ACTA Hero Hans Küng's Final Act of Defiance?
It's hard to do anything but shake one's head at the unbelievable arrogance of muddle-headed hippy, Hans Küng. It wouldn't be a problem if he wasn't so shouty. But he is. Very shouty.
For me, his shoutiness means that unless there is a voice to put his opinions in some sort of proper context, all the faithful hear is dissidents and schismatics seeking to diminish the faith, like The Tablet, The ACP and ACTA expressing how heroic he is and describing his position as a much respected theologian, and such like.
Of course ACTA and The Tablet love him! He is their leader!! Probably this stems from his consistent opposition to much of what the Church teaches and most recently, and most vocally, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI's papacy. In 2012, Küng called for open revolt to unseat Pope Benedict, which, of course, went nowhere. Because the only people listening are people his age, who stand against the transformative truth of an authentic, orthodox, Catholic life and seek instead justification for pursuing their own agenda. The sin of the Garden of Eden in Genesis, The Fall, where humanity grasps for divinity, seeking to be God and deciding for themselves what constitutes right and wrong, with disastrous consequences. Küng considered Pope Francis' papacy a new spring, but he seems to have changed his mind now, issuing a statement that calls for "A Time of Outrage!" if Pope Francis fails to implement reforms from the bottom up.
If you are asking yourself, "who is this man?", Küng is a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and author, born in 1928 who is officially and formally not allowed to teach Catholic theology simply because when he was employed to hand on the faith he consistently courted controversy and taught heresy. He was asked not to, but continued nonetheless. The full details are available on the Vatican website here.
I actually read quite a bit of his work when I first became aware of the depth of Catholic intellectualism. Particularly, I found his work on inter-faith dialogue very interesting (see: Christianity and the world religions: paths of dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism (1986) ISBN 0-385-19471-4). The thing is, it's not authentically Catholic, interesting as it is. Individual theologians always contribute to the development of doctrine. The Church tends to steer a via media between extremes and is careful to define the truth only when it can; when it knows it. Küng clearly represents one of these extremes. The CDF declaration explains:
...some opinions of Professor Hans Küng were opposed in different degrees to the doctrine of the Church which must be held by all the faithful. Among these opinions it noted especially, as of greater importance, those which pertain to the dogma of faith about infallibility in the Church, to the task of authentically interpreting the unique sacred deposit of the word of God which has been entrusted only to the living Magisterium of the Church, and finally to the valid consecration of the Eucharist.Want more examples of problematic theology? OK. In the book referred to above, Küng suggets that the dogma of Trinity is one reason why the churches have been unable to make any significant headway with non-Christian peoples. He states:
"Even well-informed Muslims simply cannot follow, as the Jews thus far have likewise failed to grasp, the idea of the Trinity. . . . The distinctions made by the doctrine of the Trinity between one God and three hypostases do not satisfy Muslims, who are confused, rather than enlightened, by theological terms derived from Syriac, Greek, and Latin. Muslims find it all a word game. . . . Why should anyone want to add anything to the notion of God's oneness and uniqueness that can only dilute or nullify that oneness and uniqueness?"You can begin to understand that for Küng, no element of revealed truth is free from criticism and even abolition, if it suits his agenda.
Carl R. Trueman has posted on First Things about Küng's plans to kill himself:
Hans Kung is planning to take his life. Or so he said in an interview last week in the British Catholic weekly, The Tablet. Kung is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, and polyarthritis in his hands. Determined not to go gentle into that good night, he has apparently decided that he will at some point travel to Switzerland in order to be assisted in committing suicide. His reasoning is threefold: he does not wish to live when there is no quality of life; his life is a gift from God and he intends to give it back to God; and death, like birth, is “our own responsibility.”
It is perhaps no surprise that someone who has spent a lifetime opposing the teaching of his own church on so many different issues (to the complete confusion of Protestants such as myself, I hasten to add) should choose to end his life in breaking one last church taboo. It is surprising, though, that his reasoning seems so weak. The analogy between birth and death seems entirely inappropriate to the case Kung is trying to make. His birth, after all, was no more his responsibility than my birth was mine. That is not just basic Christian teaching; it is a really rather obvious fact of life.
It would appear, therefore, that his own analogy should mean that his death is not his responsibility either, that there are much wider issues at play. And the language of responsibility and gift seems rather plastic as well: if life is a gift, if it comes to me from another, then my responsibility is not simply to myself, as Kung seems to assume. Indeed, to talk of having responsibility simply to myself is specious anyway. Such is really no responsibility at all, merely egoism scantily clad in the rhetoric of a hollow morality. Responsible only to myself, I am simply going to do exactly what suits me at any given point in time. Kung the radical libertarian: Who would have thought it would come to this?
Still, Kung does indicate that he might drink the necessary ingredient, rather than inject it. “I can do it like Socrates” was his precise comment, as recorded in The Tablet. One hopes that that is merely intended as a reference to the method of his departure, not his perception of its (and his) historic significance. Readers of his autobiography (only two volumes in English so far, and those only just reaching the 1980s in over 1,000 pages) have good cause to fear that it might well be the latter.A final act of arrogance from the man who has refused to do anything but assert his own will be done. By contrast, Vatican II teaches:
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.Gaudium et Spes §27
Of course, this needs some unpacking. I wrote an article for a local paper on this in March 2012 where I tried to put Church teaching in the context of a personal experience. You can read the whole thing here.
The issue is that today, society sees it as a mercy to 'put someone out of their misery'. But of course we can all see that from a position of health and full mobility. It is difficult to understand how beautiful and fragile life can seem when one is faced with death. Think about the way Catholicism approaches life throughout history, affirming its goodness and beauty, asserting its fundamental dignity and that we are all made in the imago Dei. It is this resilience to the darkness and pain of the world that saves us. It embraces that pain, as Jesus embraces the Cross, and shows us how to cope. This is so important, because it is certain that we will all face hard times and struggle. When things are black, it is the easiest thing in the world to walk away. It takes far more courage to stand and face the blackness, to make a stand and have hope.
When Ruth died, I can remember longing for that enveloping blackness. How I long to be with her and away from all the pain. The struggle of daily life became something I felt I couldn't cope with. But I understand that people love me and it is that love that keeps us going on. It is a selfish thing to dwell only in our own pain, we must instead make our lives of service to others.
Everyone has the duty to lead his or her life in accordance with God's plan. That life is entrusted to the individual as a good that must bear fruit already here on earth, but that finds its full perfection only in eternal life. This eternal dimension is often lacking in people's perspective today, but for a Catholic, what could be more important? What better example of my certainty about God's loving reality can I give than to entrust my own being to Him?
Intentionally causing one's own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God's sovereignty and loving plan. Remember how linear and imminent we are in comparison to God, who sees us like looking down on a map. We can only see the choice directly in front of us, but God sees all the myriad possibilities that lie in front of us, long before we choose them. How can we begin to comprehend what His plan for us is? How our own personal tragedy will affect others, or show them His love through our lives? All we can do is to take life one choice at a time, and try to do the very best that we can. Even if we have no faith, this is all we can do...Get busy living, or get busy dying.
"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity." ~Deut 30:15As for Hans, let us pray for him and remember the lesson from all this and my watch word for the week:
For more on the Church's teaching regarding euthanasia, Priests For Life have a nice, easy to understand summary here.