Hans Küng, GHF Board Member

Hans Küng
President, Global Ethics Foundation

Hans Küng is a highly-respected, Swiss-born, ecumenical advocate and theologian, a highly-controversial Catholic priest, a prolific author, and the creator of the Foundation for a Global Ethic.

Küng studied theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in 1954. He was appointed official theological consultant (Peritus) by Pope John XXIII to help in the preparation and the presentation of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Attended by over 2,000 senior Catholic clerics, it was one of the most prominent gatherings on doctrinal issues of Catholic faith of recent history.

In the late 1960s Küng became the first major Roman Catholic theologian to reject the doctrine of papal infallibility, particularly in his book entitled “Infallible? An Inquiry,” published in 1971. In it Küng maintained that papal authority was made not by God but by man and was therefore reversible.

In 1979 the Vatican withdrew his ecclesiastical teaching permission, because of his refusal to withdraw his challenge to papal authority. However, he went on teaching as a tenured professor of ecumenical theology at the University of Tubingen, and was also Director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research there until his retirement in 1996. He also held guest professorships in New York, Basel, Chicago, Ann Arbour/Michigan, and Houston/Texas.

In a recent interview Küng was asked what his “most severe disappointment” was in regard to the Second Vatican Council. He replied that “a lot of very important questions were not resolved. I mention a few: birth control as a matter of personal responsibility, priestly celibacy in the Latin church, and the regulation of the question of mixed marriages.”Concerning priestly celibacy, Küng said that “Everyone agrees that the celibacy rule is just a church law dating from the 11th century and not a divine command.”

Küng has long been outspoken in his views. For instance, in the debate over the teaching of evolution in American schools he dismissed those opposed to teaching it as “naïve, unenlightened”.

Convinced that “there will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions, that there will be no peace among the religions without a dialogue among the religions,” Küng in the early 1990s developed a project called the Global Ethic. It was an attempt to describe the ethical standards religions of the world have in common rather than the questions of faith which separate them, and to draw up a minimal code of rules of behavior everyone can accept. His vision of a global ethic was embodied in the declaration he drafted, entitled: “The Declaration Toward a Global Ehtic”, that was signed by many of the world’s religious and spiritual leaders at the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. This later led to the United Nations “Dialogue Among Civilizations.” Indeed, Küng was invited in 2001 by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to be one of the 19 members of the Group of Eminent Persons who were co-authors of the Manifesto for the UN “Crossing the Divide: Dialogue among Civilizations”.

“As a matter of fact,” he says, “you have deficiencies in all religions, but you have truths in all religions.”

Religious exclusivity and superiority are not viable responses because no one possesses the final truth. Theologians of all faiths, he thinks, should start cooperating and stop competing. The ecumenical calling embraces the whole earth, including other faiths and the secular world.

In 2007, just before turning 80, Hans Küng received a quite extraordinary recognition: a Masonic lifetime achievement award, then in 2008, another lifetime achievement award for Muslim-Christian understanding.

Küng is co-editor of several journals and has written many books in addition to “Infallible? An Inquiry”, which have been translated into a range of different languages, including: Justification; The Council, Reform and Reunion; The Church; On Being a Christian; Does God Exist?; External Life?; Theology for the Third Millennium; Christianity and the World Religions; Judaism; Christianity; Global Responsibility; A Global Ethics for Global Politics and Economics; Tracing the Way. Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions; The Catholic Church. A Short History; My Struggle for Freedom. Memoirs I; Islam; The Beginning of All Things. Science and Religion; and, Disputed Turth. Memoirs II. (P.Ress)


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