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Pope replied to my letter on infallibility debate, says Hans Küng

Fr Hans Küng in his office in Tubingen, Germany (CNS)

The theologian Fr Hans Küng says Pope Francis has personally responded to his proposal of an open discussion of the dogma of infallibility.

Fr Küng wrote an open letter to the Pope on March 9, asking for “an open and impartial discussion on infallibility of pope and bishops”. He says that the Pope replied in a letter dated March 20. Fr Küng refused to disclose the contents of the reply, except that the Pope had not “set any restrictions”. He did not say the Pope had encouraged a debate on infallibility.

But in a statement published by the National Catholic Reporter, Fr Küng said he was “overjoyed” to receive a personal reply, and one which began Lieber Mitbruder (“Dear brother”).

Fr Küng said that Francis had “clearly read the appeal … most attentively”. He added that the Pope had been “highly appreciative of the considerations that had led me to write Volume 5 of my complete works”. That volume deals specifically with infallibility, a dogma which Fr Küng queried in the 1970s.

Fr Küng’s licence to teach in a Catholic institution was withdrawn in 1979. He describes his subsequent preoccupations as “promoting understanding between the different denominations, of mutual recognition of church offices and celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the question of divorce, of women’s ordination, mandatory celibacy and the catastrophic lack of priests, but above all of the leadership of the Catholic church”. He has said he would consider assisted suicide because “I do not want to live on as a shadow of myself”.

He has said the Church has exhibited an “incapacity for reform at all levels”, the “decisive reason” for which “is still the doctrine of infallibility of church teaching, which has bequeathed a long winter on our Catholic church”.

Fr Küng said that he was encouraged by the Pope’s recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The Pope “repeatedly quotes statements made at the episcopal synod or from national bishops’ conferences,” he observed. “Francis no longer wants to be the sole spokesman of the church.”