Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 9, 2009
Dissident lashes out at Benedict
BY JOHN THAVIS
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY — The dissident theologian Father Hans Kung has criticized Pope Benedict as isolated and unable to take creative steps to deal with a series of internal Church questions, including priestly celibacy and birth control.
Kung said the pope’s recent lifting of the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops illustrated the pontiff’s desire for a smaller and purer Church, and his inability to make necessary reforms.
“The Church risks becoming a sect. Many Catholics no longer expect anything from this pope. It’s very sad,” Kung said in an interview published by the French newspaper Le Monde Feb. 24.
His remarks drew a sharp comment from the dean of the College of Cardinals, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who told Vatican Radio he felt “wounded” when he read the interview.
“Fraternal criticism has always been possible in the Church, from the times of Sts. Peter and Paul.
“Bitter criticism, on the other hand, especially when it’s so broad, does not contribute to the unity of the Church, for which Pope Benedict is working so hard,” Sodano said.
Kung has frequently challenged official Church positions on papal infallibility, birth control, priestly celibacy and the all-male priesthood. In 1979 the Vatican withdrew permission for him to teach as a Catholic theologian, although it did not restrict his ministry as a Catholic priest.
In the interview, Kung noted that one of the four traditionalist bishops whose excommunication was lifted by the pope has minimized the Holocaust, provoking widespread criticism. The pope’s misjudgment on such an important issue, Kung said, reflected his own isolation.
“Benedict XVI has always lived in an ecclesial environment. He has not travelled much. He’s always remained closed in the Vatican — which is quite similar to how the Kremlin was at one time — where he is safe from criticism.”
The theologian said it would be helpful to call a third Vatican council to deal with the issues that concern him.
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