Catholic theologian and contemporary of Pope Benedict XVI told Deutsche Welle the Vatican should not accept ultra-conservatives who deny freedom of conscience and religion back into the Catholic flock.
Hans Kueng is a prominent liberal theologian, whose right to teach in Catholic institutions was withdrawn in 1979. He spoke to DW about the issues involved in the current row over Pope Benedict XVI's decision to rehabilitate four ultra-traditionalist bishops, one of whom recently said there was no evidence proving millions of Jews were murdered in Nazi gas chambers.
The Vatican announced on Wednesday, Feb. 4, that all the men would have to have to commit themselves to the decisions reached at the Second Vatican Council in order to once again become bishops in the Catholic Church. The Vatican also called on Williamson to recant his denial of the Holocaust.
Deutsche Welle: Will a recantation by Bishop Williamson of his denial of the Holocaust do any good?
Hans Kueng: I don't think it is sufficient because it is not only a question about the Holocaust. It is well known that this bishop is anti-Jewish, as are the three other bishops. This was well known in the Vatican. As a matter of fact, it is the pope himself who is responsible here. We would like to hear a clear word from him.
It's also not only a question of the Holocaust and Judaism but of the Second Vatican Council. We would like to hear some positive sounds from this pope about Pope John XXIII, who is perhaps the greatest pontiff of the last 100 years. We would like to have a positive evaluation of the results of the Second Vatican Council. There is more here than just the question of the Holocaust.
Let's go back first to that issue. The pope has made it very clear that he is opposed to any form of anti-Semitism and that he considers the Holocaust to be a defining issue in modern theology. What more can he say?
The pope needs to address several pressing issues, Kueng said
He could do more. It's not enough to pay lip service to being against anti-Semitism. It's also necessary to say that these four bishops with their anti-Jewish attitudes cannot be bishops of the Catholic Church.
But that is what has been said, isn't it? All that has happened so far is that their excommunication has been lifted. We are hearing they would have to commit themselves to the decisions of the Second Vatican Council before they could once more act as bishops.
They have been admitted to the communion with the pope and the Catholic Church without any condition. It is not enough to say, "They have to do this, they have to do that." It's a precondition. How can anyone accept a bishop who is against the Second Vatican Council?
The Vatican is has no understanding at all of theologians like the two Jesuits, who have just written a book on Christology. But on the other hand, they accept people who deny freedom of conscience and religion, who do not accept ecumenism with the Protestant churches, and who are against Judaism, Islam and the other world religions, and even against the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the new attitude to modern science and the modern secular world.
You compare them to two Jesuits whose work has gotten them into trouble. But they weren't excommunicated.
No, but I think for a scholar not to be allowed to teach and to publish that's enough.
You know that from personal experience. Do you feel aggrieved that these ultra-conservative bishops are being welcomed back into the church, if not yet as bishops, while you, and others like you, continue to be kept at arm's length?
Kueng said Williamson, above, should not have been allowed back into the Church
I see a great deal of injustice here. I think all the theologians you've mentioned have accepted the Second Vatican Council. On the other hand, one accepts people who for two decades have constantly polemicized against the predecessors of the current pope and against the Second Vatican Council, against very important decisions of this Council. I think it is completely wrong to keep them in communion with Rome and the Catholic Church.
Officially the Society of Pius X, to which these four bishops belong, has distanced itself from anti-Semitism. Don't you believe them?
I think it's not enough. They are, of course, under pressure from Rome, so they've affirmed certain things. But we would like to see a completely different attitude -- not just with regard to the Holocaust but to Judaism. They consider Jews to be the murders of God and so on. All this is not cancelled out by a single denial.
Those who defend the Pope say that he didn't know about the Holocaust denial. There are other people who say he simply didn't care. Which would you say is more likely?
He certainly knew they were anti-Jewish. Maybe he didn't know that this British bishop denied the Holocaust, but it was well known that they were anti-Jewish, and I think that was reason enough not to accept them.