Can the Church be Saved?

In a recent book of the same title, Can the Church Be Saved? (2012), this question was posed by Swiss-German Hans Küng, one of the best known and prolific theologians in the Catholic fold. Along with his colleague from the University of Tübingen, Joseph Ratzinger, he enthusiastically advocated for a renewal of the Church. Küng has written a great deal about the Church, ecumenism, religions and other relevant topics. Because one of his books questioned papal infallibility, he was harshly castigated by the former Inquisition. He did not abandon the Church, but pushes like very few others for her reform, writing books, open letters, and calls to the bishops and the Christian community to open up a dialogue on the modern world and the new situation of humanity on the planet. The sons and daughters of our time are not evangelized by showing them a model of Church, turned into a bastion of conservatism and authoritarianism and appearing like a fortress that is threatened by modernity, which is deemed responsible for all types of relativism. Let us say, by the way, that the ferocious criticism the present pope launches against relativism arises from the opposite pole, an invincible absolutism. This is the tone imposed by the two last popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI: NO to reform, and a return to tradition and a strict discipline, orchestrated by the ecclesiastic hierarchy.

The present book: Can the Church be Saved? reads as an almost desperate cry for transformation, and, at the same time, as a generous manifestation of the hope that if a sad institutional collapse is to be avoided, such transformation is possible and necessary.

To start, let’s be clear, when Küng and I speak of Church, we mean the community of those who feel committed to the figure and cause of Jesus of Nazareth, whose focus resides in unconditional love, in the centrality of the poor and invisible, in the brotherhood and sisterhood of all human beings and in the revelation that we are sons and daughters of God, since it was Jesus himself who showed us that he was the Son of God who took on our contradictory humanity. This is the original and true meaning of Church. But historically the word Church has ben appropriated by the hierarchy (from the pope to the curates); that identifies itself as Church tout court and presents itself as the Church.

Well then, it is this second conception of Church, that Küng calls “the Roman system” that is in a profound crisis, this, “the hierarchical-institutional Church” or “the monarchic-absolutist structure of power”, whose seat is in the Vatican and is centered in the figure of the pope with the apparatus that surrounds him: the Roman curia. This crisis began centuries ago, and the cries for change run throughout the history of the Church, culminating in the Reform of the XVI Century and Vatican Council II (1962-1965) of our times. In structural terms, the structural reforms were always superficial, or delayed; or simply aborted.

Recently, however, the crisis has acquired a special gravity. The heart of the Church as institution, (pope, cardinals, bishops, curates), I repeat, not the great community of the faithful, has been affected, in that which was its great pretension: that of being “guide and teacher of morality” for all of humanity. Some already known facts have exposed this pretension, bringing discredit to the institutional Church, and causing a great flight of the faithful:

The financial scandals involving the Vatican Bank (IOR), that was transformed into a sort of off-shore money laundry; the secret documents that were taken, perhaps even from the papal desk by his own secretary, and sold to newspapers, revealing the power intrigues among cardinals; and particularly the question of the pedophile priests, thousands of cases in various countries, including priests, bishops and even Hans Hermann Groer, the cardinal of Vienna. A very grave mandate was given by then-cardinal Ratzinger to all bishops of the world to cover up, under pontifical secrecy, the sexual abuse of minors to avoid pedophile priests being denounced to civil authorities. Finally, the pope had to recognize the criminal character of pedophilia, and accept the judgment of civil tribunals.

Küng shows, with irrefutable historical erudition, the steps taken by popes as they passed from being successors of Peter, to vicars of Christ, to representatives of God on Earth. The titles that canon 331 confers on the pope are of such magnitude that, in reality, they only fit God. An absolute papal monarchy with a golden staff does not comport with the piece of wood of the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep with love and confirms them in the faith, as the Master requested (Luke 22,32).

2 comentários sobre “Can the Church be Saved?

  1. Is very worrying the fact that the catholic hierarchy decided to hide sexual child abuse. Perhaps they believed the “good name” of the church will prodive them with protection, making people believe that acusations were just difamations to damage the church’s reputation. Cardinals knew Ratzinger was a hardcore conservative, who won’t touch the structure of the chuch, thus mantaining the Status Quo. The results are evident, the church has little to show in matter of progress.


    • Dear Meister
      The Catholic Church freezed in time. When it became an instution seems that the Pope and its “antourage” became too untauchable and infallible.
      As an institution it has created a dicothomy from its flock.


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