Controversial Swiss theologian and papal critic, Fr Hans Kung, says that he has a right to be part of what he describes as Pope Benedict’s ‘loyal opposition’.
Canadian Catholic News reports that Fr Kung says that he has a ‘right to be in his holiness’ loyal opposition’, representing thousands of liberal-leaning Catholics who remain disappointed the Second Vatican Council renewal did not go far enough.
Often a scathing critic of the papacy and church doctrine, Fr Kung has softened somewhat since his September 2005 meeting with Pope Benedict, the paper says. Many see the meeting as a gesture of reconciliation, on both sides.
‘There are two ways to be a Catholic, aren’t there?’ Fr Kung told the paper in an interview during a visit to Canada to promote the publication of the French edition of part one of his memoirs entitled My Struggle for Freedom, which he jokingly described as “conflict studies’.
‘I think [Pope Benedict] went one way, I went another way, but we are both Catholics,’ he said. ‘I am not a lonely wolf. He knows that, that I am representative of another part of the Church.’
Fr Kung’s first brush with authority followed the publication of a 1971 book questioning papal infallibility. Under Pope John Paul II he lost his licence to teach as a Catholic theologian though he remained a priest in good standing and continued to teach at the University of Tubingen.
According to Canadian Catholic News, Fr Kung opposes the Church’s teaching on birth control, women priests and celibacy. He objects to any monarchical exercise of power by the hierarchy.
But, he told the paper, he sees an ‘essential difference’ between the pontificate of Pope Benedict and that of his predecessor.
For 27 years, Fr Kung unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Pope John Paul II.
Undeterred he also wrote to Pope Benedict shortly after the latter’s election.
‘I was not interested in an audience in the ordinary sense but in a real conversation,’ he said.
To general surprise Benedict responded by inviting Fr Kung to dinner at Castelgondolfo resulting in a four-hour discussion with the pope.
‘It was without any stress, without any clash,’ Fr Kung said. ‘I found him freer and again more as I had him in mind from his younger years in Tubingen. He did not make a dogmatic impression.’
Now retired, Fr Kung is president of the Global Ethic foundation, and won the support of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others.