An Open Letter to Hans K??ng
Apr 21, 2010
A decade and a half ago, a former colleague of yours among the younger progressive theologians at Vatican II told me of a friendly warning he had given you at the beginning of the Council???s second session.
You were, I take it, unhappy with the late John Paul II for trying to dismantle that story-line by removing your ecclesiastical mandate to teach as a professor of Catholic theology; your subsequent, snarling put-down of Karol Wojtyla???s alleged intellectual inferiority in one volume of your memoirs ranked, until recently, as the low-point of a polemical career in which you have become most evident as a man who can concede little intelligence, decency, or good will in his opponents.
I say ???until recently,??? however, because your April 16 open letter to the world???s bishops, which I first read in the Irish Times, set new standards for that distinctive form of hatred known as odium theologicum and for mean-spirited condemnation of an old friend who had, on his rise to the papacy, been generous to you while encouraging aspects of your current work.
What can be expected, though, is that you comport yourself with a minimum of integrity and elementary decency in the controversies in which you engage. I understand odium theologicum as well as anyone, but I must, in all candor, tell you that you crossed a line that should not have been crossed in your recent article, when you wrote the following:
There is no denying the fact that the worldwide system of covering up sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (1981-2005).
That, sir, is not true. I refuse to believe that you knew this to be false and wrote it anyway, for that would mean you had willfully condemned yourself as a liar. But on the assumption that you did not know this sentence to be a tissue of falsehoods, then you are so manifestly ignorant of how competencies over abuse cases were assigned in the Roman Curia prior to Ratzinger???s seizing control of the process and bringing it under CDF???s competence in 2001, then you have forfeited any claim to be taken seriously on this, or indeed any other matter involving the Roman Curia and the central governance of the Catholic Church.
Permit me to suggest that you owe Pope Benedict XVI a public apology, for what, objectively speaking, is a calumny that I pray was informed in part by ignorance (if culpable ignorance). I assure you that I am committed to a thoroughgoing reform of the Roman Curia and the episcopate, projects I described at some length in God???s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, a copy of which, in German, I shall be happy to send you. But there is no path to true reform in the Church that does not run through the steep and narrow valley of the truth. The truth was butchered in your article in the Irish Times. And that means that you have set back the cause of reform.
With the assurance of my prayers,
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington???s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.