The following extract is from a report in the National Catholic Reporter – you can read the entire text by clicking on the photo of Hans Kung…
It is through the lens of our long relationship that I read Volume 3 of Hans’ memoirs.
It is vintage Küng. Hans must have — with German-Swiss clockwork — saved and carefully filed every paper and note he took on his myriad travels, meetings, conferences and conversations. All is carefully documented, not in a pedantic manner, but in a way that assures the reader that she or he is getting wie es eigentlich gewesen, or what really happened.
So many of the world’s thinkers and doers came to Hans, or he to them, that this third, and presumably last, volume of memoirs reads much like an intellectual, cultural and political “who’s who” of the late 20th and early 21st century. Hans obviously wrote right up until the printer pulled the paper out of his hand to finish the book, for he recorded that on June 28, 2013, he wrote to Pope Francis asking for permission to reproduce the warm, handwritten note Francis had written to him in Spanish. (He clearly received an affirmative response.)
Hans means to make this volume his vaya con Dios in the sense that, at the end, he looks back and reflects on what he judges is a full and complete life. He said goodbye to his lifelong weeks of skiing — “one of the most fascinating sports” — in his beloved Swiss Alps as of 2010. He speaks of his various health issues and countering exercises.
The title of the mere 350-page English-language book, Can We Save the Catholic Church?/We Can Save the Catholic Church!, says it all. The second half of the English title is not in the original German (which was Ist die Kirche noch zu retten? — “Can the Church Still Be Saved?”), but it echoes a sentiment that can be found in all seven chapters of the book. Küng sees long-term history moving through an ongoing series of lesser and larger paradigm shifts that are always resisted until a tipping point is reached and the new paradigm takes the center of thought and action.
He is convinced — as I am, as well — that we are in the midst of a major paradigm shift that, expectedly, is vehemently resisted. Nevertheless, it is replacing the old — in this case, the Catholic medieval/Counter Reformation — paradigm.
It is interesting and encouraging to read that last summer, when Hans sent a note of greeting and a Spanish copy of this book to Francis (and to the cardinals on the new papal Council of Cardinals, each in his own language), in only a few days he received the handwritten card mentioned above. In it, Francis thanked Hans for his note and the book, which, he said, he would read with pleasure.
Hans obviously knows intimately more about the deep problems of the past and present Catholic church than anyone else alive today, and he distills these structural, deadly flaws with scorching clarity. However, he doesn’t simply criticize. He also lays out a set of suggested action plans. Hans, and now his readers, sees the depth of the disease in each portion of the church. But, learning the lessons of history, he knows that change is not only possible, but also inevitable.
Further, Hans also provides grounds for the inner courage that is needed to begin, or continue, those efforts, which will accelerate that positive change in the Catholic church. It is a vision of the church to which Hans, like so many others, has devoted, and will continue to devote, his life. END OF EXTRACT
Let’s just run through that key paragraph (out of all the key paragraphs) again:
“It is interesting and encouraging to read that last summer, when Hans sent a note of greeting and a Spanish copy of this book to Francis (and to the cardinals on the new papal Council of Cardinals, each in his own language), in only a few days he received the handwritten card mentioned above. In it, Francis thanked Hans for his note and the book, which, he said, he would read with pleasure.“
I suppose we should be grateful that it’s only a handwritten note Kung received and not a personal telephone call, but still. Compare the treatment of Hans Kung, known heretic (who not so long ago intimated that he would consider ending his own life in a spirit of “euthanasia’s not all bad”) with the treatment meted out to anyone of the remotest “traditional” leaning, the Franciscans of the Immaculate springing to mind.
I’m lost for words, except to say that I’m prepared for the inevitable Kung canonisation when it comes. What about you?