Meeting between Benedict XVI and Hans Küng

Source: FSSPX News

A big surprise : Hans Küng welcomed by the pope, on September 24 last. The two men have known each other for a long time : they were colleagues and friends at the faculty of theology at Tübingen : the latter was a bishop, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith : the other pursued a career at the university and was banned from teaching by Rome in 1979, following his work on papal infallibility. 

Benedict XVI – Hans Küng : dialogue on ethics

The former friends became enemies. We do not know much about their meeting which lasted “several hours”, except that it was “constructive and friendly” and that the two men invoked in particular, two subjects, at the heart of Hans Küng’s intellectual work for several decades : the dialogue between science and faith and the question of global ethics. Global ethics was the object of a seminar last July at the Theological Center of Meylan-Grenoble, with the participation of Hans Küng.

 In 1990, Hans Küng published his Projekt Weltethos (Global Ethics plan), in which he proposed a universal ethos (ethical values), letting himself be led by this threefold conviction : “No peace between nations without peace between religions. No peace between religions without dialogue between religions. No dialogue between religions without fundamental research within religions.” The “Universal ethos” proposed by Küng studies the values within the major religious and philosophical ways of thinking, and even if on a doctrinal and metaphysical level, religions are and remain very different, on an ethical level they converge in a surprising way. Thus for Hans Küng it is not about a philosophical or theological doctrine shared by all religions, but more a deduction of the moral convictions which can be found in all the major religions. This discovery led to a Declaration for Global Ethics, signed in 1993 by the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. This declaration is a rich and profound appeal which allows all men and women of our planet to construct together, a better life together. After the Declaration of the Rights of Man (1948), we find ourselves here in the face of an appeal to the duty and the responsibilities of Man : responsibilities to our brothers and sisters, responsibilities with regard to our planet also. Since the signing of the beautiful declaration, a Foundation for global ethics, based in Tübingen in Germany has been carrying out this research and interreligious dialogue. Hans Küng continues to publish on this subject, notably large works on Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and the religions of China. This research work is accompanied by impressive pedagogical work which tries to propose the practice of global ethics to children, young people and adults. This project has had a lot of positive feedback from all over the world and in different cultures and religions.

 The Catholic Church, in the person of cardinal Bernadin, took part in the Parliament of Religions in 1993, and we cannot fail to think of the initiatives of John Paul II at Assisi and elsewhere. This same John Paul II, in his speech to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in 2001, pronounced these words which coincide amazingly with Hans Küng’s project : “Because humanity is confronted today with a process of globalization, it can no longer do without a common ethical code. This does not mean a unique economic and social system or a culture which would impose its own criteria and values on this ethical idea. The norms of society are to be found within man himself, and in the universal humanity emanating from the hand of our Creator. (…) In spite of the many cultural forms, there are universal human values, and these must be revealed and made clear as a moving force of all progress and development.”

Since the beginning of his pontificate, pope Benedict XVI has shown himself to be a pope of dialogue. He very quickly announced his willingness to invest in an ecumenical and interreligious exchange, without wishing to mix the objectives and methods inherent in these two types of dialogue. To this “external dialogue”, is added that of “internal dialogue” : to welcome Hans Küng in a private audience is a powerful sign (“For twenty five years, I was asking for an audience with his predecessor”, he said). Here is a pope who is not afraid of dialogue, even if he does not agree with all the convictions of this Swiss German theologian. This implies an ethic of dialogue : for the moment the objectives and methods of this “interior” dialogue are doubtless less clear and less precise than is the case with ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, above all it is not only about dialogue with only one “progressive” theologian , but with all the different theological cultural and spiritual trends within our Church. We may hope that this meeting between two men who have shown themselves to be “men of dialogue” will be characteristic of the style of this pontifex maximus, a builder of bridges.