Hans Küng has always held to his progressive theological views. He believes that the present crisis in the church shows that he was right. The whole Roman system is in question, he maintains, though neither the Vatican nor the majority of the bishops yet realize it.

We are sitting in the arbor at the end of the veranda of his house above Tübingen, looking out at the gorgeous view across the Swabian hills. He muses, “My critics said, ‘He always repeats the same thing.’ But we have the greatest crisis since the Reformation. What alternative was there? We need to go on again in the line of the [Second Vatican Council].”

He sees only “pseudo-reforms,” such as the merging of parishes under one priest, that do not touch the centralization, absolutism and clericalism that for him are at the roots of the bishops’ cover-up of criminal acts of clerical sexual abuse. He is encouraged by big changes at the level of local Catholic communities, and a growing conviction at that level that more must come. But “the main problem is how we can change our absolutist leadership in a peaceful way. We cannot use the methods of the French Revolution.”

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