The NY Times had an op-ed piece (2/27) by Hans Kung, a former Catholic theologian, about his less than optimistic hopes for the Church and the next Pontiff. Apart from having his history wrong about what he considers innovations of the 11th century, he also seriously misinterprets the Second Vatican Council at which he was a theologian “expert”.

He bemoans the fact that the Church and Council did not embrace every change in Europe of the past three centuries. That he does so does not surprise me. That the Fathers did what they did gives me great comfort that the Holy Spirit really is working in the Church. His description of the Roman Curia is just as political and wrong-headed as his is his doomsday reading of the state of the Church today.

His description of his meeting with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo is somewhat self serving. I happened to be staying with a friend there at the time. Out of the sensitive respect he always showed to everyone, especially his critics, Pope Benedict went out of his way to be gracious and open minded to Kung. Yet Kung judges that meeting, as he does every other aspect of the Church, as good or bad by one criterion: “are you doing what I want? If not, you are misled because I am always right.”

I just finished reading the Yves Congar’s daily journal of all four sessions of the Council at which Congar was one of the true theological giants (along with Ratzinger) who truly helped shape the Council. From Congar’s first meeting with Kung till the last, Congar, recognizing Kung’s intellect, comments that Kung is “too radical, he does not understand the tradition; he goes too far; he does not grasp what the Church needs; he is bright but dangerous; he does not help advance the issues”.

The problem with Kung, who has been officially declared “not a Catholic theologian”, is twofold: 1) his own ego, and 2) his lack of understanding of the Church as mystery and sacrament guided by the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul VI and the Council Fathers taught in Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church. This is what the Church believes. If you have the time you might want to see the LICatholic webcast of my talk on that subject that I gave in the Diocese of Rockford last week.