Kung faces the Pope with direct responsibility and calls for a bishops’ revolt

Hans Kung, great teacher and theologian, issues a devastating critique of the Pope and the Vatican, carried in full in the Irish Times. If the Pope won’t reform, the bishops should take it into their own hands. But will anything change?

Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and I were the youngest theologians at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. Now we are the oldest and the only ones still fully active…. I am motivated by my profound concern for our church, which now finds itself in the worst credibility crisis since the Reformation. Please excuse the form of an open letter; unfortunately, I have no other way of reaching you.
Missed is the opportunity for rapprochement with the Protestant churches:
Missed is the opportunity for the long-term reconciliation with the Jews
Missed is the opportunity for a dialogue with Muslims in an atmosphere of mutual trust:
Missed is the opportunity for reconciliation with the colonised indigenous peoples of Latin America
Missed is the opportunity to help the people of Africa by allowing the use of birth control to fight overpopulation and condoms to fight the spread of HIV.
Missed is the opportunity to make peace with modern science by clearly affirming the theory of evolution and accepting stem-cell research.
Missed is the opportunity to make the spirit of the Second Vatican Council the compass for the whole Catholic Church, including the Vatican itself, and thus to promote the needed reforms in the church
Continuing extrs

There is no denying the fact that the worldwide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (1981-2005). During the reign of Pope John Paul II, that congregation had already taken charge of all such cases under oath of strictest silence. Ratzinger himself, on May 18th, 2001, sent a solemn document to all the bishops dealing with severe crimes ( “epistula de delictis gravioribus” ), in which cases of abuse were sealed under the “secretum pontificium” , the violation of which could entail grave ecclesiastical penalties. With good reason, therefore, many people have expected a personal mea culpa on the part of the former prefect and current pope. Instead, the pope passed up the opportunity afforded by Holy Week.

  • That’s the sort of thing that makes my heart sing, but it’s hard to imagine much gumption from the bishops of ireland.

  • abucs

    Is Hans still dreaming of a Pope Obama ?


    I think his ‘missed opportunity’ letter is an admission that his generation of academcs attacking the Church are coming to an end with no success.

    They might have been able to lead people out of the Catholic Church through the media but they are incapable of building anything.

    It is noteworthy that the bulk of the complaints regarding clergy abuse happened in the 60’s and 70’s when Hans new spirit of reform was supposed to be sweeping through the ranks to make the Church more hip and contemporary with popular culture.

    No thanks, it was obviously the wrong way and the last two conservative Popes have done well to weed that rubbish out !

    All that is left to these geriatric “old age dissidents” now are semi co-ordinated anti-Catholic media campaigns which are obviously narrow, biased and uncritical of the bigger picture and reflect badly on themselves.

  • Danny Boy

    Ha! ‘Narrow, biased and uncritical of the bigger picture’? Yeah right. I can’t imagine who could possibly think this reflects badly on it’s writer, or that media coverage of child rape and its concealment reflects badly on the media. Good luck winning back congregations with that old guff!

  • Macanna

    abcus “No thanks, it was obviously the wrong way and the last two conservative Popes have done well to weed that rubbish out ”
    Pity they didn’t manage to weed out the perverts in the church though.

  • ding dong

    And here’s me thinking that blind faith and support for any human being was a thing of the past, obviously not abucs – sad really

  • abucs

    1) Yes it is narrow, biased and uncritical – any idiot can see that. Look at the reports of where abuse happens in society and then compare that to the CC.

    2) They are managing to weed them out, that’s why the bulk of this happened in the 60’s and 70’s.

    3) I have no idea what this blind faith comment is. I guess i am supposed to have it for some unexplained reason.


  • Brian MacAodh

    I’m not a Catholic Church apologist, in fact I left the faith, and I don’t like Ratzinger. In fact, I think he should resign.

    However, some of these charges are a stretch.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I didn’t exactly warm to this pope but the two allegations from America were absolute nonsense.

    The first time, the offending priest was shown mercy and allowed to die. God forbid the church doing that. And any civil criminal justice would have done the same.

    The second one regarding Fr Keizle (spelling?) was very interesting. The popes letter contained a reference to looking out for the good of the universal church. Everybody has jumped on it to say it was proof of covering up scandal. This is interesting as the one thing it could not mean was a cover up, given that priest had already been convicted of the offence. I would like to know what this meant, as it has implications for the other times the media have used this term as evidence of a cover-up.

    I don’t believe this claim by the church that the media are trying to smear, but if was in the church and subject of the medias negligence, I might have seen it as a smear campaign. At the very least it’s lazy journalism. There was definately an attempt with that second allegation to misrepresent the nature of the application and how the pope responded

  • Alias

    According to the John Jay Report, which is acknowledged as the most comprehensive study of sex abusers within Catholic Church in the US and covers the period 1950 to 2002, the percentage of the Catholic priests who have had allegations of child sexual abuse against them substantiated is 4%, which compares with prevalence of 0.8% among the general population.

