Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fr Hans Kung

The interview that appears on the Guardian (here) with the theologian Hans Kung is very illuminative.

It seems very clear that within the different families of Christians there is a lot of entrenchment going on. And as we know from the experiences of World War I that is a very grave situation of concern. When people are entrenched they cannot breathe the fresh air of the open spaces and neither enjoy the whole view round.

I saw an e-mail message a couple of days ago of a very shocked and upset Roman Catholic priest who for the past twenty years has been completely immersed in building base communities in South America and fighting Capitalism. Although for me personally Don Quixote comes to mind, I can understand where this hard working priest is coming from. I can see that in the tone of his e-mail emotion has taken the upper hand but in what he says he demonstrates the two camps that seem to be firmly set against each other to the peril of the proclamation of the Gospel.

It is natural for us who are formed within the Anglican spirituality to evoke and stand for the Via Media. However the middle way is not what many understand as compromise, it is comprehensiveness. Yes for the principles of liberation theology, at the end of the day Easter tells us that all good theology must be liberating, however some manifestations of this movement in South America and in other parts of the world leave me bewildered. I can never forget the image of a priest celebrating Mass with a machine gun strapped over his chasuble – at best that was madness and at worst a sacrilege and scandal.

Those who applied the principles of the sixties to the Faith of the Catholic Church, both Romans and Anglicans, have espoused the signs of the times rather than read them. The approach and ethic they formulated gave the (false?) impression that with these trendy sound bite headlines, rather than the creeds, they will pack people in the vast churches that we have inherited. And sadly that has not happened, and even if it did or would there is always the perennial question – at what price?

Both sides are deeply in love with Christ, both want the spread of his kingdom but the premise of one side is anthropological, the other following closer to Revelation, starts from God. Allowing for extremes on both sides like the above mentioned South American pastor and those whose only preoccupations are with rubrics, I admire the Holy Father who is trying to promote the comprehensive view: dignified worship, clear theology and Christian living in the freedom of being children of God. The false dawn of the sixties has been exposed; the game is up, the realignment of Christians with their eyes fixed on the loving face of Christ and their hearts gladdened by the holy gospel is being called by the Holy Father. Some will never accept the invite (Non Serviam still echoes), others need time and patience is required from both sides, many more are offering their lives for this new springtime. For those thinking and those offering thanks be to God.

It is people like Fr Hans Kung that sadden me; they appear to me like snipers, turning every event into an opportunity for selling their past-their-sell-by-date goods.

The article in question needs looking at carefully, it betrays impatience and anger and a misrepresentation of certain facts. Kung’s experiment of global ethics is tired and in fact there is one already in place, it is called the Gospel.

Fr Kung starts by using the media created perceptions of the damage the Holy Father does in relationships with other faiths. It seems that the Pope must be punished as he does not worship at the altar of political correctness. The present pontiff is then equated with his predecessor Pius X and quite conveniently the title Saint is dropped from in front of his name, obviously Kung cannot allow any similarity between Pope Benedict and a canonised Pope, or accept that a Pope that fought modernity can be presented as a model of holiness. Traditionalists and extreme right are placed in one measure by Fr Kung, I wonder why?

The second paragraph is a sick joke. Fr Kung weeps the 60`s ecumenical strategy. That was another false dawn and as Cardinal Kasper said the road ahead as regards Anglicans is one of co-operation and not communion. Scaremongering is Kung’s next tactic when he writes about second class priests and Catholics not being allowed to join in the liturgy of those whom the Pope will admit in full unity with him. Where on earth did Kung pick this up from, he must either have inside knowledge of the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution or else he is perverse.

Fr Kung mentions the long process of ARCIC and like many he hoped that it would have led to a different place. The fact is that what happened in that process is that the two communions entrusted God to lead them on, if they have not arrived where they had hoped to then it is a question of seeking what the Spirit is saying to the Churches. However some Churches are happier to listen to the spirit of this world than the Spirit of the living God. Fr Kung seems to think that Rome stopped this process (did it? What about IARRCUM?) because there was “too much Kung theology”. What about some humility?

Kung takes exception that, as he puts it, Pope Benedict is restoring a Roman imperium (interesting choice of word by Kung as this is a loved one by European fascists). However as I see it, and I still await the Constitution, the pope is neither poaching Anglicans nor building anything, he simply is, in charity in truth, making place for those whose conscience makes it impossible to remain where they are.

Fr Kung sees this as thirst for power and a tragedy. I see it as an act of love, of genuine respect from Rome towards those who seek the unity of the Catholic Faith. The Pope has never said that any dialogue that is happening is going to be stopped or denied but that some may be ready and so are to be made welcome.

This is a step in the realignment of Christians who believe that Christ is the joy of the universe, and that our only response to God is faithfulness and repentance, repentance both from sin and from empty experiments that have led nowhere. The Vatican is not dividing Anglicans, as Kung claims; Anglicans have done that to themselves without the need of the Church of Rome. It neither damages Catholicism; in fact it celebrates a Catholicism that with confidence looks forward in faith.
Incidentally, what is lacking in Kung's article is a theological argument, there is none in favour or against or whatever - it just seems to say: I do not like this Pope, I do not like Traditionalists and so this should never have happened: it is a disaster. I hope I am forgiven but if indeed he is the best theologian the Guardian can wheel in, then may the Almighty help them.

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Dear Farv, Thank you for drawing this Kung nonsense (from the Grauniad, of course) to our attention; and for demolishing it so well. +E