-religious research, education, and dialogue. 1

His book on papal infallibility resulted in a very public debate on the topic. It became a irritant that was largely responsible for the Vatican withdrawing his permission to teach theology.

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About his article:

He wrote an article about the influence that Pope John Paul II has had on the church and the rest of the world. It was published in Der Spiegel, a leading German newspaper one week before the pope's death. It has been widely duplicated on the Internet; lists 26 hits on 2005-APR-08.

Küng complemented Pope John Paul II for "battling war and suppression," for being "a beacon of hope for those who long for freedom," for his staying power in spite of his devastating medical problems, for his opposition to the war in Iraq and to war in general, and for the role that he played in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Küng wrote, in part: "Karol Wojtyla was not the greatest pope of the 20th century but he was certainly the most contradictory. Outwardly, he called for conversion, reform and dialogue with the rest of the world. But this was sharply contradicted by his internal policy, which was oriented toward the restoration of the pre-Second Vatican Council status quo, obstructing reform, denying dialogue within the church and absolute Roman dominance....." 2

Küng listed nine of what he calls the pope's "most glaring contradictions:"

  1. Human Rights: The pope promoted human rights around the world, but seriously restricted them within the Church -- particularly among the bishops, church theologians "and especially women." 3 The Church has not signed the European Council's Declaration of Human Rights." Vatican investigations of its personnel lack due process.
  2. Role of Women: "The great worshiper of the Virgin Mary preaches a noble concept of womanhood, but at the same time forbids women from practicing birth control and bars them from ordination." The result is an exodus of women from the Church.
  3. Human sexuality: Although the pope preached against poverty and suffering, his policies on the birth control pill and condoms has made him "...more than any other statesman....partly responsible for uncontrolled population growth in some countries and the spread of AIDS in Africa." In the developed world, sexual policies of the church are being largely ignored by the laity.
  4. Married priesthood: By requiring priests to be celibate, the number of men willing to enter the priesthood has dropped precipitously. Küng notes that the number of new priests in Germany has reduced from 366 in 1990 to 161 in 2003. The average age of priests in many developed countries has approached or has passed retirement age. He also attributes the pedophile scandals which have rocked the church in the U.S., Canada and other countries, to the requirement for priestly celibacy.
  5. Ecumenical movement: "The pope likes to be seen as a spokesman for the ecumenical movement." However, he has continued the church's policy of not acknowledging their "ecclesiastical offices and Communion services."
  6. Collegiality: Some of the main principle of Vatican II were collegiality -- i.e. power sharing -- and dialogue. This did not materialize. Bishops are selected by the pope according to their willingness to be "...absolutely loyal to the party line in Rome."
  7. Clericalism: Küng suggests that the pope's policies generate hostility against the Church. These are particularly visible in matters relating to human sexuality: e.g. abortion, artificial insemination, birth control, and divorce. This "strengthens the position of dogmatic anti-clericalists and fundamentalist atheists."
  8. New blood in the church: The pope relies heavily on conservative "new movements" like Opus Dei, Regnum Christi, Focolare, etc to involve youth in the Church. Other youth movements are financially starved.
  9. Sins of the past: Pope John Paul II did confess failures and transgressions by Roman Catholics in the past. But the apology was "vague, non-specific and ambiguous." Blame was placed on individual Catholics; the popes and the Church itself are regarded as innocent. "The half-hearted papal confession remained without consequences, producing neither reversals nor action, only words."

Küng concluded: "Contrary to all intentions conveyed in the Second Vatican Council, the medieval Roman system, a power apparatus with totalitarian features, was restored through clever and ruthless personnel and academic policies. Bishops were brought into line, pastors overloaded, theologians muzzled, the laity deprived of their rights, women discriminated against, national synods and churchgoers' requests ignored, along with sex scandals, prohibitions on discussion, liturgical spoon-feeding, a ban on sermons by lay theologians, incitement to denunciation, prevention of Holy Communion -- 'the world' can hardly be blamed for all of this!! The upshot is that the Catholic church has completely lost the enormous credibility it once enjoyed under the papacy of John XXIII and in the wake of the Second Vatican Council." 3

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References used:

  1. The home page of the Global Ethic Foundation is at:
  2. Hans Küng, "The nine contradictions of Pope John Paul II. He had many qualities, but consistency was not one," The Toronto Star, 2005-APR-03, at:
  3. Hans Küng, "The nine contradictions of Pope John Paul II. He had many qualities, but consistency was not one of them," Der Spiegel, 2005-MAR-26, at:

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Copyright © is held by the persons issuing the statements
Originally posted: 2005-APR-08
Latest update: 2005-APR-14

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