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The Vatican's Double Standard

by Christopher A. Ferrara

As the Vatican hounds and harasses Father Nicholas Gruner and his Fatima apostolate with threats of ruin and disgrace, Father Hans Küng, the most notorious heretic of the post-conciliar era, goes his merry way as a priest in good standing of the Diocese of Basel. Undeterred by his rather mild censure in 1980 (the Vatican said he could no longer function as a Catholic theologian, although he continues as such de facto), Küng continues to promote his heretical views in books and lectures.

A book review in the LA Times alerted me to Küng’s latest serving of heterodoxy. As the reviewer notes, in his just-published book The Catholic Church: A Short History, Küng continues to insist that Our Lord never intended to found an institutional Church, but only “a group of believers who saw themselves as distinct from Judaism.” The reviewer discusses Küng’s claim that “Jesus radiated a democratic spirit” — which is news to Catholics, who recall that Christ identified Himself as a King during the inquisition by Pilate, and that the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King each year.

According to Küng’s book “when His [Christ’s] followers referred to their ‘ecclesia’ (church), they didn’t mean an institution, only ‘a community gathering at a particular place.’” This would mean, of course, that the Pope is not really the Vicar of Christ who has juridical authority over the whole Church. No, Küng has long denied that papal authority has a Scriptural basis. As the reviewer observes: “He [Kung] ruffled quite a few ecclesiastical robes when he argued that papal authority was unsupported by Scripture.”

In his book Küng informs us how he (like any good modernist) remains unbowed by the Vatican’s censure: “Despite all my experiences of how merciless the Roman system can be, the Catholic Church, this fellowship of believers, has remained my spiritual home to the present day.” How big of him.

Even the secular book reviewer was struck by Küng’s lack of academic objectivity and his penchant for name-calling: “In depicting the [alleged] distortions of papal power, however, Kung teeters early, and often, into name-calling. For him, Augustine was a propagandist for Rome; Thomas Aquinas was a papal lackey and a weak theologian (‘He was no Luther,’ he says); Pius IX showed ‘the symptoms of a psychopath.’ In so short a book, attacks like these pile up, ruining a chance to let instances of abuse speak for themselves.”

So, to sum up: According to Küng, Christ founded no Church, Saint Augustine was a Roman propagandist, Saint Thomas Aquinas was a papal lackey and Blessed Pius IX was a psychopath. This is the man whose writings the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, publicly praised in his 1998 speech at the Lateran. Yet Sodano is, at this very moment, overseeing the campaign to silence Father Gruner with a preposterous sentence of excommunication.

The double standard exhibited by Sodano — benign neglect and even praise for heretics but harsh persecution for orthodox priests considered “pre-conciliar” in their orientation — is a disgrace of historical proportions. When the history of this time is written, the account of this shameful duplicity will no doubt figure prominently, just as it did in the time of Saint Basil the Great: “Only one offense is now vigorously punished — an accurate observance of our fathers' traditions.”