By Martin E. Marty
The names of Catholic theologian Hans Küng and Pope Francis are both in the news because Küng was sighted saying friendly things about the Pope and the Pope was apparently saying friendly things about God and atheists. Such stories demand or evoke in this “sighter’s” mind some historical recall which helps set the news in context.
Background: in June, 1966, one year after the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, when there were still many Catholic priests in Canada, hundreds of them gathered in Montreal for four days at then Loyola, now part of Concordia University. On stage were Catholic Küng, Baptist Harvey Cox, Lutheran M.E.M., and host Father Elmer O’Brien, S.J. We guests were evidently competing for the Chutzpah-in-Theology Guinness record by agreeing to appear on stage for four hours with no texts, scripts, or notes. O’Brien and members of the audience made up of priests were free to ask questions or bring up topics of any kind. I ran through all the theology I knew, but learned much by listening. (Chutzpah? We were 38-years-old!).
While we two Protestants did not have anything personal at stake with respect to the papacy, Küng did. A star peritus (adviser) at the Council, he had dreamed dreams inspired by John XXIII and was seeing them dimmed by Paul VI, about whom he was ambivalent. Those dreams turned into nightmares for Küng as John Paul II and Benedict XVI — the latter, had earlier been a friend of Küng’s from Tűbingen, Germany — countered much that the Council had achieved. Or so, at least, it appeared to Küng. Read More…