At the age of 82, my good friend Hans Küng is still at it. He launched a new book on March 10 (the same day his former university colleague, Joseph Ratzinger — a.k.a. Benedict XVI — launched Part II of his book on Jesus).
The title of Küng’s book in English, Can the Church Still Be Saved?, is essentially a call to the Roman Catholic laity to stand up, to resist the refusal of Pope and bishops to allow any real change in the RC Church, and so save the Church.
The only hope for the Church, Küng maintains, lies in the courage and resistance of the laity.
Sounds radical? Sure is. But I heard basically the same message from Joseph Ratzinger when he was a promising young theologian serving as a “peritus” (an expert advisor to the bishops) during the Second Vatican Council. At a press conference during the 1963 session (the exact year is fuzzy in my aging memory), he told us that throughout the history of the RC Church it has happened that the Bishops so lost touch with the message of Jesus that it became incumbent upon the laity to exercise their prophetic role given in Baptism and to stand up and refuse to obey!
That was Joseph Ratzinger in 1963….Quite different from Benedict XVI in 2011.
But the Ratzinger of 63 echoes what Küng said in the press conference for his new book. I quote from a report on the conference:
Speaking at the book launch in Tübingen, Germany, Wednesday, the 82-year-old said Jesus Christ would not like today’s Catholic Church.
‘If Jesus of Nazareth returned, he would not prohibit contraceptives, he would not shut out divorced people, and so on’, Kueng said.
He charged that the curia, or Vatican bureaucracy, had come up with a long series of rulings over the centuries that opposed the teachings laid down in the Christian New Testament. He said Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II had reinforced this.
In the book, he argues that resistance to church doctrines that are ‘obviously against the Gospels’ is a duty.
Küng said this included Catholic parishes insisting on keeping their priests after they marry, even if church law declares the man is no longer a priest.
He said the church could only saved by the faithful taking over responsibility for their church.
Küng’s words, and his example, urge me to take up this responsibility.
I sure hope a growing number of Catholic laywomen and men will feel the same. The well-being of our Church is at stake.