Quo Vadis, Wojtyla?

Declaration on Some Major Points in the Theological Doctrine of Professor Hans Küng

by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Vatican City Press Office, 6, gratis pp.

Kirche-Gehalten in der Wahrheit?

[The Church-Maintained in Truth?] Hans Küng
Benziger (Zurich), (to be published by Seabury Press, Spring, 1980), 75 pp.
Edward Schillebeeckx
Edward Schillebeeckx; drawing by David Levine

“…Professor Hans Küng, in his writings, has departed from the integral truth of Catholic faith, and therefore he can no longer be considered a Catholic theologian nor function as such in a teaching role.”

Declaration on…Hans Küng
promulgated by Pope John Paul II December 18, 1979

“What should we say about the practice of combating or silencing those who do not share the same views…?”

Truth, the Power of Peace
promulgated by Pope John Paul II December 18, 1979


When Pope John XXIII was asked how many people worked in the Vatican, he replied, “About half.” However, one office of the Roman Curia loves its work so much that it recently has been putting in overtime: the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—in an earlier incarnation known as the Roman Inquisition.

This is the group whose predecessors had Giordano Bruno burned at the stake on February 17, 1600, in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori, and thirty-three years later managed to convince Galileo that prudence and a longer life lay on the side of a geocentric model of the universe.

Although papally mandated executions have been outlawed in Italy since 1870, it seems that the spirit of the Inquisition is a gift that goes on giving. In Rome last December the Vatican’s watchdogs of orthodoxy were hard at work interrogating the sixty-five-year-old Flemish theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, professor of theology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, Holland, for alleged heresy in his recent work Jesus, An Experiment in Christology. One of the inquisitors, the arch-conservative priest and theologian Jean Galot, came to the hearings fresh from a Vatican Radio broadcast (inside Vatican sources say it had the prior approval of the “highest consultants” to the Pope) in which he condemned Schillebeeckx and others for denying the divinity of Jesus and—this was the lowest blow of all—for being publicity hounds.1 Perhaps Galot was piqued because Schillebeeckx’s book Jesus, An Experiment in Christology voiced aloud what most theologians admit privately: that Galot’s 1971 work Vers une nouvelle théologie is based “on a completely mistaken interpretation of the authors dealt with, and so does not make the grade as a piece of scholarship.” In any case, Schillebeeckx got his revenge four days after the hearings, and indeed by an act of God. On December 19 lightning struck the Vatican Radio tower and silenced it for eighteen hours.

Although Schillebeeckx will have to wait several weeks before learning whether he is a heretic, the Sacred Congregation waited only seventy-two hours after his trial before condemning another progressive theologian, fifty-one-year-old Hans Küng. Because of his “contempt for the magisterium of the Church” on the issue of papal infallibility—expressed most recently in his Kirche—Gehalten in der Wahrheit?—as well as on the issues of the divinity of Jesus and the virginity of Mary, the Congregation declared Küng barred from his chair of…

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