Küng tells cardinals to move with the times

Hans Küng wants to see reforms at the Vatican Keystone

Controversial Swiss theologian Hans Küng is advising the cardinals who will elect a new pope not to choose someone who clings to church law of the Middle Ages.

This content was published on April 16, 2005 minutes

Küng, who was barred from teaching by the Vatican in 1979 for questioning papal infallibility, said the successor of Pope John Paul II should draw his inspiration from the Gospels.

In an open letter to the cardinals featured in the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung newspaper, Küng said that the next pope should not consider the church as a power centre.

He also called for the restoration of collegiality among bishops, which he said had disappeared over recent years.

Küng said that the new pope had to improve the role of women in the Catholic church, arguing that the time of patriarchy and sexism was over.

No moral verdicts

The theologian, who lives in Tübingen in Germany, said the next pope should also avoid giving moral verdicts on such issues as contraception, abortion and homosexuality.

Küng commented that he would like the new pope to be a defender of ecumenism because the Catholic church should no longer consider itself "the only real church of Jesus Christ".

In an interview with German-language Swiss radio, Küng said he did not expect to receive a reply from the cardinals, who meet from Monday to elect John Paul II’s successor.

Küng has not minced his words about the state of the Catholic church, writing in the German magazine Spiegel that it was "in dire straits".

And he said that Pope John Paul II’s anti-reformist tenure had plunged the Catholic church into an "epochal credibility crisis".

Impossible alternatives

Many people, he argued, were confronted with an impossible set of alternatives: "play the game or leave the church".

"New hope will only begin to take root when church officials in Rome and in the episcopacy reorient themselves toward the compass of the Gospel," he wrote.

In comments elsewhere, Küng said the pope’s successor would not be an arch-conservative or a progressive and would face an "enormous task" in healing divisions within the church.

"It seems to me that an ultraconservative such as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger barely has a chance," he said in Berlin.

Küng has described John Paul II’s pontificate as a "disaster" despite its "positive aspects" and often attacked the late pope’s views on contraception and the ordination of women.

But he said that a reformer could also face an uphill battle for votes.

"There will probably be enough cardinals to succeed in blocking the election of an openly progressive cardinal," he added.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Hans Küng, aged 77, was a theological adviser to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), a key event in the Catholic church’s process of modernisation.
But he was banned from teaching Catholic theology in 1979 after he rejected papal infallibility.
Küng, a professor of theology, is president of the Global Ethic Foundation (Weltethos).

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In brief

Controversial Swiss theologian Hans Küng has called on the cardinals who will elect a new pope to steer clear of someone who clings to values from the Middle Ages.

Küng says the next pope should not consider the church as a power centre.

He is also calling for the successor of John Paul II to be a defender of ecumenism.

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