God is ever working in the world through an uneven and irregular process of evolution with its ups and downs toward a higher state, in my opinion toward his “Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven”. At different moments and places of his work God provides the human race with a person of immense talent, based on the criteria of his time, to provide us with credible arguments to encounter him more fully through Jesus, his son and messenger. Hans Kung, in my opinion, is one such person and in many ways can be compared to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine in their respective epochs of history. Not everyone will agree with this appraisal of Kung, but weighty theological and historical considerations still support his courageous dissenting view of the religious power assumed by the Papacy.
It is important to keep in mind that Pope John 23 himself personally invited HK as a peritus (expert) to participate in the Vatican II Ecumenical Council. A key motive for the invitation lay in his specialized knowledge of the state of theological conversations with the Protestant mainline Churches. At the same time as a professional historian he held firmly the Counciliarist position that a Council together with the Pope represented the highest authority in the Church and not the Pope supported by a protective but frequently ill-trained bureaucracy.
Fr. Kung was a true cultural product of Switzerland, a country accustomed to coexist over centuries with Protestant Reformed Churches. He enjoyed the immense advantage of spending many years in a respected and very professional school of theological history and research, the Swiss University of Tubingen, which was prepared through its emphasis in both the Holy Scriptures and the march of history to evaluate the claims of Rome over the minds and hearts of the world’s Catholics.
After the Reform of the Reform movement gained traction through the Vatican bureaucracy, HK was mandated to stop teaching as a member of the Catholic faculty in the University. His persevering loyalty to Jesus and the Church as a priest through this protracted rocky and painful experience with the highest level of the Church’s hierarchy reflects his deep and solidly founded faith. It was based on continuing credibility for a Church that had lost its way through the leadership of a priestly caste enchained in a culture of political and religious power generated over a millennial historical process of growth. This faith shines through the pages of his latest book on the very survival of the Church, in some ways a recapitulation of a prolific life of research and writing. The justification for his position is briefly summarized in a second post, entitled Hans Kung’s Obstacles to Absolute Papal Supremacy.