To say that Hans Küng's September 10th interview with Deutsche Welle is embarrassing might be an insult to embarrassment. Let's play the "How Many Facts Can Hans Distort and Misrepresent Game," shall we? Here goes (Küng's comments in bold):
• "When we have a pope, who claims that -- as theological Lord of the world -- only those who are with him are true Christians and that only his Roman-Catholic Church is the true church, it gets on many people's nerves." The Pope said that "only those who are with him are true Christians"? Really? C'mon, Hans, read the document!
• "Europeans look at it from the view of Islam's advancement from northern Africa to Spain, between the eighth and 15th century and the leadership of the Ottomans on the Balkan. They don't see that Christians not only had the crusades, but until the 19th century they colonized the entire Islamic area from Morocco to the Indonesian islands. That leads to tensions." Um, if Islam was "advancing" (translation: conquering by brute force and bloodshed) to Spain and western Europe (by the year 730), that strongly suggests the Crusades, which began in 1095—over 300 years later!—might have been in response to said "advancements," no? Hans, read this article, please.
• "Unlike in previous times, it's no longer easy to get churches excited about war. Of course more could be done, especially when it comes to enlightenment." Sure 'nuf. More could be done. For one thing, Küng could start reading more, writing less.
• "When the pope in [a much-publicized 2006 speech in the Bavarian town of] Regensburg tried to define Islam as a religion of violence, he noticed himself that he took the wrong path. You have to remember the kind of trails of blood Christians left in history." Pope Benedict tried to define Islam as a religion of violence? And then he realized that he'd made a mistake? I must have missed all of that; could we please have a citation? Küng should stop reading the media reports and read the actual address given by the Pope.
• "Then you become modest, and you won't say that we have the religion of love and they have the religion of hate. Just like you and me, the majority of Muslims in Egypt, Morocco, Afghanistan or Pakistan want to have peace." Where, oh where did Pope Benedict ever say that Islam is a religion of hate? Where? I'm waiting....tick...tock...
• "He [Benedict XVI] did notice that it [the Regensburg Address] was a mistake, and he had to take in quite a bit of criticism. He corrected his speech many times." No, actually, he didn't. He said:
"At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought. Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect. This is the meaning of the discourse."
• "The Romans, the Roman bishop, i.e. the pope, have a hard time admitting
mistakes. When you have an ideology of infallibility, then infallible
mistakes will be made, and those cannot be corrected." Wow. You would think that a guy who wrote an entire book on papal infallibility might actually understand what papal infallibility is. Which means that either he doesn't (embarrassing) or he is being misleading (worse than embarrassing). But, to point out the obvious, the Regensburg Address, while certainly a serious and important pronouncement, was not "infallible," nor did anyone with any commonsense or knowledge of Catholic teaching act as though it was. Well, take heart, Hans Küng: at least your many mistakes aren't infallible. Just embarrassing.
• "Desperate young people resorted to terrorism. Of course we have to judge suicide assassins and assaults. But we have to think about why so many young people became so desperate to make themselves available for such assassinations." Yes, we sure do. And we need to consider strongly the possibility—which does have evidence on its side—that poverty and "desperation" are not the primary motives of Islamic terrorists. But, of course, you are so busy blaming everything on America and George Bush, you haven't time to read about other perspectives on the matter.
• "Religion can co-exist with democracy. The leading architects of Europe, from Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer to Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi, were all pious Christians. The reason why Islam has more problems with democracy than Christianity is that Islam, in contrast to Christianity and Judaism, had no Reformation and Enlightenment, leaving out a few special circles." I take that to mean that if it weren't for Protestantism and secularism, many Catholics would be just as violent and murderous as some radical Islamists are today? Is this guy serious?
• "You could certainly negotiate with the Taliban. They aren't just crazy people. There are some extremists, and there are, on the other hand, those that warned the Bush administration about Sept. 11. But it wasn't taken seriously." Yeah, once you got past the violent oppression, beatings, killings, executions, genocide, and the burqas, the Taliban were just swell. Go on, ask 'em. I'm sure they'll agree.
• "Were you hurt that Pope Benedict XVI never accepted your idea of the World Ethic? He accepted the idea as such. He realizes that there have to be common ethical standards. During our conversation he conceded that those standards need to be valid for believers and non-believers. One could only have expected that he would personally advocate this. But that might still happen." I recommend reading The Dialectics of Secularization. Or Deus Caritas Est. And stop trying to be pope. It's over. I'm fairly certain you're not eligible to be pontiff. At least not of a real Church.
• The interviewer asked: "A personal question: On Sept. 12 you will introduce your autobiography 'Controversial Truth.'" What? Another biography? Is this different from My Struggle for Freedom: Memoirs (Eerdmans, 2003) and Disputed Truth: Memoirs, Volume 2 (Continuum, 2008), which together add up to about 820 pages!? Please, if only for the sake of the poor trees, stop writing and start reading.
• For more on Hans Küng and his "world ethic", see Donna Steichen's 2005 article for Catholic World Report, "A Religion The New York Times Can Love."
Finally, much of this is summarized quite well by Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, author of Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (Ignatius Press, 2007), when he said, in my June 2007 interview with him: "Unlike Küng, who is always in tune with the latest fashion, Ratzinger is not afraid to be unfashionable." Here's to being out of tune with the latest fashion!