euronews: To talk about the challenges the Catholic Church is facing, we turn to Hans Küng, a theology professor in Tübingen. Mr Küng, you’ve known the Pope for a long time. You two were the youngest members at the Vatican II Council. That time was one of hope; the Church wanted to open up, move closer to people. But now, fifty years later, under the glare of sexual abuse of children, many of the faithful are turning their backs to the Church. Do you understand them?
Hans Küng: Yes. And I fear for our Church. At the time I worked with Joseph Ratzinger on renewal — for more understanding between religions. Unfortunately, right after Vatican II, it became clear that the clergy in Rome were correcting the trajectory and preparing a restauration of the old ways, which reached its height under Benedict XVI.”
euronews: Coming back to the abuse cases. Does the Pope bear any personal responsibility?
Küng: Effectively, the abuse cases are the most extreme point of the crisis which has begun. And it must be said that the Pope does have a responsibility, because, since he was prefect of the faith, he was shown everything, for the last 22 years. Even as Pope, he knew — exactly. In all good conscience, I tell you that no one more than he in the Catholic Church knew more about the abuse cases. However, for a long time he did nothing to unveil this. On the contrary, in 2001 he sent a letter to the bishops ordering that they must handle things while keeping them secret, Sekretum Pontificium. In addition, the bishops followed the order from Rome too obediently. Throughout the world they concealed everything. So, neither the Pope nor the bishops can be absolved of their responsibility.
euronews: Celibacy is once again under debate — the law which forbids Catholic priests from marrying. Is it true that celibacy is a great problem for the Church?
Küng: Evidently, celibacy is not the only problem to explain the current crisis or the abuse but it is, all the same, an enormous problem. Both in Latin America and in Europe there are more and more parishes without a priest. There are theologically qualified people in many countries who could be ordained immediately but nothing is happening. They make doctrine of a law from the Middle Ages which the Pope could abolish immediately. We would then have more priests, and more parishes would be livened up, and then we could also think seriously about opening up service in the Church to women, which is happening in a lot of churches.