    If 4% of them are known sex offenders, then unknown sex offenders (those victims who didn’t complain or whose complaint was not substantiated by the Church or covered up by it) would push the figure close to 10% or 1 in 10.

    When 1 in 25 priests is a known child sex abuser, then it ceases to become a problem for the Church and becomes problem for society. I think it is verging on the criminally irresponsible for parents to allow priests to have unsupervised access to their children. The risk is unacceptably high. That is a concern that society has yet to tackle in regard to allowing this institution to run various state institutions…

  • abucs
  • Alias

    And here is a factual link, consisting of careful examination of the evidence by reputable sources rather than biased opinion pieces in magazines:


  • abucs

    My link was for the non-Catholic Religious Studies professor Philip Jenkins who wrote a book on the subject after 20 years research.


    Here is a link to the full Report you have mentioned.


    Here is the part of the report that deals with the numbers :


    This includes both priests and deacons that have been accused over the time period concerned. You have mis-read this in your Wikipedia link to mean only priests that have been found guilty.

    When the Wiki-pedia link says that the CC have substantiated the claims that does not mean they are guilty it means that they have substantiated that the person marking the charge was at some point in the care of the priest / deacon.

    Your 4% figure of guilt is way off the mark and its this kind of sloppiness that is mis-representing the truth.

    From your Wikipedia link.

    Of the 4,392 priests who were accused, police were contacted regarding 1,021 individuals and of these, 384 were charged resulting in 252 convictions and 100 prison sentences; 3,300 were not investigated because the allegations were made after the accused priest had died.

    So out of 1021 priests and deacons accused (and still living), 384 were charged, 252 were found guilty and 100 of them were bad enough to have prison sentences.

    We don’t know how many of the 3,300 priests and deacons that had died would have been charged/found guilty and had prison sentences. It is probable of those who were wanting to falsely claim abuse most would have picked a priest or deacon that had died and couldn’t defend themselves.

    That being said, of course abuse did happen and should be prosecuted every time it did happen. But the numbers need to be understood properly and compared to the wider society. Your 4% figure is nowhwere near credible.

  • Lionel Hutz


    I’m not sure that substantiated is as low a threshold as you say. I had understood this to mean that there was a case to answer. Though clearly that does not go as far as guilt.

    The interesting thing about these studies are the wide range of activities and ages that come to be part of the figure. Just as some chief Constanbles have said here that having sex with a 16-18 year old is not pedophilia, it should apply to the church- There is atleast one quite recent allegation in N.I that would fall into this category.

    Also the activities range from Penetration and Oral Sex to simply touching, the majority of cases being in the latter. While I would say that touching a child innappropriately is very wrong, it would also be fair to say that it is the type of behaviour that could remembered incorrectly or explained, especially bearing in mind that the vast majority of these cases were reported in the 90s and were historical even then.

    It’s wrong ofcourse, one priest is too much and one cover up is every bit a reprehensible as 100. It is interesting that priests ordained post vatican II were less likely to offend. And every study I have seen comes to the conclusion that this problem is just as prevalent as other religions. I have often thought that the percentage in society overall is a poor comparitor. It should be compared with only vocations and employment which may be used dueto close contact and opportunity with kids. For example,teachers

  • abucs

    All fair and good points Lionel.

    The way i read the report all of the 4000 odd allegations were ones where they were not implausible.


    That is, the priest or deacon actually served during that time in the geographic region and the allegation wasn’t withdrawn at a later date etc. But it is a little unclear.

    I am interested in why there was a spike in these abuses in the 60’s, 70’s and then into the 80’s as compared with the 50’s or 90’s and today. Something obviously went very wrong in those years with formation and acceptance into the priesthood or as deacon.

  • abucs

    Some further info on the Pope’s connection to the abuse of past decades, the Irish situation and claims of media bias from the Catholic station EWTN.

    The program is found in the link – The World Over hosted by Raymond Arroyo.


    The Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre makes the point that in the US between 1991 and 2000 in the Public School system 290,000 American children were sexually abused which is orders of magnitude worse than the situation in the American Catholic Church at the height of the problem back in the 60’s and 70’s. This does not excuse the priests/deacons who did offend but it does raise the question on the intent of the media in their obvious bias.


  • abucs

    Hi Lionel,

    i know it’s a bit late but i have read information recently that suggests the ‘good of the universal church’ is a standard phrase used in many formal correspondence documents in the Church. I haven’t looked to verify it, but thought you might be interested.

    I have also read that the term was used in regard to taking Church vows such as marriage or for the priesthood (as in this case) seriously and it was for the good of the universal church that issues about solemn vows be seriously considered and respected and not discarded willy-nilly without due gravity.