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The Vatican’s Thirst for Power . . . according to Hans Kung

Kung has some harsh words for the recent apostolic constitution from the Vatican seeking to bring Anglo-Catholics into the Roman fold:

As I wrote in 1967, “a resumption of ecclesial community between the Catholic church and the Anglican church” would be possible, when “the Church of England, on the one side, shall be given the guarantee that its current autochthonous and autonomous church order under the Primate of Canterbury will be preserved fully” and when, “on the other side, the Church of England shall recognise the existence of a pastoral primacy of Petrine ministry as the supreme authority for mediation and arbitration between the churches.” “In this way,” I expressed my hopes then, “out of the Roman imperium might emerge a Catholic commonwealth.”

But Pope Benedict is set upon restoring the Roman imperium. He makes no concessions to the Anglican communion. On the contrary, he wants to preserve the medieval, centralistic Roman system for all ages – even if this makes impossible the reconciliation of the Christian churches in fundamental questions. Evidently, the papal primacy – which Pope Paul VI admitted was the greatest stumbling block to the unity of the churches – does not function as the “rock of unity”. The old-fashioned call for a “return to Rome” raises its ugly head again, this time through the conversion particularly of the priests, if possible, en masse. In Rome, one speaks of a half-million Anglicans and 20 to 30 bishops. And what about the remaining 76 million? This is a strategy whose failure has been demonstrated in past centuries and which, at best, might lead to the founding of a “uniate” Anglican “mini-church” in the form of a personal prelature, not a territorial diocese. But what are the consequences of this strategy already today?

First, a further weakening of the Anglican church. In the Vatican, opponents of ecumenism rejoice over the conservative influx. In the Anglican church, liberals rejoice over the departure of the catholicising troublemakers. For the Anglican church, this split means further corrosion. It is already suffering from the consequences of the heedless and unnecessary election of an avowed gay priest as bishop in the US, an event that split his own diocese and the whole Anglican communion. This friction has been enhanced by the ambivalent attitude of the church’s leadership with respect to homosexual partnerships. Many Anglicans would accept a civil registration of such couples with wide-ranging legal consequences, for instance in inheritance law, and would even accept an ecclesiastical blessing for them, but they would not accept a “marriage” in the traditional sense reserved for partnerships between a man and a woman, nor would they accept a right to adoption for such couples.

Second, the widespread disturbance of the Anglican faithful. The departure of Anglican priests and their re-ordination in the Catholic church raises grave questions for many Anglicans: are Anglican priests validly ordained? Should the faithful together with their pastor convert to the Catholic church?

Third, the irritation of the Catholic clergy and laity. Discontent over the ongoing resistance to reform is spreading to even the most faithful members of the Catholic church. Since the Second Vatican Council in the 60s, many episcopal conferences, pastors and believers have been calling for the abolition of the medieval prohibition of marriage for priests, a prohibition which, in the last few decades, has deprived almost half of our parishes of their own pastor. Time and again, the reformers have run into Ratzinger’s stubborn, uncomprehending intransigence. And now these Catholic priests are expected to tolerate married, convert priests alongside themselves. When they want themselves to marry, should they first turn Anglican, and then return to the church?

Just as we have seen over many centuries – in the east-west schism of the 11th century, in the 16th century Reformation and in the First Vatican Council of the 19th century – the Roman thirst for power divides Christianity and damages its own church. It is a tragedy.

Now, I realize that in the minds of many Kung is simply an ultra-liberal Catholic who should be cast out into the street. I can’t really say. I haven’t read enough of his work to really know. But something about this doesn’t really sound crazy to me. It actually sounds kind of honest.

H/T: Sub Ratione Dei


  1. mike d wrote:

    IMO Hill has again and again offered sane responses to these posts by looking at the actual events that led to Rome’s actions. Why is that no one else cares about that?

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 4:30 am | Permalink
  2. Chris Donato wrote:

    I’m only wondering, is Küng’s “Catholic commonwealth” anything more than lowest-common-denominator Christianity?

    Sure, it might be “honest” (from a non-Catholic perspective), but is it true?

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  3. Because he’s covering over other actual events that led to Rome’s actions.

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  4. Chris Donato wrote:

    Incidentally, if folks want to read an actual Anglo-Catholic response to all this, go here. Certainly it shows how, as other previous posters (in that other thread) wrote: “Anglo-Catholics are effing protestants,” indeed, “the most protestant of all protestants.”

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  5. I’m only wondering, but is lowest-common-denominator Christianity a meaningless term?

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 7:38 am | Permalink
  6. I’m wondering if Roman Catholics realize that “Anglo-Catholics” and “traditionalist Anglicans” are not pure synonyms.

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 7:40 am | Permalink
  7. Adam Kotsko wrote:

    Seems like the lowest common denominator is orthodox doctrine on Trinity and Christology — certainly that’s not nothing, right?

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  8. Chris Donato wrote:

    Yes. Hence my suspicion of Küng’s vision. I suspect his commonwealth would be constituted with meaningless Christians.

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  9. Totally, w/r/t Rome and Traditionalist Christian social teaching in general one must always say, “At least it’s an ethos.”

    Friday, October 30, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  10. Imagine: it is the year 3497. On planet Nuovi-Inizi one reads in the religious section of the Nuovi-Inizi Post that Amish colonists, refuse to make use of the new strontium drive technology and insist that their anti-gravity hovercraft be pulled by the native, giant centipedes they’ve named ‘vele-voeten.’ In other religious news, some progressive Catholics and the inter-galactic Anglican quadrilateral conference, were angered over Pope Xanchinyuan the 23rds encyclical condemning the use of communion wafers made from synthesized, space-spawned ‘freak wheat,’ stating that: “Unification between Rome and Canterbury has been dealt another serious setback…” The Sanhedrin, after much deliberation, has declared that “vele-voeten” will not be classified as insects despite their appearance, since their hooves are cloven and they cheweth the cud, thus they are declared kosher food for newly arriving Orthodox Jewish settlers weary of living amid the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis back on earth. Indigenous Inizians have stepped up protests against encroachments upon their territory by………..(from my unpublished novel, obliged).

    Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

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