A memorable taking down of the professional liberal martyr:
One can be justifiably annoyed by Küng’s poor taste in publicly questioning and throwing doubt on the Pope’s Christianity and then falsely claiming that in retaliation he was deprived of his teaching position. The disrespect with which he addresses the representatives of the Congregation is also irritating. But most aggravating is his obstinacy in leaving the bishops’ questions unanswered and, instead, focusing attention on Roman procedures which he deems unsatisfactory. His technique of prolonging the proceedings is, to say the least, provoking: he answers invitations too late or with a curt “I have no time,” or “it is mid-semester,” or “I am traveling,” or “I am writing a book.” It is amazing that the Roman and German authorities have had that much patience with him. One follows with anguish how those who were sincerely well disposed toward him become frustrated and finally write him off: Cardinal Volk writes, “I beg you from the depth of my heart to speak for once with Rome.” Cardinal Doepfner toward the end of his life concedes that if at long last the difficulties are not cleared up, “I will hardly be in a position to help” (p. 115). The Bishop of Rottenburg also loses heart: “An unpleasant sequel is unavoidable” (p. 185). Küng, in answer to continued pleas for revision, occasionally makes a promise or holds out hope for explanations to come in a new book.
The Roman procedures were “closed for the time being” on April 9, 1974, with a final warning to Küng to cease teaching what is incompatible and irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine, such as denying that the Church’s teaching authority derives directly from Christ or asserting that lay persons can validly celebrate the Eucharist in an emergency. Küng totally ignores these admonitions and says so specifically in his preface to Hassler’s second book on Vatican I, as well as in his theological meditations on truth inherent in the Church. At that time the Sacred Congregation called it to his attention that “it was the Church’s authority that gave him the faculty to teach theology, in the spirit of the Church’s authority and not from a point of view that distorts these teachings or casts doubt on them” (p. 104).
In the course of time dogmatic problems have become more numerous. Particularly after To Be a Christian appeared, not merely the Church’s authority but central tenets of Christology, teachings about the Trinity, about redemption and grace have been questioned. One shares the wish that Küng would take a clear stand on the essentials of the Credo. His answer is gruff: “I find it highly unreasonable that a confession of faith is demanded from me, a tenured professor of theology” (p. 147). But a few sentences further in the document he states: “These extremely subtle and complex questions that are asked from all theologians cannot be answered by the catechism” (p. 148). Avoidance tactics first to one then to the other side? Surely. But it still leaves us on the periphery of the real problem.
From “On the Withdrawal of Hans Küng’s Authorization to Teach” by Hans Urs von Balthasar, published in 1980. Read the whole thing at Communio, still the world’s best theological journal. And, for something more contemporary, here’s George Weigel elegantly and politely handing the good professor his arse.